Glenn Greenwald
Politics • Writing • Culture
A Neocon Monster: The Ruinous Lies & Crimes of Bill Kristol, Now a Major Foreign Policy Thought-Leader in the Democratic Party
Video Transcript
June 20, 2023
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Good evening. It's Monday, June 19. Welcome to a new episode of System Update, our live nightly show that airs every Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern, exclusively here on Rumble, the free speech alternative to YouTube. 

Tonight, a neocon monster: the singular evil and deceit of Bill Kristol. 

One of the most extraordinary, alarming and baffling developments to witness in American politics is the complete rehabilitation of neoconservatives. Most Americans who know this term first learned of it in 2002 during the run-up to the American and British invasion of Iraq. The neocons were the most vocal and vehement advocates, not just of the invasion of Iraq, but more importantly, of the warmongering framework undergirding that attack, namely that the world is better off when the United States rules it, and especially the Middle East, through the application of superior military force, in essence, ordering all countries to do the bidding of the United States, always under the threat that failure to obey will result in attacks, invasions, bombings, regime change, coups and much more. This imperialistic and militaristic mindset was not exactly new.

This imperialistic and militaristic mindset was not exactly new. The U.S. fought wars, imposed tyrannies, and engineered coups all over the world, on every continent, during the Cold War and after but what distinguished neocons from standard warmongers and militarists were two qualities:  

First, they have no other politics beyond their quest for endless war. Many neocons in fact began as liberals or even leftists and were willing to morph into anything they needed to be as long as doing so served the only issue they really cared about: placing the US in a state of endless war, almost always fought by other people's families and children rather than their own. Starting with the war in Iraq, a war they were craving and loudly demanding long before the 9/11 attacks – that attack became the pretext for the war in Iraq – they have supported every new and proposed American war since then. "Neocons" is a polite euphemism for "bloodthirsty, sociopathic warmongers."

 Second, neocons, by definition, barely even pretend to care about the truth, whether they know it or not. The smarter ones do, the dumber ones don't. They are often followers of the German-American political philosopher Leo Strauss, and his belief in the “noble lie”, falsehoods propagated by those who are superior in society to deceive and mislead the peasants into acting contrary to their own belief system, for their own good as elites to find that concept for them. It was no accident that the war in Iraq, along with every U.S. war that followed, began – and then was sustained – with propaganda so intense and deceitful that calling them lies is a woeful understatement. Neocons do believe in lies. They believe in lies – and appear to derive arousal from them – almost as much as they believe in and find purpose and excitement in wars. 

Neocons were said to have reached the peak of their power during the Bush-Cheney administration when the trauma of the 9/11 attack and the fear and anger it inspired finally gave them the fuel to usher their demented agenda of endless permanent war. The utter failure of the Iraq War and the realization that it was based on lies told to the public through the corporate media, often led by neocons themselves, supposedly resulted in neocons finally being expelled from power and influence in Washington. They were discredited, we were told, finally unmasked as the deceitful sociopaths that they are. 

That should have been true, but it most definitely was not. The neocons went a bit underground after the Bush administration, but they never really went away and, in 2013 and 2014, they began to detect a shifting political reality: anti-war sentiment was growing in the Republican Party – as it was before 9/11 – as evidenced by Ron Paul's campaigns or George Bush's 2008 presidential campaign plank that the U.S. needed to have a more humble foreign policy. At the same time, Democrats were becoming increasingly enchanted with the promises, power and profit that war provides. In 2013, and 2014, neocons became especially enamored of Hillary Clinton. And though the narrative we're fed now claims that neocons only migrated back to the Democratic Party as a reaction to Trump – as the neocons are such honorable patriots and devotees of democracy that they simply could not abide Trump's anti-democratic impulses – the reality, as is easily demonstrated, and as we will show you, is the neocons who began maneuvering, reattached themselves to the Democratic Party long before Trump emerged, and they were especially excited by the prospect of a presidency led by Hillary Clinton, whose criticisms of Barack Obama was that – despite bombing eight different Muslim-majority countries – Obama was insufficiently aggressive, bellicose and militaristic.  

The neocons’ migration back to the Democratic Party is now complete. Virtually every major neocon from the Bush-Cheney era doesn’t even bother to brand themselves any longer as Never Trump conservatives. They're just Democrats like any other and are ardent admirers of Joe Biden. And why wouldn't they be? Their perception that the Democratic Party is the best vehicle for advancing their war-hungry pathology is correct. But the fact that they opportunistically morphed into loud opponents of Donald Trump and became Democrats – along with time, which means more and more people don't remember who they are or what they really did – means that neocons have reached a level of influence that is arguably greater than what they wielded back in 2002 and that it was. That is what makes it so urgent to document who they all are and why they are singularly menacing and demented. 

The most uniquely influential and illustrious neocon is almost certainly Bill Kristol. For years he edited a magazine, The Weekly Standard, founded in 1995, funded by Rupert Murdoch, and that was designed to push the United States to align with neoconservative ideology more and more by exerting influence within the Republican Party. Kristol now performs exactly the same role – contaminating our body politics with neoconservative sickness – but now operates within the Democratic Party and is now funded not by Rupert Murdoch, but by the liberal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. 

One could very effectively and persuasively make the case that Bill Kristol is the single most toxic, destructive and malign influence on American politics over the course of the last three decades. And that is exactly the case that we will make tonight, both as a reminder of what neoconservatives really are and have always been and to highlight how significant their influence continues to be, now, more than ever, in American politics, the Democratic Party and prevailing sentiments about war, militarism and chronic deceit from America's leading institutions of power. 

As a reminder, System Update is available as well in podcast form. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple and all major podcasting platforms where you can also rate and review each episode, which helps spread the visible visibility of this program.

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now.

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Dog-of-the-Week goes to KIERA. Our cute-as-can-be cohost got some rest while Glenn and Victor did the heavy lifting of answering our Weekly Weigh-In questions. But, she wasn’t the only one, Toby – seen in our second photo – also got to nap.

UPDATE: Alan Dershowitz vs. Glenn Greenwald at The Soho Forum
15 hours ago

I’m impressed with how well informed and how IFORMING some of the audience here is! Someone offered a list of reports from Al Jesera that includes a report on the current use of the floating aid port and how it’s being received from the perspective of Gaza and the international community. It’s really important to know about! Thanks to who did this!

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As the Daily Wire Publicly Negotiated a Debate with Candace Owens, it Secretly Sought -- and Obtained -- a Gag Order Against Her
Due to a prior restraint order against Owens, the much-anticipated Israel debate with Ben Shapiro appears to be off.

On April 5, Candace Owens publicly invited her former Daily Wire colleague Ben Shapiro to a debate about "Israel and the current definition of antisemitism." It was Owens' criticisms of U.S. financing of Israel, and her criticisms of Israel's war in Gaza, that caused her departure from the Daily Wire two weeks earlier.

Both Shapiro and Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing responded by saying they would like to arrange the debate requested by Owens. That night, Shapiro appeared to accept her offer, writing on X: "Sure, Candace. I texted you on February 29th offering this very thing." The Daily Wire co-founder added: "Let's do it on my show this Monday at 5pm at our studios in Nashville; 90 minutes, live-streamed."

After Owens objected to the format and timing, she and Boreing exchanged several tweets in which they appeared to be negotiating, and then agreeing to, the terms and format for the debate. Owens had suggested the debate be moderated by Joe Rogan or Lex Fridman. Shaprio said he wanted no moderator. They ultimately agreed to the terms, with Boreing offering a series of conditions, including a no-moderator debate, and with Owens publicly accepting

Two weeks later, many readers of both Shapiro and Owens noticed, and complained, that the debate had not yet happened. On April 24, Owens addressed those inquiries by explaining that the Daily Wire had yet to propose dates, while reiterating her strong desire to ensure the debate happened.

But the debate was never going to happen. That is because the Daily Wire -- in secret and unbeknownst to its readers -- sought a gag order to be placed on Owens after she had called for a debate. They did this under the cover of secrecy, before a private arbitrator, at exactly the same time that they were claiming in public that they wanted this debate and were even negotiating the terms with her. To this date, the Daily Wire has not informed its readers, seeking to understand why the much-anticipated debate had not yet happened, that they had sought and obtained a gag order against Owens.

When seeking a gag order to be imposed on Owens, the Daily Wire accused her of violating the non-disparagement clause of her agreement with the company. To substantiate this accusation, the company specifically cited Owens' initial tweet requesting a debate with Shapiro as proof of this disparagement, along with concerns she voiced that Shapiro appeared to be violating the confidentiality agreement between them by publicly maligning Owens's views to explain her departure from the company. While the company claimed before the arbitrator that it did not object in principle to a "healthy debate," it urged the imposition of a gag order on Owens by claiming that the way she requested the debate constituted disparagement of Shapiro and the site.

To justify the gag order it wanted, the company also cited various criticisms of the Daily Wire and Shapiro on X that Owens had "liked." This proceeding took place as part of an exchange of legal threats between the parties after the public agreement to debate about Israel was solidified. Those threats arose from the fact that various Daily Wire executives and hosts, in both public and private, were castigating Owens as an anti-Semite. On March 22, Daily Wire host Andrew Klaven published a one-hour video that hurled multiple accusations, including anti-Semitism, at Owens. The Daily Wire cited Owens' response to that video -- her defense of herself from those multiple accusations -- as further proof that she needed to be gagged.

The initial tweet from Owens not only requested a debate, but also included a video from the popular comedian Andrew Schulz, who had mocked the Daily Wire for firing Owens over disagreements regarding Israel, and specifically mocked Shapiro for his willingness to debate only undergraduate students. The tweet underneath Owens's original debate request included a summary of Schulz's mockery of Shapiro which stated: Schulz now "realizes Ben Shapiro is only good at debating college liberals & can’t win debates against serious competition." 

After the prior restraint hearing sought by the Daily Wire and Shapiro, the arbitrator sided with them and against Owens. The arbitrator agreed with the Daily Wire that Owens' call to debate Shapiro, and her follow-up negotiations of the debate, constituted "disparagement" of the company and Shapiro. The company argued that any further attempt by Owens to debate, as well her suggesting that the debate would expose the Daily Wire's real "priorities," constituted criticisms of the site and of Shapiro, criticisms that the arbitrator concluded Owens was barred from expressing under her contract with the company.

The arbitrator thus imposed a gag order of prior restraint on Owens. Among other things, the order banned Owens from saying or doing anything in the future which could tarnish or harm the reputation of the Daily Wire and/or Ben Shapiro. Given that the Daily Wire had argued, and the arbitrator agreed, that Owens' offers to debate Shapiro about Israel and anti-semitism were themselves "disparaging," the Daily Wire has ensured that the debate with Owens that they publicly claimed to want could not, in fact, take place. Any such debate would be in conflict with the gag order they obtained on Owens from expressing any criticisms of the site or of Shapiro.

When asked for comment to be included this story, Owens replied: I "wish I could comment on this but I can’t." She added: "can neither confirm nor deny."

Boreing said: "your story is inaccurate to the point of being false," though he did not specify a single inaccuracy, nor did he deny that the Daily Wire had sought and obtained a gag order on Owens at the same time they were publicly posturing as wanting a debate with her. The confirmation we obtained of all these facts is indisputable. Boreing added: "I’m sure you can appreciate how fraught a high profile break-up like this is. For that reason, we are trying to resolve our issues with Candace privately."

It certainly seems true that the Daily Wire is attempting to achieve all of this "privately." Nonetheless, Ben Shapiro has constructed his very lucrative media brand and persona based on his supposed superiority in debating, a reputation cultivated largely as a result of numerous appearances at undergraduate schools around the country where he intrepidly engages with students who are often in their teens or early twenties. Both Shapiro and the Daily Wire have also predicated their collective media brand on an eagerness to engage in free and open debate with anyone, and to vehemently oppose any efforts to silence people, especially those in media, from expressing their political views.

It was the imperatives of this media branding that presumably led the Daily Wire and Shapiro to publicly agree to a debate with Owens over Israel and anti-semitism in the first place. Indeed, when it became apparent early after the start of Israel's war in Gaza that Owens had major differences with Shapiro, Boering responded to calls from Israel supporters for Owens to be fired by proclaiming in November: 

[E]ven if we could, we would not fire Candace because of another thing we have in common - a desire not to regulate the speech of our hosts, even when we disagree with them. Candace is paid to give her opinion, not mine or Ben’s. Unless those opinions run afoul of the law or she violates the terms of her contract in some way, her job is secure and she is welcome at Daily Wire.

But a mere four months later, Owens, despite being of one of the company's most popular hosts, was out. The company had concluded that her increasingly vocal criticisms of Israel, opposition to U.S. financing of it, and her views on anti-semitism were incompatible with the Daily Wire's policies.

All of those issues would likely have been the subject of the public debate that Owens sought, and that the Daily Wire claimed to want. Instead, the Daily Wire has succeeded in obtaining a gag order that, on its face, prevents Owens, in advance, from questioning or criticizing both the Daily Wire or Shapiro in any way.



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