I don’t watch all that much television news and I stay even further away from the 24-hour News Stations like Fox and MSNBC, so I didn’t really know who Lara Logan is. This article, by Jeremy Peters, about Lara Logan did recently cross my Twitter feed. Peters chronicles Logan’s “fall from grace.” Once the up-and-coming Mike Wallace or Dan Rather, she now associates herself with Fox News and with far right causes like the denial of the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Although I have strong objections to the election denials and other right-wing causes Logan has associated herself with, I also have objections to the tone of this article. The article treats all positions on the right, not just the more problematic ones, as signs more of brain disease than of legitimate opposition. For instance, as one of Logan’s right-wing “sins,” Peters writes: “She has echoed pro-Kremlin attacks on the United States, accusing American of arming the Nazis of Ukraine.” But, as Glenn Greenwald has been documenting on Twitter and in this essay, Azov, the neo-Nazi group in the Ukraine, has been a concern of ours for the last several years. On January 7, 2021, Time Magazine, had an extended story on the growing strength of Azov in the Ukraine. Given that the Time article shows their paramilitary strength, to worry that arming Ukraine might be arming neo-Nazis isn’t pro-Kremlin, it’s just good journalism. In other words, although some of Logan’s positions might be more concerning, to lump this Ukraine position in with the rest is essentially to discredit all opposition to positions on the left as a sign of some kind of brain disease.
And this points to my more general concern right now about the state of journalism and our public discourse, more generally. As I mentioned already, although Glenn Greenwald hasn’t been accused of brain disease, he has been accused of something much worse: being “pro-Russia.” For his reminders about Azov and for daring to call into question images without context or evidence posted by Ukranian officials, Cathy Young calls Greenwald a “pro-Russian spinner.” She writes an article which calls out and aggressively criticizes any reporter who raises questions about Russian atrocities in Ukraine. They all suffer from what she calls “Ukraine Derangement Syndrome.” By daring to call into question one part of the story on Ukraine, Greenwald and others have had their entire credibility called into question.
This is not the way journalism is supposed to work. Journalists and, even more, essayists like Young, are supposed to help us appreciate the nuances in a situation. Although Greenwald may oppose Russia strongly, he’s also willing to be honest about Azov. Although other reporters might condemn Russia for its atrocities, they’re also willing to point to the lack of independent confirmation. Neither are “pro-Russia” spin; they’re just good reporting.
Lara Logan is capable of having a range of opinions, without any of those opinions showing evidence of brain disease. Glenn Greenwald is capable of disagreeing with our Ukraine coverage without being a “pro-Russia spinner.” And both can have a range of opinions, some of which we’ll agree with even as we disagree with others. Part of the work of constitutionalism is disentangling personal attacks from political criticism. It’s also being able to recognize where agreement is good even if it’s with someone with whom we otherwise consistently disagree. That is, constitutionalism aims to overcome Manichean contests between two sides who maintain the fundamental irrationality and evil of the other side. It layers our concerns onto different axes, creating cross-cutting factions within our politics. Greenwald, the long-time President of the ACLU, has also been accused of being pro-Trump because he has raised questions about the Biden administration. Those are different things. Realizing they are different things is essential to restoring a healthy politics.