UT Documents


I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Email exchange with Newsweek.com's Devin Gordon

From: "Devin Gordon"
To: GGreenwald@salon.com
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:25:47 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Your post today about our thread

Hi Glenn, I’m the editor of Newsweek.com, and I’m writing to follow up on your post about our email thread about terrorism. First let me concede that our thread was not as clear as it should’ve been—it was clear to us that we were having a discussion about the use of language in the media and in the public at large. Evidently that was less clear to you.

However, it strikes me that in your two posts about our conversation so far, you have conveniently screened out portions of what we wrote that helped illuminated our intentions. For instance, your post today implies that “the aversion” to using the term “terrorist” to describe Stack is *Newsweek’s* aversion—but you left out the rest of the sentence, where I note how the Wall Street Journal preposterously called him a “tax protester” in its headline. You also ignored the other question I raised with my group, which was even more unambiguously about the media and the public: my invitation to compare / critique our collective yawning over the Austin wacko with the reaction to the underpants bomber (which I described as “the media’s full-throated insanity”). Since this is the line that set off the entire internal discussion, it is significant that you presented it inaccurately to your readers, because that line contextualized everything that followed.

Given that context, Kathy’s “handy guide” struck all of us as self-evidently ironic—otherwise, would she really use the flippant phrase “handy guide” to discuss something so sober if she was indeed being sober? (Weren’t you surprised no one on our staff called her out for being so shockingly right-wing?) If we were truly articulating our own attitudes, wouldn’t there be far more of an uproar on the web, rather than a few scattered complaints from bloggers? Wouldn’t people be demanding Dan Stone’s resignation if they actually took at face value his line about how “terrorists have beards and live in caves”? I suspect the uproar did not occur because the vast majority of readers understood exactly what Dan (and the rest of us) meant.

Nonetheless, I will concede that we could have avoided this dust-up by being even more explicit. That is our error. What disturbs me is that you’ve had your misreading of our conversation corrected publicly by Ben Adler, our national affairs editor. And yet you continue to bash us for promoting views that you know we don’t hold and that you have never asked us to clarify. That strikes me as awfully unjournalistic behavior. Have you called anyone here to clarify exactly what we meant? Or to find out if you understood us correctly?

My hunch: you read our initial email chain too fast, and you were more interested in bashing us than in trying to understand what we were saying. And hey, we’re grown-ups, we can take it. It’s also the way of the web, and we get that. But we believe we’ve corrected the record. It’s time for you to do the same. Happy to continue this discussion either on the record or off.



From: "Devin Gordon"
To: GGreenwald@salon.com
Cc: "Devin Gordon"
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:38:44 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: RE: Your post today about our thread -- ONE MORE THING

Sorry, one important detail I left out: you need to correct something that you put in quotation marks in your post this morning and attributed to Kathy Jones, but that she never wrote. You wrote:

“…the very first response, from Managing Editor Kathy Jones, was to explain her "rule of thumb" that the word is only for foreigners …”

Kathy never used the phrase “rule of thumb.” You did. As I noted below, she called it her “handy guide”, which is a much more sardonic formulation. To you, this may sound like a distinction without a difference. To us, her choice of words is crucial to understanding her tone and her meaning. I think it is telling that you misquoted this part of her email in a way that blurs her meaning in favor of your attack on us. Please correct it.



From: ggreenwald@salon.com
To: "Devin Gordon"
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 2:30:33 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: Your post today about our thread

Devin - I'm traveling today with all sorts of events, so it's hard for me to address this, but I do want to have this conversation with you. For the moment, let me ask you to re-read my original post about this, where I explicitly (1) noted that many of the comments were framed as discussing what OTHERS thought about this topic, not what Newsweek thought about it (and I criticized that as the Innocent Bystander Model of Journalism); (2) included the fact that several of the participants argued that domestic attacks should be and are considered Terrorism; and (3) discussed the possibility that some of the comments were offered ironically.

Between both your email and Ben Adler's response, I feel like I'm being accused of ignoring or excluding points which I EXPRESSLY included and addressed. Moreover, I excerpted substantial parts of the email chain and linked to the rest, even urging readers to read the WHOLE THING. That makes any suggestion that I've mislead anyone a bit frivolous.

Moreover, numerous people -- including The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan and Ta-Nehisi Coates -- read the discussion exactly as I did. At some point, if enough people "misunderstood" what you wrote, then the fault lies with you, not with the person supposedly distorting what you said. I read Ben's characterization of what the discussion was but I'm not required to accept it -- he speaks only for himself, and Newsweek presumably published it because they thought it would convey meaning as a stand-alone piece. You can't do that and then object when others read what you've written and critique.

I'll have more time tomorrow or over the weekend and am happy to discuss this with you more - either on the record or off.

Glenn Greenwald


From: ggreenwald@salon.com
To: "Devin Gordon"
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 2:31:36 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: Your post today about our thread -- ONE MORE THING

I think it's a completely meaningless distinction -- I also quoted her actual language in the original post and urged others to read it. Still, I did inadvertently quote it inaccurately today when I summarized the piece and will correct that.


From: ggreenwald@salon.com
To: "Devin Gordon"
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 2:34:09 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: Your post today about our thread -- ONE MORE THING

Only last point - I just saw Kathy Jones' "open letter" to me. She does not even suggest what you claimed -- that she was being satirical or ironic.