Treasonous Journalism

“You have a 45mm automatic pistol on your lap, and I have a 35mm camera on my lap, and my weapon is just as powerful as yours. (To Black Panther militant Eldridge Cleaver)”
Gordon Parks

You know who Edward Snowden is, and you know that what he’s done has stung the government but good. Snowden’s exposure of numerous media corporations cooperating with the NSA’s vast domestic spying program known as PRISM has authorities scrambling to perform damage control. They’re already attacking his character, attacking his education, trying to deflect public attention away from that fact that the government has been secretly harvesting the emails and phone records of tens of millions of Americans for the last decade, regardless of criminal suspicion.

Snowden is currently bunkered down in Hong Kong, a city that maintains free speech rights superior to that of both the U.S. and the Chinese mainland. Knowing full well how Fortress America treats its whistleblowers under the Obama regime, Snowden was keen to pick Hong Kong as a base of operations while monitoring the fallout of his actions. Indefinite detention, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, being stripped naked in a cold cell for hours on end, ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques – all are common punishment for political prisoners in the United States. However, as the admitted leak source, Snowden isn’t the only person who has to fear the wrath of the White House. Guardian UK and journalist Glenn Greenwald conducted the initial video interview with Snowden that’s now been viewed millions of times.

Greenwald has since been vilified and threatened with criminal persecution not only by elected representatives, but by other reporters who pride having insider access more than holding state officials to account. One widely read Obama supporter caps-lock Tweeted the word “TRAITOR” in reference to Greenwald in what has been a mildly reported upon tirade. This has become another alarming trend; faced with being shut out from getting insider information, many in the profession of journalism would prefer a cozy, noncritical relationship within the very halls of government they’ve been tasked with covering. As pointed out by Amy Goodman after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “Of the four major nightly newscasts, and that’s CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS, there were 393 interviews done on the war.  Only three were with anti-war representatives.”

tumblr_moluoli3dJ1ste7qoo1_1280A photographer attacked by police, Istanbul.  Source: OccupyGeziPics 

The very same “liberal” voices that raged against George W. Bush’s program of warrantless wiretapping are now defending Obama and the NSA’s program of domestic spying. Their allegiance to the security state if and when they think it will serve their own interests amounts to blatant cowardice. Their demonization of real journalists revealing government crimes even when, especially when it’s done by a Democrat is truly saddening and frightening. And it is part of a growing global trend of killing the messenger, figuratively and literally.

It was in Oaxaca, Mexico in October 2007 that NYC Indymedia reporter Brad Will was shot while covering protests stemming from a teacher strike. The bullets fired by pro-government paramilitary forces entered Will’s abdomen, killing him within seconds. Despite several accusations, nobody has been convicted of killing Brad Will. Reporters Without Borders condemned the homicide investigation of involving “fake evidence, [a] doctored autopsy” and “framing” of false suspects.

In 2004 in Iraq, Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena was shot by occupation forces with the 69th Infantry Regiment of the NY National Guard at a checkpoint while fleeing kidnappers. Sgrena survived, but her rescuer, Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, was killed. The checkpoint guards claimed they fired warning shots.  Sgrena denies this. It has been speculated that since the checkpoint had been informed of her arrival via an Italian automobile, that the car was fired upon because either of Sgrena’s anti-war stance as a communist, or because negotiation of her release may have involved a ransom – a tactic U.S. forces view as contemptible.

Hardly isolated incidents, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there has been a surge in the number of journalists murdered in the field. Three times in the last ten years, the number of reporters killed over the stories they were covering spiked above 70 per year. Hundreds more live in exile for fear of imprisonment or murder, often by their own governments.

Edward Snowden may never see his home again. Glenn Greenwald may have to start looking over his shoulder. Julian Assange might live out the rest of his life under effective house arrest at an Ecuadorean embassy in London. Bradley Manning has life in prison to look forward to, if not the death penalty.

Whistleblowers are in essence citizen journalists. No matter their background or experience, they share an allegiance to the truth that the state cannot tolerate. The exposure of corruption and the free-flow of information are essential to a functioning democracy. As we move further into an age of unprecedented informational awareness we find ourselves more connected with one another globally, and with a greater appreciation of our similarities and goodness. As Percy Shelley said so long ago, “Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all men are good and wise, government will itself decay.”

Shelley may be correct, but the government has proven it won’t go down without a fight. Instead of denying the existence of PRISM, Obama’s minions argue why it’s no big deal we’re being spied upon, and that we should go back to trusting Big Brother. Meanwhile, our intelligence agencies are busy getting to the work of hunting down the man who stung them. Edward Snowden says he is not in hiding, but he will not give his precise location.  Wisely so. In a recent online Q&A conducted by the Guardian, Snowden was dauntless, “All I can say right now is the U.S. Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”

Journalists and whistleblowers and those who use free speech as a weapon to challenge power structures will always be watched or hunted by the government. That is why, whether in prison or on the run or in exile, such truth-tellers need our support.  We need more citizens willing to chip away at the walls of Fortress America. We need more ‘treasonous’ journalists.

See you in the streets.