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Mon Jan 20, 2014, 04:09 PM


The Liberal Surveillance State - crookedtimber

The Liberal Surveillance State
by HENRY - crookedtimber.com
JANUARY 19, 2014


Long time readers of Sean Wilentz will remember him for greatest hits like his notorious piece on the “cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama’s supposedly uplifting campaign,” involving “the most outrageous deployment of racial politics since the Willie Horton ad campaign in 1988 and the most insidious since Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, praising states’ rights,” or his claim that not only was Obama’s “most obvious change to liberal politics” the color of his skin, but Obama was the second coming of Jimmy Carter and a starry-eyed Russia-hugger to boot. So it’s very, very weird to see Wilentz criticizing Edward Snowden on the grounds that his “disgruntlement with Obama … was fueled by a deep disdain for progressive politics” – given his own track record on Obama’s brand of progressivism, why on earth would he believe this to be a problem?

But then the whole article – an attempted hack job on Snowden, Greenwald, Assange and the liberals who like them – is weird like that. In one sense, I can understand why the New Republic went for it – it’s perhaps the purest exercise in even~the~liberal~New Republic~ism that the magazine has published since its change in ownership. Yet it’s also so obviously intellectually shoddy and incoherently argued that you’d have thought that any half-way competent editor would have decided that no amount of contrarianism was worth the damage to the magazine’s brand.

Wilentz’s self-appointed task is clear enough – he wants to tell liberals why they shouldn’t trust the hidden agenda of people like Snowden, Greenwald and Assange. The problems come in the execution.

The article comes in three main parts. First – the promise:

Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange hardly subscribe to identical beliefs, and differ in their levels of sophistication. They have held, at one time or another, a crazy-quilt assortment of views, some of them blatantly contradictory. But from an incoherent swirl of ideas, a common outlook emerges … paranoid libertarianism … Where liberals, let alone right-wingers, have portrayed the leakers as truth-telling comrades intent on protecting the state and the Constitution from authoritarian malefactors, that’s hardly their goal. In fact, the leakers despise the modern liberal state, and they want to wound it.

Then the evidence – a detailed examination of Snowden, Greenwald and Assange’s views, or at least those views as Wilentz would like to portray them. Finally, the argument, that these views add up to a pernicious political philosophy that no self-respecting liberal ought to sign up for.

The problem is that these don’t add up...


More: http://crookedtimber.org/2014/01/19/the-liberal-surveillance-state/

The Wilentz piece: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116253/edward-snowden-glenn-greenwald-julian-assange-what-they-believe

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