Can We Please Keep Our Eye On The Ball

Careful Irreal readers will have detected that I'm not much of a fan of the Press. Yes, yes, a free press is vital to a free and democratic society and all that. I just wish they'd do a better job.

Case in point: the continuing scandal over government snooping in Western democracies. This scandal—I consider it a scandal—is arguably the most important story in decades. The snooping raises serious questions and, according to one view, poses grave dangers for our democracies. Others say that this government intrusion is the price we pay to keep us safe. Both are honest viewpoints and deserve discussion and analysis. One would think that the story was worth a little reportorial effort and investigation.

Instead we get Edward Snowden. Is he a hero? A Traitor? Something else? Whole legions of reporters crowded into the Moscow airport trying to catch a glimpse of him and accosted hapless travelers with photos of Snowden on their iPads asking if anyone had seen him. As amusing as it was to watch Snowden leading them around in circles and getting them to board an aircraft he wasn't on, it's really beside the point. Even Snowden says he's beside the point. All this Keystone Kop comedy would be okay if the press were also following the main story but they aren't. It's all Snowden, all day.

The mandarins at the NSA must be smiling. Instead of being hounded by the press to explain themselves and justify their actions, they can sit back and watch the press chase after a mostly irrelevant side story. It's not like there aren't some serious questions that need asking but the press seems content to swallow whole any claim the government makes no matter how silly. Some examples:

  • Congressman Mike Rogers, an ex-FBI agent who surely knows better, claiming that Americans needn't worry about the wholesale vacuuming up of their phone call metadata because no names, only phone numbers, are attached to the records. Perhaps he thinks we've never heard of phone books.
  • General Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA, claiming, without offering any particulars, that dozens of terrorist plots were foiled through this snooping. Wouldn't a diligent press demand examples and some details?
  • Atty Gen. Holder saying that the leaks were "extremely damaging" and put the security of the U.S. at risk. Left unexplained was how revealing the perfectly obvious and well known fact that the NSA monitors pretty much all communications damages anything other than their ability to continue extra-constitutional invasions of innocent citizens' privacy.
  • General Raymond Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, saying that “…it puts American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk who are overseas conducting operations." It's hard to see what, exactly, those risks are and the General doesn't say.
  • And perhaps most laughable of all, the oft repeated claim that Al Qaeda has already changed their communication behavior due to Snowden's revelations.

All of these just beg for followup and investigation—it certainly wouldn't be difficult—but the press is off chasing Snowden and earnestly discussing whether he will end up in Cuba or Ecuador. Again, this is a serious story with serious implications for us all and an open and serious discussion about it is urgently needed. Instead the press obsesses about Edward Snowden.

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