Part of my morning ritual involves logging into Twitter to see what people are talking about — to get a sense of the mood of things.
Today, the mood was unnervingly manic and whirling; it gave me a sense of vertigo — really of chaos. There are simply so many scandals, so many stories, so many concerns, solutions, opinions. People railing on the scandalous garbage leaking out of the State Department. The submerged Benghazi story. The getting-lost NSA story; the becoming-distant IRS story — I’d include the AP/Rosen/DOJ story but the press seems to have lost interest in it — another discomfiting story about HHS and data-mining; the PRISM story. Concerns about Congressional Blackberries! (Although….)
Twitter gave me a sense, today, of people pulling at their hair in a harried manner, and also of choosing not to hear what might make them grimace less.
It’s almost like everyone wants to be freaking out. Like we’re become a nation addicted to the daily drama.
Topping it all off, like cherries and sprinkles, were tweets by Noam Chomskey declaring he never thought Obama would be this bad on civil liberties and…sigh…the predictable tweet from Glenn Beck identifying young Mr. Snowden as a hero, the “man we’ve been waiting for.” Because if the American Right is not identifying the next short-lived savior of their party (It’s Cain! Oops it’s Rubio!) or their ideology (it’s Christie! Oops it’s Cruz!) or their country, (it’s Palin! Oops, it’s Beck! Oops, it’s Snowden!) they’re simply at a loss.
In fact, there are strange-bedfellows beginning to mewl about the one we’ve been waiting for. Perhaps I’m still twitching from 2008, but it all smacks of idolatry, to me, and an over-reliance upon fumbling humans to somehow turn a narrative trajectory that has been ably launched by the powerful thrusters of media sycophancy and some masterful misdirection.
My own take on the whole PRISM story, as I have said earlier, has been one of detached interest, largely because I am not entirely sure what we’re seeing. Several days ago on Twitter, I asked Gabriel Malor — who has been skeptical of the make/manner of the Snowden story and much of the surrounding hysteria — if we’re not all seeing some very canny (brilliant, actually) political theater, and if so, to what purpose?
Two days ago I wrote that Snowden might have been smart to get ahead of something. Today I’m thinking, seriously? Loud public discussion about “disappearing him”? If it was interesting when it was a pssst on Twitter, it became almost laughable once a fleshed-out story reported that the loud-talkers wore clothes that shouted “hey, we work in intelligence!”.
A scriptwriter would call that a clumsy contrivance, or even a conceit; one that completely disrespects the intelligence of the audience.
I’ve maintained all along that Obama is a guy who is comfortable in chaos and in fact prefers to operate in a burlesque of chaos and cajolery. In this case, it was good to see Ann Althouse noting roughly around the same time as my wonderings, that the president seems quite pleased with the NSA “leak”.
It just feels like theater to me! Theatrics and misdirection, and with the exception of the loud airport guys in the Intel shirts, carrying on about disappearing leakers, it seems like really competent theater.
To what purpose? Well, when people are wondering where you were on 9/11/12, and you won’t answer questions about why Foreign Service people were not rescued, and the eyewitnesses are summarily silent; when the sycophantic press has gotten mildly miffed with you because your DOJ is calling them criminals for doing their job; when your tax-collecting bureaucracy has been caught targeting the politically annoying while also spending money like French Aristocracy; when your HHS Secretary has been shaking down entities for money and working against the free expression of human conscience, the thing you want to do is get everyone hyperventilating about something that is, in fact, perfectly legal — put into law in bi-partisan legislation — and until this week largely seen as a “necessary evil” by a pretty complacent country. [Aside, not to put too fine a head on it, but I actually do talk about the debate over the Patriot Act and its possible abuses in the introduction of my book, which is yes, about idolatry. Odd how things tie in! - admin]
The secondary purpose, of course is that within chaos theater, it is easier to effect change. People don’t even realize it’s happening:
“Because people don’t like change. But make the change happen fast enough and you go from one type of normal to another.”
― Terry Pratchett, Making Money
It’s brilliant. And it’s why I really don’t know if Glenn Greenwald has been played by someone or not; I don’t know if Snowden is even real. If some are thinking that we are living through Orwell’s 1984, it seems to me we’re actually deeply into the pages of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, right down to Eric Holder’s Justice Department being charged to investigate itself (only to find — we’re sure — that very little is amiss, with just a few things “out of whack”). In fact, when I heard his name, the first thought I had — and I tweeted it — was from Catch-22: “where are the Snowden’s of yesteryear?”.
I don’t know if Snowden or the whole “leak” story is anything like a reality — is this photogenic young man — whose politics seem to suggest a melding of the whole political spectrum — a “hero” or a mere player? The added irony of Snowden running off to Hong Kong for safety (and then somehow leaving, undetected) at the exact moment President Obama is meeting with his Chinese counterpart. It’s just delicious subtext for the experience theatergoer, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, Eli Lake: believes Snowden is really real, and says Gov’t has been looking for him since May.
Conor Friedersdorf: And what if China hacks it?
Ed Morrissey: Who is the Snowden of this year? Is a nut or a frontman?
That was fast: The Pardon Snowden Petition
AP Editorial: It’s always been a matter of trust…
VDH: Obama is just Obama
Peggy Noonan: Five Blunt Points in the era of metadata
William Safire, 2002: You are a suspect
DHS Insider says It’s about to get ugly. Hm?
Too Late!: Only 30% trust gov’t on issues of surveillance
More: Cover-up at State
More: Five IRS Scandal Myths
Gen. Hayden: Obama has more power, yes
Hundreds in Gov’t had advance word re Trading Spike