Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tom Friedman: No Sixth Amendment For You

Updated Below

Every time I come across a Tom Friedman column, I ask myself, "Could this guy get any stupider?"  And every time, he manages to find a way.

Yesterday's drivel was about whistleblower Edward Snowden.  Let's try to unpack the Friedmanesque quantities of bullshit he crams into one short paragraph.

"Considering the breadth of reforms that President Obama is now proposing to prevent privacy abuses in intelligence gathering…"

Obama's proposed "reforms" are a joke, a whitewash, and an insult to anyone with a functioning brain.

" the wake of Snowden’s disclosures, Snowden deserves a chance to make a second impression — that he truly is a whistle-blower, not a traitor.  The fact is, he dumped his data and fled to countries that are hostile to us and to the very principles he espoused. To make a second impression, Snowden would need to come home, make his case and face his accusers. It would mean risking a lengthy jail term…"

Wow.  Snowden now "deserves a chance" to be afforded a trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, but in the absence of Obama's proposed whitewash, he would have had to forfeit his Sixth Amendment rights?  This is very generous of Friedman, suggesting that under proper conditions an American might deserve Constitutional protections.  What does Friedman think Snowden "deserved" before Friedman decided he had earned his "chance" at being afforded his Sixth Amendment rights -- an imperial drone execution?

And "the fact is" that Snowden "dumped his data?"  Snowden personally reviewed everything he handed over to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald and The Washington Post's Bart Gellman, held back a great deal more, and instructed Greenwald and Gellman to use their journalistic discretion in determining how and how much they should publish of even the limited amounts he gave them.  To call this "dumping" is to eviscerate the word of meaning.

And Snowden was bad for fleeing to "hostile" countries?  Initially, he went to Hong Kong; he then got stuck in Russia when the US government revoked his passport.  Which means:  he's in Russia now because the US government stranded him there. Where would Friedman prefer Snowden fled -- France? Italy? Portugal? Spain?  All of which are so in thrall to the United States that, acting on a tip that Snowden was on board, they denied access to their airspace to the plane of Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, forcing him to land in Austria, where he was then detained for twelve hours.

And does it ever occur to Friedman that there's a reason an American whistleblower might feel compelled to flee?  That the the US government might bear some responsibility for why an American whistleblower might feel compelled to seek asylum abroad?  More on this below.

I couldn't help noticing that Friedman referred to a possible lengthy "jail" term.  This might be because Friedman doesn't know that jail is where people are held before sentencing, and that prison is where they're sent after.  Or he might have been using the term accurately after all, given that Bradley Manning spent three years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, before his sentencing; given that journalist Barrett Brown has been in jail for over a year awaiting trial; and given the US government's demonstrated proclivity for imprisoning people indefinitely without any sentencing at all -- indeed, without even bothering to accuse them of a crime (we call these unfortunates "detainees" because, having been convicted of nothing, they can't be convicts, and because "prisoners" sounds so harsh.  "Detainees" just sounds so much more pleasant; really, it's almost as nice as "guests").

"...but also trusting the fair-mindedness of the American people, who, I believe, will not allow an authentic whistle-blower to be unfairly punished."

The ignorance here -- or the mendacity -- is breathtaking.  Does Friedman really not know that the U.N.'s special rapporteur on torture formally accused the US government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for locking Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for almost a year?  Has he really never heard of William Binney?  Thomas Drake?  Jesselyn Radack?  The eight whistleblowers the Obama administration has accused of espionage and worse?

Or maybe Friedman thinks none of the punishments these people received was "unfair."  Or that, although the US government has clearly and repeatedly abused its powers, the American people "will not allow" such things to happen this time!

In fact, I doubt even Friedman could be that ignorant or that naive.  More likely, he's hanging his hat on that weasel-word, "authentic."  Because if Tom Friedman thinks you're not authentic, you just don't qualify.  This is a version of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.  It's also a variant of Obama's own Humpty Dumpty policy, by which America minimizes civilian drone-strike deaths by defining anyone killed in a drone strike as a terrorist.

Maybe the saddest thing of all about Friedman -- sadder than his ignorance, sadder than his bullshit -- is that he actually seems to believe someone with the conscience, conviction, and courage of Edward Snowden could possibly give a shit about making a proper second impression, or any impression at all, on an establishment tool like Friedman.  Can you imagine the level of narcissism required in urging someone to risk torture and life in prison for the chance to make a proper impression on you?

If I were as much of a solipsistic, self-important, l'etat-c'est-moi naval-gazer as Friedman, at this point I might advise him that he must find a way to make a better second impression on me!  Perhaps by repenting for all the bullshit he's ever dumped on any reader foolish enough to trust him, and particularly for his cheerleading for American "Suck on this" barbarity in Iraq.

But I'm not so neurotic as to expect other people to make decisions about their lives based on what kind of impression their decisions might make on me, and not so ignorant as to suggest their constitutional rights might be forfeit should they fail to please me.  That's Friedman's schtick.  I wish someone he trusts would do an intervention.  He really needs help.

Update:  The Freedom of the Press Foundation has its own typically excellent take on Friedman's latest excrescence:

"No, he can’t. Snowden will not be able to make the case he’d like to make in court because, contrary to common sense, there is no public interest or whistleblower exception under the Espionage Act. In recent cases, prosecutors have convinced courts that the intent of the leaker, the value of leaks to the public, and the lack of harm caused by the leaks are irrelevant, and are therefore inadmissible in court..."


Robert S said...

As Humpty Dumpty says, "When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean. No more, no less!"

Through the Looking Glass, Chapter Six

Though Obama has a bigger budget to pay off words that he asks to do that much work...

Jorn said...

Friedman loves Israel best, so his 'patriot' and 'traitor' make perfect sense with that substitution.

John C. said...

If only Snowden were gay, the NYT would be thrilled with Russia embracing him.

I get confused:
Either Russia is a friendly country and should be turning Snowden over like chums do for chums, or Russia is an evil country and Snowden's flight their proof he is a rat-bastard up to no good. Apparently Mother Russia is whatever the talking points of the hour demand--as jolie laide as Snowden who repulses Friedman, but Friedman wants to fuck him just the same, to "take it like a man."

Ambon Pereira said...

Honestly, Friedman mystifies me: made a name for himself as a journalist covering the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in Lebanon; he then covers the first Intifada in Palestine; and then, 15 years later, after having had ample time to reflect on how military interventions in the ME tend to result in chaos/blow-back-- and he could always look at his own articles on Sabra, if he needed a reminder-- he suddenly takes the position that a truly epic intervention in Iraq is a "wise/sound/serious" move? I really don't get the guy. Sure, he's probably cynical and narcissistic, but that still doesn't explain the fundamental disconnect, between his "projective reasoning" and what his own experience should have taught him.

Pseudotype said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pseudotype said...

Friedman isn't talking about right and wrong in his scant comments about standing down the rhetoric about Snowden's role as a traitor Barry. He's spit balling solutions that would be palatable to the men and women in Washington who have countenanced years of increasing using our military surveillance capability against U.S. citizens. There has to be a political way out for those folks who have been busy hack sawing the Bill of Rights behind our backs. Those kind of solutions are Thomas Friedman's sweet spot.
I think you are missing the point that Friedman is a centrist, and a peace-maker. The man has spent decades reporting international affairs, but also has sometimes been a lone advocate for the West in Arabic media.

flyin' granny said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Many times, THANK YOU for this.