One of the problems with the concept of "manufacturing outrage" is that many of its biggest manufacturers build it out of bovine fecal matter.
If one was to read or listen to some on the professional left, one might think President Obama was routinely rounding up Americans and throwing them in secret prisons, or that he's become a rogue agent, targeting US citizens all over the world and taking them out with drones. It would actually be funny, if such rhetorical garbage didn't make the entire progressive side of the aisle look like a bunch of idiots. Consider this, folks; when people read progressive media, then figure out Obama's actually doing no such thing, what do you think happens to their opinion of progressive media?
Whether you like it or not, we are in a fight with terrorists. While I disagree with the concept of calling it a "war," because theword is misleading and too easy to manipulate, there really are rogue bands of thugs who would like nothing better than to commit another attack as they did on 9/11, or something far worse, and kill as many of us as possible. Some scenarios, like the concept of someone carrying a nuclear bomb in a briefcase or backpack, are absurd. But there is no doubt that like plots are being planned as we speak. And while they call themselves "freedom fighters," it's absolutely unclear whose "freedom" they're "fighting for." They seem to be little more than religious extremists, with zero political affiliation, except to other extremists.
In 2001, when a president failed to be vigilant, and failed to take the terrorist threat seriously, a group of these zealots hijacked four of our own planes and ran three of them into buildings full of people, killing nearly 3000 in the process. Five years earlier, another zealot filled a large truck with ammonium nitrate and blew up a government building, killing hundreds, in Oklahoma City. The threat is not fantasy; it exists. It is a fact that there are people out there who want to inflict mass casualties on Americans. As president, it is Obama’s job to prevent as much of that as possible. That is done through intelligence gathering and interdiction, whenever possible. Neither of those is as neat and clean a process as many on the professional left would like to believe. This may be shocking to some, but not every bad guy submits to arrest and goes to jail quietly.
When it comes to intelligence, believe me when I tell you, the president and our intelligence community know a hell of a lot more than any progressive bloggers about what terrorist groups are planning and what specific people are up to. And we are not entitled to know about it, for a very basc reason. If we know details, then so do the bad guys, and they can adjust accordingly.
When the Bush Administration revealed Valerie Plame Wilson’s name, her covert position with the CIA and her cover a few years back, they set back a program designed to limit access to loose nuclear material several years. Not only that, but because of the sensitive nature of the program, it’s possible that several intelligence officers lost their lives because of rvelations about their association with Ms. Wilson and her cover organization. Rightfully, the professional left was incensed over this disclosure and, again rightfully, called for a full investigation and prosecution of everyone involved.
Anyone who revealed Valerie Plame Wilson’s name and covert status to the press and public committed what could be called a traitorous act. On that, I don’t think many progressives would disagree. We rely on our intelligence agencies to help keep us safe. They actually prevent war, and they prevent terrorists from committing heinous acts that result in the deaths of thousands of people. The progressive “blogosphere” and the “professional left” were absolutely right in their condemnation of what happened to Valerie Plame Wilson, who was fighting a battle against terrorist groups and rogue elements within some very unstable regimes.
Therefore, it should set off a bovine fecal alarm when you see an article like the one Chris Hedges posted on Truthdig this morning, trumpeting President Obama’s supposed “war on whistleblowers.” Seriously? President Obama is waging a "war on whistleblowers"?
Once more, headlines aren't always written by the article's author, so let's pass on that. We don't hae to go far to get to the bovine fecal material; the article starts with exposition on “totalitarian systems, and implies we're headed in that direction. See what I mean by "manufactured outrage"? According to Hedges, we're already screwed. That's just silly.
This country is still a democracy, and (almost) all of us still have the vote. If people like Hedges spent more time explaining to people why it’s important to encourage people to vote en masse, rather than insinuating that their vote doesn’t count and thus discouraging them from using it, we could actually reverse the negative effects of corporations on the government, and neuter the corporate lobby within a few election cycles. But Hedges and his ilk write this kind of thing in order to attract self-described "progressive" suckers, who want to believe them because it's easier than actually participating in the democratic process. The professional left essentially is pandering to a small but loud group of "progressives" who operate under the mistaken impression that the way to turn this country into a progressive paradise is to scare the crap out of people, and make them think we’re doomed.
If 32 years of neocon domination of government doesn't tell you that concept is ridiculous, what will, exactly?
Worse than the manufactured outrage, however, is the untruths on which this outrage is built. The only way they can "support" their thesis, that Obama Administration has a “war on whistleblowers” is to bastardize the concept of “whistleblower,” and redefine it to suit their own purposes.
Here’s a legal definition of “whistleblower”:
The disclosure by a person, usually an employee in a government agency or private enterprise, to the public or to those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other wrongdoing.
And here is a poster that defines the concept of a “whistleblower,” as well as the protection that said whistleblower is entitled to under the law:
Whistleblowers have a long and storied history in our government, and real whistleblowers should be treated with dignity and respect, They should be encouraged to come forward when they see specific wrongdoing that causes harm to public safety and security, or wastes government tax money. But I’m talking about whistleblowers here. Here's a scenario to consider; please compare it to the definitions of "whistleblower" above.
A lower level U.S. Army soldier is given a security clearance, as well as access to sensitive information as part of his job. He's depressed and upset, and for some reason he downloads more than 700,000 classified documents and videos and hands them over, sight unseen, to someone from a foreign country who is not a journalist and who lacks the expertise to determine which documents might be sensitive enough to get intelligence officers killed.
Is that whistleblowing, or is that simply a document dump by a soldier who’s depressed and pissed off for some reason? What is he “blowing the whistle” on, exactly? From all accounts, that U.S. soldier had no idea what was in the document dump, and to date, nothing more than “embarrassing” information, as far as we can tell, has been revealed.
Of course, the above is a succinct description of Bradley Manning's actions. Manning is in jail and facing trial for his document dump to Wikileaks, a decidedly non-journalistic enterprise run by Julian Assange. Many on the professional left — chief among them Hedges — have been trying to get you to believe that Manning is a “whistleblower," but is he? He did a document dump. By all indications, Manning had no idea what was in the documents he gave to Wikileaks. It wasn’t as if had used his vast expertise to pore over the documents and handed specific documents to an experienced journalist along with narratives about specific stories he’d uncovered. Even Hedges notes that, out of the 700,000 items Manning turned over to Wikileaks, only one video showed a despicable act by soldiers in an Apache helicopter in Iraq that had previously been labeled classified. Okay, fine; what about the other 700,000 items?
Even if you give Hedges the benefit of some doubt, it's absoutely not a "statement of fact" that Manning is a "whistleblower." But at worst that could be an exaggeration. What makes things worse is that Hedges then follows with a completely false statement to support his claim that President Obama is in a “war on whistleblowers”:
The Espionage Act was used only three times before President Barack Obama took office. Ellsberg’s case was dismissed. The second use of the act saw Alfred Zehe, a German physicist, plead guilty to giving U.S. information to East Germany. The third case saw Samuel Morison, a onetime U.S. intelligence professional, convicted in federal court on two counts of espionage and two counts of theft of government property. He was sentenced to two years in prison on Dec. 4, 1985, for giving classified information to the press, and in 1988 the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. President Bill Clinton pardoned Morison on the last day of his presidency.
The Espionage Act was passed in 1917, and to claim it was used only three times before 2009 is absurd on its face. The purpose for this ridiculous statement is to insinuate that the Obama Administration's use of the law is somehow unprecedented, which it isn't. In fact, the Espionage Act was upheld three times by the Supreme Court before Daniel Ellsberg was even born, including an infamous case against one Eugene Debs. But that was ancient history, so it wouldn't be fair to stop there. What about more recent years?
Hedges mentions the Zehe case in 1983, but he neglects to mention a number of other cases. In 1984, Samuel Morison was prosecuted for handing over CIA satellite images to Jane's, a british military publisher. The next year, 1985, became known as the "Year of the Spy." Jonathan Pollard was prosecuted for selling secrets to Israel, Larry Chin was prosecuted for selling secrets to the Chinese, and Ronald Pelton and Edward Lee Howard were prosecuted in separate incidents for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. In a relatively minor case, Sharon Scranage was prosecuted for revealing information to officials in Ghana, as well. During the 1980s, there were Lee and Boyce, Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, among about a dozen or so others.
If Hedges has make something up out of thin air to support his claim that President Obama is making unprecedented use of the Espionage Act, what else is he making up?
That doesn’t mean I fully support all aspects of the Espionage Act. There are civil liberties concerns with such laws, and without a solid court system to make sure the government isn’t overstepping, the law would be worrisome. I am also not assuming that tManning is guilty of espionage. But that’s the thing; Hedges and a large swath of the professional left insinuate that merely charging these people under the law is somehow a violation of their civil rights, which is ridiculous. I don’t like aspects of the law, but given that a few of the people charged under this law have been acquitted or had their convictions overturned on appeal, the courts seem to have things under control. In other words, President Obama's Justice Department may be charging people under the Espionage Act, but he’s not acting as judge and jury, in any case.
The concept that President Obama is conducting a “war on whistleblowers” fails miserably on several counts. Whistleblower protections have been strengthened on Obama’s watch, first of all, albeit weakly. A bill, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, has been proposed by Democrats in the House, and even passed twice, but keeps being stalled in the Senate, which keeps trying to weaken the bill. But the administration is doing what it can to improve whistleblower protections. Over the last few years, a number of whistleblowers have helped uncover excesses by pharmaceutical companies, with the assistance of federal agencies, for example. The FBI recently released a PSA featuring Michael Douglas to encourage whistleblowers to come forward and report instances of fraud, for example. The PSA left out a few key pieces of information, but having the FBI encouraging and protecting actual whistleblowers is a significant improvement over its rather spotty past.
Now, why would an Administration conducting a "war on whistleblowers" do any of that?
Have there been cases that seem a bit excessive? Yes, of course. The case being brought against former NSA employee Thomas Drake, seems incredibly specious, and has little to nothing to do with national security. Personally, I won't be surprised if this case gets thrown out of court, because its premise is quite flimsy.
Strangely, Hedges doesn’t even mention the Drake case, preferring to instead focus on his poorly supported portrayal of Manning as a “whistleblower.”
Real whistleblowers deserve better protections than is currently the case, and the Obama Administration needs to work harder to improve its record on the issue. But can we get real? You cannot call Scooter Libby and anyone else in the Bush Administration “traitors” for outing Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA operative and then turn around and give Bradley Manning a medal for dumping 700,000 documents onto Wikileaks, and quite possibly facilitating the revelation of hundreds, if not thousands, of names of covert operatives, who may have been trying to do exactly what Ms. Wilson was doing, to protect us from some really bad people.
The way to change the system is to change the personnel in government, and the way to do that is to get people to vote to replace the status quo. You have to question the motives of people like Hedges who lie to support ridiculous hypotheses. Do they really think things will get a whole lot better with a bunch more right wing Republicans in office?
Of course not. Their goal is just like the goals of people named Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck; to get as many people who believe the same things they do to listen to or read them, and maximize their income.
Stop helping them. The way to electoral success, and better government is positive goals and hope, not through making people sadder and more depressed. If the professional left cared about creating a progressive country, they'd work for that, not against it.