Company Man: The Data Behind Glenn Greenwald's Twitter Loyalty to Fox News
He's hardly tweeted a critical word about the network since April 2020
Conservative provocateur Glenn Greenwald takes pride in his consistency and principles—especially when it comes to taking the media to task.
Over the course of 16-year career, Greenwald has pilloried conservative and liberal media outlets alike for what he sees as their refusal to challenge power and ask hard questions. Those critiques have been biting, and often essential; and no corporate media outlet escaped criticism. Up until recently, it didn’t matter whether the targets were conservatives or liberals, Greenwald took them all on.
That’s changed. Today, Greenwald appears interested in using his mammoth Twitter account, with 1.7 million followers, to attack only one side of the media. Liberal-leaning MSNBC and CNN still rightfully come in for attack, but right-wing Fox now escapes Greenwald’s scrutiny.
I wondered how often Greenwald has criticized Fox in the past, and how that’s changed over time. So I went through Greenwald’s tweets since September 2016 to see how his attitude to Fox has changed as he’s become a more frequent guest.
His views, to put it mildly, have shifted.
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In order to find out just how positive Greenwald has become in his posts about Fox, I separated his tweets mentioning the network by name into two categories: Positive and Negative. My methodology was subjective, but fair—if anything I erred on the side of seeing Greenwald as a fundamentally objective actor despite the broader context.
First, I discarded incidental mentions of the network when discussing something else, using it as a cudgel to expose unrelated hypocrisy (i.e. if Fox is bad for x reason, MSNBC must be bad for y; in this case the subject is MSNBC), or simply mentioning it as an aside.
Once I removed the neutrals, I went through the remainder with an eye to reducing the total number of posts. If Greenwald was involved in an interminable back and forth in which he responded with an identical pro-Fox argument every time to a different recipient in the same thread, I left only the first one and didn’t include the rest. Here’s an example:
In some instances, most notably Greenwald’s frequent use of this 2017 Mediaite story about when he mildly challenged Laura Ingraham, I used my judgement on a case by case basis.
Greenwald has used the link so many times and with varying levels of criticism of Fox that some of those instances were defined as Negative (though the majority were Positive). Some I left out simply because of the monotony of using one story from December 2017 to answer charges about his behavior from then until 2021.
I divided the remainder of the posts like so: If a tweet was directly critical of Fox, or a Fox personality, or of someone appearing on Fox, or if it used a negative comparison of Fox with another network, it was Negative.
If a tweet was directly positive about Fox, about someone appearing on Fox, a defense of Greenwald’s appearances on Fox, or used a positive comparison of Fox with another liberal network, I listed it as Positive.
After making the cuts and revisions, I was left with 193 tweets—33 Negative and 160 Positive.
Once I had those numbers, I cross-checked them with Greenwald’s appearances on Fox. In 2016, Greenwald was frequently disparaging toward the network, rejoicing in its civil war over Roger Ailes and celebrating in its failures. That began to change in December 2016, when he began appearing on the network, and by 2020 Greenwald was more or less all in.
Two notes on the table below—first, there is a gap in Greenwald’s tweets from April 9, 2017 to September 1, 2018. I suspect it’s the result of an error in using a tweet deleter but, whatever the reason, those posts are all missing.
Second, the huge spike in March 2019 came after Greenwald appeared on the network disparaging Jair Bolsonaro ahead of the Brazilian president’s appearance on the network.
It’s logical that Greenwald would tweet more about the network to both promote and defend his appearances when he’s appearing on Fox—that’s part of a mutually beneficial feedback loop.
Since beginning to appear regularly on Fox in the latter half of last year, Greenwald has been almost uniformly positive about the network. The two exceptions since April 30, 2020, are from May 2021 and address Fox’s coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Pull the negatives out and you get a clearer picture of the correlation between the positive posting and appearances:
And here’s the cumulative tweets and appearances:
The same chart with the negatives removed:
Greenwald’s gushing pro-Fox posts range from promoting his own appearances and defending Tucker Carlson to bumping other people’s appearances on the channel—just the thing you’d expect from someone trying to make a good impression.
Another of Greenwald’s most notorious pro-Fox bits is to publish results from cable news ratings showing the right-wing network besting its liberal competitors in the ratings.
It’s revealing that a nominally independent journalist like Greenwald, who frequently complains about the cultural hegemony enjoyed by liberal media, brags about these numbers—and that he has nothing to critique about the conservative cable news behemoth he appears on.
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That this shift in approach has come as Greenwald has become a regular contributor on Fox has not gone unmentioned by his critics on the left. But when confronted about this disconnect, Greenwald dissembles, flees the conversation, or both.
Greenwald has built a career on his perceived willingness to tell the truth no matter who it offends or angers. His past reporting has borne this out; the exposé revealing the extent of the NSA’s spying changed the world for the better, as his work on the Brazilian Car Wash scandal did for that country.
As a major media figure with millions of followers across a large number of platforms, Greenwald’s views are influential—so it’s important he be honest about them. His recent full-bore tilt to the right has led to Greenwald embracing partisan right-wing arguments, a shift has coincided with his work with conservative media personalities at Fox, primarily Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
Whether or not Greenwald is still an independent voice is up to his audience to decide. When it comes to his tweets about Fox News, however, that’s a hard case to make.
Thanks to Media Matters For America for providing data on Greenwald’s guest appearances.
I may have missed a number of tweets and appearances, but I feel confident about these conclusions. If you have a correction or concern, please feel free to reach out.
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