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Late Night: No Place To Hide

Don’t wait for the movie; get the book.

I left work early on Tuesday to grab a copy of Glenn Greenwald’s new book about the Snowden leaks at Powell’s, and it was a good thing I did; I bought the last copy at about 1:00 pm. And when I finished it, too soon, I had no doubt Powell’s will be reordering, again and again.

I have been reading Greenwald’s work, religiously, since he first joined Salon (after I found FDL, but only just….), and one of his more distinctive qualities was his reluctance to inject himself personally into the issues he was covering, even when his own experience was relevant. I assumed at the time that this was for the same reason I chose to write under a pseudonym; to maintain a measure of privacy and distance from my online life, and to spare myself from distracting personal attacks.

Reading No Place To Hide, though, I’ve come to suspect that Greenwald never cared too much about those things; he had plenty of material on far more important topics than his own personal life, so he went after that, with his characteristic gusto, and left both admirers and detractors wondering what makes him tick.

And for that, this new book is the antidote. What the almost universally positive reviews have thus far failed to mention is that even in writing a Hollywood-bound story in which he is the star, Greenwald is actually quite modest about his role. He devotes nearly as much time examining his mistakes along the way as he does his triumphs, though the latter are more numerous. He repeatedly lauds his collaborators and source, and revels in learning new things from them that challenge his preconceptions. He is, in effect, the diametric opposite of the media he so delights in excoriating.

Underneath the rapid fire delivery and lawyerly doggedness we all see on TV (that Greenwald himself has said is a necessary evil in order to be heard), one finds a constantly questioning and inquisitive mind, always willing to reassess itself when faced with new evidence. One also finds, especially toward the end, an all-American optimist of the best sort; he isn’t doing any of this for nothing, and he is understandably proud of the belated conversation the world is having about the global Panopticon in which we live.

Don’t wait for the movie; get the book. Just not at Powell’s for the moment.

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