Jonathan Chait wrote an excellent analysis of Glenn Greenwald in which he compares his approach with the style of Ralph Nader.
Greenwald, like Nader, marries an indefatigable mastery of detail with fierce moralism. Every issue he examines has a good side and an evil side.
We’ve seen this many time. If you disagree with one aspect of the Obama administration, you’re morally compelled to reject the whole thing.
Greenwald, like Nader, does not believe in meliorist progress. If you are not good, you are evil. [...]
This way of looking at the world naturally places one in conflict with most liberals, who are willing to distinguish between gradations of success or failure. Nader and Greenwald believe their analysis not only completely correct, but so obviously correct that the only motivation one could have to disagree is corruption. Good-faith disagreement, or even rank stupidity, is not possible around Greenwald. His liberal critics are lackeys and partisan shills. He may be willing to concede ideological disagreement with self-identified conservatives, but a liberal who disagrees can only be a kept man.
In the context of the NSA Snowden story, you’re either in the Greenwald camp or you’re an apologist for the obviously evil Obama government. It’s impossible, in Greenwald’s view, to take any other angle, such as criticizing the sensationalism of the reporting or expressing concerns with the way in which accountability is achieved. And, naturally, Greenwald’s disciples fall in line with the same attitude. It becomes a self-reinforcing fallacy. You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.
Chait also included a bit of Nader history that ought to sound familiar to anyone who observed the “kill the bill” fiasco at the tail end of the Obamacare passage:
In 1970, Nader championed a report by his staff savaging Ed Muskie, the liberal senator from Maine. Muskie, who helped engineer the Air Quality Act of 1967, had a reputation as an environmental ally, but Nader’s report called the act “disastrous,” adding, “That fact alone would warrant his being stripped of his title as ‘Mr. Pollution Control.’”
That same year, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to create a Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), what Nader called his highest legislative goal. But, just days after praising the bill, Nader turned against it, saying that “intolerable erosions” had rendered the bill “unacceptable.” As Martin writes, “Without Nader’s backing, the bill lost momentum” and died in committee. The pattern repeated itself, as the CPA passed either the House or the Senate five more times over the next six years, but Nader rejected every bill as too compromised.
It’s absolutism. Purity. If anything falls short of a goal in any way, it’s evil. “Burn down the village in order to save it” — it’s nihilism. A faction of progressives would rather have no progress at all than to have progress that’s slow and compromised. And it’s utterly insufferable to me. It shows a total ignorance of how politics and change occurs here.