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June 9, 2014

LYONS: What Glenn Greenwald gets all wrong

Earth to Glenn Greenwald: If you write a book slamming the New York Times, it’s naive to expect favorable treatment in the New York Times Book Review. Been there, done that. Twice, as a matter of fact.

On the first go-around, the NYTBR reviewer — a Times alumnus — described mine as a “nasty” book for hinting that name-brand journalists don’t always deal off the top of the deck. No inaccuracies cited, only nastiness.

Next, the newspaper located the most appropriate reviewer for Joe Conason’s and my book “The Hunting of the President” in its own Washington bureau — the original source of the great Whitewater hoax our book deconstructed. That worthy accused us of partisan hackery on the authority of one of the few wildly inaccurate Whitewater stories the Times had itself actually corrected.

If you think we got a correction, however, you’d be mistaken.

So when Greenwald complains that his book “No Place to Hide” — which details his and Edward Snowden’s exciting adventures in Hong Kong before the Boy Hero flew off to Moscow — got savaged by NYTBR reviewer Michael Kinsley, it’s easy to feel sympathetic. It’s no fun getting trashed in the only book review that really matters.

Kinsley’s biting wit and withering cynicism can be hard to take. But for all that, the review wasn’t entirely negative. It never denied the importance of Greenwald and Snowden’s revelations about government snooping, nor did it question the author’s journalistic integrity.

”The Snowden leaks were important — a legitimate scoop,” he wrote, “and we might never have known about the NSA’s lawbreaking if it hadn’t been for them.”

True, Kinsley’s tone is far from worshipful. “His story is full of journalistic derring-do, mostly set in exotic Hong Kong,” he writes. “It’s a great yarn, which might be more entertaining if Greenwald himself didn’t come across as so unpleasant. Maybe he’s charming and generous in real life. But in ‘No Place to Hide,’ Greenwald seems like a self-righteous sourpuss.”

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