Wednesday, 3 July 2013

How to Change the Debate: Lessons from the Snowden Affair

Edward Snowden is apparently still hanging out in the transit lounges of the Mocow airport, but his story spins on.  European leaders are waving their fists at the idea that the US spied on them, and few countries  seem to be willing to allow a plane that might be carrying Snwoden to land for a refueling stop.

The "debate" in the media over the whole matter is a strange one. The questions asked are not, in the main, the ones I'd ask.

Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, last week summed up the atmosphere of disinformation that reigns on US television: "...the way to distract the public in a democracy is to allow more and more vigorous debate about a more and more narrow set of issues. By narrowing the debate to “how illegal were Snowden’s actions?” instead of allowing the question, “how legal are the NSA’s actions,” the US mass media give the impression of debating both sides of a controversy while in fact suppressing large numbers of pertinent questions."

This is occuring at a time when Greece has completely shut down its publicly-supported broadcast media, as a budget austerity measure, and when Stephen Harper and his friends are menacing CBC/Radio Canada.  

It used to be said that the first casualty in a war is the truth, but it seems the death count is rising even in this time of purported peace.

1 comment:

Rayjohnstex said...

The Edward Snowden affair becomes ever more puzzling as developments continue to evolve. The latest news that Edward Snowden has accepted Vladimer Putin's conditions(not to release any more U S secrecy documents) for granting amnesty makes me wonder why he gave up with so little fight? While back in America, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has finally been able to conduct hearings after years of Republican stonewalling on President Obama's appointments.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is appointed by the President and Republicans held up Obama's appointments David Medine(until may 2013), Rachel Brand, Cheryl Cook , Jim Dempsey Patricia Wald(just weeks ago finally confirmed) , for over 4 years (until Obama was re-elected to a second term). George W Bush never bothered to make any appointments until the very end of his term and named 3 Republicans--that means for Obama's first full Presidential term the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was effectively neutralized by Republicans' obstructionism. Does anyone believe that if Republicans had not blocked those appointments to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for 4 years then we would have had public hearings on the NSA metadata mining operations and extended spying on Americans in 2009 and not in 2013(after Edward Snowden's U.S. secrecy revelations)? There is much to be discussed on this U S national security secrecy topic and one good example is the consolidation of Homeland Security under NSC bureaucratic control which has made many Presidential policy directives no longer readily available to public scrutiny.