My grandfather was a gruff old city laborer in a small town in Northwest Iowa. I recall John Turck sitting at the end of the old Oak dining room table beneath a Depression Era portrait of Jesus on the wall above his head, usually half obscured in wispy-gray clouds of cigar smoke. He’d remained married to my grandmother better than 50 years, until she passed away in 1978. Together they raised 17 children, most born during or just after the Great Depression, all of them jostling and finding their own place in that tiny two bedroom farm house. I recall doing something rather clumsy or dumb once in front of him. Nothing altogether destructive, mind you, just one of those dopey things kids do as a matter of course. Never one to mince words, he shifted the wet end of the well-nursed cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, and retorted with a notable grin, “ain’t no cure for stupid.”
There was a lesson in that remark, dispensed with all of the brevity and efficiency and exhaustion of a man who’d raised all those kids. I never forgot those words. John Turck was a bear of a man, taking life like a cowhand might wrestle a stubborn calf to the ground; with a combination of reverence and determination. I’ll leave it there for a moment, but we’ll get back to that universal wisdom.
I tell you that to tell you this. Today the media torches and pitchforks came out, universally condemning NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. Nearly everyone echoed the same knee jerk, status quo, sheepish refrain, that Snowden is a coward and a traitor.
Wow, no trial, no debate, no equivocation or second guessing. From FOX news to so-called Progressive hosts like Ed Schultz, Snowden was roundly condemned. Glenn Beck, the purveyor of rightwing political pornography, who had initially supported Snowden was aghast that he would take to flight via “anti-American” countries like China, Russia, Cuba, and the vehemently anti-American pariah-state Ecuador? Geez, that didn’t take long.
The news and talking heads were replete with Snowden’s travel itinerary, missed flights, his ex-blond girlfriend in Hawaii, the worry of his parents and theories about where in the world was Eddy? There was no shortage of acerbic adjectives to describe Edward Snowden, and plenty of unsubstantiated remarks about how he in fact is an agent for the imminent destruction of the American way of life, and that soon, because of Ed Snowden we’ll all shortly be speaking Russia or Chinese, or, heavens forbid…Ecuadoran! The media mob has even taken to assailing Glenn Greenwald, the reporter that broke the story. But take note, there is one thing glaringly absent from this media lynch mob.
What was missing from all media illuminati was, first, why Edward Snowden released the information and ,second, why he took to flight as he did. Ed Schultz, the Progressive talk show host, who generally I like, came out of the blocks on his show today to describe Snowden as a “coward and a traitor.” There was no true discussion of what compelled Snowden to whistle blow or to run. Several callers tried, but Mr. Schultz retreated to that fake talk show line, when they have closed themselves to the core issue in order to promulgate that status quo, pro-authoritarian agenda, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” he told one caller with several particularly cogent points.
The caller was reminding all of us what this is actually about, and that we must keep our eye on the ball, despite all the rhetorical dust the media attempts to throw in our eyes. I’ll give you a hint, this really isn’t at all about Edward Snowden. This isn’t about the law either. This is about the ultimate enemies list by this or some future president, and what one or all of them might do with that information. We’ve talked in previous pieces that facts are not truth, and that facts can be arranged at the purview of the wicked. The calls, emails, associations you make can be skewed to create the impression of guilt for all sorts of manufactured indiscretions by a corruptible government. Dissent and patriotism are interchangeable. Your support for one administration becomes dissent to the next.
It should also be obvious to anyone who has paid even a small amount of attention to what this nation does to whistle blowers. Jeremy Hammond, whose exposure of the corporate firm STRATFOR helped set the stage for Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the government’s spying on us. Hammond spent more than a year in jail without a trial, and was refused a new judge despite that the presiding Judge’s husband was a client of STRATFOR. She went so far as to liken him to a pedophile, before trial began in some third world kangaroo court pre-trial bias. Exhausted, and perhaps understanding he was hopelessly persecuted, Hammond plead guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Bradley Manning exposed atrocities and duplicity by the government, and was tortured in prison, again before going to trial. Little wonder these men-and women must bounce around the globe for safe harbor.
As autonomous and free persons, each of us is entitled to privacy. We are entitled not to feel burdened by spiritual, ideological and intellectual censorship or worse, self-censorship. Bear in mind that the information is being stored-stored-stored and archived. If it is about stopping a terrorist attack, that happens in the present. Why the need to store emails, phone records and other e-data imperpetuity (That means forever to the Tea Party readers). And what of the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of government employees and private contractors with access to all of your personal data? True enough we blindly relinquish that to all manner of private companies, from banks to data back up companies and more, but there is at least an opportunity of redress if that data is compromised or misused. There is no such opportunity with Patriot Act-protected government data farming on the average citizen. We’ll have to defer the geo-political, diplomatic and economic impacts of intruding globally upon other nations for now.
But Ed Schultz and the rest in the media are not having those difficult and long reaching conversations. They prefer the lazy soap opera. But here is the key, argument, spirited debate, and the debate lost is the surest marker of where your-or my ignorance lays, and where the argument falls short. The antithesis, when a member of the media eschews the argument they might lose points to an agenda, laziness or something far more fundamental. As my grandfather would say, there ain’t no cure for stupid…No cigar, Ed, but I am grinning!
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