The mainstream media is on a mission: to blur the lines between blowing the whistle and blowing you away. In this despicable ploy, whistleblowers are being aligned with terrorists, mass murderers, traitors and spies. TIME magazine published a lineup entitled “Slipping through the cracks,” where whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were wedged in between two mass murderers, Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) and Aaron Alexis (the Navy Yard killer). Washingtonian took it a step further, grouping Snowden and Manning with a large group of “bridge-burning traitors,” foreign spies and moles.
Why is the mainstream media making such ludicrous comparisons? They’re merely reciting the government’s talking points. Former head of the NSA and the CIA, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who is now a CNN Terrorism Analyst and a principal with the infamous Chertoff Group, was foaming at the mouth about Snowden’s disclosures in his recent op-ed. Hayden not only declared Snowden “the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic,” but also managed to lump together whistleblowers Ed Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg and Chelsea Manning with notorious spies Benedict Arnold, Klaus Fuchs, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. Hayden also pontificated that journalists like James Rosen and Glenn Greenwald should be treated not as reporters, but as criminal co-conspirators.
The mainstream media, having seamlessly morphed into the government’s public relations branch, obediently ran with the same deliberately false comparisons. They seized on the unsurprising coincidence that whistleblower Snowden and a mentally disturbed mass murderer Aaron Alexis were vetted by the same company that processes the majority of security checks for government contractors. A flurry of headlines followed, starkly juxtaposing a hero with a villain.
- The Washington Post: Contractor that vetted Snowden says it also ran background check for Navy Yard shooter
- Foreign Policy: Snowden and Alexis: Just what is it with these lousy post-9/11 defense contractors?
- The New York Times: Same Firm Did Checks on Snowden and Gunman
- Business Week: Company Behind Snowden Check Also Vetted D.C. Shooter
- TIME: Same Contractor Vetted Snowden and Navy Yard Suspect
- The Wall Street Journal: Same Firm Vetted Snowden, Navy Shooting Suspect
- CBS News: Same company did background checks on Alexis, Snowden
- Fox News: Same contractor vetted Snowden, Navy Yard shooting suspect
- NBC News: USIS, security firm that backgrounded Snowden, also checked Navy Yard shooter
- Bloomberg: Company Behind Snowden Vetting Did Check on D.C. Shooter
The government and the mainstream media see the majority of the American public as a herd of uninformed, gullible simpletons, easily manipulated through words and imagery.
When civil liberties groups criticized the Internet kill switch bill known as “Protecting Cyberspace”, it was deceptively renamed into “Internet Freedom.” To silence the critics displeased with another piece of legislation, PROTECT IP, which would require Internet service providers to block access to certain websites, the bill was promptly renamed E-PARASITE. As voters recoiled against the Bank Bailout Bill, it was promptly renamed the TARP Bill.
During the recent Syria debates, Fox News war hawks flooded us with images of topless Putin, whom they repeatedly declared to be “evil” (along with Russia as a whole) in a not-so-subtle ploy to bring the Cold War back from the dead. Simultaneously, cable channels pumped out countless re-runs of the James Bond films. After all, the public is presumed to be much too obtuse to recognize the manipulation.
Using the same logic, the government believes that by merely aligning whistleblowers with blood-splattered murderers, traitors and spies they can easily prompt an average unsophisticated ignoramus to perceive them in the same category.
This presumption of our gullible nature brought on another noxious scheme, designed to sway public opinion. The government is assembling a “Behavioral Insights Team” that will work to influence our perceptions, opinions and behavior in “subtle” ways. It’s fashioned after a 2008 book entitled "Nudge" that was authored by Obama’s former regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, who is currently sitting on the NSA surveillance review panel. The book suggests that Big Brother become our Big Daddy, by nudging the clueless, infantile public towards what Daddy knows best.
Sunstein also authored a working paper, suggesting that government agents and paid plants should “cognitively infiltrate” conspiracy theorist groups by joining “chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups” and ensuring “that government efforts might succeed in weakening or even breaking up the ideological and epistemological complexes that constitute these networks and groups.”
The same schemes of “nudging” reportedly worked out very well in England, which might account for the deafening silence in the U.K. with respect to the Summer of Snowden. In the U.S., numerous federal agencies are already working on “behavioral insights projects,” including the Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Veterans Administration, Department of Treasury, Social Security Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Be ready to get nudged (or shoved) from many different sides.
The barrage of suggestive imagery and clever wording is nothing new with respect to the demonization of whistleblowers. One by one, they’re being baselessly called traitors and spies, with nonexistent blood of potential victims on their hands. We’re urged to fear, loathe and despise the truth-tellers. At the same time, we’re “nudged” to forget about the corruption, fraud, waste and abuse they’ve exposed.
John Cusack (Board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, who frequently speaks and writes on issues of human rights, government transparency, and accountability) put it best when he described this phenomenon as The Snowden Principle:
“When The Snowden Principle is invoked and revelations of this magnitude are revealed; it is always met with predictable establishment blowback from the red and blue elites of state power. Those in charge are prone to hysteria and engage in character assassination, as are many in the establishment press that have been co-opted by government access . When The Snowden Principle is evoked the fix is always in and instead of looking at the wrongdoing exposed, they parrot the government position no matter what the facts.
The Snowden Principle just cannot be tolerated...
Even mental illness is pondered as a possible reason that these pariahs would insist on the public's right to know at the highest personal costs to their lives and the destruction of their good names. The public's right to know---This is the treason. The utter corruption, the crime.”
With respect to the current barrage of anti-whistleblower imagery and media coverage, Cusack was characteristically forthright in calling it “staggeringly corrupt propaganda that treats citizenry like morons.”
Courageous FBI whistleblower, TIME magazine’s person of the year, Coleen Rowley concurred, calling out “the not-so-subtle propaganda that equates spies and criminals with truth-tellers.” Rowley continued to say:
“It's truly sickening to see certain main stream media (MSM) outlets categorize courageous government whistleblowers like Edward Snowden who knowingly made the courageous decision to sacrifice his own personal life to publicly disclose the NSA's illegal spying on American citizens with true spies-for-hire.
True spies for hire Robert Hanssen (former FBI manager) and Aldrich Ames (former CIA operative) and other lesser-known ones at the FBI, CIA and what is now known as "Top Secret America" made enormous sums of money selling the identities of other spies. The whistleblowers' motivation to help the public in general and loyalties to the Constitution are important distinctions! Obviously the authors of these articles cannot be that stupid to not know the difference between someone who (secretly) sells secrets for their own criminal enrichment and to benefit an enemy with the very different example of someone who discloses the truth about secret fraud, waste, abuse, illegality or a serious risk to public safety, so that the abuse or risk can be alleviated to benefit the public. Real spies harm democracy and the rule of law, while real whistleblowers benefit democracy and strengthen the rule of law.
The authors of these MSM articles must have learned nothing from history. They ought to be reminded that during the equally repressive Vietnam War era, over 1,600 key civil rights and anti-war leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., respected journalists and writers, and even U.S. Senators such as Frank Church were treated as "traitors" similarly to how our U.S. government is now treating Snowden, Manning, Drake and other whistleblowers who have been prosecuted and persecuted for telling the ugly and embarrassing truths about the current U.S. wars.”
The common thread running through many whistleblower cases is the fact that the truth-teller is usually the only one being prosecuted, hounded and maligned. Nothing was done to address the war crimes exposed by the “Collateral Murder” video – instead, the government concentrated on destroying Manning. Not a single tax cheat was held to account after being exposed by Bradley Birkenfeld – only the whistleblower himself ended up in prison. The NSA broke the law, violated our constitutional rights and repeatedly lied to the Congress, but in lieu of holding the agency accountable, powers-that-be embarked on a worldwide hot pursuit of Snowden. The long list of examples goes on and on, most of them skillfully concealed by the government and the mainstream media.
In addition to rampant whistleblower retaliation, the establishment became rather blatant in attacking members of the media who dare to report the content of their disclosures. They’re accused of not being “real journalists,” subjected to surveillance, detained at airports and threatened with prosecution. This prompted John Cusack to question, “Will Eric Holder guarantee NSA reporters' first amendment rights?”. Free Press also launched a campaign to “Demand That Attorney General Holder Stop the Harassment of Journalists.”
Perhaps the attempts to make us hate the truth-tellers and those who give them a voice perversely aim to exploit our own self-loathing. Those who have witnessed the wrongdoing, but chose to look the other way, might be the first to condemn the whistleblower for taking the higher ground. Members of the media, who elect to parrot the government’s talking points out of self-preservation, will throw the first stone at anyone who dares to practice journalism the way it was intended: by reporting the inconvenient truth regardless of the consequences. In deciding how we really feel about the few who sacrifice themselves for the benefit of many, we shouldn’t look at the comparisons spewed by self-important government officials and the imagery put forth by the media. Instead, we should look inward – because by condemning truth-tellers we’d be killing our own conscience.