Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gone From the Headlines and All But Forgotten

Trey Smith

There is nothing like the prospects of war to scrub the nation's headlines of uncomfortable subject matter. For the better part of this summer, the NSA and the ubiquitous mass surveillance programs were the lead story more days than not. A crescendo was building for a major confrontation between the White House and Congress. And then, in a seemingly blink of an eye, the NSA story basically disappeared.

Today, I perused several major news sites. Almost none of them -- save for The Guardian and even their coverage was far down the page -- featured even one news report or commentary on spygate. It's as if this once mucho important story is no longer important at all.

This is not to suggest the Syrian "situation" solely was conjured up to direct the public's attention elsewhere. But it should go without saying that the timing of this "situation" couldn't have been more fortuitous for the Obama administration and other backers of the mass surveillance programs. While polls repeatedly have shown that the American public does not agree with the Obama administration's assessment and strategy re Syria, this subject has replaced the NSA both in the mainstream media and in general conversation.

Americans tend to exhibit a short attention span -- the mainstream media's attention span is even shorter -- and so I think Team Obama is hoping to milk the Syrian "situation" for as long as possible in the hopes that the NSA story can be buried once and for all. This notion is buttressed by the fact that a) Obama decided to "consult" with Congress before pushing the button and b) he didn't call Congress back to Washington sooner to deal with this "grave" issue. By waiting for Congress to reconvene September 9 as previously scheduled, the Syrian "situation" will be predominate the headlines for the next week or more.

The only bug in this strategy is Glenn Greenwald. If he breaks another major NSA-related story this week, then Syria and the NSA will duke it out for top billing, though I am confident the subservient US mainstream media will follow Obama's lead to bury the latter.

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