August 21, 2013

The Safe Side of The Line

David Gregory and Karl Rove get down.

I confess that a small frisson of concern traveled up my somewhat anatomically compromised spinal column (degenerative disc problems, age- and otherwise-related) when I read about the United Kingdom's detention of David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's partner in life, at Heathrow Airport.  Unless you've been on a solo dogsled run to the South Pole in recent months, you know that Glenn Greenwald is the American blogger and journalist who has broken most of the big stories about Eric Snowden and the NSA's massive, pervasive and patently illegal electronic eavesdropping.

The United States and the UK are the two big anti-terrorist countries, of course, meaning that they are the two countries where it is most politically advantageous to keep their respective populaces whipped into a frenzy of paranoia about burnoosed malefactors plotting day and night to do something evil, thus behooving the spy agencies to collect every last pixel and bit transmitted between any two human beings on the face of the Earth to see whether it might have something to do with such a plot.

There has been a laudable pushback against the thuggish repression of the Cameron and Obama Administrations, which has leveled the playing field in favor of a free press.  Somewhat, at least, although the truth is that individuals never have any chance against the coordinated might of the Powers That Be, once they decide to go after someone.  This was the central message of George Orwell's 1984.  Glenn Greenwald has been defiant, so far, but in time I imagine he will get worn out by the intimidation and hassling and will revert to a role of "responsible" critic and observer rather than a "player."  Mr. Greenwald has been dancing a little too close to the fire: the actual conduit of information from a notorious whistleblower, Eric Snowden, which means he has put himself squarely in the crosshairs of the Establishment.  Sometimes I think Glenn Greenwald can be a little naive; he seems to believe that it's enough that he's "right" about what he's doing, but in America this has almost nothing to do with anything anymore, at least on the Big Stage. After his Fifteen Minutes of Fame, the American people will move on to their next diversion, but any legal complications will be Mr. Greenwald's alone.  Beltway toadies such as David Gregory felt obliged to ask Greenwald whether he (Greenwald) didn't think he ought to be prosecuted for "aiding and abetting" Eric Snowden in his illegal disclosures.  David Gregroy, after all, would never do something like that, meaning, commit an act of actual journalism.  David Gregory's got a nice life pretending to be hard-hitting and dancing the frug with Karl Rove at Washington Correspondents dinners, meanwhile raking in huge sums of money being on TV.

Greenwald's venture into playerism distinguishes him from other radical critics, such as Noam Chomsky.  Mr. Chomsky writes and says extremely critical things about the United States, and particularly its foreign policy, but I can't see Noam Chomsksy ever acting as a conduit for a whistleblower's illegal disclosures.  Noam knows where The Line is, and I think in time Glenn Greenwald will move back to the safe side of The Line, having elevated his visibility markedly through his participation in the Snowden disclosures.  That increase in visibility will be good for his blogs, his journalism, his books and his public appearances, but I doubt that he wants to become so "hot" that it becomes uncomfortable to sit around the table on a "Morning Joe" show and shoot the breeze, however tendentiously. 

There is a reason that actual whistleblowers, such as Eric Snowden, tend to be loners and iconoclasts, even emotionally unstable.  Being an outlaw is rough work, and most of us want nothing to do with it. Along a continuum in public debates regarding human freedom, you have those who revel in the role of being Insiders, those who occupy positions of "responsible dissent," and then you have the genuine outlaws.  The latter are very rare, and those who successfully traverse the dangers are rarer still.  Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps, but that was another time when the world seemed much younger.

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