Thursday, June 13, 2013


View from Europe: American civil liberties on the line

But it is American civil liberties that are primarily in the spotlight now. Ever since 9/11, the US has allowed the war on terror to frame a new domestic authoritarianism that is strikingly at odds with America's passionate sense of its own freedom. This week's revelations have stunned millions of Americans whose justified outrage against 9/11 surely never led them to expect such routine and unrestrained surveillance on such a massive scale. US politicians have a poor post-9/11 record of confronting such powers. Even now, it is possible that many will look the other way. But this is an existential challenge to American freedom. That it has been so relentlessly prosecuted by a leader who once promised to stand up against such authority, makes the challenge more pressing, not less.Guardian (UK) Weekly

by Larry Geller

The Fox News crowd may never come around to this point of view (although you never know…). More likely, they will continue to pound away on the character of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. That’s an easy path to take and likely to be popular with their audience. As always, Americans appear to be divided by things like which news they watch on TV.

The tweets I follow, and the blogs I read, are more in line with the pull-quote above.

Probably the number of Guardian readers among Fox News viewers is close to zero percent. Even if they read this or other Guardian articles, they would likely not be moved. From the few conversations I’ve had with Foxers, I’ve learned that they supposedly don’t care if their communications are monitored, and they think they must give up privacy in order to be safe from terrorist bombs (I no longer even ask them how well that seems to be working, keeping in mind the Boston Marathon bombing) (ok, other situations might have been prevented, but no evidence has been presented that this is the case).

Few Americans believe that they live in a police state; indeed many would be outraged at the suggestion. Yet the everyday fact that the police have the right to monitor the communications of all its citizens – in secret – is a classic hallmark of a state that fears freedom as well as championing it. Ironically, the Guardian's revelations were published 69 years to the day since US and British soldiers launched the D-day invasion of Europe. The young Americans who fought their way up the Normandy beaches rightly believed they were helping free the world from a tyranny. They did not think that they were making it safe for their own rulers to take such sweeping powers as these over their descendants.

[The Guardian Weekly, Civil liberties: American freedom on the line: The fact that police have the right to monitor the communications of all its citizens – in secret – is a classic hallmark of a state that fears freedom, 6/6/2013 (link to the editorial in the Guardian newspaper)]

Note the reference to “their own rulers.” When I see that phrase or similar, it reminds me that we in the USA (and apparently the British) have not yet excised the archetype of the King, ruling by divine right, from our concept of democratic government. We are supposed to have representatives, not rulers. In truth, our leaders behave like rulers. It is apparent in the current instance that many in the Obama administration and even in Congress think they have the divine right to monitor and control us, even unto indefinite detention and torture of ordinary citizens, even as monarchs old and new exercise their power over their subjects.

At least the phrase was used explicitly in the British newspaper. Here, we simply delude ourselves that we are in charge of our own government.

The Guardian

The Guardian is a fine world paper. When we lived in Japan, the Manchester Guardian was delivered by air to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, where it was stacked in a heap with other newspapers from around the world. That was our “Internet” in the day. Our Twitter, by the way, was the AFP or one of the other wire service teletypes, or one could listen to “breaking news” dispatches from far-flung news bureaus via shortwave.

Although the Wikipedia states that the name “Manchester Guardian” lasted until 1959, I distinctly remember it up to the 1990s when copies were available at the UH bookstore in Manoa. Perhaps I am remembering incorrectly.

I do remember it was always a good read, a literary read, and an authoritative read. Just like we thought as kids when facing the dauntingly heavy copies of the Sunday New York Times on the dining room table. Only, the language was “high-class” in the Guardian.  It still is.

From the Wikipedia:

Founded in 1821 by John Edward Taylor in Manchester, the 11 members of the first Little Circle excluding William Cowdroy, Jnr. of the Manchester Gazette decided to advance their liberalist agenda. They helped then cotton merchant John Edward Taylor form the Manchester Guardian, which he edited for the rest of his life and they all wrote for. With backing from the non-conformist Little Circle group of local businessmen.

The Guardian has changed format and design over the years, moving from broadsheet to Berliner. It has become an international media organisation with affiliations to other national papers with similar aims. The Guardian Weekly, which circulates worldwide, contains articles from The Guardian and its sister Sunday paper The Observer, as well as reports, features, and book reviews from The Washington Post and articles translated from Le Monde. Other projects include GuardianFilm, the current editorial director of which is Maggie O'Kane.

One notable scoop was the breaking of the News International phone hacking scandal in 2011, particularly with the revelation of the hacking of murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone. The investigation brought about the closure of one of the highest circulation newspapers in the world, the News of the World

They have a great “breaking news” app for the Android phone, check it out.


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