Normally both of us, no strangers to controversy, view attacks on our articles like today’s by Glenn Greenwald as a badge of honor. But we’re frankly puzzled—and disappointed, if that’s the right word—that the source of this attack is Glenn Greenwald, whom we’ve followed fairly regularly over the past couple of years and whom we both respect.
Greenwald’s column raises one potentially valid criticism of our article—our treatment of John Tyner, the self-described libertarian and “don’t touch my junk” hero of the anti-TSA protests. Based on reporting from the San Diego Union-Tribune, we speculated that Tyner may have set up his taped encounter with TSA agents—a claim that we also quote Tyner denying. We did not, however, claim that Tyner was affiliated with the Astroturf and/or Koch-funded groups mentioned later in the piece, and indeed we noted directly that Tyner denied any such associations in an interview with The Nation. In retrospect, our article was less than clear about Tyner’s lack of Astroturf affiliations, and we regret in particular including extraneous details from the Union-Tribune article about Tyner’s past—that he went to a private Christian school and lived in a Republican community near a Marine base—because it distracted readers like Greenwald from the article’s main findings.
We believe that Tyner is in all likelihood innocent in his motives, but our larger point is that his discourse and the movement that has embraced it is far from innocent. In focusing entirely on our characterization of Tyner, Greenwald ignores the larger thrust of our argument and the vast majority of the evidence assembled in the piece, leaving a distorted impression of it.
Here is what the article really said: like many Americans, we found the TSA’s intrusive procedures offensive and we are against the invasive pat-downs and attack on our civil liberties. This was a given in our article, and we stated as much. What our article did was look beyond the obvious surface, into possible reasons why this particular issue suddenly rose to the forefront of the national debate, when dozens of other, more pressing issues are getting so little attention—people being kicked out of their homes and living on the street because of fraudulent foreclosures, a massive wealth transfer from struggling Americans to the financial sector, ongoing wars that are bankrupting the country and killing thousands, the attack on public education and so on.
Our investigation called into question the official version of events as a "spontaneous" grassroots anti-TSA outbreak. Instead, we discovered some very disturbing motives—business and political—pushing this issue forward. Our evidence, well-documented in our article, shows that the anti-TSA campaign was not a “spontaneous” “people’s uprising.” Instead, we documented numerous examples of anti-TSA campaigners with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers’ network, and we exposed the National Opt-Out Day campaign as being led by a Washington lobbyist who specializes in fake-grassroots campaigns.