Amid all the drama over Edward Snowden‘s flight from "justice" – the media stakeout at a Moscow airport, the smear campaign aimed not only at Snowden but at Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the PRISM/eavesdropping story, and the obsessive media focus on Snowden as a personality – the really interesting aspect of all this is how it will impact our politics.
This is what made the Sunday talk shows illuminating, for a change – aside from the fact that neither John McCain nor Lindsey Graham was to be seen or heard that morning. While Greenwald’s appearance on "Meet the Press," and his priceless smackdown of regimist spokesman David Gregory, has gotten all the attention, that same day over at ABC, George Stephanopoulos was giving the neocons their turn at bat in the person of Dan Senor, former spokesman for George W. Bush and now a big wazoo over a the Foreign Policy Initiative, successor to Bill Kristol’s infamous Project for a New American Century.
It was a cozy little Sunday morning coffee klatch, with ABC foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddazt – she who was so helpful to then-candidate Biden during the last vice presidential debates – commiserating with Council on Foreign Relations mandarin Richard Hass and Senor over the alleged damage done to the US by the revelations. While Haas was furious over what he characterized as Beijing’s grasping of a "short-term gain" at the expense of China’s longterm developing relationship with the US, Senor’s focus was on the domestic political consequences of the Snowden affair, and he was decidedly more optimistic about the benefits accrued to the Regimist cause:
"Snowden’s, you know, interviews that he gave, and documents he released to the Chinese press, obviously puts us in a very uncomfortable position. But I think domestically, the U.S., I think this further strengthens the center on national security. I think there was a real risk over the last couple weeks that there would be this left/right coalition that would backlash against the United States government, sort of libertarian uprising. And I think Snowden just traveling around the world, flying to these anti-American capitals, behaving the way he’s doing further strengthens–I think the center is holding right now in the US, and I think that’s a positive development."
A "libertarian uprising" is the neocons’ worst nightmare because it would put an end to their empire-building project and the Surveillance State they’ve been advocating all along. It would also put an end to their control of the GOP – their only route to power. Their paranoia in this regard is justified: many conservatives, faced with the imminent bankruptcy of the country they love, are in open rebellion against the horrifically costly foreign policy of global intervention. The neocons’ worst case scenario: Sen. Rand Paul captures the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 by fusing a rising libertarian Republican movement with independent and younger voters – and then going on to duplicate his victory in November.
The Establishment liberals and "centrists" have their own reasons for fearing the Great Libertarian Uprising: like the neocons, the left-Regimists over at MSNBC and the Washington-based nest of Soros-funded "progressive" institutions, have good reason to loathe libertarianism in all its various manifestations, whether it be on the right or the left. In opposing what the late libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard dubbed the "welfare-warfare state," an organized and growing libertarian movement poses a deadly threat to the "centrist" non-aggression pact represented in that ABC panel of "experts." While sparring over the details, the two parties have basically agreed not to seriously threaten the perks, privileges, and highly profitable projects of the other. In Dan Senor’s world, the "center" consists of those who have agreed to disagree on domestic policy but are united in their unconditional support for the Empire – a foreign policy of endless international meddling and perpetual war.
And since perpetual war means a perpetual state of emergency inside the US, Senor’s "centrists" are on the same page in their support for a system of all-pervasive government surveillance – a useful tool politically, if of doubtful value in actually preventing terrorist attacks. This is why we see Establishment politicians of the left and the right unanimous in their condemnation of Snowden’s actions, and as far as Senor is concerned this means the "centrist" nonaggression pact is holding.
In the darkest days of the post-9/11 war hysteria, when the air was thick with accusations of "treason" aimed at those who dared stand up to the War Party, Lew Rockwell coined a very useful phrase: Red-State Fascism. He used it to describe the mindless, frenzied ultra-nationalism and militarism that energized "movement" conservatives and Republicans in general in the run up to the Iraq war, and which still persists (albeit in somewhat diluted form) to this day. Recall the chants of "USA! USA!" that drowned out any appeal to prudence and caution – the traditional hallmarks of the conservative temperament – and paved the way for America’s post-9/11 rampage through much of the Middle East. War.
The domestic program of Red-state fascism was a combination of the "national greatness conservatism" conjured by David Brooks and the neoconservative yearning for a police state. The latter was given full-throated expression by David Frum and Richard Perle in their 2004 polemic, An End to Evil, which precisely outlined the Panopticon then being assembled by the Bush administration. The government, Frum and Perle wrote, must create dossiers on each and every American, including "an individual’s credit history, his recent movements, his immigration status and personal background, his age and sex, and a hundred other pieces of information." Oh, and don’t worry about the danger that this massive database will be used by unscrupulous government officials for their own nefarious purposes, because "safeguards" will be built into the system. In short: trust us, it’s for your own good and the security of the country.
Now that the Bush era is over, however, and the "left" wing of the "center" is in power, the defense of the Panopticon falls in the lap of the Obama administration and its more fanatic supporters, who might fairly be dubbed Blue-State fascists. These ideologues have taken to the airwaves and the Internet to slime Snowden as a "traitor," the Emmanuel Goldstein of the Orwellian world their leaders have created.
The pushback coming from these quarters has a familiar ring to it: you’ll recall, during the Bush era, when the President himself implied that dissenters from his war policies were allies of the "terrorists," a view given full-throated support in the conservative media and by ambitious social climbers like Andrew Sullivan, who infamously denounced a treacherous bi-coastal "fifth column" whose sympathies, he claimed, were with Osama bin Laden.
The subtext of this narrative, which sometimes surfaced, was that anti-interventionists and other seditious dissidents should be prosecuted and tried for "treason." In the view of our Red-State fascists, dissent was nothing less than ideological espionage, and the relentless propaganda of the War Party made constant attempts to implicate the anti-interventionist movement in outright treason. Thus Sullivan noted on his vile blog, in an item entitled "Fifth Column Watch," that someone who had authored a single article for Antiwar.com had been arrested on charges of aiding a foreign terrorist entity (an arrest, I might add, which Reason magazine accurately portrayed as a highly dubious example of prosecutorial overreach). There is not a doubt in my mind that he hoped the editors of this web site would be next on Attorney General John Ashcroft’s list.
This same prosecutorial zeal is now on full display, only this time it isn’t just the neocons giving voice to it: it is "liberals" like David Gregory, and the Robespierre-like Lawrence O’Donnell, whose show the other day was devoted to implying Glenn Greenwald actively colluded with Snowden in procuring sensitive documents from the NSA.
No sooner had the Obama administration described Fox News reporter James Rosen as a "co-conspirator" along with a source who had related information deemed classified as background on a rather innocuous story about North Korea, then Regimist "journalists" began straining at the bit to try this novel bit of legal theory out. Referencing the news that Snowden sought his job at Booz-Allen-Hamilton – taking a pay cut – precisely in order to unveil the secret surveillance apparatus, Joy Reid, pontificating on O’Donnell’s show, opined:
"This answers one of the questions that I had when Glenn Greenwald tweeted that he began working with Snowden in February but Snowden only had the job for three months, meaning he would have gotten the job let’s say in May. So the question was, well, when he got the job, did the journalist Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald know he was going to Booz Allen with the intention of getting information and was he honest with them, did he tell them in February I’ve got information that he didn’t yet have and then take the job in order to obtain it?"
Reid’s draft indictment of Greenwald was demolished, the next day, by Erik Wemple in the Washington Post, who pointed out that the Guardian reporter and columnist didn’t even know Snowden’s name until they met in Hong Kong. Reid’s amateur sleuthing on behalf of law enforcement is just an extreme example of the Blue-State Fascism now eating away at what had once been the heart of American liberalism – a commitment to a free and open society where no one need fear raising their voice in protest. What fills the hollow place where its heart used to be is the mindless cultism of Obama-worship, the tribalist primitivism of identity politics, and a belief in the bigness and all-pervasiveness of government that goes well beyond the traditional liberal commitment to uplifting the needy.
These alleged "progressives" are pushing back against the Snowden revelations by saying we ought to "have a conversation" about the "balance between security and civil liberties" – their rhetoric is clotted with such clichés. The proper answer to them is that there will no "conversation" about the necessity or utility of the Bill of Rights, because the Constitution is non-negotiable. I would no sooner have a "conversation" about modifying or limiting the liberties of Americans than I would have a "dialogue" with a robber intent on burgling my home. The surveillance methods now being employed by our government, which is spying on us at our expense, are unconstitutional and un-American, and they must end forthwith. On this issue, there can be no conversation and no compromise.
The methods of the Blue-State fascists are police state methods: campaigns of calumniation meant to discredit, demonize, and isolate anyone, like Greenwald, who becomes a spokesman for the resistance to their sinister program. On Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show, that same day, Greenwald made an appearance, but the network that is the televised voice of Regimism couldn’t let his clear articulation of the case against the Surveillance State stand unchallenged: Greenwald was followed by a conversation between Hayes and one Goldie Taylor, who echoed David Gregory’s disdainful dismissal of Greenwald as not really a journalist, opining that "I don’t trust Greenwald" to give us all the facts. As this lightweight Obama cultist slimed a guest who’s been on the show several nights running – and is widely admired by American liberals – I thought I saw Hayes literally blush with embarrassment. He hurriedly if rather vaguely distanced himself from Goldie’s outburst, and moved on.
When I noted Goldie’s reckless smear on Twitter, she was quick to respond. In dissing her as a "nonentity" in comparison to Greenwald, she complained, I was exhibiting my "privilege" – presumably meaning white-skin privilege. This is what defenders of the Obama regime are reduced to: hurling the charge of "racism" at the Big O’s critics, and anyone who ruffles their precarious personal dignity.
Upon making this pronouncement, Goldie blocked me and fled – but not without leaving a wet trail in her wake. My Twitter account was subsequently deluged with tweets from her monosyllabic fan club, which mostly consisted of imaginative descriptions of my mother’s career path as well as such subtle put-downs as "Snowden is a traitor jus [sic] like u" and "Yo Momma!" This continued for a couple of hours, and was noted by my Twitter followers with the contempt it deserved.
These are the people who think they are qualified – destined even – to rule us, to peek into our email accounts and rifle through our private affairs. Having already rationalized away the Bill of Rights, the Blue-State fascists are openly calling for the criminalization of investigative journalism, alongside their fulsome support for universal surveillance. This is something even the worst neocons avoided during their heyday, for fear of showing their hand too soon. Now we see their "liberal" equivalents going a few steps further down that road into openly authoritarian territory.
This hideous inversion of what used to be American liberalism has led to a division in the ranks of the left, or, at least, what passes for the left these days. Prominent liberals, led by Greenwald, are breaking with the Obama cult, and the Regimists are frantic: their base is badly split.
The libertarian uprising feared by the neocons and their liberal first cousins, if it does come about, is going to have a significant "left" component. Dan Senor thinks the danger of such an event occurring has passed because no one in Washington but Rand Paul has shown the slightest sympathy for Snowden and his cause. He believes this because the neocons are elitists who only care about what goes on in the circles of power – outside of Washington and New York, they think, the rest of the country is largely irrelevant.
Senor’s political radar is out of joint. Out here in the cornfields, far from the power centers of DC and Manhattan, the natives are getting restless. The fast deteriorating economic situation, combined with fresh revelations about the systematic violation of our liberties coming out in the Guardian every week, is preparing the ground for a populist movement against the Leviathan State, one that has its roots not only in libertarianism but also in the traditional left-liberal commitment to civil liberties. Percolating at the grassroots level, and growing in numbers and in energy, this movement is crying out for political leadership – a role Rand Paul is preparing to play.
While warning Snowden to stay away from governments perceived to be enemies of the US, Paul has praised the young whistleblower’s cause: the junior Senator from Kentucky’s principled stance, and the movement that is coalescing around his much-anticipated presidential bid, paves the way for a libertarian uprising that will smash the authoritarian "center" and give us a new politics in which "left" and "right" are antediluvian terms that no longer describe the real ideological parameters of the national discourse. The old framework of Red-State vs. Blue-State is about to be discarded, and in its place a new paradigm is arising, pitting authoritarians against constitutionalists, statists against civil libertarians.
Up until now, American liberals – with some notable and admirable exceptions – have been content to acquiesce in support of our bipartisan foreign policy of global intervention: what they got in exchange for this was conservative support for at least the basic underpinnings of the welfare state. Now they are faced with the prospect of having to add to the bargain the abandonment of their traditional support for civil liberties. A significant number of them will reject this deal with the Devil and choose to take the road of principle – and this presents a problem for the Regimists in the Democratic party, who are already fighting off an open rebellion in their ranks.
The times, sang Bob Dylan in earlier era of political and social tumult, they are a changin’! Yes, the forces of repression are on the march, but so too is the resistance. Gathering out here in the hinterlands, a new coalition is being forged, one that has the potential to take back this country from a political class drunk with power. Before this fight is over, we are going to see the viciousness and reflexively coercive instincts of the Regimists come out in all their ugliness, so steel yourself for the worst, hope for the best – and don’t lose your nerve.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).