Someone sent me a link to Glenn Greenwald’s latest batch of complaints about the Obama administration. Three things stood out to me.
First, there’s this:
Virtually every major newspaper account of the killing of Osama bin Laden consists of faithful copying of White House claims. That’s not surprising: it’s the White House which is in exclusive possession of the facts, but what’s also not surprising is that many of the claims that were disseminated yesterday turned out to be utterly false. And no matter how many times this happens – from Jessica Lynch’s heroic firefight against Iraqi captors to Pat Tillman’s death at the hands of Evil Al Qaeda fighters – it never changes: the narrative is set forever by first-day government falsehoods uncritically amplified by establishment media outlets, which endure no matter how definitively they are disproven in subsequent days.
To compare the bin Laden operation to the Lynch and Tillman stories is dishonest nitwittery. The scale of Lynch’s rescue was unnecessary, she herself eventually denied the Bush administration’s claims that she had resisted her captors–she was too busted up to fight back–and it wasn’t until weeks and months later that, despite no cooperation from the Bush administration, it became clear the story didn’t just contain an exaggeration or two, but that the Iraqi civilians caring for her wanted to turn her over to the military but the Bush Pentagon instead filmed the raid and used it as propaganda. With Tillman, it again wasn’t an exaggeration or two, it was an outright lie by the Bush administration that he died a hero in combat against the Taliban. The Bush administration concealed the truth, which only came out through a Congressional investigation years later: Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire.
Yeah, Glenn, that’s exactly like one Obama administration official exaggerating or stating as fact details that hadn’t yet been confirmed, to be followed a few hours later by Obama administration officials, with no external pressure forcing their hand, correcting those details of the story. Nothing was “disproven” or “debunked,” the incorrect details were simply retracted and corrected by the administration itself.
Second is Greenwald’s characterization of bin Laden being killed–contrary to statements made by Obama administration officials yesterday–with no gun in his hand.
Whether bin Laden actually resisted his capture may not matter to many people; the White House also claimed that they would have captured him if they had the chance, and this fact seems to negate that claim as well.
No, it doesn’t. Not having a gun in his hand does NOT mean bin Laden wasn’t resisting. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t reaching for a gun, or a grenade, or some other weapon. It does not mean he was surrendering. Of course it does not mean the shooting was justified. But unlike what Greenwald apparently wants his readers to believe, it doesn’t mean–based upon what we currently know and what Greenwald himself conveys–that the shooting wasn’t justified. With the facts we currently have, we can’t make any such conclusion.
Finally, and most revealingly since it’s at the end of a piece complaining about the media regurgitating false claims–a point on which I’m obviously in general agreement–Greenwald doesn’t regurgitate a false claim, he makes one:
Speaking of “frat boy reactions,” Leon Panetta is excitingly speculating about which actors should portray him in the movie about the Hunt for bin Laden, helpfully suggesting Al Pacino. It’s been a long time since Americans felt this good and strong about themselves — nothing like putting bullets in someone’s skull and dumping their corpse into an ocean to rejuvenate that can-do American sense of optimism.
It would be at best really tacky for Panetta to be running around idly speculating on who should portray him in a movie about OBL’s apprehension. If it were true, Greenwald would have a point. But the record suggests it’s false, and that it was Greenwald who invented the falsehood. If you follow Greenwald’s link to Politico, you’ll find nothing to support Greenwald’s claim that Panetta is “excitingly speculating” about anything:
On Monday, Panetta fielded questions from 25 congressional freshmen during a long-planned and, as it turned out, well-timed tour of CIA headquarters.
Rep. Billy Long tweeted from the tour, “Panetta ‘watching it unfold live I thought- this is like watching a Harrison Ford Movie’ when asked who should play him- he said ‘Al Pacino.’”
Long tweeted that the tour was arranged “some time ago,” adding “what a day to tour CIA Headquarters and have a Q & A with Director Leon Panetta- incredible- riveting recap of events.”
Note there’s nothing about Panetta being “excited,” and the Pacino line was in response to a question asked by someone else. rootless_e–who gets credit for tracking down this bit of deception from Greenwald–has this observation:
This is a small example, but Greenwald is a tireless and effective expert with this technique of shading and stepping to produce a deceptive but strong emotionally evocative story from sources that say something superficially similar.
I’d add two more points: First, Greenwald’s piece criticizes the media for being incredulous dupes who believe and disseminate whatever they’re told by the government. Now Greenwald can tell them they’re wrong…because he read in the media…reports of the Obama administration correcting itself.
And now that he has “set the narrative” of Panetta “excitedly speculating” in the absence of any support for his claim, will Greenwald make a correction? Or will he just let the falsehoods, as he put it, “endure no matter how definitively they are disproven in subsequent days?”