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.)