Monday, October 28, 2013


Image from Exophrine.

Posted in comments at Emptywheel,10/28/13, on the Greenwald-Keller debate, though directed only to a point Marcy makes about the representation of white privileged perspectives; I've laid out parts of this argument elsewhere but I think I've put it together particularly well here:
I’m not the voice of color either, nor certainly the voice of Bill Keller either, thank God, but I’ve been paying enough attention to the former to have a feeling that the issue cuts a couple of different ways. First, right or wrong, many people [jump]
of color believe that attacks on President Obama on civil liberties issues are attacks on him as a black man, pursued by white privileged persons to undermine not just him personally but what he represents. This feeling is reinforced when we see civil liberties activists emphasizing the possibility that the NSA might be collecting electronic message metadata on US citizens (applying mainly to privlileged whites) over the reality of oppression of Muslims and young black men by the FBI and municipal police. Especially when activists refuse to believe that the administration is even attempting to improve over the disastrous Bush administration in its handling of these matters (case in point: the Guardian story last week on the 2006 NSA memo mentioned Obama’s name 23 times, Bush’s only once).
Then, whatever you might want to say about US hegemony over other states, liberals, including most people of color, are anxious to see a government powerful against corporate interests, and believe that the current administration, however inadequately, tries to go there—more than any other in 60-odd years, anyhow. The lineup of libertarians (often racially insensitive, to put it mildly) against the administration is disquieting.
From that perspective, it’s not hard to notice something that is not as yet part of the people-of-color discourse: that there is a class of extremely white and privileged and frequently libertarian people who would benefit from the dissolution of the NSA collection: international tax cheats, money launderers, weapons traffickers. My attention was called to this by Glenn Greenwald, in fact, in a tweet referencing a Wall Street Journal story on the effort to create a digital Cayman Islands, or NSA-free zone for people who can afford to keep their communications private.
If the NSA happened to be doing its work well (I realize that’s a stretch of the imagination, but most bureaucracies have some quiet toilers who know what they’re doing), it would certainly not be snooping on Jesselyn Radack but on the money trail, for which the metadata collection could be a really valuable tool. Or not on Bundeskanzlerin Merkel but on the thugs and thieves who run the Russian government. The Obama administration seems like a pretty weak reed to be leaning on in the face of these forces, but there are plenty of non-right-wing reasons for not wanting to make it weaker.

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