June 18, 2013

Snowden: Don't mention the I-Word!

The New York Times' "public editor" writes a little piece that asks an interesting question in the title:
Following Up on the N.S.A. Revelations: Were They Really ‘Confirmations’?
By MARGARET SULLIVAN

She lists various articles over the last eight years that recounted much of what Edward Snowden said. For example, James Bamford has been covering the NSA since his 1982 book The Puzzle Palace. Bamford regularly discloses interesting information in Wired, such as the revelations of the more central NSA whistleblower William Binney. 

And there were plenty of disclosures about telephone metadata snooping going back to Carl Cameron's four-part Fox series in 2001.

No doubt there are lots of reason Snowden got so much publicity, but let me mention a subtle one. Unlike Bamford, Binney, Cameron and many others who have looked into snooping in America, Snowden, as far as I can tell, has never mentioned the I-Word: Israel. 

Generally, anybody who looks into NSA questions pretty quickly notices that the NSA outsourced some spying on Americans to Israelis, and that, by now, the question of which country is the dog and which country is the tail has gotten murky. For example, here's a 2012 Wired article by Bamford:
Shady Companies With Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA

But that's not the kind of thing that the media or, to be frank, the great majority of the American public wants to think about. We've all been socialized to shut our brains off when it comes to this tail wagging the dog question. Cameron got to keep his job at Fox, for example, but his series got erased from the official record.

Snowden, in contrast, has kept things nice and neat for people. Everybody seems to have a nice strong opinion about Snowden in part because he hasn't set off the mental shutdown process that the I-Word provokes in well-trained Americans. 

12 comments:

Hepp said...

Snowden's disclosure was a national story before we even knew who the leaker was.

In fact, the only person that the media could associate with the revelations was Glenn Greenwald. I just Googled "Glenn Greenwald Israel", and he seems to say the "I word" quite a lot.

Son of Brock Landers said...

The revelations were confirmations, and the question is why now?

Along the lines of the I-word issue, do you think it could be possible to play a game on the media by implying something about Israel or their American cousin, but when charged with an accusation like "You mean the Jews?!?!", you could answer, "No, I meant New Yorkers, but now that you mention it..." and discuss facts about the Jewish control of or overrepresentation in an industry or Israeli involvement. I've often thought a right winger pol portrayed as slightly dumb (most are portrayed that way) could pull it off.

Anonymous said...

Steve, whats your explanation for the complete media silence when these type stories involve israel? I understand that the pro israel side has loads of money and holds prominent media positions, but to some extent that's also true of many voices who loath israel.

Progressives in general are highly critical of israel, including all of academia and many prominent voices in journalism and entertainment. Not to mention all of the money and political-media influence of oil rich Arab states.

Take fox for example, isn't a large share of the network owned by Saudi billionaires? And in any case Rupert Murdoch is no great fan of israel himself. Why would they go such great length to bury the Cameron story?

And even in israel friendly publications like the nyt or times, prominent writers have accused congress of being in Israel's pockets and sending us troops to die for israel. Why would they be shy about exposing a blockbuster story?

This isn't meant as a rhetorical question, I'm seriously curious what your answer is

Chip said...

Steve,

In line with your observations here, I think "Behind the Candelabra" (the Liberace flick) flirts with subversive themes concerning gay culture, narcissism, and maybe even same-sex marriage. I enjoyed the movie for the usual reasons, but when it was over I couldn't shake the sense that Soderbergh had gotten away with something.

scottlocklin said...

Nah, this was Greenwald's thing, and as others have pointed out, he mentions Israel and friends fairly often.

I wondered about this myself, as I was well aware of Bamford and Binney and all those other NSA whistleblowers who have been saying this for years. My conclusion: it came on the heels of several other Obama disasters, and found a receptive audience.

Bamford and Binney are plenty well known (I mean, being published in wired ain't nothing); they just didn't hit the timing jackpot.

OSS said...

Invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world, invade American's privacy. Err, wrong set of I words.

I don't think mention, or lack of it, of Israel plays a large role in this story. The IRS scandal *really* fired up the conservative base and privacy advocates, the NSA spying is the same only squared or cubed. DNI Clapper perjuring himself made everything out of the national spying apparatus suspect. The prevarications when officials describe 215 and 702 are absolutely fascinating.

Bonus iSteve theme: "Edward Snowden" still doesn't autosuggest for Google or Google News, but washed up junkie child actor Edward Furlong does. Could be my Google profile, but it seems odd.

In line with your observations here, I think "Behind the Candelabra" (the Liberace flick) flirts with subversive themes concerning gay culture, narcissism, and maybe even same-sex marriage. I enjoyed the movie for the usual reasons, but when it was over I couldn't shake the sense that Soderbergh had gotten away with something.

Narcissism, that's the word of the week. Amazing how many journalists has degrees in psychiatry and were able to diagnose Snowden's mental disorder from a 10 minute video.

W.r.t. Liberace, I think Soderbergh was just being honest. Liberace's story is interesting. He was a talented showman, but he was also a creep. It went unmentioned, along with his homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

Is the "i" in iSteve for Israel?

Anonymous said...

Wow, so few comments on this post.

"I-word" Such a terror.

Hepp said...

"Bonus iSteve theme: "Edward Snowden" still doesn't autosuggest for Google or Google News, but washed up junkie child actor Edward Furlong does. Could be my Google profile, but it seems odd. "

Nah, I think doing that would be too obvious. I get "Edward Snowden" autosuggest, with the next option being "Edward Snowden girlfriend," as you'd expect.

I wonder if this whole thing is random and whether there's a left wing site out there wondering why people they like are occasionally getting "un-personed" by Google.

NOTA said...

Greenwald is interesting--he's broadly on the left, but he's actually his own man, rather than being a player for Team Blue or Team Ruling Class. What he writes looks to me to be what he believes, not filtered through calculations of partisan advantage or electoral calculations or whatever. The world would be a better place with more people like that having a public voice.

The best thing about reading/listening to such people is that even if you fundamentally disagree with them, you can learn something more than what talking points the parties' spin doctors are putting out this week. In many ways, they become more interesting the further they are from their natural partisan team, because they take fewer things on faith and think more out on their own.

I'd put Steve in that category, along with many other people worth hearing/reading--Greg Cochran, Juan Cole, Ta-Nahisi Coates, Radley Balko. It's not that I agree with them--all have their blind spots and places where they just seem wrong. But all actually seem to spend some time telling you honestly what they think and know, rather than echoing what someone from their team has said and they've adopted wholesale.

A scary amount of media coverage of the world is done by shills for a party or lobby, or people who are trying to ingratiate themselves with their betters in the ruling class. Finding people who aren't doing that is worth a great deal if you don't want to swallow the BS spread by the powerful.

Anonymous said...

The unusually high number of shorts on American Airlines and United stocks just before 9-11 are consistent with foreknowledge of 9-11.

Marry said...



Progressives in general are highly critical of israel, including all of academia and many prominent voices in journalism and entertainment. Not to mention all of the money and political-media influence of oil rich Arab states.

Academia has no power. The Israel lobby makes sure that to a large extent, the Arabs who get money are those who support Israel, and because many Arabs get rich by inheriting natural resources or competing with other low IQ Arabs, they are dumber than other billionaires and thus can't translate their wealth into meaningful political influence.

In addition the Israel lobby aggressively monitors media to make sure it's pro-Israel on every issue.

And in any case Rupert Murdoch is no great fan of israel himself.

Actually Murdoch is aggressively pro-Israel and arguably Jewish himself.

And even in israel friendly publications like the nyt or times, prominent writers have accused congress of being in Israel's pockets and sending us troops to die for israel.

the NY Times promoted the Iraq war more than anyone. They're virtually synonymous with the israel lobby.