Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Glenn Greenwald: Anatomy of a journalistic smear job

(Courtesy of Firedog Lake)

Anatomy of a journalistic smear job
by Glenn Greenwald


So The Nation quotes an anonymous TSA official who "wonders" -- without a shred of evidence -- if Tyner provoked the incident. That's both ludicrous and totally irrelevant. He posted the entire audio online, which demonstrates that he was unfailingly polite throughout; it was TSA officials acting imperiously, threateningly, and thuggishly -- not Tyner. And how could Tyner have possibly provoked TSA agents to include him in what it insists is its random selection process for passengers who receive the new screening procedures? Moreover, even if he did prepare his videocamera before entering the checkpoint area and provoke his selection, so what? He has the absolute right to do so, and given his obvious concern with government rights infringements, that's a completely sensible and civic-minded step to take.

What's really going on here is clear. These are Tyner's actual crimes in the eyes of these Nation writers, at least judging by the accusations they make: (1) he's not a good, loyal Democrat; (2) he did something that politically harmed Barack Obama; and, most and worst of all (3) he failed to submit meekly and quietly to Government orders like any Good, Patriotic "ordinary American" would and should do. That is what has created their "sense" that he's something other than an "ordinary guy" -- a "fake."

The article highlights three other individuals who object to the TSA procedures (out of the dozens -- at least -- who have complained) who also have (cue the ominous overtones) libertarian ties. That's not surprising. In order to do what Tyner did -- firmly assert one's rights against government agents and then vocally and publicly complain about rights infringements -- one has to take one's liberty seriously. After all, to do something like that is to risk being threatened by the Federal Government and smeared by journalists loyal to those in power. It's hardly surprising that many of the people willing to take that kind of a risky stand have incorporated the concept of individual liberty into their political identity. The Nation may want to ask someone what the "L" in the "ACLU" stands for.

And therein lies the most odious premise in this smear piece: anyone who doesn't quietly, meekly and immediately submit to Government orders and invasions -- or anyone who stands up to government power and challenges it -- is inherently suspect. Just as the establishment-worshiping, political-power-defending Ruth Marcus taught us today in The Washington Post, objecting to what the Government is doing here is just immature and ungrateful; mature, psychologically healthy people shut up and submit. That's how you prove that you're a normal, responsible, upstanding good citizen: by not making waves, doing what you're told, declaring yourself a loyal Republican or Democrat and then cheering for your team, and -- most of all -- accepting in the name of Fear that you must suffer indignities, humiliations and always-increasing loss of liberties at the hands of unchallengeable functionaries of the state. I don't really care what political label John Tyner applies to himself: we need far more of his civil resistance in our citizenry and far less of the mindless obedient drone behavior which these Nation writers seem to venerate.

I spoke with Tyner several days ago and he was very worried that his public stance would jeopardize exactly the ordinariness which The Nation claims is fake: his job, his family, his reputation, and the cost from government recriminations. This highly irresponsible, evidence-free Nation attack demonstrates how valid those concerns were. It may be that several vocal opponents of the new TSA process are Koch-funded -- that wouldn't surprise me -- but that has absolutely nothing to do with Tyner, and The Nation, for which I have high regard, owes him an apology and retraction for the innuendo it smeared on him without a shred of evidence. It's difficult enough for ordinary citizens to take a principled stand like this against the Government; knowing that they're going to be subjected to this sort of baseless hit job makes it less likely that other citizens will be willing to do so.

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