Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
Just when some Americans thought the administration could not bear the weight of another scandal, one more pushed its way to the forefront of national news coverage, which was alarmist and sensationalistic at best.
In June, Edward Snowden, a government-hired computer expert blew the whistle on the federal mining of private citizens’ digital data.
The National Security Agency collects phone records, lengths of calls, text messages, emails and other information under the guise of combating terror.
Regardless of whether he’s a hero for exposing the privacy-compromising practices or a traitor for divulging specifics of U.S. intelligence programs, he paved the way for open communication on privacy issues that Americans on both sides of the debate feel strongly about.
Even President Barack Obama, who made clear he believed the leaker was no patriot, admitted some good came of the debacle.
He said, “There’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board.”
Many would like to know what the administration plans to do with what it has learned. Given its passive responses to the recently abounding scandals, people in the U.S. are not confident in their government or its ability to implement necessary changes.
But not to worry. James Clapper, head of the NSA is the poster child for the White House policy of transparency. After all, he did say he endeavored to answer questions at the congressional hearing “in the least untruthful way possible.”
Equally as disturbing is the media’s coverage of the story. Instead of bringing the facts to light, they withheld bits of information to make the scenario appear more bizarre and scandalous.
For example, numerous news outlets reported Snowden to be a high school dropout. However, it soon surfaced in an interview with the leaker’s father that he stopped attending school to care for his
terminally ill mother before completing a high school equivalency program, attaining a bachelor’s degree and working toward a master’s from the University of Liverpool. In addition to the benefits of
higher education, he’s gained experience serving in multiple capacities for both U.S. and British intelligence agencies.
In short, Snowden is not the ignorant, uneducated fool the American public first perceived him to be.
Further fanning the flames of controversy, most publications ran headlines that forced readers to declare Snowden either a “hero” or a “traitor” before having even read so far as the byline. The reckless, irresponsible angle from which many outlets approached the story left the public no choice but to be divided and argumentative. It fits perfectly into the media’s recent pattern of jumping
from one emotionally charged topic to the next with no real objective but to leave the American public more disillusioned and divided than before.
This is an unhealthy trend that will have serious ramifications if it continues. With everyone focusing on their differences, no one can find enough common ground to build a solid foundation of unity. As it is said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”