We’ve seen this pattern so many times before, and not just when Democrats have been in control. When we learn anything that intuitively sounds bizarre or perhaps just creepily secretive related to government, we hardly have the time to express outrage before the “counter-outrage” rears its head from our leaders and in the media.
This time, we have gone from learning of journalists’ phone calls being examined, revelations that one large phone company’s information was basically rummaged through by the government and now “leaks” of a terrifying massive scouring of data in the name of national security known as the PRISM surveillance program. Not to mention IRS targeting of certain politically conservative groups and individuals. All of this in little over a month.
Yet we are supposed to focus all of our ire on one 20-something who divulged national secrets.
In 1963 we hardly had time to learn of President Kennedy’s shooting before we were focused on one seemingly odd, quiet, disturbed young man who less than two days after having killed JFK without any assistance, according to the media and government, was shot to death himself. The case of Lee Harvey Oswald was presented as a cut-and-dried case from the start.
Naturally we will never get to the bottom of the Kennedy assassination, and anyone who claims conspiracy will forevermore be labeled a nut. And we know the early headlines and assertions that helped form the “establishment” version of the events in Dallas.
In reality, most opinion polls even today show that most Americans believe Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy and many believe at the very least our government knew it — and maybe even had a rogue element involved, as well. But the official versions we are told focus on one man. That brings us to present times.
Just days after the revelation of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, an attack on all of our rights to privacy and liberty, the focus appears to be on just one seemingly odd, quiet, disturbed young man who, as a government contractor, spilled the beans on a dizzying level of snooping by our government on citizens throughout the nation. Known now as the “NSA leaker,” 29-year-old Edward Snowden, the young man straight out of central casting, computer whiz glasses and all, dominates the news.
And a Pew poll rapidly appeared in the media just days after the PRISM story broke suggesting a majority of Americans believe tracking their own phone calls and emails is an acceptable manner in which to combat terrorism.
Case closed — focus on the lone “leaker.”
Of course, we recently witnessed the complete dismantling of advanced airport body scanners because too many people believed that some anonymous person in another area of the airport might see some brief glimpse of a naked body whose name they did not know. But we were supposed to believe the Pew poll.
The better read on this are the many polls in recent days that suggest most Americans are fine with tracking phone calls and examining emails of suspected terrorists, but not of average Americans. But the first poll out often validates what the most powerful want us to believe.
In reality, most Americans don’t approve of the snooping. Even President Obama, as a U.S. senator, bemoaned intrusion into the private lives of average citizens in the name of national security and anti-terrorism.
Now, however, the president is singing a newer and more “establishment” oriented tune. And the column inches and time on television newscasts devoted to this young man coupled with the condemnation of Snowden by many, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner, will dominate and start to squeeze from the public dialogue the implications of wholesale data mining by the government. And it might just take our eyes off of the IRS targeting, as well.
This isn’t really a story of liberal versus conservative, and shouldn’t be one of Republican versus Democrat. Most of us are shocked to learn what many suspected — that Big Brother government with its capabilities via drones and ultra-sophisticated intelligence gathering capabilities is truly omnipotent. And most don’t like it one bit.
Ironically, in 1963 there were not enough sources of news to alter an easily led public’s attention away from the lone gunman fixation. Now there are so many sources of information that we don’t know who to trust — so most turn to the same mainstream sources of information, or their modern day counterparts, that folks looked to when the name Oswald was first uttered.
Whether it is the “lone gunman” or the “lone leaker,” some things never change. The crime of one man potentially covers the acts and deeds of many — or at least diverts attention.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.