Why are so many progressives okay with spying under Obama when they weren't under Bush?
Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks have recently revealed an interesting and disturbing trend among people on the left. Many, rather prominent people, on the liberal/progressive circuit have roundly condemned Edward Snowden as a traitor for leaking the classified PRISM program of the NSA. What I find strange is the fact that I widely expected progressives to be in defense of Snowden. Sadly, this has not been the case.
The target of this critique is not the Obama Administration or members of Congress. Those are people I expected to be against the NSA leaks. The ones I critique are those who are not part of the power structure.
Many of the former Obama appointees who now contribute and anchor on MSNBC have come out to defend PRISM and attack Snowden. Even anchors such as Bob Scheifer, David Gregory and Lawrence O’Donnell have helped to reinforce a certain narrative about Snowden as being “just an IT guy” and someone of no real importance. Granted O’Donnell has not gone as far as to call Snowden a traitor, but he certainly hasn’t been defending him all too well either.
Many progressive/liberal commentators and writers such as Jeffrey Toobin, Thomas Friedman, and Geoffrey R. Stone (who have written for sites like the Huffington Post and the New York Times) have recently come out to roundly denounce Snowden as a narcissist who quote “deserves to be in prison.”
What surprises me about the vitriol directed at Snowden from many of these “progressives” is that they were quite willing to denounce the former Bush Administration for the same actions they now feel are necessary under Obama. Geoffrey Stone in fact wrote a book in 2004 titled “Perilous Times: Free Speech in War Time from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terror”, in which his central thesis was that as Stone puts it;
”One of the important lessons is that if American citizens want to have the freedoms that are guaranteed to them, they cannot sit back passively and allow elected officials and judges to protect their rights for them. It’s very important for the American people to recognize that if they want their freedoms―want their liberties―they have to take responsibility for preserving them in these times.”
The issue here is that many on the left are so willing to accept the Obama Administration’s and Congress’ line when it comes to Snowden and the NSA, when just a few years ago things were very different. If a program was leaked by someone like Snowden in the same nature as PRISM under the Bush (or any Republican) Administration, the left would probably be unified in outrage and would demand said administration’s head on a plate.
Granted, not everyone on the left is critical of Snowden. Glenn Greenwald was the one who broke the story, and he is a staunch progressive. However, when guys like Glenn Beck and Rand Paul start making more sense than someone like Lawrence O’Donnell, we as progressives have to start questioning exactly what path we are going down.
The main question I have is why liberals and progressives, who are not supposed to blindly accept authority and be more open to inquiry, are so willing to blindly accept and trust the government line. It seems many liberals (much like Republicans in reverse) are simply defending the NSA because the Obama Administration is. Much like the conservatives under Bush, liberals under Obama are defending “their president” right or wrong. Does anyone else besides me see something wrong with that sentiment?
Progressives should be more willing to support someone like Snowden, and the odds are they’d be on Snowden’s side if a Republican were president right now.
Democrats shouldn’t be taking the opposite position of a few conservatives simply for the sake of blindly following the party. Liberals used to think for themselves regardless of the views of Beck and Paul, even still, polar opposites have been known to agree from time to time.
We should be more willing to challenge the party and not accept what the Administration does simply because a Democrat is in office. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the right.