The Press Lumps Ed Snowden And Chelsea Manning In With Mass Murderers, Actual Spies

from the all-the-same dept

Many in the press still seem to have difficulty recognizing that a whistleblower, even one disliked by the government, isn't somehow an automatic pariah to society. Instead, they like to lump them in with actual law breakers. Here are two recent examples. First up is the Washingtonian, who seems to think that Ed Snowden and Chelsea Manning should be viewed in the same light as actual spies -- people who famously chose to sell secrets to our enemies or to help those enemies against the US. Lumping Manning and Snowden in with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Benedict Arnold, Aldrich Ames, John Walker Lindh and others suggests a profound misunderstanding of what Snowden and Manning did: releasing evidence of significant wrongdoing by the US government to the press. You would think if anyone could understand it, it should be the press.
Still, I can understand how some confused people still want to argue that there's at least a continuum between some of those folks and Manning and Snowden -- even if I disagree wholeheartedly -- simply because of the releasing of classified information. I think it's very different to give that info to the press, which is then able to go through it and report on the stories (as both Snowden and Manning did) than giving it to a foreign power, but some people don't seem to get that distinction.

Either way, even if you think the above chart is okay, the following one is simply outrageous. As pointed out by the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, Time Magazine has put together a graphic comparing Snowden and Manning to mass murderers Nidal Hasan and Aaron Alexis.
Yes, the argument they're making is that these are all examples of "missed signals in our government-clearance system." And we've certainly discussed how terrible the process is for getting top secret clearance these days. But, even so, lumping those four together is crazy. There's nothing about what Manning or Snowden did that should have set off alarm bells during the clearance process. They were people who loved America and then realized that the government was secretly doing things that they believed to be fundamentally anti-American, and they set out to try to fix that by alerting the public. That's pretty damn different than going someplace and shooting it up.

These are both subtle ways in which the press is trying to smear Snowden and Manning, by lumping them in with crimes of which they are not guilty.

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  1. icon
    Tehrm (profile), 25 Sep 2013 @ 10:15am

    Category Error

    Philosophers and Logicians call this a category error: "Ascribing one kind (or 'category') of thing to another kind". It's like petty a dog while saying "Nice kitty."

    Category errors pervade political rhetoric. Pick apart the next article you read on 'terrorists' and 'terrorism' and consider whether the actions and actors in the story have been appropriately categorized.

    Sadly, this verbal sleight of hand passes by most people pretty easily. Whether by inherent bias, intellectual laziness, or inattention, such disingenuous category errors are committed constantly.

    However, instances like these (from the articles in Mike's post) are excellent opportunities to point out the abundant, willful fallacies bandied by [insert person to blame]. I don't think any one group or person is to blame. It seems that too many people in just the right positions are terribly clueless, unthinking, solipsists disconnected to the affects of their actions.

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