Bolsonaro vs. Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald attends a meeting of the human rights committee of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, Brazil, June 25, 2019. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

People who write about controversial things should, I think, make peace with the fact that they are in the controversy business, and in a world full of half-literate rage-monkeys, that brings along with it some unpleasant consequences. But before you write that eleventh “Somebody Said Something Mean about Me on Twitter!” story, bear in mind that the government of Brazil will, if it is given the chance, put Glenn Greenwald in prison for exposing corruption among the country’s rulers.

Greenwald is not being targeted because he is publishing work based on documents that were acquired through illegal means but because that work embarrasses the government of Brazil. That is his crime.

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The fact that he is a gay foreigner married to a left-wing politician surely amplifies the enmity of the Bolsonaro government, but if journalism is, as the proverb has it, publishing that which somebody powerful does not desire to see published, then it is journalism, that precisely and that almost exclusively, that has made Greenwald a target in this case.

There has been a worrisome decay of the culture of free speech in the United States, but our situation here remains fundamentally different from that of much of the rest of the world. That being said, it seems to me that the trend in the United States points in a distinctly Brazilian direction. We should work to stop that and to reverse it, if possible.

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