Glenn Greenwald’s Sick Brew of NSA Leaks and Anti-Israel Hysteria
Blogger’s bizarre ideology sees America and Israel in active cahoots to destroy the freedoms of the entire world
Edward Snowden’s recent revelations were a godsend to these segments of the left, because they carried with them a whiff of incipient American totalitarianism—the NSA is spying on us!—while also suggesting that America and Israel were doing sneaky and underhanded things to undermine freedom around the world. That the NSA’s alleged spying extends no further than the reams of data each of us voluntarily provides to major corporations every hour of every day for the explicit purpose of use in advertising—The Onion, as is sadly often the case, was the only news source to actually understand this point—mattered little. Nor did it matter that the government acted with the explicit approval of a bipartisan committee of men and women elected by the people.
From their critique of Israel to their thundering condemnations of American policies, Greenwald and Bamford and others who share their view offer almost nothing by way of concrete policy suggestions, reasoned political stances, or anything else resembling a solution that might be applied to alleviate the suffering of real people. Instead, they trade in spooky-seeming revelations and aspersions. This is even more starkly true of the leakers themselves, Snowden and Bradley Manning, who decided that they had privileged insights that allow them to determine America’s national security—based on the fact that they could log onto government computers. When confronted with information they found troubling, they sought the first partner willing to make it public. They didn’t stop—like Daniel Ellsberg, whose name they often evoke and whose own support for Manning and Snowden is lamentable—to consider the implications of their actions; that is largely because Snowden and Manning share neither Ellsberg’s extensive education nor his actual combat experience and have no real grasp of how systems work or why they’re necessary. What they have is a slogan—information wants to be free!—and the hubris to put it above all else. And so, rather than following Ellsberg’s example and exhausting every conceivable avenue before taking the drastic step or breaking the law and leaking classified documents, they went for the nuclear option right off the bat.
To what end? That, too, is maddeningly unclear. Like Greenwald and Bamford, Manning and Snowden seem to support no concrete ideology applicable to guiding the course of human events. Listening to Snowden’s insipid interviews in particular, with their revelations that the United States spied on foreign nations, one wonders just how he believes governments ought to work. If the United States is not at liberty to clandestinely acquire information pertaining to competing nations—a practice whose ascent closely correlates with the notion of government itself—what might its foreign policy look like? And how might it defend itself against very real threats? Snowden hardly cares. That he would seek refuge in a nation like China—where one still isn’t free to search the Web or voice political opinions online, let alone vote for anyone who isn’t approved by the Communist Party—is a particularly poignant reminder of how sophomoric and senseless this new form of belief has become.
Snowden, Manning, Greenwald, Bamford, et al., do not seek to stir up a public conversation about programs and policies, as is the duty of journalists and whistleblowers alike. Their goal is very different. As Josh Marshall noted in a poignant essay last week:
Snowden is doing more than triggering a debate. I think it’s clear he’s trying to upend, damage—choose your verb—the U.S. intelligence apparatus and policies he opposes. The fact that what he’s doing is against the law speaks for itself. I don’t think anyone doubts that narrow point. But he’s not just opening the thing up for debate. He’s taking it upon himself to make certain things no longer possible, or much harder to do. To me that’s a betrayal.
The betrayal, however, is directed against something much larger than the U.S. government’s policies. It is directed against the concept of government itself. Elsewhere in his essay, Marshall commented that the strangest thing, perhaps, about Greenwald’s recent revelations and the mayhem that followed is how sharply they redrew the lines of political allegiances. It makes little sense to speak of liberals and conservatives when the kooks of both camps—two ever-growing factions—are both giddily prone to conspiracy theories and only too happy to fault the government with the worst intentions.
The new politics of the information age are now being shaped by two emerging camps. One believes in its inherent right to know everything but does not believe in personal responsibility; distrusts states, America in particular, but fashions the freedoms they grant into a banner; and speaks of human rights while caring very little about the lives of actual humans, as Julian Assange did when he recklessly leaked unredacted documents that put the lives of thousands of men and women who collaborated with the U.S. government in jeopardy and then shrugged the whole thing off by saying that anyone who cooperated with the Americans deserved to die. The other camp believes in the common good, and understands that the common good is best preserved not by individuals making personal and erratic decisions but by nation states, which are sometimes corrupt and often in need of shaking up but still, fundamentally, our worst form of government save for all the others. One camp burns with messianic zeal; the other is guided by the flickering light of democracy that requires the active commitment of responsible adults to keep it alight. This is as stark an ideological choice as any of the ones delineated by the great wars of the 20th century; now, as then, there ought to be little doubt which side deserves our allegiance.
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