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Mainstream Pundits Attack Edward Snowden | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Mainstream Pundits Attack Edward Snowden


David Simon, one of many media pundits who have been critical of the response to the NSA leaks. (Courtesy of Flickr user David Kindler)

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. One would think that newspaper pundits, whose publications benefit most (besides the public) from major leaks—and whose reporters then face possible prosecution by the government—would rise in at least partial defense of an Edward Snowden. But if you thought that, you’d be very wrong this week.

The latest example, today, is Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Longtime media writer Dan Kennedy, up in Boston, tweets this morning that yesterday everyone was making fun of the anti-Snowden “rant” by TV series creator (and former newspaper reporter) David Simon—and now here’s Friedman highlighting it in the Times.

Friedman uses the argument that he will gladly trade off what he describes as simply data mining to prevent another 9/11, because (wait for it)—if there’s another 9/11 most Americans will call for a truly Orwellian crackdown. That is, Friedman knows he would be one of them.

Friedman, like so many others, cites the threats revealed in the recent Boston Marathon bombing, in quoting Simon at length. In fact, he quotes Simon referring to Boston, without irony, twice. Of course what he and others fail to mention is the obvious fact that we have had this “data mining” in place for years—and it still didn’t come close to preventing the Boston bombing. (I guess Friedman is correct in claiming that Simon “cuts right to the core of the issue”). So, logically, since the current regime did not prevent Boston, folks like Friedman and Simon must favor even more invasive surveillance—of US citizens.

Friedman also quotes Simon’s conclusion and supposed trump card on the NSA programs: “We don’t know of any actual abuse.” Since it’s been top-secret (until now), how would he or anyone know of any?

And Friedman reveals more than he probably realizes by casually tossing off a line like this, then moving on very quickly (to quoting Simon again): “To be sure, secret programs, like the virtually unregulated drone attacks, can lead to real excesses that have to be checked.” This is the standard line all week—from pundits who have rarely if ever criticized any excesses before.

But the high point of the latest from Friedman comes when he—of all people!—raises the threat of other writers “bloviating.” Pot meet kettle! (Friedman also seems to have missed that Simon did walk back part of his original rant, in regards to internet surveillance.)

This follows yesterday’s anti-Snowden columns by, among many others, Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker, David Brooks of the Times and Richard Cohen at The Washington Post. Need we remind you that all were pitifully wrong-wrong-wrong on Saddam’s WMD, mocking critics of our invasion of Iraq in particularly vicious fashion. Roger Simon of Politico declared that Snowden had “all the qualifications” of “a grocery bagger.”

And then you have the Gene Lyons of the world, asking what’s the fuss, “the systems appears to be working as designed,” as Lyons puts it. Exactly.

Brooks babbled even more than usual in an all-out assault on Snowden—and young Americans everywhere. Apparently he feels they have betrayed failed institutions rather than failed institutions betraying him. Yet he demands more, not less, fealty to those institutions. And BTW, my 25-year-old son sounds nothing like the younger folks he lacerates: “the apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments.” And the idiocy of this is proven in this statement: “Young people in positions like that will no longer be trusted with responsibility.” Right. Let me know when you hear about mass transfers, demotions or firings of the millions in such positions with US agencies and at private contractors.

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And Brooks, who declares Snowden an antisocial misfit, is probably the one glued to his computer right now—looking at those revealing photos of Snowden’s girlfriend in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, longtime, alleged “liberal” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has also weighed in on Edward Snowden. You should read the whole thing but here’s one of several money quotes: “Greenwald said that ‘Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers.’ I think he’ll go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.”

Glenn Greenwald plays a pivotal role in my book (with Kevin Gosztola) on the Bradley Manning case, just published in an updated edition.

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