Monday, May 31, 2010

A short note for progressives on the internet

Glenn Greenwald, Inc.:

It hardly seemed possible for Israel -- after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade -- to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes.

I don't particularly care what Glenn Greenwald has to say about this. There are people who are invested in fate of the Palestinians, and most of them are Palestinian, not professional commentators whose authority comes from unrelated associations (as with, a "law degree," or an ability to communicate well).

If Glenn Greenwald wants to be a go-to authority on everything topical because he is already in a position to do so, I don't necessarily blame him, but I don't particularly care what he has to say about issues that are beyond the realm of his own experience. No Palestinian in the world would ever make the statement that "it hardly seemed possible for Israel to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes" when that has been the status quo for over half a century!

What this indicates to me is that reading Glenn Greenwald on the Palestinian question is, to a certain extent, a waste of my time; I could just as easily be reading the Lebanese writer, As'ad AbuKhalil, who surely has more stake in this than someone who is writing just to be relevant, pursuant to his career as a commentator. If I was really serious about the Palestinian question, I would find the English-language Palestinian writers who are actual authorities on these questions; I would not take "the scoop" from Glenn Greewald, or people like him, because what they have to say about it is meaningless absent other perspectives.


Jenny said...

He's spoken against Israel before. Perhaps he meant "Just as we thought it couldn't get any worse."?

Anonymous said...

Is Isreal the only topic you feel that Greenwald shouldn't comment on? Any others? Any topics that you think his commentary is particularly valid?

JRB said...

I would never say Greenwald shouldn't comment on particular topics. People should comment on whatever they want. But we have to think about whether a particular perspective deserves to preferenced over others on any particular issue, or accepted without comparison, and so on. That's our job, as people who think.

JRB said...

Just to be clear, I should also say that you aren't under any obligation to particularly care what I think about commentators that you may have your own reasons for liking or disliking.

Here I merely state my preference, based on my own reasoning, in the hope that it illustrates a process of evaluation that may be helpful for people when making their own choices, and that is based on something other than uncritical acceptance of whoever speaks with the loudest voice.

zunguzungu said...

I like this post because it made me think, but I don't know... The thing about Israel-Palestine is that because the US props up Israel to the extent that it does, it actually matters a lot that people whose beat isn't "the middle east" are now for the first time speaking out against Israel's actions. And while you're right that there are plenty of people whose expertise is more to be trusted than Greenwald's on this issue -- the point about not going to him for scoops is well taken -- the vast majority of Americans whose tax dollars are going to buy Israeli helicopters and stuff are not interested in any way in the middle east. They're never going to read the Angry Arab's blog. But they might read Greenwald's. And Greenwald writes for that audience in a way the Angry Arab doesn't; he writes for people who are ignorant enough not to know the history, but smart enough (a few of them) to be able to start to get a bit of that history starting today. The house of historical memory has many doors, you know?

JRB said...


You're totally right. I think the problem with this post is that it doesn't emphasize the importance of making these determinations for yourself, based on your own circumstances. Whoever you read, you just have to bear their relation to the subject in mind.