The supposedly free and independent media is still covering the case of Edward Snowden. As is known, Saint Greenwald has gone on the record defending not only his actions (which were self-evidently the correct actions to take), but his personal character. In response to Glenn Greenwald’s tireless advocacy for all that is good and right, the media has decided to “accuse” him of investing in gay porn, which only makes me respect him more, of course. But being unable to find anything similarly sexy to pin on Snowden, and still trying to hide behind the veneer of “objectivity,” the New York Times has decided to smear Snowden by association with those evil Russians.
The Cold War is technically over, but the media loves digging it up again when it’s useful. You see, the Russians were the bad guys in the Cold War. You can tell because we believe it. Established doctrine is the best doctrine. And so we continue with it even now that there’s no Cold War. So first we have to establish that China and Russia aren’t acting as “allies,” but rather as an “axis.” You may be familiar with the terminology. The New York Times accuses them of “tak[ing] action at America’s expense,” although there’s no evidence that Americans ought to feel that protection of a whistleblower is some sort of attack on them, but plenty of evidence that the government behavior that Snowden brought to light is. For good measure, the article continues by accusing the PRC and Russia of “policies toward Syria [which] have paralyzed the United Nations Security Council for two years, preventing joint international action,” the unstated assumption being that we agree that the US, UK and France are backing “good guys” on THEIR side of the brutal Syrian civil war. “Chinese hacking of American companies and Russia’s cyberattacks against its neighbors have also caused concern in Washington,” although the US military also admits to “defending computer networks and, if so ordered by the president, carrying out offensive attacks.” “They also don’t like watching the West take action against leaders friendly to them, like President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.” Because the US would totally just love it if Russia or the PRC were to back an armed rebellion against the oppressive Saudi dictatorship.
Why does all this bother me? I surely agree that the PRC and Russia are sinister governments, to be opposed (as all UN Permanent Security Council members ought to be). What does it matter how they’re being discussed in a New York Times op-ed piece? The reason is that the article only wishes to vilify CERTAIN evil governments, namely those that we aren’t really responsible for. In fact, I would argue that the New York Times’ intent is to distract from the real issue of oppression by our evil government (such as… the Snowden case!) to talk about America’s Enemies™, and how they are lurking, ever lurking. This is the same strategy used by regimes all around the world to distract from their own shortcomings. How serious do we in the US take the Iranian regimes association of Iranians who bravely stand against the tyranny of their regime (by banging, apparently) with foreign powers conspiring against Iran? What about North Korea? Syria? CHINA OR RUSSIA?
Regardless which foreign regime bugs you the most among those that we have been taught to believe are the only really bad regimes because they aren’t part of our empire, to turn discussions of brave dissidents against the US system into discussions about America’s enemies is like something some regime you don’t like might do. If anything, the US looks more ridiculous than many of its enemies for putting Snowden in the position where he needs the assistance of foreign states. Even if the entire population publicly stood with Snowden and against the NSA, the US political system (whether I like it or not) is quite secure. Opposition to domestic spying does not equal to opposition to the entire workings of the regime (unfortunately). In North Korea, it is much easier to believe that dissidents pose a real threat to those in power, because so totalitarian is the North Korean regime that any serious opening to reforms will likely lead to its absorption into the much more stable Southern regime (like what happened to East Germany, which was far more developed than North Korea).
Another reason that the bringing up of the Cold War or Russia’s “anti-Americanism” bothers me is that contemporary Russia and the United States are more rivals than proper enemies. In the old days it was far more “all or nothing,” but today Moscow has loads of McDonald’s locations and that’s just reality. Putin and Obama are both virulent Zionists, and both have no problem with a narrow business elite dictating political policy. Even the New York Times in the article above admits that “Moscow and Beijing have generally supported international efforts to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” although they accuse them of not being “prepared to go as far as Washington was,” which I presume means that they didn’t agree to join NATO and back the possibility of full-on war against Iran’s civilian population? I don’t deny that there are points of tension between the two, but they are both pretty much awful human beings, so why should we vilify the one who isn’t our supposed representative?
But beyond trying to use the Snowden case as an excuse to revive the narrative of Russia as “the enemy” in the minds of the American public (rather than what it should be used for, which is evidence of Obama’s utter hypocrisy), another reason it is obnoxious for the media to discuss this in terms of the plotting of Russia and China is that Snowden is only working with those countries because they accept him. Snowden has begged to be taken in by quite a few countries, some of which DO appear less harmful to their own citizens and the planet than UN Permanent Security Council members (not that it matters to Snowden, who as I cannot stress enough is just trying to avoid Bradley Manning’s fate), but they keep rejecting him. Rebiya Kadeer fled the PRC to the US, not because the US is so perfect, but because they will take her. If Turkey would offer her protection, I’m sure she’d rather be there. Who in the media wouldn’t expect progressive-minded Chinese to be more concerned the fact that Chinese dissidents have to flee their own countries than where they end up, but the exact same people into propagandists when a (frankly heroic) figure like Snowden is the topic of discussion, at the exact moment when it is most important for the media of a country to be self-critical.