Sunday, July 7, 2013

Media: Please STFU About Edward Snowden

I was thrilled when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, but I also remember thinking, "we pretty much knew all that." Most of the revelations had to do with the lies the Kennedy and Johnson administrations had consciously and repeatedly told to the public about the conduct of the Vietnam war. The Nixon administration would lie as well, but that's another story.

But the whole Edward Snowden thing pisses me off on so many levels. Snowden, as those with a pulse know, is the National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked details of the U.S. government's Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization and Management (PRISM) program. Under PRISM, the NSA can gather the metadata of every telephone, email and text message of every American both at home and abroad.

The way the news media has gone totally batshit over this revelation would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetic. Their newly-found outrage is akin to the "Casablanca" police Captain Louis Renault being "shocked" to discover gambling at Rick's nightclub. Excuse me, media people, but have you been asleep since the Patriot Act was passed in 2004? Have you ignored the outrage of Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall over the years?You are really claiming this is news?

Or  is your new-found indignation due to the Obama administration's spying on one of your own, FOX news reporter James Rosen? Or did some collective light go on when the Justice Department subpoenaed ABC reporters' phone records? I guess it's okay to spy on the American public, but it's an outrage to do it to a reporter. The mainstream press, quite honestly, has been asleep at the switch for the entire 21st century, with it's "Oh! What a Lovely War" attitude towards the U.S. invasion of Iraq and it's concomitant indignation over the U.S. military's policy of embedding reporters, unless they were one of those embedded.

Next, Snowden himself. The"revelations" he outed, what? You mean you didn't know? See above ref. to Patriot Act and Sens. Wyden and Udall, above, please. Okay, here's Plucky's revealed secret: Guess what, America (and World): The U.S. can, and does, spy on you and it has all manner of technotricks to learn what it will. By the way, so does France, Britain, China, Russia, Germany, Israel, and...oh, why go on? Man the presses! 

When Daniel Ellsberg decided to reveal the Pentagon Papers, he first took them to several important people, including Henry Kissinger and a couple of liberal U.S. senators.Snowden couldn't be bothered with something so banal, I guess. No one was interested, so Ellsberg gave his paper trove to the New York Times. And he stayed in the U.S. to face the consequences. But Snowden?

When the shit hits the fan, you can duck for cover or stand and face the fire, to paraphrase Col. Slade in "Scent of a Woman.". And Snowden did the former. The weenie beat it so fast that you could play cards on his coattails. He's like the kid who heaves snowballs at others and runs to the safety of his parents' front porch, where he commences to heave more snowballs at the pursuing mob. Oh--Snowden did tell his girlfriend of six years he'd be away on business for a bit. How noble.

But it worked out okay, didn't it? Because now the debate among commentators and those few in the public who actually give a shit is whether or not Snowden broke the law (he did) or if he committed civil disobedience by becoming a whistleblower (he did, maybe). But these two arguments are conflated and really have little to do with the reality of the situation. 

Snowden may have broken the law, some say, but American interests weren't damaged. Somehow, this fact justifies everything, so Snowden, in fact, performed a brave public service in accord with his conscience.

Bullshit. He didn't reveal anything we didn't already know.

Not only did Snowden break the law, say others, but the NSA wiretapping disrupted fifty terrorist plots to harm Americans!

To which I say, bullshit again. Just as government spokespeople once raised the shibboleth of "stopping communists" to cloud the truthfulness of its press releases, they now make truth opaque with the specter of stopping terrorists. The so-called government "Credibility Gap" of the 1960s is the near-total lack of credibility in the 21st Century.

Look. Everyone knows about the ubiquitous (and likely iniquitous) governmental spying overreach. The sick part is a majority of Americans being willing to trade security for privacy. The crime is repeated government lying and misrepresentations of the danger of terrorism so that Americans are unduly fearful. Death from too many Big Macs outnumbers death from terrorists, but no serious person considers government monitoring of fast food joints to be a useful option.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited his friend Henry David Thoreau, who'd been jailed for refusing to pay a poll tax underwriting the Mexican War he opposed, Emerson said, "Henry David, what are you doing in there?"

To which Thoreau replied, "Ralph Waldo, what are you doing out there?"

Snowden became a NSA contractor with the specific purpose of stealing classified information and was successful. An act of conscience or Narcissism? A dangerous breach of security or a brave deed resulting in a get-him-at-all-costs Obama vendetta? 

Take your pick and enjoy the meaningless debate. He told us little we didn't already know and, like Emerson, has chosen to remain out there, lobbing his little pebbles of information at the big mean U.S. government for so-called journalists to ooh and ah over, fueling debates whose sound and fury signify nothing.

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