PRISM: Political Theater, fast change, Snowden idolatry – UPDATES

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?

UPDATE:
Wow. Once again,
Ann Althouse and I (or at Meade and I) appear to be of similar opinion. Also: The scandal is not a scandal at all.

Meanwhile, Eli Lake: believes Snowden is really real, and says Gov’t has been looking for him since May.

Tom McDonald:
Just b/c we may be in the middle of a political theatrical doesn’t mean we ought to feel comfortable about this. Jonah feels similarly

Conor Friedersdorf: And what if China hacks it?

Ed Morrissey: Who is the Snowden of this year? Is a nut or a frontman?

MORE UPDATES:
Daniel Ellsburg: Lovin’ him some Snowden
Codename, “Verax”?

Toobin: A Grandiose Narcissist who deserves to be in prison.

That was fast: The Pardon Snowden Petition

Ace: A Fake Leak for a Fake, Fake, Fake President?

RELATED:
AP Editorial: It’s always been a matter of trust…
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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

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Sherry

    You left out the Boston bombings that involved the killing of a “person of interest” while in custody and the massive intel fail despite having such access to data, and warnings from the Russians to consider the people involved in the Marathon bombings worthy of being watched more than the average joe who gets on facebook and calls his buddy about what he saw in the news.

  • Fiestamom

    I’m getting tired of being played by Obama, and the media. How is it that Obama gets away with the lawlessness? I’m just tired of everything being about Obama. My best friend’s husband just lost his (already low paying) job. They have 7 kids, are on food stamps. Our rulers in DC could care less, they definitely don’t feel our pain, it’s just a game.

  • valleys of neptune

    I can’t claim to know much about theology. But surely a whistleblower, of this kind, is the exact opposite of an idolater. It is someone who states that we all have something to hide and we all have something to fear and the securocracy is not to be trusted whatever “reasons” they give this time.

    Yes, it could be that PRISM’s doings are legal (in America, not in the other countries the NSA operates in). But if that’s true, it’s an argument for repealing the relevant laws, not just saying that if it’s within the law it must be ok.

    It is true that the focus shouldn’t all be on Snowden (overly focusing on Julian Assange led to some pretty ugly scenes being acted out and overlooking what Wikileaks as a body achieved, and this shouldn’t be repeated) but his actions should imho be commended. And we thought people like that didn’t exist any more and everyone just beetled on obediently.

  • MeanLizzie

    I wasn’t calling Snowden an idolator. I was talking about the insta-consecration of him as “the man we’ve been waiting for” when we actually know very little about him or what is true. And the whole mindset that there is a human we are waiting for etc.

  • TerryC

    Of course the collection of information by NSA is legal. The problem is that this law was never fully vetted, nor its possible abuse properly discussed prior to it being made into law. As Franklin said, “Those who would trade in their freedom for their protection deserve neither. Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.”

    The president is right when he says that you can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy and no inconvenience. So it’s about time that people realize that since they can’t have 100% security without giving up 100% of their privacy that it time to accept that in a free society there are risks. As it is the number of people killed in terrorists acts in the United States is a small percentage of those killed as result of human on human violence. Yet we would not accept complete loss of privacy to prevent common acts of violence, such as murder or crime related violence. The existence of the Bill of Rights is a reflection of our unwillingness to accept that kind of intrusive loss of freedom for security.

    Conversely this Snowden fellow has committed treason and we can expect the U.S. government to prosecute him to the full extent of the law. This is not fundamentally wrong. If he is a true hero rather than a naive dupe he should realize that just because you do the right thing doesn’t mean you can escape the consequences of your action. Right doesn’t always mean legal.

  • Nicky

    As the mother of a son in the military (who has been deployed 2 times and still wears a bracelet commemorating a fallen comrade in Iraq) Benghazi still upsets me the most. I can hardly stand to look at Hillary or Barack. To have so easily lied to those families when their loved-one’s caskets arrived back in the USA just overwhelms me with bitterness. What was wrong with just saying they didn’t know yet what had happened? And Hillary’s little “What difference does it make?” just absolutely infuriates me. Me, normally a peaceful, give everyone the benefit of the doubt person!

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    There are so many scandals I can’t even keep them straight any more. Who would have thought this president would have fallen this low so fast. Well, he kept it all under wraps until the election was over. At least he’s competant at something. I heard a good one yesterday. Obama has become a morph of Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, the two people the Liberals despise the most in American history. J. Edgar Milhous Obama. It has a nice ring. ;)

  • jay manniix

    Well – if we look only at ‘law’, then abortion is perfectly okey-doke because the law says so, and morals be damned. If, on the other hand, morals and ethics matter to anyone, then Snowden is not a traitor at all. he is a man who saw something going on, unchecked, which was immoral, unethical, illegal and unconstituional, and after seeing earlier complaints about these practices simply swept under the rug, he did the only thing that his conscience would let him do. he went public on the abuses of power which were being used exclusively toward the conservative / religious / mainstream population. Those who think that he should have kept quiet, would have been great cheerleaders for the Stasi and the KGB. “Just keep quiet, don’t make waves, the people who are being detained, tortured, executed – well, they deserve it, Just remember, your government knows what’s best!” The Stasi / NSA was NOT spying on muslims or any other terrorists… hence, their obvious incompetence and impotence from Fort Hood up to the Boston bombings. They ONLY spy on the good people. And it would still be quietly bubbling under the scabrous covering of our government had not one courageous man done what ssot of us would have been too gutless to do. So rationalize all you wish ( we shouldn’t get involved! It’s the government, they always know best!) but as the Scriptures point out, in John 3: 20 “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved”.


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