The new year produced some interesting opinion pieces.
In The Washington Post Ruth Marcus headed her December 31 column "Edward Snowden, the insufferable whistle blower." That aptly described her view, which is that Snowden is personally repulsive. "Insufferable is the first adjective evoked by Snowden’s recent interview with Barton Gellman in The Post, but it has numerous cousins: smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, over-wrought." That is an oddly-focused reading of Gellman’s interview and of the situation. After all, the important issue is whether Snowden’s disclosures harmed or helped the country. Snowden maintains the latter, and apparently Gellman does as well, as he aided in the release of the secret information. Ms. Marcus hinted at a substantive issue — "Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets" — but only as part of the discussion of his character which continued for several more paragraphs.
Eventually addressing the core question, she conceded problems with the surveillance program but concluded, on no obvious grounds, that oversight isn’t as weak as claimed, the degree of invasion of privacy isn’t all that serious, the NSA folk have been truthful as to the limited nature of their snooping, and national security has been compromised by the disclosures.
Odd that she didn’t condemn Gellman, and her paper, for aiding and abetting.
The New York Times, in its house editorial of January 2, concluded that Snowden "was clearly justified" in believing that the only way to expose overreach was to leak documents. It recommended clemency: "Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight."
Jonathan Capehart, Ms. Marcus’ colleague at the Post, reacted to that suggestion by essentially repeating her remarks. In a column on January 2 captioned "No clemency from Snowden’s self-importance," he too concentrated on his personal disdain for Snowden and quoted Marcus’ list of synonyms for "insufferable." He acknowledged some merit in Snowden’s argument but in effect conditioned clemency on gagging Snowden because he is just too smug. Their approach seems to be an extreme instance of elevating style over substance.
On January 1 the Times ran a column by Michael Moore on another controversial topic: health care. He made no attempt to defend Obamacare as a policy choice, with good reason. It was "conceived at the Heritage foundation, . . . birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney," and adopted by Obama, who apparently hoped that conservatives would not attack their own offspring. Moore acknowledged that it is better than nothing, but thinks that states should go further, by adding a public option or, as proposed in Vermont, a single-payer system. Given the paralysis in Congress, that may be the only way forward.
On January 1, in a column on Truthout entitled "The Year of the Gun," William Rivers Pitt presented a litany of deaths by gunfire. The most appalling category is the death of children, by accident, from guns left lying around. He cited a study showing that "each year approximately 7,500 children are admitted to U.S. hospitals with gunshot wounds and more than 500 children die during hospital admission from these injuries." Another Truthout article on January 2 pointed out the increasing militarization of police — think of all the clips of SWAT teams with assault rifles — and its contribution to our gun culture.