Glenn Greenwald doesn't really like other journalists.
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Glenn Greenwald, courtesy of Flickr
"I tend not to have the highest opinion of other journalists, although there are a lot of really good ones," he told the Loft Cinema's audience at a special Q&A following the screening of Citizen Four on March 24. "You know, there are very narrow narratives that are permitted in mainstream media outlets. And that's why independent media and independent theaters like this one are so critical to being heard."
If you didn't know, Greenwald is the reporter who initially broke the news sharing documents that proved the National Security Association, under the Obama administration's orders, had been collecting cell phone records off millions of Verizon users phones, among other companies—including Microsoft, Apple and AT&T—communication records. You can read Greenwald's other stories and op-eds about NSA privacy infringement and general national security here.
Throughout his 30-minute Q&A Greenwald repeatedly stressed he wasn't the hero—he just broke the story. The real hero was Edward Snowden, the former Central Intelligence Agency employee and whistleblower who leaked the documents to him.
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Edward Snowden interviews with Glenn Greenwald in Citizen Four
"With nothing more than an act of courage—an act of confidence—he changed the world," Greenwald said. "[He showed] the power of the individual to stand up to justice."
Through leaking top-secret information regarding the NSA's micro-monitoring of the average American's life, Snowden knowingly condemned himself to either (a) spending the rest of his days locked up in the US or (b) seeking political asylum in foreign countries (he currently resides in Russia). Greenwald said before Snowden's selfless act, even the most voracious investigative journalists were afraid to seek out such extreme governmental wrongdoings, but that in years since, more people have been inspired to really challenge the government and create transparency at any costs.
"When you trigger a global debate like that—for the first time, a debate about what is the value of privacy in the digital age, what is the danger of government secrecy and what is the proper role of journalism in a democracy, and a whole variety of related questions. Just changing conscientiousness that way has really enduring ramifications."
Greenwald also addressed questions from UA student journalists who wondered what type of journalists he actually did like, and how they could become said journalists when they pursued their careers. He first advised students to never lose their conviction to reporting.
"A lot of times, what these fields of discipline are intended to do, once you get out of school and go to work, is they intend to completely snuff that passion out of you because that passion gets in the way of you following some sort of dictation ... [but] it's critical to keep that passion really vibrant and not let someone suffocate it out of you."
He then advised students to never forget the original ideas of journalism and the press, as defined per the Constitution.
"If you look at the reason why there was a free press in the Constitution in the first place, there's a really good reason for it. It wasn't supposed to be this cloistered profession called journalists ... It's intended to be an adversarial force. The idea of journalism in it's most constructive form is when you're shining a light on what people in power are trying to maintain a wall of darkness around—when you're exposing you're lies, when you're preventing them from exercising authority without any limits of any kind."
It appeared that from watching Citizen Four and his Q&A, Greenwald essentially wanted the audience to understand how vital Snowden's brand of courage and devotion to upholding governmental transparency is to maintaining true democracy.
"I can't imagine anyone who'd say we'd be better off without Snowden ... The population should know virtually everything about what the government is doing. That's why they're called public officials—because they act in the public sphere, they're supposed to have transparency."