Friday, November 01, 2013

Snowden and anti-Americanism

President Obama, Chancellor Merkel
Tim Black
October 31

Thanks to the unhealthy leaky Edward Snowden, currently holed up somewhere in Russia, the relentless dripping of US National Security Agency (NSA) documents and data into the public sphere continues. Indeed, Snowden, who was an NSA contractor when he absconded with thousands of files earlier this year, is probably best thought of now as a tap, rather than a leak, to be turned on by the Guardian or Der Spiegel or Le Monde, or whatever liberal broadsheet he has deigned to contact, as and when the editors feel the need.

The sheer volume of once-confidential NSA info now washing around news outlets would be impressive if its impact wasn't so deadening...

And yet is all this revelatory? Is the knowledge that the US's chief spy agency is spending multi-billion-dollar budget spying on people that jaw-to-the-floor surprising? What on earth did the Guardian or Der Spiegel think spies did with their time? Fornicate and knock back unstirred martinis?

...As former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner put it: "Let's be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous." That's not condemnation, that's a melancholy "if only." In the words of the BBC's Jonathan Marcus: "Almost all governments conduct surveillance or espionage operations against other countries whose activities matter to them. Some are friends; some are enemies; some may just be interesting locations or have ties to other countries that are of interest."

Which raises a question: If it's not Snowden's increasingly tedious leaks themselves that are generating the media attention and hype, then what is? And here we approach the nub of the matter. 

The appeal of the leaks in certain quarters...lies less in what it "reveals" than in the prejudices it confirms. That is, for those of a leftish-liberal hue, for those inclined to believe that at the root of the world's problems, is the power behind myriad thrones, the Snowden Files are further proof of what they already know---that the American state is malevolent, that it really is out to, if not get us, then to watch us...(emphasis added)

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