Snowden smearing begins

Gawker's Hamilton Nolan ridicules the halfwitted psychoanalysis and smearing aimed by sneering pundits at Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who revealed the agency's expansive surveillance of everyday Americans.

We are often accused of being cynics. But even we can see quite plainly that the Prism story is huge, important, and newsworthy, and that the person who made the story happen deserves credit for helping it come out. Oddly enough, the cynics on this story reside in the ultra-establishment. They are the journalists and pundits who feel compelled to demonstrate their own sophistication by dismissing these revelations as old hat (though documented proof of these programs has never been seen before). They are those who have grown so inured to the gross overreach of government power that they can no longer conceive of it as scandalous.

David Brooks' piece is particularly grotesque, and not simply because going to it means having to look at one of his weird Zoolanderesque mugshots. Check out this paragraph:

He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.

Don't make me beat you, honey.


      1.  He didn’t have to , he was leaking on orders from the boss.  He knew they would protect him.

  1. “Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.”

    So, if I read this correctly, if he’d just listened to mommy and daddy more, and gone to church like a good young man, he wouldn’t have found the gigantic and menacing state gigantic and menacing? 

    I see also that :For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.”

    So, apparently ‘deference to common procedures is not an obstacle to unprecedented dragnet surveillance; but is an obstacle to whistleblowing… And of course a loss of respect for, and trust of, institutions has nothing at all to do with institutional malfeasance, and entirely to do with meddling kids who expose it….

    How does somebody as dumb as Brooks’ get to write for a middle school newsletter, much less a national paper?

    (For extra credit, I’m delighted to see that the seditious enemies of the crown who just went and unilaterally fomented rebellion against lawful authoritity would have been shocked, shocked, at the havoc wreaked up on the ‘democratic structures of accountability’, which apparently work even when the voters don’t know what they are voting for…)

      1. The alternative to moral relativism, strictly speaking, is… what? Religious absolutism?

        1. That’s the other extreme, which is really the self-same moral relativism.  The middle path is simple: “morality” or otherwise known as “basic human decency.”

          1. I see that we’re talking on different wavelengths. Which is fine. I imagine we’re rowing in the same direction, regardless.

          2. We probably are.  I would hope that the people who work at the NSA aren’t people who would shoot through my grandmother just to get a bad guy on the other side of her that they could wait another 5 seconds and get him in the free and clear.  That kind of basic human decency.

          3. There seems to be widespread confusion between ‘morals’ and ‘rules’. Thus organized religion.

      2. I’m all for contextualism. But I’m sick of this attitude that if the American state does something it is automatically good, and if any opponent or even critic does something, it is automatically bad.

        The fact that the defenders of these policies so often denounce opponents of these policies as “anti-American,” says something, about relativism and about their ideology. Why is it automatically anti-American when we criticize the government’s violations of anyone’s rights? Why isn’t it anti-American when the government violates our rights?

        1. But I’m sick of this attitude that if the American state does something
          it is automatically good, and if any opponent or even critic does
          something, it is automatically bad.

          The most glaring example of this for me is the criticism about Snowden going to China, which is portrayed as an even-bigger surveillance state. Coupled with the assertion that the Snowden revelations harm the US, nobody ever says that our knowing that China does this harms China. Because it doesn’t.

          1.  Snowden’s a smart cookie.  He didn’t randomly go to HK.  Could well be simply that there are 15,000 ways a minute to go anywhere else in SE Asia.  Could be that he’s “like a ship that never docks” laden with damaging cargo.

    1. How does somebody as dumb as Brooks’ get to write for a middle school newsletter, much less a national paper?

      He makes poorly informed but highly self-important people feel wise, which is certainly is a complex skill.

      I might be tempted to say that his buffoonery was specially selected by the Times so that they could claim ideological balance on their editorial page while simultaneously mocking conservatives.  There are two problems with that theory, however.  1) Brooks is hardly the nuttiest or most incompetent conservative heavily featured in public discourse (the Wall Street Journal editorial board published an even stupider column on the day of the leak); 2) Brooks is a genius compared to Thomas Friedman.

    2. “How does somebody as dumb as Brooks’ get to write for a middle school newsletter, much less a national paper?”

      Because he’s one of the doubleplusgoodest duckspeakers in Oceania,

  2. We saw the same thing with Wikileaks.  Major orgs and writers dismissed the leaks as nothing special, and then as soon as was even remotely possible, stopped writing about them altogether – focusing instead on character assassination of Assange (deserved or not).

    When’s the last time anyone saw anything about all those leaks anyways?

  3. David Brooks’ piece is just downright frightening – if only he’d played more football and eaten more processed food, he’d have been a Good American Boy.  Ye Gods.

  4. The entire U.S. media was scooped by Snowden when he went to the Guardian. Columnists like Brooks are simply jealous.

    Do you think for one minute that Brooks would have turned down this story if Snowden has brought it to him first?

    Of course not. David Brooks would have run with it and instead of criticizing Snowden for being unattached to his family, neighbors, and society, he would be lionizing him for being willing to loose all of it for the good of everyone.

  5. Augh!  Yahoo has been flogging a story about his girlfriend all morning and shows no signs of letting up.

  6. Is this an appropriate time for the “Christ, what an asshole” meme? i.e. David Brooks: Christ, what an asshole!

    Though really, as Navin Johnson pointed out above, Ari Fleischer might be even worse than Brooks at this point.

    1. Personally I’m considering “Christ, what a traitor,” and I’m not talking about Snowden. These “journalists” hopping up and down squealing about national security and personal character are literally trying to sell our freedoms away for pats on the back from on high.

      I’d spit in Brooks face if I could. Edward Snowden is a true patriot, who’s already sacrificed more than any of our representatives to give us a chance at keeping our American rights.

  7. I’m not even gonna look at the Gawker piece, whatever its merits. I was stupid enough to read the replies on IO9 when the story broke. Gawker’s empire has some awful, awful commenters.

    1.  I think a pool of the same people hound some of the same websites. I mean, if you’re going to spew filth, then why stop at just one forum? One has to rain on EVERYBODY’S parade to feel like you’ve done something for the day.

    2. Four things for success. Never:
      * tell me the odds
      * go full retard
      * read the comments.
      * seriously, never read the comments.

    1.  As soon as I heard he didn’t have a degree I knew there would be classist attacks on him. He’s one of “them”…

    2. Josh Marshall is an Obama true believer, and I say this as a former long-time reader of TPM back to the small-blog Valerie Plame days when he was the only writer. He is leading the character assassination charge, having started on Sunday with a plea to readers to contribute to this purpose. He’s a bad lefty, through and through, thoroughly addicted to the cocktail weenie circuit.

    3. My first assumption on hearing that he’d gone for his GED was that, like many of my more talented friends who came from families who couldn’t afford private schools, he was bored stiff in public school and didn’t want to waste further time in a system that lacks the resources, and often the desire, to challenge the best, most curious, and most self-motivated students.

      I also remember the judgments of my extended adopted family who, never having attended or graduated college themselves, assumed that taking a GED was proof of stupidity, not self-direction and passion. They also viewed it as suspiciously different, maybe not Communist, but certainly not the American Way. Those on the other end of the class spectrum seem to share those views but they add a soupçon of snobbery to the dish. 

      David Brooks might better serve himself and his audience by examining the educational system in the US to see how and why it fails to meet the needs of those students who are most passionate about learning. And he might want to examine his own prejudices as someone who highly values conformity and the opinions of the majority. But that might cost him a lot of money and a lot of self-esteem, so likely he’ll keep his noise-cancelling headphones firmly in place.

      1.  And he might want to examine his own prejudices as someone who highly values conformity and the opinions of the majority.

        And I thought we were talking about David Brooks…

  8. I’m not sure that defaming Snowden is helping Brooks & Co’s cause. When Snowden looks bad, the people who trusted him with his security clearance look even worse. A discredited Snowden becomes a very strong argument argument for “this data will not be handled properly.”

  9. Wow.  That Brooks piece is terrible.  I frequently disagree with him, but can at least see (often murkily) where he’s coming from.  In this case, he sounds like the establishment mouthpiece that he is.  There are a few things I want to note:

    1.  How fucking presumptuous can you get? He’s making so many assumptions about someone he’s never met or spoken with, it’s absurd.  He may be the nicest, friendlies guy in the world..  Being a geek doesn’t make you disassociated with society.  It often means that you simply engage in it in different ways.  Also, for most people aged 40 and younger, much of life actually occurs on the internet. 

    2.  OMG!  Snowden didn’t finish college!  He didn’t even finish high school!  Mentioning these facts without pointing out their relevance (there is none) only drives home the fact that this is a smear effort.  Someone who has had this level of success by the age of 29, without having finished high school, speaks to likely inherent  intelligence and skills.  And probably discipline.  When I was his age, I’d been in the workforce for several years and was applying for grad school.  Yet, I had attained only a fraction of his success.  Don’t get me wrong; Snowden may be an asshole – I don’t know – but someone who starts adulthood with the deck stacked against him and still manages to find success gets more of my respect, not less.

    3.  The piece is basically an argument against the sort of individualism that our country champions.  Look at the quote below:

    “He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. ”

    Seriously?  Just pick up a history book and see how many unilateral decisions you can find that changed the country for the better.  I’m not saying that all ‘principled’ decisions are right, but I think it’s absurd to argue that they don’t have a place in our society and in our government.  

    4.  Just look at this sentence:

    “He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.”

    That Brooks could write that sentence without his head exploding amazes me.

    1.  It’s worth reading the comments.  Lots of them are very well written, and unremitting in their condemnation of that buffoon and his juggling act.

    2. Excellent summary. 

      Brooks’ piece sounded to me like an authority figure’s speech in a 50s B-movie about reform school and Juvenile Delinquents. That’s the fodder on which his generation grew up. Maybe he was channeling Joe Friday.I bet Snowden swivels his hips when he dances too.

      1. I bet Snowden swivels his hips when he dances too.

        That’s why in the Guardian interview, he’s only filmed from the waist up.

  10. The coverage that most bothers me is the focus on his age, as if that somehow disqualifies him from having anything useful to say, or makes his mission with these leaks inherently misguided.

    And yet, at the same time, our society is constantly flogging the notion that his generation of “kids these days” are all lazy, disengaged losers who don’t care about anything but themselves. But when one of them sticks his neck out, everyone jumps on the kid who can’t possibly know the consequences of his actions, poor dear. Should have stayed in your parent’s basement, working at McDonalds, you dropout.

    I think the history of our country has shown that is is usually the young who are the ones to get fired up enough to try to change things (see:1960’s). When I watched the interview with Snowden, I saw an intelligent and articulate person with great convictions and conscience. We’d do well to remember that these qualities don’t come automatically from old age; nor are they always absent in younger people.

  11. I’m keen to know – is there an infographic out there mapping out (quite possibly satirising) the whole PR response to whistle-blowers?

    Because you can feel them, each time, having a little more difficulty talking out of their farting arses, as they try to stick to some kind of plan.

    1.  The thing that hurts most is that sometimes you find the PR machine and company people — the enablers, toadies, boot-lickers, whatever you wish to call them — are your very own friends and family.

      I remember one of my best friends from childhood mentioning that he was working for a think-tank in D.C. when I saw him at our last high school reunion, and that was the most I could get out of him. I’ll be so disappointed if he’s involved with something like conservative-bias journalism or Citizens United.

  12. Don’t make me beat you, honey.

    My feelings, exactly.  I know physical violence on these people would be stupid, wrong and counterproductive… but lawd it would sure feel good.

    In the end, it’s much better to just correct them, shame them and repeat as necessary; But I can still fantasize about giving them a round-house backslap while doing it.

  13. From the desk of that chucklehead, David Brooks on Snowden:

    ” … he could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school. Then he failed to navigate his way through community college. … ”

    Wow, must be something really wrong with this guy, huh? Just like other horrible people like Steve Jobs, etc…..

    ” … has not been a regular presence around his mother’s house for years. … When a neighbor in Hawaii tried to introduce himself, Snowden cut him off … ”

    Wow… this Snowden character is obviously a rude, mother-hater. Not to be trusted!

    ” … he appears to be a product of one of the more unfortunate trends of the age: the atomization of society, the loosening of social bonds … ”

    Yeah, a guy that sacrifices his life for others is such an anti-social person out of touch with social bonds. You see, people like David Brooks are the real heros around here helping us all see that.

    Thank God for David Fucking Brooks.

    ” … If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society … ”

    Yeah, people are worthless until they’re institutionalized. Snowden is an uncivilized beast sinking his immoral teeth into the rest of us.

    Thank God for David Fucking Brooks.

    ” … deep suspicion of authority … ”

    I wonder when Snowden developed this despicable trait? Before he worked all these years for authoritarian entities or afterwards?

    ” … he has not been able to point to any specific abuses … ”

    Very true, Snowden has been incredibly vague about that. It’s no wonder that David Brooks hasn’t figured them out. I just wish Snowden would point to some specific abuses that bother him!

    ” … corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric … ”

    Snowden will kill us all.

    Thank God for David Fucking Brooks.

    ” … so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good. … ”

    Ok, I’ll just stop here…

    1. That very last point – did Brooks accuse Snowden of being a Randist?

      That’s just getting filthy.  What a bastard.

  14. I’m assuming that it’s a theory course, not some ghastly, trade-school, applied humility thing?

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