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The Sickening Snowden Backlash

The Sickening Snowden Backlash

Hell hath no fury like the Washington establishment scorned.

Since Edward Snowden came forward to identify himself as the leaker of the National Security Agency spying programs, the D.C. mandarins have been working overtime to discredit the man many view as a hero for revealing crucial information the government had wrongfully kept secret. Apparently, if you think hiding information about spying on Americans is bad, you are misguided. The real problem is that Snowden didn’t understand that his role is to sit and be quiet while the “best and the brightest” keep Americans in the dark about government snooping on private citizens.

By refusing to play this role, Snowden has been called a "traitor" by House Majority Leader John Boehner. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the leaks "an act of treason." The fury among the protectors of the status quo is so great that you have longtimeWashington Post columnist Richard Cohen smearing Snowden as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” The New York Times’s David Brooks lamented that Snowden, who put himself in peril for the greater good, was too “individualistic.” It seems that he wasn’t sufficiently indoctrinated to blindly worship the establishment institutions that have routinely failed us. Brooks argued that “for society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures.” 

This is backward. It’s the institutions that need to demonstrate respect for the public they allegedly serve. If Snowden or any other American is skeptical of institutional power, it is not due to any personal failing on their part. The lack of respect is a direct outgrowth of the bad behavior of the nation’s institutions, behavior that has undermined Americans’ trust in them. According to Gallup’s “confidence in institutions” poll, trust is at an historic low, with Congress clocking in at a 13 percent approval rating in 2012. Yes, this is the same Congress that has “oversight” of the government spying programs. 

When one major institution (the Washington media establishment) so seamlessly partners with another (the U.S. government) in trashing a whistleblower, it’s not hard to understand why Americans might be jaded. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin wrotethat Snowden is "a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison." MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell complained about Snowden’s naiveté and “maturity level,” as if only a child would believe the government should be transparent about its activity.Politico’s Roger Simon called Snowden “the slacker who came in from the cold,” with “all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger.” That people feel comfortable sneering about grocery workers—a respectable job—and writing off Snowden’s years working as a security guard as sloth tells you a bit about the culture of the nation’s capital, doesn’t it?

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