Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald (Vincent Yu/Associated Press)

Politico Magazine’s Michael Hirsh has written a hit piece on Glenn Greenwald. It is terrible, in precisely seven ways.

Problem No. 1: Wimpy, pusillanimous, cowardly headline-and-subhead combo.

Here’s how the piece presents itself to readers:

Has Greenwald, Inc. Peaked?
Thanks to Ed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald went from blogging to the big time. But his stock may be dropping fast.

Use of the no-account interrogative headline signals that Hirsh doesn’t want to stand behind his convictions but just wants to trial-balloon them for clicks. And the contention that Greenwald’s stock may be dropping fast leaves open the possibility that it may be rising fast as well.

Problem No. 2: Ignorance of history

The author posits that Greenwald’s move to the top of journalism was “sudden” — that the former Guardian columnist and current staffer of Pierre Omidyar’s the Intercept transitioned lickety-split from niche left-wing blogger to Pulitzer Prize glory and nonstop television interviews.

The trouble with characterizing the progression as “sudden” is that Greenwald spent years blogging about surveillance and government power and collusive Washington. As the New York Times’s David Carr wrote last year, “Mr. Snowden was said to have chosen Mr. Greenwald as a conduit for a leak because he felt they shared values.” Hirsh acknowledges Greenwald’s journalism had found a fan in Snowden but appears not to credit him with cultivating the connection.

Problem No. 3: Reductionism

Read: “Today, riding on his international fame — a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, among other awards — Greenwald is still a one-man exposure industry whose main stock in trade remains these same ‘Snowden archives.’ ”

So what? Most famous journalists have a central career achievement. Should we hold that against them?

Problem No. 4: This entire paragraph:

Will there be many more Snowdens to come, based on Greenwald’s “model”? Perhaps. But it’s more likely that Greenwald Inc. has already peaked. The NSA, duly chastened by Snowden’s leaks, is changing under presidential directives that will rein in its mass collection of telephone “metadata” — its most controversial program — while most of the rest of us have moved on. “I think there’s a bit of Snowden fatigue out there right now,” said former NSA director Michael Hayden, who points to the public’s less-than-inflamed response to Greenwald’s recent revelation that the NSA under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) monitored five prominent Muslim-Americans whose names appeared among 7,485 email addresses examined between 2002 and 2008. Greenwald “thought that FISA thing was going to be a grand finale for the fireworks display, but frankly it didn’t bounce very much,” said Hayden.

Sub-problem No. 1: Whether Greenwald has peaked or not is not quantifiable nor important nor even interesting.

Sub-problem No. 2: To count the fact that the NSA is being forced to rein in its telephony collection “while most of the rest of us have moved on” points to a continuing — not withering — impact of the Greenwald-Snowden stuff.

Sub-problem No. 3: Only in a world with a sleeping editor can one quote Michael Hayden as attesting to Snowden fatigue.

Sub-problem No. 4: The concatenation of sub-problems No. 1 through No. 3.

Problem No. 5: Why is Politico Magazine suddenly obsessed with the stock market?

Witness: “Snowden’s personal stock appears to be in decline as well.”

Problem No. 6: Logic

Behold this passage:

The horrifying rise of what may be al Qaeda’s even more barbaric successor, the Islamic State, along with new threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin and others, has reoriented discussion back toward the perils that the NSA programs were intended to thwart in the first place.

So terrorism continues to exist. Thanks, Politico Magazine.

Problem No. 7: Hacksterism

This sentence can be found in the piece:

Greenwald also denies deliberately dribbling out information to promote himself or his book, saying the sporadic nature of the Snowden disclosures has a lot more to do with the time it takes to understand them.

Who’s making the allegation to which Greenwald’s responding here? Is it Politico Magazine or someone else? Because clearly no one at Politico or other media outlets has ever “dribbled out information” in self-promotional ways.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.