Greenwald’s embarrassing public spat with Brazilian Union

In heated Twitter exchange, millionaire Fox News commentator Glenn Greenwald insinuates that a labor union representing petroleum platform workers who made an average of US$350/month in 2020 is “privileged”.

By Brian Mier

It all started on the Flow podcast. Sitting with his husband Glenn, David Miranda, one of 10 members of Brazilian congress from PSOL (the Brazilian Socialism and Freedom Party), announced they had convinced US tech billionaire Jack Dorsey to donate R$1,2 million towards the renovation of public sports facilities in Jacarezinho – the Rio de Janeiro favela where he grew up. Greenwald then announced that they were looking for donations for similar projects in the south zone favelas of Vidigal and Rocinha. It was important, Miranda added, because, “we can’t depend on the State to do this, it isn’t doing it.”

On Twitter, PSOL-affiliated, Marxist history professor Humberto Matos said it was troubling to see a US libertarian billionaire sponsoring a congressman from a socialist political party.

Glenn responded, asking why it was worrying that David got unrestricted funding to renovate public structures in the favela where he grew up, where family members still live. “Would it be better to leave them without resources?” he said, “That is also troubling”.

Then Sindipetro-ES, the Espirito Santo state petroleum workers union, jumped in:

“What is really worrying is to see David  justifying this on Flow with the idea that you can’t rely on the State for social transformation. To see a federal congressman use such a depoliticized line of thinking borders on the ridiculous. Why is he a congressman then?”

Greenwald quickly replied:

“The fact is that the State is ignoring the residents of the favela. David’s mandate is to pressure them to do more, but it is grotesque and immoral to not do everything you can to try to improve the community, especially the one he grew up in. It’s easy to say you don’t care.”

Sindepetro-ES, answered:

“This isn’t the issue, Glenn. The issue is you trying do justify a personal action with depoliticized rhetoric that shows David doesn’t have any real perspective of anti-capitalist transformation of society, which is PSOL’s  mission.”

Then, Glenn, who allegedly made 2500 times the Brazilian minimum wage while working for tech billionaire Pierre Omidyar at Intercept, tried to pull the Fox News “elite leftists” card on a labor union representing thousands of petroleum platform workers who earned an average salary of 1.7 times Brazilian minimum wage (around USD$350/month), in 2020. “As David explained on Flow,” he said, “for some privileged leftists, politics is a game to show purity and superiority. For people who grew up like him it is not an abstraction. His only purpose in politics is to improve the lives of the people, and this is what he is doing.”

Sindipetro answered:

“We are qualified to talk about this, Glenn. We work on many partnerships in vulnerable communities. Using the ‘privilege’ card to bury criticism of a political action doesn’t stick here. And we know very well that contradictions and dialogue make up an important component of good base level organizing.”

Brazilian union petroleum workers distributing free cooking gas 

Greenwald answered:

“I think the people in the community have the right to decide what they want to improve their lives. It was a group of residents who created this renovation plan and they asked us for help to find financing. I worry about their wishes, not your ideological dogma”.

Sindepetro-ES said:

“You continue trying to change the subject to make it look like this criticism is being made of the social project itself, Glenn. That’s not it. The criticism is over the justification used for this project that was made on a communication medium with a large audience. Because it was ridiculous to hear this from a federal congressman from a socialist party.”

Glenn answered:

“I think that the part of the left that prioritizes its theories and ideology over concrete actions that help lives that need them is rotten. The idea that David is being attacked for answering the request for help from the residents of Jacarezinho is especially grotesque.”

As other people jumped into the argument, Sindepetro-ES made a final comment:

“This is troubling because this type of idea that the private sector, through its ‘generous donations’ is the answer for the ‘morose bureaucracy of the State’, is basically what [right wing billionaire-funded] groups like Renova BR and MBL espouse. It’s basically the entire theoretical basis of neoliberalism. lol”


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.