On Saturday, Michael Grunwald, a senior correspondent at Time, stoked controversy by tweeting, “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” The tweet triggered an immediate backlash among people who believe that murder is wrong, and that expressing preemptive delight at the prospect of defending murder is wrongheaded and repugnant. Shortly thereafter, Grunwald apologized to his followers, called his tweet “dumb,” and deleted it. (via The Ideology Behind Michael Grunwald’s Repugnant Assange Tweet - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic)
- Even though, as Amy Davidson noted at the New Yorker, “Grunwald seems a bit oblivious as to what was wrong with what he said,” I’m allergic to anyone being fired over any one tweet, especially if they express regret for sending it.
- It is nevertheless worth dwelling on his tweet a moment longer, because it illuminates a type that is common but seldom pegged in America. You see, Grunwald is a radical ideologue. It’s just that almost no one recognizes it. The label “radical ideologue” is usually used to describe Noam Chomsky or members of the John Birch Society. We think of radical ideologues as occupying the far right or left. Lately a lot of people seem to think that The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald is a radical (often they wrongly conflate the style with which he expresses his views with their substance). But Grunwald graduated from Harvard, spent a decade at the Washington Post, and now works as a senior correspondent at Time. How radical could someone with that resume possibly be?
- That doesn’t mean that he’s a bad guy, or that he shouldn’t be a journalist. But as someone who finds Grunwald’s ideology as problematic and wrongheaded as I’m sure he finds aspects of my worldview, I tire of the fact that people who share it are treated as pragmatic centrists while their critics, whether on the libertarian right or the civil liberties left, are dismissed as impractical ideologues.
- He reflexively assumed that objections to a tweet about the extrajudicial killing of a transparency activist came from the “Don’t Tread on Me crowd” — as if only right-wing libertarians would object to such a sentiment! The link delivers us to a Time essay, “Tread on Me,” that surveys a whole range of controversies and lays out his overarching attitude, which manages to combine anti-libertarian and anti-civil-libertarian aspects.
- Denying a particular American his Miranda rights, because we’re really sure this one is guilty, and hey, terrorism!, is objectionable in different ways, which cannot be waived away with “the republic will survive.” Preserving a culture of due process is, in fact, vital to the survival of a free society. No single violation is fatal, but Grunwald appears oblivious to the danger of undermining the culture, and to how radical it is to call for one-off departures of convenience from long established norms. Using the same logic, one could argue that, hey, torturing Dzhokar Tsarnaev might’ve prevented further tragedy, and it isn’t like the republic wouldn’t survive another waterboarding!