It is true that the “left” (for some definition of left that would include Greenwald’s civil liberties work, even if under the aegis of strange bedfellows) has struggled with a funding model. If Corrente were 10 times its size (with concomitant increase in size for similar blogs) that would make, I’m convinced on no evidence at all, a big difference in the discourse.
Hitherto, a reader support model — though reasonably free from conflict of interest, i.e. buying into the bullshit — has enabled survival but not growth. I don’t know why.
Another model is to become Kos or TPM or ThinkProgress, and to be funded by the Democratic nomenklatura. So here we have conflicts of interest. (“Who kidnapped Josh Marshall”?)
Another model is advertising, selling eyeballs (which, to be fair, Naked Capitalism does, in addition to reader support). At scale, and IMNSHO NC is not at scale, we have potential for a different sort of conflict.
And another model is finding a patron, which is what Hamsher did, CJR does (Soros, IIRC), and now Greenwald has done. A different sort of conflict. (Marx, we might remember, was funded by Engels, a Manchester factory owner.)
So what model do you use if you want to get a story out?
I find it hard to fault Greenwald on ethical grounds, especially if he got some up front “Fuck you” money from Omidyar. (I haven’t been following the ins and outs, and it may be that Greenwald has disqualified himself on other grounds in his various defense of himself.) If Greenwald doesn’t ruin his personal brand, he’s free to walk away. For some definition of “free.”
However, I’m not sure the funding model is the story. Let me now put on my tinfoil hat:
Call me foily, but if I were a really astute right wing billionaire who thought long term, and who wanted a lot more leverage over the government than I already had, I’d:
- Get a technically astute and ideologically aligned mole into the NSA;
- Have them steal a lot of extremely incriminating data;
- Dole just enough out to the press to show what I had;
- Keep the great bulk of it as a “fleet in being,” as it were.
I’ve also considered the idea that Snowden was the tool of an NSA faction that didn’t like the rampant illegality; that could combine with #1.
GG comes in at #3, and as an archivist/researcher in #4. He doesn’t even have to know.
I know this reads rather like a real-life late William Gibson novel, with Omidyar in the role of Hubertus Bigend, and “the data” as the McGuffin, but real life these days resembles a Gibson novel, except more convoluted, darker, and with even nastier villains.
I had always had this way of thinking in the back of my mind, but this story really brought it to the forefront for me:
Officials Say U.S. May Never Know Extent of Snowden’s Leaks
That story reads very much like normalizing the situation to me.
So, Omidyar becomes a sort of data-driven sovereign, with informational nukes. Of course, that would imply that the tippy top global ruling class runs on blackmail, but then you knew that.