Edward Snowden’s Bizarre Conception of Human Rights

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In the wake of Kim Dotcom’s Moment of Truth, and the stern talking-to Snowden gave New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Glenn Greenwald’s blog, let’s put aside the disquieting implications of timing NSA leaks to increase political leverage for a wealthy crony. Instead, let’s reflect on Snowden’s latest patronizing and deeply wrong lesson in How Democracy Works. The following is from his portion of MOT, which happened today in New Zealand:

it’s collecting the communications of every man, woman, and child in the country of New Zealand, and you know, maybe, the people of New Zealand think that’s appropriate, maybe they think they want to sacrifice a certain measure of their liberty and say, it’s ok, if the government watches me. I’m concerned about terrorism; I’m concerned about foreign threats.

We can have people in every country make that decision because that’s what democracy is about. That’s what self-government is about, but that decision doesn’t belong to John Key or officials in the GCSB, making these decisions behind closed doors, without public debate, without public consent. That decision, belongs exclusively to the people of that country. [interrupted by applause] and I think it’s wrong of him, I think it’s wrong of any politician, to take away the people’s seat at the table of government…

[later in the vid]  It doesn’t matter, necessarily, if there’s mass surveillance in New Zealand if the people say they want it…

Uh, no. Sorry Ed. This is not “what democracy is about”, or if it is, fuck democracy. Even if you concede the starry-eyed notion that the citizens of any country have a “seat at the table of government”,  such that they can ratify or reject what their spy agencies do, that does not rightfully empower an acquiescent majority to vote away freedom from constant and pervasive government surveillance any more than people can, in the spirit of “self-government”,  nullify the right to criticize the President or to go to church. This is some basic shit here, so it’s truly depressing that the audience, joined by Glenn Greenwald and Kim Dotcom, interrupted Snowden to applaud this nonsense.

This is among the things that is so bothersome about the Snowden spectacle. Alongside the now laborious variations on what is essentially the same story, there has been an endless stream of infantilizing, deeply conservative lessons in the proper way to blow whistles; on the necessity, and essential good intentions, of the Intelligence Community; and about this “debate” out of which we will ultimately decide whether we want basic human rights or not.

Lest people think I’m nitpicking, Snowden has expressed the political philosophy quoted above before. From an article about Snowden in the New York Times:

“So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision,” he said.

From the Guardian interview that introduced him:

The public needs to decide whether these policies are right or wrong.

If Snowden is going to continue to teach this lesson, can we advance a grade? Let’s allow for argument’s sake that it’s entirely fine for people to waive their own rights and those of their dissenting neighbors. By what means does Snowden propose we register our consent? Do we get to vote on this? Or is our consent inferred from not toppling the government when it predictably makes things worse instead of better?

Snowden’s political philosophy illustrates a problem with whistleblowers: they’re the kind of people who get into the sort of deep, dark places from which whistles customarily get blown. Places that are uniquely attractive to patriots, ultra-conformists, imperialists and sociopaths. Ellsberg was deep inside the war bureaucracy after hanging out in Vietnam with his mentor, notorious psychopath Edward Lansdale and other thugs. Manning was an Army Intelligence Analyst in Iraq. John Kirakou had spent a decade in the CIA before blowing the whistle on torture. Snowden has spent his entire working life in various arms of the security apparatus. I appreciate their service to the truth, but with all due respect, these are not my kind of people.

Unless they significantly repudiate their past lives, some residue of what took them into Empire’s belly is going to stick. This would be fine, were some of them not also inclined to offer opinions on how the world should work, and their admirers exceptionally inclined to take them seriously because of their heroic deeds. Far from repudiating the NSA entirely, Snowden insists he’s still working for it. From what we’ve seen so far, his only beef with the country’s gigantic security apparatus is bulk data collection conducted by that single agency. And even that’s ok if “the people”, through some unspecified means, “consent.” That makes the debate we’re having extremely circumscribed, as well as exhaustingly insipid.

Snowden’s friend Greenwald appears to ratify Snowden’s doctrine in full, and adds  a weird, reactionary principle of his own, to the effect that one can’t object to anything Snowden (or Greenwald) says or does until one has blown a whistle oneself. This credentialing of opinion-having is preposterous under any conditions, equivalent to insisting Greenwald hold high office before criticizing the president. But for over a year now, Greenwald has belittled, smeared and straw manned anyone who objects to any part of their doctrine or methods from the left. In light of how conservative this doctrine is, and the weightiness Snowden’s stature gives it, attempts to stifle discussion are uniquely pernicious.  As the leaks now morph into strategically timed campaign fodder in another country’s election, debate on the underlying politics seems more warranted than ever.

Here’s the video. The remarks quoted above are around 1:09:24.

UPDATE

Leak Keeper Doctrine further enunciated. I wonder how far right is too far:

Related

Another Snowden News Story, Another Lesson in Proper Whistleblowing

Good Whistleblower/Bad Whistleblower

Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: A comparision

In Conclusion

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77 Responses to Edward Snowden’s Bizarre Conception of Human Rights

  1. roastyagain says:

    I completely agree that Snowden’s doctrine presented here is fucked, but I’d argue it’s not ‘weird’ at all, at least in the sense of it being outside the mainstream. Quite the opposite, I’d say this is a perfect representation of mainstream political thought – and I don’t mean by the pundit class, politicians, etc – but by average Americans. I guarantee you that were I to post that Snowden quote on Facebook, it would get “liked” by pretty much everyone. Not just because it’s good soundbyte material, but because the idea of democracy as a great leveler of opinions is so deeply ingrained into the public psyche

    The narrative also fits into the reformist tendencies of mainstream thought – vote harder, convince the majority you are right, etc. I don’t know if Snowden is a psy-op or if he’s just an asshole product of America and the internet, but either way his politics fall right in line where I’d expect.

    Good post man.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, you’re right. Same seems to go in New Zealand. The applause was quite enthusiastic.

      • roastyagain says:

        One thing that gets me is that GG & Snowden have been so quick to dismiss the “constitutionalist” label, even though stuff like this is almost the definition of it. I guess they lose too much “radical credibility” when you point out their politics are about as radical as Ron Paul’s.

        One other thing I meant to respond to, donning my foil hat for a minute, I wonder how much of this is a setup for legitimizing things in the future. “Well, we fought long and hard, but the majority of people want X, so here we are”. It seems weird for Snowden to keep bringing up the same trope over and over. I could see why he would bring this up in a direct response to a question about when surveillance is ok, but he seems to have a tendency to bring it up in wacky out of context ways too.

      • Tarzie says:

        He does bring it up a lot. I think it was in his first appearance too, when Greenwald interviewed him in Hong Kong. Not sure. Whether intentional or not it certainly contributes to the effect you describe. In any event, it’s toxic crap.

        I hear ya on The Constitutionalist thing, though wouldn’t a true Constitutionalist reject this idea of consenting to waive coverage? I mean doesn’t something like that require a more formal process than watching the news and shrugging?

      • roastyagain says:

        “I hear ya on The Constitutionalist thing, though wouldn’t a true Constitutionalist reject this idea of consenting to waive coverage? I mean doesn’t something like that require a more formal process than watching the news and shrugging?”

        True, but I think this may be the setup for exactly that kind of formal process.

      • Tarzie says:

        My first impulse is that they’re not going to bother with that because there won’t be any need. And wouldn’t the formal process require actually changing the Constitution? Or is it enough to simply say gathering everyone’s data is warranted. I guess the answer is whatever people would put up with. Which is probably almost anything. Kinda like when Holder said the process in due process just mean ‘a process.’

        Gah. I hate this stuff. I reckon the Constitutionalists wouldn’t all agree on this.

  2. roastyagain says:

    On the Dotcom thing also, if ever there was a candidate for someone who got the shit scared out of them & turned informer (or collaborator or whatever) it’s him. The sheer weight of leverage that western govs have over him makes me absolutely distrust anything he says. From an AP article:

    “The Internet Mana party [Dotcom’s party] is attracting younger voters by promising to deliver free higher education, cut the price of Internet access, fight mass surveillance, decriminalize marijuana and protect native dolphins.”

    This shit is tailor made to appeal to a certain segment of the internet, anons primarily. If you get enough Ron Wydens, Kim Dotcoms, etc in office, you’ve just succeeded in making continuing imperialist policies look like they’ve been rigorously opposed without actually changing a goddamn thing. The march of kinder gentler imperialism goes on.

    Meanwhile, WW3 seems to be in active development mode.

  3. Pingback: What Snowden said about democracy | Jillian C. York

  4. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Or DotCom in collusion with Omidyar. New Zealanders won’t know what hit them if they fall for this shit. One cappie is as bad as another, and with these libertarian guys, especially those like Omidyar and these up-and-coming internet libertarian forces like Draper in CA (wants to divide CA into “six” separate states, with Silicon Valley being one of the states), their focus is major societal devolution: asset-stripping with not a lick of thought given to the broader blowback and consequences. That’s the whole point of doing it. Omidyar/DotCom are using “surveillance” to get their foot in the door. I guess Omidyar can’t get no satisfaction from just India, Ukraine, and privatizing Kenyan schools. He wants to move uptown.

    Full circle for Greenwald. He never pretended to be anything but a tabula rasa to his adoring fans even when he was writing anti-imperialist pieces, but this puts him into major libertarian swing mode. If anybody ever cornered him on it, how can he deny it just based on what Dotcom and Snowjob are selling.

    Snowden’s views are repugnant. He’s on the front page of the Intercept where everybody is kissing his ass and nobody challenges his reactionary beliefs.

    • That’s a perfect word, he is a total fucking reactionary. He wants spying brought back to a “just” level, which he clarifies is “necessary.” He takes pains not to hurt the spy apparatus and even says he worries about “national security.” Lots of people take risks in the name of their beliefs. That’s not always a good thing.

    • And you’ve got a pretty apt description of Greenwald there as well. He is a screen onto which his fawning admirers can project whatever half-cocked political hopes and dreams they have in their little heads. He is the proxy for a legion of people who harbor all variety of unacknowledged conflicting political ideals, and he finds a way to gather them all under his tent (presumably, so’s he can go on writing toothless books and option a movie from said books that they will all line up to consume).

  5. I don’t think it’s an accident when people shout Democracy (or Democracy Now!) as if it’s some be-all/end-all. You never know precisely whether they mean the one person-one vote/majority rule version (pure democracy) or the US hybrid, in which specified individual rights are supposed to trump majority rule.

    To work as advertised, the latter model assumed governing elites could be relied on to uphold and enforce individual rights against the mobs, including rights claimed by despised and/or powerless minorities. Historically, of course, it’s almost never worked out that way.

    But there have to be reasons why people are constantly invited to forget about the anti-democratic/pro-individual rights side of the coin—the incessant appeals to who “we” are, what “we” want, why “we” fight, etc. You don’t have to be convinced that such appeals constitute a litmus test to wonder if they nonetheless indicate a tendency to authoritarianism.

  6. Goldfish Training Institute says:
  7. robertmstahl says:

    “I reckon the Constitutionalists wouldn’t all agree on this.”

    William Binney, a Constitutionalist headed straight for the Supreme Court or completely south of it, with little space available in between, designed the system to collect everything, but encrypt it. Security is an immense issue, and, whereas Dotcom makes it his in a ‘purely’ democratic sense, where the abyss lies in the spineless nature of such a jellyfish, the notion of introducing the electronic age as Binney suggests requires, also, that the courts function, particularly as that relates to following criminal behavior and appying one degree of freedom in the decryption process after identifying a suspect. That is a whole lot different from the shared mindset, seemingly Assange as well, of the capitalist motive for security in the hands of the people with no government accountability. Security, what a fairy tale.

  8. Why would the founder of the Internet Party, a party that has expressly stated that one of its goals is to reduce social inequality, invite a man to give a speech who believes that human rights are provisional? The incoherence of political philosophy required to bring a group of such people to break out into vigorous applause at Snowden’s suggestion is painful to confront. The level of propaganda required to lower people to the point that such a contradiction does not elicit boos and hisses is all the evidence one should require to know that something so precious as human rights has no business being decided by something as codswalloped as fucking voting.

    Like roasty, I don’t know if Snowden is like this because he’s psy-op or because he’s just one more in a super-majority of confused Americans, but either way, when he says stuff like this, I have a hard time believing that his being on the run from the United States government is anything but a show. How could a man saying something so useful to their project be seen as a danger?

  9. Thanks. I’ve been looking for a reason to use “codswalloped” for a while.

  10. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I didn’t watch the video (life’s too short) so I may be taking these statements out of context but I doubt it…

    “I think it’s wrong of any politician, to take away the people’s seat at the table of government”…Snowden is surely intelligent enough to know that those seats aren’t cheap, most of us are in the nosebleed section. No need for politicians to take away the seats, no one can afford them anyway.

    “It doesn’t matter, necessarily, if there’s mass surveillance in New Zealand if the people say they want it”…If one person with integrity and a conscience doesn’t want mass surveillance then it does matter. Snowden is starting to sound like a shill for the intelligence agencies.

  11. Dissent Now says:

    I have to love how stiflingly maddening the gatekeeping is with these two. It’s so astounding: you can have exactly this much and no more, you can go exactly this far, and no more. Not just with the information itself, of course, but with what how exactly one is permitted and expected to react to that, and what one is permitted to expect to happen as a result – again, only this much, and not a step further.

    The first sentence of this comment was vomited out as a result of hearing, just in the several minutes of his lecture I did bother to watch, Snowden, not once, but twice*, teasingly begin to tilt his showman’s hand of cards and say something, then coyly back off, “that’s for Glenn to do”-style. Repugnant.

    *1. At 1:02:03 (1,2,3, go, right) “one of these is in Aukland, and the other, well, heh, the other is in the [mumble mumble, wave of the hand, something about the northwest].”

    2. At 1:06:13 “some of them are cable taps, some of them are, are, are….well, heh, what’s been reported so far are cable taps, so let’s leave it at that (wink wink)” – Even more ironically, this one is preceded by his observation about the government’s “careful parsing of words,” lol.

    Little of which comment, I recognize, speaks to what you’ve written here, this time, for which I thank you all the same.

    • Tarzie says:

      Your interpretation of those little oops never mind moments is interesting. I saw them as genuine slips but your interpretation is probably correct. Just showmanship.

      Excellent observation of how meticulous and thorough the gatekeeping is.

      • roastyagain says:

        I think there’s a lot of truth in the idea that this is two way showmanship, and that holds true even if Snowden is just a bumblefuck and not an op. For all their protestations of what journalism really is, this is vaudeville.

      • GoldfishTrainingInstitute says:

        Desperate to be rock stars. It really does have the feel of grifters coming in for a quick score, or snake oil salesmen pitching potions. And now it’s possible they were bankrolled by Dotcom? So GG’s for sale. Is anybody surprised.

        Then there’s the now screen-grabbed “I support right left and between-wing parties as long as surveillance.” Isn’t that a game changer. The man wrapped up his ignorant and shameful political philosophy in less than 140 characters. So Hitler would be fine as long as he didn’t do any spying. To his hangers-on, this one comment should negate his entire body of work. Less than zero credibility.

      • mickstep says:

        Reading this conversation reminded me of an infomercial I accidentally stumbled on earlier when I was googling about food intolerances.
        http://www.perfectorigins.com/5BadFoods.php what exactly is the difference between his tedious performance forever hinting at more but not delivering, I hold Glenn and Snowden in precisely the same contempt I hold that chiropractic con artist.

        Assange on the other hand seemingly at least had a desire to do some real damage.

      • Tarzie says:

        Assange. *shrug*. Now a full-fledged member of the Snowden-Greenwald team, as his appearance at the Dotcom charade shows. Really, fuck everyone in this little cabal of the information cult. I can’t stand, nor trust, any of these people.

      • mickstep says:

        When I said “had” I meant once upon a time, not in that video you link to in the blog. Snowden and Greenwald have never even remotely seemed like their desire was to do the empire some real damage.

      • Tarzie says:

        True.

        I don’t know what to make of Assange, honestly. Sat on Cablegate for half a year. But I really don’t want to debate his merits vs. Snowden, particularly as it would require accepting premises about who these people are. I take nothing about this cabal at face value. Whoever they are, I reject their top down, celebrity martyr/celebrity mediator approach to whistleblowing.

      • mickstep says:

        The way I wanted the debate to go is on how similar the career paths of Greenwald and Snowden are to roving snake oil salesman and motivational speakers.

  12. forest says:

    “So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision,” he said.

    legitimacy is what matters, not morality. and this message is packaged as true dissent. why do i get the feeling that snowden works for the rendon group?

  13. robertmstahl says:

    Here is something a little more poignant, something maybe the world should be aware of concerning agendas.
    http://libertycrier.com/the-government-gagged-her-but-it-didnt-work-sibel-edmonds/

    That said, as for ‘technology in the 21st century’ here is something the ignorant are just a little too blissful about missing concerning the SunCell, much less the entire paradigm shift of the flawless text covering 85 orders of magnitude (the national debt is 13 zeros), also a shift in the Life sciences (Lynn Margulis, F. J. Varela, G. Bateson, et alia). Take a listen to the 07/29 radio interview:

    http://www.blacklightpower.com/whats-new/

  14. John says:

    Look, I agree with everything you say. My problem with Snowden and all whistleblowers is that no one cares. All Snowden has done is supply details of mass-level spying programs that Binney outlined broadly earlier. Nothing will change because of Snowden’s Power Point sildes, whether it comes dripped out or in a deluge. Even if Snowden coughed up details about the sorts of high-level, targeted, CoIntelPro-type actions that Tice detailed, do you honestly think those wouldn’t be off the front page in two or three news cycles?
    As long as the cable TV is working, there is gas for the car and Dominoes Pizza is making deliveries, no amount of whistleblowing is going to elicit any meaningful change. For Pete’s sake, Israel just knocked the living shit of of Gaza for three weeks, complete with bombing schools and hospitals and turning kids into grease spots in the rubble, and all done using US supplied weaponry. If that didn’t awaken even token dissent, what possibility exists that some highly technical spying revelations — slow or fast — will change anything?

    • babaganusz says:

      even “what is happening Over There [using Our Stuff]” is (beyond-pitifully, as you indicate) an entirely different/distant topic for the soundbitten. the molasses-creep of Snowwald’s Book of Rev may have ‘progressed’ from talking about “naughty NSA” to “naughty 5E!” to “gotcha! even NAUGHTIER than previously imagined!” to “it’s okay if the voters want it…”, but do the comment threads of Realpolitikville tell you that any kind of majority [for what that would be worth…] has the attention span to suss that perspective?

  15. Peter says:

    Not exactly Seminar Level discourse on human rights from Edward, now is it? At least Vanna White had the humility to acknowledge her media attention by saying “I just turn letters.” Quit while you’re ahead, Edward: “I just steal documents” (some of which we actually get to see).

    Just as gravity distorts space-time, real power and its attendant interests distorts the truth. Glenn has a killer concession location at the edge of this Black Hole (the Deep State) and revels in the lucre and the envy of the activist masses.

    What’s the price of truth? (Hint: Say “everything”, just to be safe …and right.)

  16. mickstep says:

    Is this really the writing of Chelsea Manning? And if it is how much “all source analysis” can she be up to at Leavenworth, given the firewall she is undoubtedly behind. At least that’s the excuse I’m giving her for being so clueless.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/16/chelsea-manning-isis-strategy

    • Tarzie says:

      That does seem like quite a different Manning than the one who martyred herself to exposing how “the first world exploits the third”. She does take quite a lot of imperial doctrine at face value in this piece. Perhaps she is just using a tactical approach to discouraging intervention. Or perhaps she shaved some years off her sentence in exchange for the use of her byline. Nothing in this realm is as it seems. Would be interested in hearing more about your specific objections to the piece.

      • mickstep says:

        Isis aren’t just fuelled by resentment towards the west for our destroying their nations, they are fuelled by the continued funding by the US and Saudi Arabia to “moderate rebels” who are being used to topple Assad. They are the same groups that toppled Gaddaffi with western weapons. ISIS are no doubt very bad boys, but it has been admitted by the EU that 2 unnamed EU countries have been buying oil directly from ISIS. The West and it’s ally Saudi Arabia are continually pouring fuel on the fire. The growth of ISIS can not simply be blamed on blowback.

    • Wow. This piece fucking sucks. I have no idea why Manning is to be considered a worthy voice on ISIS – of all things, why are we being treated to her opinion on this? Cuz she looked at some intel for a bit MANY years back? It’s almost like they’re purposely destroying her radical cred. The lesson is probably: there are no completely ideologically solid heroes, but even considering that this is particularly bad.

      It’s like a gentle note to the empire that it doesn’t have to bomb its way into total domination of the globe. Hey international scumbags who steal everything from everyone, have you considered a more strategic violence? Fuck all of this.

      Leakers should leak and shut the fuck up — the type to do that kind of thing is not always the best to analyze it. I appreciate what she did but I don’t need to witness the development of Brand Chelsea. Maybe when she gets out she can pen a few analyses with Joshua Foust.

      Maybe I’m being a bit harsh but this really rubbed me the wrong way, completely.

      • Tarzie says:

        It’s almost like they’re purposely destroying her radical cred.

        I think they’re using it, not destroying it. It’s not like she’s out there pumping dangerous ideas into the ether. Her gift was the cables. Destroying her cred doesn’t make them read any differently. They’re straight from the monster’s mouth.

        I think you are underestimating the extent to which ‘radical’ has been sapped of all meaning. A lot of her followers will read this as principled opposition, or tactically worded, the way they do The Intercept dreck.

      • mickstep says:

        If they want to make capitalist hay out of it, maybe they should just do a kickstarter campaign to shut the fuck up.

      • Tarzie says:

        Who needs a Kickstarter campaign when you’re on Omidyar’s pay roll?

        I think it’s naive to regard GG/Snowden as mere grifters considering their ties.

      • mickstep says:

        The way the Establishment works you’ve rabble roused enough, placate that rabble and you’ll be allowed in, and Glenn is well past the placating stage by now. The question now is whether he has anything left to feed the rabble that supported him. I think he is coming up short.

      • “A lot of her followers will read this as principled opposition, or tactically worded, the way they do The Intercept dreck.”

        Okay, but we’re pretty sure the people at The Intercept believe this dreck and think it’s important/powerful. This isn’t a coded letter sent to supporters. It’s an op-ed of the type you could find in any newspaper across the US. I think it’s poor analysis by someone who is in no position to analyze anything, and I think her name recognition actually got her in. That’s opposed to the idea that they forced her to write or just sign her name to it.

        What am I missing?

      • Tarzie says:

        we’re pretty sure the people at The Intercept believe this dreck

        No, *we’re* not but it’s beside the point. I’m also not convinced she doesn’t believe what she wrote, but we can’t know that. What we do know is that she is a traumatized, tortured human being with very little agency. But just for interest’s sake, can you point to some coherent explication of her previous politics that is *entirely* out of step with this? I think it is, but the artifacts for making that determination are slight I think.

        I think her name recognition actually got her in.

        Undoubtedly, but if her piece had been an anti-imperialist screed, it’s doubtful her name would have done her any good. She is the raw material of propaganda, which in the US is pretty much all she has ever been. A warning of what happens when you step out of line; a bad example by which to compare beloved, conservative Snowden. Now, under 24/7 lock and key, looking at a decade or more in jail, she is a liberal imperialist. Even if most of her admirers find it unpersuasive — and we don’t know if they all do — by virtue of her position, she helps to define the limits of discussion. The lesson for me is in how the system interacts with these celebrity martyrs. They’re heard when they’re useful. Silenced when they’re not.

      • thombrogan says:

        “The lesson for me is in how the system interacts with these celebrity martyrs. They’re heard when they’re useful. Silenced when they’re not.”

        Just like Cindy Sheehan post-2006. Darling of the Democrats until their feigned sympathy was no longer needed.

      • “But just for interest’s sake, can you point to some coherent explication of her previous politics that is *entirely* out of step with this?”

        No, and that would back up my point. She just called for radical *transparency* NOT radical ISM. Clearly a huge philosophical difference. This is more of that kind of shit but the “sober, grownup” version found in the logs.

        “The lesson for me is in how the system interacts with these celebrity martyrs. They’re heard when they’re useful. Silenced when they’re not.”

        The lesson for ME is we don’t hear celebrities, martyrs or no, unless they’re useful.

        Manning was never qualified to do this sort of analysis, and now that she has publicly, it sucks. As I tweeted the other day: thanks for the leaks, now let it play out.

      • Tarzie says:

        The lesson for ME is we don’t hear celebrities, martyrs or no, unless they’re useful.

        I don’t disagree. I think something almost identical to that idea informs most of my posts, doesn’t it? Perhaps a better way of putting my earlier comment here is that whistleblowers are just another flavor of Celebrity Left. As such, they’re celebrated or not depending on the same or similar constraints. But that proceeds from the specific back to the general which sort of clouds the ways in which celebrity martyrs are unique. While everyone in the game is the raw material of the story the ruling class wants to tell, someone like Manning really is because she is in full-time custody of the government and dependent on its mercy. She is undiluted propaganda, whether she is walking to court in handcuffs or offering foreign policy advice in the pages of the Guardian.

        Greenwald still has to operate within the ruling class’s rules, but he gets to play a part where he is given a wider berth and greater rewards. The worst that can happen is a return to obscurity flush with cash. For Manning, putting a foot wrong could make her subject to abuse or affect the length of time she’s incarcerated. I rarely think it’s particularly useful to suss out what these people really think, that is, what’s heartfelt as opposed to shrewdly self-calibrated, but I think it’s particularly misguided in Manning’s case. I don’t think the record is entirely clear on whether she was only aiming for radical transparency for transparency’s sake or for something more disruptive. But I also don’t think it much matters. What matters is that she’s a hostage now. I don’t think we’re obliged to go softer on the critique than we would for anyone else, but holding her, with a great deal of certainty, entirely responsible for the content, seems to minimize the conditions under which she wrote it.

      • dmantis says:

        Tarzie,
        I have attempted to discuss these very things concerning Manning with other ‘progressives’. I am talking about the ‘far left’ who already has issues with Snowden. These people are ostensibly more astute observers of the state marketing apparatus, yet fall into this unadulterated idol worship when it comes to Manning.

        Your points about her message being open to critique, while at the same time understanding that she has a much smaller margin of acceptable behavior is spot-on. She is a hostage, indeed.

        You put it much better than I ever could in my interactions. Thank you.

    • RUKidding says:

      Thanks for interesting discussion about Manning’s OpEd vis ISIS. Somewhat confounding. But agree with commentary, esp from Tarzie, that it’s best not to attempt to figure out how Manning is feeling/thinking/being coerced(?). I pretty much had to write it off. With no offense to Manning, stuck in a very very nasty place for decades, at the least, seems to me that Manning may not be very well informed anymore about what’s happening. It does seem as if the PTB seek to undermine the truth-telling done by the likes of someone like Chelsea Manning by using them as celebrity martyrs and seeming to suddenly endorse them or their perspectives. Duly noted that the OpEd pretty much is saying that ISIS is “real” and we should be very afraid of them. Uhhh, No.

  17. Hieroglyph says:

    “That decision, belongs exclusively to the people of that country. [interrupted by applause] and I think it’s wrong of him, I think it’s wrong of any politician, to take away the people’s seat at the table of government…”

    That’s so backwards I almost feel sorry for him. And he got applause, too. What is ‘the table of Government?’ I genuinely have no idea. I guess he thinks of Governments as (sorta) elected boardrooms, which have a Minister for The People at the chair furthest away from the CEO. Or something. Don’t know. I think, like most American kids, he’s watched too much Star Wars. They have this cool Jedi Council, armed to the teeth naturally, which benignly overlooks the affairs of the people, and combats evil. Anyone asking what the fuck the Jedi’s are doing is airily dismissed with voodoo talk of The Force and greater powers.

    Anyway. There is a whole skitch to do on the essential facism of Jedi’s, but I will refrain. I’m not serious anyway. I think. More seriously, Snowden appears to think it even vaguely possible that the people could, or would, be given a say in the surveillance state. Why would anyone think this? I begin to wonder if Snowden is just an authoritarian douche, who is struggling with the reality of his own beliefs, and is confused. I wish him a speedy recovery.

  18. Dirty says:

    Snowden’s reverence for the *Constitution flies in the face of “if the majority of people are engaged in the debate(granting him this preposterously insipid stipulation) and support it, then it’s fine”. This basically erases the *Bill of Rights and allows for slavery or any other form of iniquity, including internment camps for scapegoated minorities, if a majority supported it(after a proper debate, bien sur). No wonder it got such a rousing ovation from folks who make a mint from the cottage industry of courageously fighting to make our present “system” more palatable(something you dealt with in a previous essay).

    * Not a huge fan of the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights. It is a recipe for enshrining Oligarchy—as Madison and Hamilton clearly stated in various essays and letters. Snowden claims to be despite statements where he supports erasing parts of it because a majority of people, after a vigorous mass mediated “debate”, agree to deprive themselves and/or others of rights it guarantees.

  19. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Another Israeli ship, the Zim Shanghai, is planning to dock in Oakland on Saturday, September 27.

    If you want to join, make sure you are getting updates. The ships can and will change their docking schedule to avoid picketers. Info for updates at this link (and a good back story on Local 10) 🙂

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/09/20/18761865.php

  20. diane says:

    worlds of difference:

    [later in the vid] It doesn’t matter, necessarily, if there’s mass surveillance in New Zealand if the people say [VOTE! ™ FOR] they want it…

    Having some reddish, deeply bruised and dark blackish purple cabernet whine and bleakly focusing on why Ed subconsciously (giving some benefit of the doubt there, not sure he deserves any, …at all) blurted out:

    if the people say [VOTE FOR x! ™] they want it

    versus:

    if the people want it

    Fucking Insane, and who believes there is a sane person on earth who wants to be 24/7 surveilled?

    HUGE difference between what people want … and what people Say™, … when they VOTE FOR x!™ (especially given their thoroughly policed, surveillance [1] and increasingly militarized surroundings). Not to even mention those millions of human beings – totally disregarded in that equation – who at some point determined that it’s a One Partay $y$tem Only, and either, never voted, or have quit voting.

    [1] Too fucking ‘funny’ that little, X Congressional Pageboy, Billy Gatesez’ [‘Out the Box’ MS WORD,.. installed, by Default, on millions, upon millions, of ‘puters] MICROSOFT OFFICE PROFESSIONAL 2010 gets confused at the word Surveillance ..does not recognize the word surveillance … at all, let alone even knowing how to spell it; …….. though!, …. if you remove the lance, … ending up with surveil, it does offer up:

    survey[s] surreal [indeed!] surfeit and shrivel , my personal favorite!

    yep, That’s IT Folks!

  21. babaganusz says:

    “This is not ‘what democracy is about’, or if it is, fuck democracy.”

    cue Revelation Troll Choir; have you been called a Drooling Authoritarian [again?] yet?

  22. RUKidding says:

    Snowden has become, if he wasn’t always anyway, part of the “machine,” by which I mean part of the corporate-fascist system. Is he a CIA plant sent forth to discredit the NSA? One possibility. There’s no end to figuring out who Snowden is. I admit that, at one time, I had a tiny bit more interest in him. Nowadays, however, Snowden has been made a “darling” by the PTB and the main $tream media, which renders what he was allegedly “doing” completely ineffective and worthless. I don’t listen to NPR very much, esp their Nooz infotainment programs, but whenever I hear one of their talking heads parrot out something that includes a reference to Snowden – as some sort of sop, perhaps, to the latte liberals who love National Propaganda Radio so much – I turn it off. Snowden is now that all-purpose resource, apparently, for making us all feel better and all snuggly bc he revealed the truth or something. Uh, ok, now what?

  23. Hieroglyph says:

    Well, we’re at war again. Will any of these people denounce this idiocy? I mean denounce, not whine at the sidelines, or vaguely criticize. No, they won’t. Tarzie doesn’t have to write a word. He could retire from blogging. These people, they write it themselves.

  24. Pingback: Challenging and critiquing Snowden | Interesting Blogger: Reporting to benefit the commoner

  25. Lightning Joe says:

    You are entirely too strait-laced, about opinions you do not hold.

    If you DID hold those opinions, you’d be able to see the limitations of the speech involved. Indeed, you would speak USING those limitations, and you would UNDERSTAND the way you were using them, AND what you were NOT saying, when you were saying something.

    You find fault with Snowden’s talking definition of democracy (ei, “if the people themselves decide”), but your complaint seems to hinge purely on how scarce real democracy is in the world today. Snowden MUST be lying or something, you think, because true democracy is NOT flowering on the street corners…

    Sure, the elites ARE in charge, but that doesn’t mean they SHOULD be, or that they are AUTHORIZED to be, by their relevant Constitutions. No, they just took over, as they tend to.

    Democracy is a never-ending duty AND privilege rolled into one. It must ALWAYS be “watered,” is the understanding that Snowden and Greenwald bring to the debate, through their own histories.

    The “watering” has been a bit thin lately, is all… but tearing down democracy’s defenders is NOT the same as watering it with your own blood.

    In fact, tearing down democracy’s defenders, through a bad reading of their words, is a cheap and dirty way to put you and your own “version” of things on top… at the EXPENSE of those very defenders.

    That sort of distinction, I think, is what Glenn Greenwald meant, when he said he admired the REAL radicals, not the twitter version of a radical.

    At least the REAL radicals, those who HAVE coped with the persecution, know what they are doing, and the risks involved in doing it.

    Only the pretend radicals, are going to pretend that their own little games rise to the challenge, while interpreting the real Golden Eggs as somehow wanting. And they must use cheap tactics to do it, like claiming that Snowden has “really” not thrown over the NSA, just because he used words that said he’s “still working for them; they just don’t know it.”

    Only a STUPE would interpret that as you have here. WE understand what he is saying, and we agree with it. Snowden is supporting REAL security, through REAL intelligence that respects people’s REAL rights, is what he is saying — and by holding the NSA’s feet to the fire, he is promoting them to re-evaluate their own policies and priorities.

    • Tarzie says:

      Oh goody, one of the Adults is here, with that familiar heady mix of stupidity, conformism and self-certainty. My goodness so many words and so few arguments. I’ll take the meagre scraps that can be charitably regarded as responsive to my post in turn:

      You find fault with Snowden’s talking definition of democracy (ei, “if the people themselves decide”), but your complaint seems to hinge purely on how scarce real democracy is in the world today.

      Nope, wrong. My argument is that the most conventional conceptions of Democracy do not extol the mob waiving away rights that are considered inalienable. Snowden’s obliviousness to this is at odds with his own Constitutionalism. This is so obvious to most people one needn’t even build an argument for how deeply full of shit Snowden is on this point. One need only quote him.

      Snowden MUST be lying or something, you think, because true democracy is NOT flowering on the street corners…

      In a way entirely consistent with a career in NatSec, Snowden is a chronic liar, but not necessarily in this instance. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not Snowden really believes people have “a seat at the table of government.” What matters is that it’s doctrinal nonsense. You clearly dispute it yourself. So why shouldn’t I?

      Sure, the elites ARE in charge, but that doesn’t mean they SHOULD be, or that they are AUTHORIZED to be, by their relevant Constitutions. No, they just took over, as they tend to.

      Yes, they just took over. When was that again? I believe incorrigible know-nothing Greenwald, the idiot rube’s idea of a knowledgeable, insightful person, traced it to Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Until then, our democracy had been as representative as the day is long! But I digress. Surely it’s obvious to any non-dumbass that I fault Snowden precisely because he seems oblivious to how “the elites are in charge” and talks idiotically of the “people’s place at the table of government.” His robotic insistence that the people can consent to, or opt out of, unceasing, mechanized search and seizure suggests you should be lecturing him about how elites run things, not me.

      Democracy is a never-ending duty AND privilege rolled into one. It must ALWAYS be “watered,” is the understanding that Snowden and Greenwald bring to the debate, through their own histories.

      Good God you sound like the world’s most mediocre elementary school teacher. You probably think you’re a radical. Democracy is only a ‘privilege’ to an authoritarian buffoon, which is what far too many of Snowden and Greenwald’s fans are. As to their histories, I am at pains to see how a DEA/CIA/NSA lifer and a political chameleon who champions free speech for corporations and whose resume includes five years defending white supremacists embody the “watering” of democracy. Because I’m not an idiot.

      The “watering” has been a bit thin lately, is all… but tearing down democracy’s defenders is NOT the same as watering it with your own blood.

      It’s really a shame you have no reading comprehension, since my complaint is that Snowden and Greenwald’s doctrine is both undemocratic, and predicated on the assumption that we are living in some facsimile of a democracy, instead of under oligarchy. We can’t consent to, or dissent from, mass surveillance even if you allow, for the sake of argument, that giving the mob the final say would be a good thing. Isn’t pointing out undemocratic tendencies, and flawed assumptions, even in people we admire, part of watering democracy, teacher? It’s my DUTY, you said so yourself!

      In fact, tearing down democracy’s defenders, through a bad reading of their words, is a cheap and dirty way to put you and your own “version” of things on top… at the EXPENSE of those very defenders.

      I have taken their words at face value, like this gem, for instance:

      “So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision,”

      I do not see statements like that, and the idiotic pretense of dissidence by which they’re marketed as a defense of democracy. I see it as something quite opposite. It is extremely childish and narcissistic of you to insist that I see this your way instead of my own, since you give me no reason to. You seem kinda dumb.

      That sort of distinction, I think, is what Glenn Greenwald meant, when he said he admired the REAL radicals [tedious stream of Greenwald talking points peppered with childish insults]

      How liberating it must be to let others think for you, but why oh why have you all settled on Greenwald, truly one of the most obnoxious, dull, ignorant and dishonest people to ever put fingers to laptop? You’re doing his credentialized opinion thing. Do you realize how stupid you sound? Let’s make a deal: I won’t have opinions on Snowden — by virtue of never having blown a whistle — if Greenwald agrees to not opine on Clapper, by virtue of never having been DNI or on Obama by virtue of never having been president. That’s fair, isn’t it? And let’s also agree that Judith Miller, a journalist who lied repeatedly in the New York Times about Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass destruction, is a real radical, by virtue of having gone to jail to protect her source.

      Radicalism has nothing to do with deeds. It has to do with perspective. I am a radical because I am against capitalism and imperialism and see things through the lens of class conflict. It has fuck all to do with what I’ve done or haven’t done, which is none of your damn business anyway. Snowden is a NatSec careerist. His views are colored by that experience. He LIKES the intelligence apparatus. He is a conservative man, except most conservatives, at least the Constitutionalist kind, think that waiving the Fourth Amendment is not something you do after a tightly circumscribed debate moderated by corporate media. Greenwald is a political chameleon and a shrewdly calculating tabula rasa, that narcissistic liberals, libertarians, Marxists and anarchists somehow all see themselves in. The libertarians are the closest to being correct. Since Greenwald and Snowden together represent an unwholesome mix of reformism, authoritarianism, libertarianism, liberalism and national security doctrine, any true radical is going to find fault with them, especially since Greenwald has made no secret of how much he despises radicals as a political class.

      Now be on your way, and don’t bore me with this boilerplate nonsense again.

  26. diane says:

    I love Ray Charles’ version of Look What They’ve Done To My Song:

    … pick it like a chicken brain …

    • diane says:

      oops, same song though, Look what they’ve done to my brain

      pick it like a chicken bone

      • diane says:

        (for more clarity, I should have noted that, that (drone me for the repetativity! [and possible miss spell, just now]) last quote was the same, as in the ray charles hit, applied to the original song: Look What They’ve Done To My Song.)

  27. Goldfish Training institute says:

    Saturday, 9/27: Longshoremen at Port of Oakland again refused to cross picket line, Zim ship left unloaded in Oakland.

    https://twitter.com/hashtag/Blocktheboat?src=hash

  28. diane says:

    Yep, and thanks for the rechirp, this says it all:

    O9/29/14 https://twitter.com/mannersNJ/status/516591348519305216 :

    Vito Proof
    @mannersNJ

    Title of CIA doc should’ve been: “To Be Declassified Prior To Release Of Any Bio Pic On Gary Webb” foia.cia.gov/sites/default/.[pdf file]…

    Meanwhile, it’s ghastly how many (if not all?) of the most heavily travelled ‘left/pwogwessive’ sites have incorporated The Inter$ept™ – which, among other moral crimes against humanity, just engaged, if one read carefully, in the decades long horrid and evil Gary Webb defamation – into their ‘daily communions’ .of ‘links’.again$t the man [!]™.

  29. Pingback: Remembering Gary Webb | The Rancid Honeytrap

  30. Pingback: The Celebrity Left Wars | The Rancid Honeytrap

  31. Pingback: Edward Snowden’s Bizarre Conception of Human Rights | The Rancid Honeytrap « The Progressive Mind

  32. Tarzi – just saw your comment over at Floyd’s place so came over to sees what you’re up to.

    In this post, you ask to much of Snowden. He is a techie. Techie’s tend to be poorly educated. So obviously, he has little conception of the tension between “democracy” and individual rights – or the contradictions in the way that Empire, under a Republican form of government, actually “implements” democratic principles.

    On top of that, at times, both Snowden and Greenwald hold themselves out as some kind of libertarians, but fail to note the contradiction of a libertarian that is employed by the state – or, as you note above, the little problem of the “democratic majority” extinguishing fundamental human rights.

    On other matters, I’m surprised that you haven’t been all over the Taibbi affair – in vindicates arguments you made at the outset (I did as well) about the motives and MO of the Billionaire Boy.

    • Tarzie says:

      In this post, you ask to much of Snowden. He is a techie. Techie’s tend to be poorly educated.

      Oh please. To say someone is a techie doesnt say a whole lot, and depending on the interview, Snowden claims to be more than that, anyway. As my piece suggests, I think the NatSec background constrains his political imagination more than anything. But it’s entirely beside the point regardless. You and far too many others continue to misinterpret me. I don’t give a fuck WHY these people say and do what they do. I ONLY CARE THAT THEY SAY AND DO IT. Snowden says stupid, pernicious things that far too many people don’t recognize as pernicious and stupid. This is the important thing. I don’t have any interest in rendering a moral judgment about it.

      As for Taibbi, it’s only been, what, three days? I have a piece in the works. As far as I’m concerned it demonstrates nothing that wasn’t already obvious, and the wailing and keening over journalistic independence just makes me laugh. I hate the rubes that have been falling for this shit and are now having a Eureka moment even more than I detest Greenwald, to be honest. Fuck all these people and their stupid, dull little spectacle of ‘journalism’ and dissent. They’re no less confused or childish than they were a week ago. If the upper middle class ‘left’ died in their sleep, we’d all be better off.

  33. Pingback: Fuck Charlie Hebdo, or, Take Your Free Speech and Stick It | 100 Flamingos

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