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How Do You Know When President Obama is Lying? MSNBC's "Progressive" Hosts Won’t Tell You

Despite his words, Obama will go to extreme lengths to prevent whistleblower Edward Snowden from securing asylum in Latin America.

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Had McCain or Romney defeated Obama and implemented the exact same policies, treating whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden as foreign espionage agents, one would expect MSNBC hosts to be loudly denouncing the Republican abuses of authority.

But with Obama in power, a number of MSNBC talking heads have reacted to the Snowden disclosures like Fox News hosts did when they were in hysterical damage control mode for Bush – complete with ridiculously fact-free claims and national chauvinism that we’ve long come to expect from the “fair & balanced” channel.

As Snowden arrived in Russia from Hong Kong, MSNBC host Ed Schultz blustered on about Snowden as a “punk” and “coward.” Railing about the “security of the country” in tones Hannity would approve of, Schultz questioned Snowden’s patriotism and credibility, asking: “If the United States of America is doing something so egregiously wrong in its surveillance program, how come he’s the only one speaking up?

In O’Reilly-like blissful ignorance, Schultz seemed unaware of the three NSA whistleblowers who’d loudly spoken up way earlier than Snowden – and gathered for an illuminating USA Today interview a week before his tirade.

I watched one MSNBC host function as an auxiliary prosecutor in Obama’s Justice Department, going after Snowden – while trying to link WikiLeaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald to criminal flight.

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry has been condemning Snowden by contrasting him with civil disobedients who “love their country” and submit to arrest – while Snowden just wants to “ save his own skin.” She proclaimed: “This is different. This is dangerous to our nation.” Should we similarly dismiss Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the top secret Pentagon Papers to a dozen newspapers in 1971 by going on the lam from the FBI. Or Watergate’s “Deep Throat,” who saved his own skin by hiding his identity for 30 years after leaking secrets that helped crash the Nixon presidency?

In a bizarre monologue attacking Snowden (who’s risked plenty, in my view), Harris-Perry hailed those who engage in civil disobedience for being willing “to risk your own freedom, your own body in order to bring attention to something that needs to be known. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, attacked, smeared. Nelson Mandela went to prison for 27 years.” (My emphasis.)

Nelson Mandela? He wasn’t a civil disobedient who gave himself up. He was a fugitive, fleeing the apartheid police. He was on the lam domestically, like Snowden is now internationally. And some reports indicate that South African authorities were able to nab Mandela thanks to the U.S. CIA (one of the agencies now working to apprehend Snowden).

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has also disappointed. After doing a typically thorough presentation on the force-down of President’s Morales’ plane, she ended her report by expressing displeasure only that Washington had apparently gotten allies to go out on the limb “for nothing.” Her objection to the harassment seemed to be: it hadn’t succeeded. I didn’t hear opposition to the action had Snowden actually been on board and apprehended.

The Snowden/NSA story proves once again that – especially on so-called “national security” issues – we need strong, independent media not enmeshed with the corporate/political power structure and not allied with one of the two corporate parties.

Jeff Cohen was an MSNBC pundit and senior producer in 2002–3 until being terminated for political reasons, along with Phil Donahue, on the eve of the Iraq invasion. He is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. He cofounded the online action group RootsAction.org, which has petitioned for Snowden.

 
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