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‘One cannot critique the surveillance state without critiquing the rest of the existing political apparatus’

Big-Brother

Big Government Fans Rally Around the Surveillance State

big-brother-posterSheldon Richman  writes:  If I understand Princeton historian Sean Wilentz correctly, progressives ought not to be grateful to Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Glenn Greenwald for exposing government spying because they are not card-carrying progressives. (“Would You Feel Differently About Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?”) Apparently they have either hung out with libertarians, praised or supported a libertarian, or said something sympathetic to some part of the libertarian philosophy — which cancels out anything they might have gotten credit for. (Wilentz is no stickler for consistency, since he criticizes Greenwald for taking libertarian positions now and also for making anti-immigration statements in the past. So is he too libertarian, Professor, or not libertarian enough? For an analysis of Wilentz’s McCarthyite tactics, see Justin Raimondo.)

The problem for Wilentz is that when guys like these disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.

He writes,

To them, national security is not a branch of the government; it is the government, or it is tantamount to being the government: a sinister, power-mad authority.… It is impossible, therefore, to reform this clandestine Leviathan from the inside. And so the leakers are aiming at de-legitimating and, if possible, destroying something much larger than a set of NSA programs. They have unleashed a torrent of classified information with the clear intent of showing that the federal government has spun out of control, thereby destroying the public’s faith in their government’s capacity to spy aggressively on our enemies while also protecting the privacy of its citizens. They want to spin the meaning of the documents they have released to confirm their animating belief that the United States is an imperial power, drunk on its hegemonic ambitions. [Emphasis added.]

At first glance, that seems odd. If individuals are willing to risk their lives and liberty to reveal that the government vacuums up vast quantities of information on everyone — without probable cause or even grounds for suspicion — why do their larger agendas matter? Shouldn’t progressives care about this even if they disagree with other things the leakers believe?

But it matters to Wilentz. Employing a dubious logic, he apparently reasons thusly: We have a government worthy of support because of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and protection from “our enemies.” Leaks which reveal that this government spies on us indiscriminately erode confidence in that government and, by implication, all those good things. Therefore, people with apparently libertarian motives who leak that information are to be reviled…

Read the rest…

Reason.com

This column originally appeared on the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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