Somewhat overshadowed by the news about the government sweeping up phone and internet communications has been the other whistleblower release of a secret directive by president Obama calling for agencies to draw up a list of targets for cyberattacks. Some responders have said that there is no news here. They say that of course the US targets other countries for such attacks and only the naïve would expect anything else. A variant of this argument is also given for the revelations about the government collecting phone and internet records. That is true but they need to be aware that when they argue this way, they have fallen victim to a specific propaganda strategy.
This is how it works. The US government engages in all manner of covert activities all over the world. But it carefully denies any official confirmation while giving a wink and a nudge to the cognoscenti that things may be otherwise. So sophisticated observers and media types think they know the real story while the vast majority of the country does not. This enables the government to assert that it is acting morally and then, when the truth is revealed, to scoff at critics by implying that they were stupid to think otherwise.
The real story is not that we have confirmation of cyberattacks now, it is that there was no immediate response when the US government earlier sanctimoniously warned of cyberattacks by other countries and that such cyberattacks would be considered an act of war.
Why didn’t the reporters and knowing insiders immediately say that this was hypocritical because the US government was doing also it? Because as long as there was no official confirmation, the government could grandstand, knowing that they would not be challenged. Then when the truth is revealed, they can dismiss it by saying that this is old news. So they get the benefit of escaping criticism both times.
This way of playing the sophisticated insiders is an old game. I am surprised that these insiders still fall for it.
Tom Tomorrow already has a cartoon out on this.