Brand Obama’s secret narrative problem

The real scandal of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs is that there is no scandal, at least in the United States. Just ambivalence. There is no longer any political morality left to offend, only its memory. Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald work to reveal a scandal. Obama and Congress work to conceal that there is none.

Back references to past whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and so on, attempt to visit Edward Snowden’s revelations with the gravitas of history, but succeed only in cloaking them with nostalgia, for a time when scandals were real.

It is not easy to get worked up about PRISM and Boundless Informant when most of us reveal our innermost thoughts and feelings to anyone who cares to listen, via Twitter and Facebook and the like.

What is the difference between revealing our personally identifiable information to marketeers and having it surveilled by the State? When one willing forgoes any right to privacy as a consumer, one discovers that with it went the ability to meaningfully protest as a citizen.

Docility and tameness—effects of knowing one is constantly being watched (panopticism).

There is no moral problem in the United States. There is a narrative problem—how to keep up American appearances. The problem here is that Edward Snowden is really defending—at risk of his very life—what Obama and the White House simulate defending: democratic pluralism.

They might have been able to forgive him for revealing State secrets, but they’re certainly not going to forgive him for making their brand look bad.

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