Adversarial Journalism in the Age of the Oligarchs

by lizard

When Glenn Greenwald announced he was leaving the Guardian to join a new journalism project, I was intrigued. What kind of journalistic endeavor could lure Greenwald away, I wondered? The answer: a seriously bankrolled project.

eBay billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, is dropping a quarter billion dollars to provide Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and others the cover of extreme wealth to do their adversarial journalist thing. Thank the penniless lord we simple consumers of adversarial journalism have a benevolent billionaire to insulate these journalistic brands from the dangers of speaking truth to power.

Something about this whole setup makes me very uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the class war Chris Hedges discusses in this piece from Truthdig. Here’s an excerpt:

The blanket dissemination of the ideology of free market capitalism through the media and the purging, especially in academia, of critical voices have permitted our oligarchs to orchestrate the largest income inequality gap in the industrialized world. The top 1 percent in the United States own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent own only 7 percent, as Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote in “The Price of Inequality.” For every dollar that the wealthiest 0.1 percent amassed in 1980 they had an additional $3 in yearly income in 2008, David Cay Johnston explained in the article “9 Things the Rich Don’t Want You to Know About Taxes.” The bottom 90 percent, Johnson said, in the same period added only one cent. Half of the country is now classified as poor or low-income. The real value of the minimum wage has fallen by $2.77 since 1968. Oligarchs do not believe in self-sacrifice for the common good. They never have. They never will. They are the cancer of democracy.

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are,” Wendell Berry writes. “Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”

I expect this period of submission to the will of the oligarchs to continue. How bad it will have to get before people realize what the consensus of wealth has accomplished is an open question.

Meanwhile, check out Wendell Berry’s interview with Bill Moyers, which aired earlier this month. And if you watch it, try to ignore the icky feeling of watching a Goldman Sachs ad before viewing one of America’s most important poets.


  1. I think there has to be some fundamental changes to the tax code in the US, but I also don’t think people should be penalized for making money.

    Labor is worth a lot, more than people realize. Lots of people sell themselves short, but it’s hard not to when you work for a large company or organization. There’s often no incentive to work harder.

    If you can get out of that drudgery of selling your labor to one entity you’re doing good. Now you can sell it on the open market, and that’s how you make money. Strapped to a company for 30 years won’t do much anymore, and even the sense of security is pretty much fading from that.

    What’s great about the US is that anyone can still get up into that 1% and own some of that 40%. We have libraries where you can educate yourself. I decided to stop playing video games when I was younger and start visiting these bastions of learning – it’s now paying dividends.

    I think most people in this country are just too fat and stupid to take advantage of the opportunities, so others take advantage of them. I think I read something about that that kind of Social Darwinism…oh yeah, at the library!

  1. 1 Is Glenn Greenwald Cashing In? | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] months ago I wrote about Adversarial Journalism in the Age of the Oligarchs. At the time I was merely uncomfortable with Glenn Greenwald’s new quarter-billion dollar […]




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