Misquoting, Motive, and a Glenn Greenwald Twitter Spat

What a vicious, circular tussle this was

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Players: Salon writer Glenn Greenwald; The American Prospect fellow Jamelle Bouie; Think Progress blogger Matt Yglesias.

Opening Serve: This spat started about an hour ago when American Prospect Fellow Jamelle Bouie commented on Twitter about being cited anonymously in Glenn Greenwald's Salon column about what progress, if any, will come from Osama bin Laden's death. Greenwald complains his column about blogger Fred Clark, to whom he refers as "This person,"

... this person (cheered on by Democract Party Commentators)--aside from falsely attributing to me numerous statements I never made, and thereafter refusing to post my response in the comment section--chided me for failing to realize that "Bin Laden's death also makes things like closing the gulag at Guantanamo Bay seem likelier and more possible" and that it also "marks what could be the beginning of the end of many of the evils that Glenn Greenwald has consistently written about over the past decade, the opportunity to reassert the principles he determinedly wants to defend."

Upon reading this, Bouie tweeted, "Apparently @ggreenwald can't be bothered to use my name. I'm now just an anonymous "Democratic Party commentator."

Return Volley: It didn't take long for Greenwald to react to this, writing, "@jbouie You run around praising and linking to something that traffics in wholesale fabrications of what I wrote and now you're the victim." Bouie shot back, "I'm not claiming myself as a 'victim' when I point out name omission and mischaracterization...Besides, an attack on your style of argumentation--which is what Clark presented--is a far cry from 'wholesale fabrication.'" The two then continued their back-and-forth over whether Greenwald's reference to Bouie as a "Democratic Party commentator" was fair or accurate and whether it was any worse than what Greenwald argues were false statements made about him.

Then Think Progress blogger Matt Yglesias got involved. "@ggreenwald What does the term 'democratic party commentator' mean to you? How can I identify one in the wild?" he asked. Greenwald quickly responded, "Someone whose primary worldview is allegiance to the Democratic Party and devotion to its political success." To this Yglesias insisted, "Okay, if that's what you mean then you should seriously apologize to @jbouie and stop smearing him." This led to a lengthy back and for at the end of which Greenwald simply directed Yglesias and anyone else following the spat to his original post on the matter and wrotes, "if 'party loyalist' is some vicious smear in your world, you need to get out more."

Yglesias then posed this question, seemingly to his followers: "Does @ggreenwald think any good-faith disagreement occurs on the Internet?" Greenwald redirected the discussion to his original complaint, "Yeah--there are a lot of good faith debates they genearlly don't involve fabricating statements & attributing them to people." The hour long spat seems to have teetered off for now after coming back full circle to what Greenwald meant by Democratic Party loyalist or commentator.

What They Say the Fight's About: Greenwald insists that he was misquoted by liberal bloggers in an effort to prove his arguments wrong; Bouie wasn't flattered by being labeled "a Democratic Party commentator." Yglesias sides with Bouie urging Greenwald to recognize he is wrong and apologize.

What the Fight's Really About: Perhaps, as he insists above, Greenwald has read much of Bouie's writing and come to the conclusion that the American Prospect writer is motivated by his loyalties to the Democratic party. Still, as Bouie points out, does Greenwald's opinion give him the right to assert it as fact? Additionally, Yglesias questioning whether Greenwald believes in good faith debates might be a reference to the fact that this is not the first time Greenwald has attacked the motives of writers he disagrees with.

Who's Winning Now: It's unclear whether this fight has actually come to an end or if the participants are simply taking a lunch break or paying attention to their real work. As of now, all three sides are receiving expressions of support from Twitter followers. It seems safe to predict that when, in fact, it does end, it will be because the participants agreed to disagree, not because they came to an understanding.Unless, of course, Greenwald follows mediator Yglesias's advice and apologizes to Bouie. But we're not holding our breath on that.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.