(King Henry V, act 2, sc. 2)
Comment. Rarely an episode shows the symbolic meaning of things and the current patterns of society as the recent developments arising from Edward Snowden’s revelations. Revelations about the immense spying operation by the US Government on US citizens and on the world at large.
After Snowden exposed the Obama administration’s worldwide surveillance program the political establishment and the corporate media have run a bi-partisan, non-stop campaign to discredit him and to besmirch his character and reputation.
Character assassination (or outright assassination) is an old tool of any government when caught in the web of its own treason. For once and for now the public does not seem to fall for the campaign to discredit Snowden. If a vote were taken to determine whom the American people found more trustworthy and believable—Snowden or Obama, the Congress and the media—Snowden would win hands-down.
Particularly significant about the media campaign are the authoritarian and bullying arguments advanced to condemn him. A bullying, for once, no longer concealed behind a smokescreen of Orwellian words. The bullying and threats extend not only to Snowden but to Hong Kong, China, Russia, Ecuador – that is to any country that does not kneel at the foot of the empire.
The key point of the media is that the illegality, the crimes, the lies of a government towards its own people are irrelevant. Citizens owe the government total and unquestioned obedience. That is, the loyalty owed to the state outweighs whatever moral and political obligations a citizen feels to inform his fellow citizens of the government’s subversion of democracy. It is the same argument for which the government is working to condemn Bradley Manning to a minimum of 20 years in prison (after 3 years already spent in jail and in solitary confinement). That Bradley saw and heard soldiers on a helicopter killing 12 Baghdad civilians including children as if it were a video game and a laughing matter (“Kill those bastards”) should have not been a concern to him.
The citizen, according to this wretched administration, should take example from the bees, as in these lines from Henry V,
“Obedience: for so work the honey bees,
Creatures that, by rule in nature, teach
The act of order to a peopled kingdom.”
That the corporate media is but the PR front of the government and of the Pentagon is already an established fact. What is symbolic and illustrative of the current pattern of society is the reaction by the so called “liberals” and “democrats”. They have used the occasion to formally abandon any pretense of being “different” from the “neo-conservatives” and, by extension, from the most rabid republicans.
It has become a source of distress, for many, even to watch Obama on television, justifying or glossing over government crimes with a “Colgate smile and a Samuel Jackson hair”. I don’t know who the actor Samuel Jackson is but I used him to pattern the description, after the lines and the rhythm of a country song about a Coca-Cola cowboy – in the instane a Coca-Cola president.
Here is an individual who owes his position to the sacrifice of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and of all those who were killed or wounded during the civil rights fights of the 1960s.
The sober truth is that M.L. King is a useful icon for government propaganda, while his message and words are not only discarded but actually vilified.
At this year’s King’s holiday, Obama had the gall to say that he admires ML King but that King was “naïve”. Translation, it was because of his naiveté that King believed in peace – had he not been so naïve he would now endorse and approve the military, imperial policies of the current administrations to impose Yankee power over the whole world.
Among the many pieces written to assassinate Snowden’s character it is particularly interesting an article by Prof. Stone of the University of Chicago.
Not long ago, Stone wrote a book entitled Perilous Times: Free Speech in War Time from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terror. The book gives a historical account of war-time attacks on democratic rights by American governments.
Referring to the book and the impact of the 1798 Sedition Act (used freely today by the current administrations against dissenters) he said,
“One of the important lessons is that if American citizens want to have the freedoms that are guaranteed to them, they cannot sit back passively and allow elected officials and judges to protect their rights for them. It’s very important for the American people to recognize that if they want their freedoms—want their liberties—they have to take responsibility for preserving them in these times.”
But today, the same Stone sings a very different tune. Because Snowden did not “sit back passively” but, instead, took responsibility for the defense of democratic rights, Stone declares that he “is most certainly a criminal who deserves serious punishment.”
Stone’s argument is that when Snowden accepted government employment, he forfeited all right, let alone responsibility, to expose illegal actions by his employer. “There is no reason on earth why an individual government employee should have the authority, on his own say so, to override the judgment of the elected representatives of the American people and to decide for the nation that classified information should be disclosed to friends and enemies alike. Such an act is a complete usurpation of the rule of law”
The declaration is astonishing. “ No reason on earth…” ? In other words, a state employee must be blind and deaf to criminal activity no matter how injurious it may be to the rights of the American people.
This is an unadulterated Nazi argument!
But how such an incredible reversal of principles, expressed in print only a few years ago, can come about?
And this is indeed the symbolic meaning of the Snowden episode, because the evolution of Stone and others reflects a broader social and political process.
The breakdown of democratic institutions proceeds alongside the dissolution of any significant support for democratic rights within the ruling elite and its faithful retainers among the wealthiest 5 percent of the population.
Aware of their distance from the social interests of the broad masses of the population, they look to the state to defend their own wealth and privileges.
The rich and the privileged hate Snowden because he has defied the state that protects their interests. He failed to show proper deference to their system and their secrets. He has exposed the massive conspiracy that is being directed in Washington against the democratic rights of the American people. And that is why they are determined to destroy Ed Snowden.
Which also demonstrates that there are actually two governments, one that reflects, defends and engages in any activity, criminal or not, to protects and endlessly increase the wealth and power of 5% of the population.
The formal government, supported by the usual cohort of sycophants, pundits, professors and eunuchs reflects the situation as well expressed by Isabella in Measure for Measure,
“… O perilous mouths,
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof;
Bidding the law make court’sy to their will:
Hooking both right and wrong to the appetite,
To follow as it draws!”
The other government is informal, or rather virtual. It relies on the power of habit and on a diverse but on the whole homogeneous belief in humanity. That is, humanity is upheld not because of the law, but the law is upheld because of humanity.
The reader can determine which is the criminal of the two governments.
In the play. King Henry V expostulates against the traitors who attempted to kill him for pay on behalf of the French.