Reader JS has sent along a link to a long article in the New Republic by Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz ominously titled Would You Feel Differently About Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?. Wilentz seems to imply that the three of them have some secret agenda that Wilentz has somehow managed to unearth that enables him to read their minds and bring to light their true intent.
But on reading the article you find that almost all of the material is well known to those of us who have been following the issue fairly closely. Wilentz’s main concern seems to be that the NSA revelations and whistleblowing in general seem to be attracting a coalition from the anti-authoritarian left and right, and the intent of his piece is to convince liberals that they need to abandon them and come back into the fold of the Democratic party.
His argument is a familiar one, that Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange share some libertarian leanings and have formed an alliance to plot against liberal democracy that makes all their actions suspect, and that while there have been some excesses by the NSA and the government, they are in fact good people and we should support them.
As Gosztola says:
Few personify the death of the liberal class in the United States like writer and historian Sean Wilentz, which is why it is baffling to read an entire polemical essay from him in The New Republic on why liberals should recognize that Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden “despise the liberal state” and aim to “wound” it through leaks.
Journalist Chris Hedges has written that the current liberal class is “expected to mask the brutality of imperial war and corporate malfeasance by deploring the most egregious excesses whiles studiously refusing to question the legitimacy of the power elite’s actions and structures. When dissidents step outside these boundaries, they become pariahs. Specific actions can be criticized, but motives, intentions, and the moral probity of the power elite cannot be questioned.”
In Wilentz’s most recent piece, it is clear he is worried that liberals might actually support the efforts of Assange, Greenwald or Snowden to challenge the excesses of the national security state. He loathes the fact that the actions of these men have been heralded by many, despite the fact that their critiques of the power elite’s “motives, intentions and the moral probity” of them do not comport with his ideology. And so, his answer is to write a hackneyed piece of journalism that delves into what he perceives as the “motives, intention and the moral probity” of Assange, Greenwald and Snowden in order to discredit them in the eyes of liberals.
As these three writers all point out, the views and actions of people like Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange on issues unrelated to the revelations of actions of the national security state are relevant if we are discussing things that impinge on them. But why would Greenwald’s past views on immigration or Snowden’s views on guns or welfare have any relevance to their role in disseminating the NSA documents?
This is again an attempt to divide people along tribal lines based on superficial political labels (something that serves the ruling class by dividing their opponents) rather than by where they stand on specific issues.