As a follow-up to my post this morning, Glenn Greenwald has continued to shine a light on the Obama administration's assault on the US Constitution and the mainstream media's sudden awakening to this fact.
It is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as "cruel and inhuman".
But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration's true character.
We see this kind of behavior in all facets of American life. As long as an issue doesn't impact you or your profession, most people ignore it! This is one of the main reasons the vast majority of Americans don't get worked up about drone warfare. Since they don't have drones buzzing overhead -- or do they? (see this evening's post) -- they don't view drones as a problem. It is not something to be concerned about.
While I certainly understand this human tendency, the media is different. Their number one job is to investigate what is going on in the world around us and then to report it. Lots of spying by the Obama administration has gone on ever since he took office and yet, for the most part, they have been silent. When other groups or professions are targeted, they have done little to expose or condemn it. But now their panties are in a wad solely because they themselves are the target. That doesn't speak well for them at all and goes a long way toward explaining why the public doesn't trust the mainstream media that much anymore.
Greenwald makes much this same point when he writes,
Leave to the side how morally grotesque it is to oppose rights assaults only when they affect you. The pragmatic point is that it is vital to oppose such assaults in the first instance no matter who is targeted because such assaults, when unopposed, become institutionalized. Once that happens, they are impossible to stop when - as inevitably occurs - they expand beyond the group originally targeted. We should have been seeing this type of media outrage over the last four years as the Obama administration targeted non-media groups with these kinds of abuses (to say nothing of the conduct of the Bush administration before that). It shouldn't take an attack on media outlets for them to start caring this much.
You see, even if you happen to be the most self-absorbed person or industry in the world, assaults of this nature ultimately will be visited upon you as well. If you can't muster the compassion to care about others, you should still oppose this unethical and illegal behavior out of your own self-interest.