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NPR’s Bob Garfield blasts Snowden for Russian asylum: ‘the height of hypocrisy’

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Bob Garfield, cohost of “On the Media,” spoke on WNYC about Edward Snowden getting asylum in Russia for one year and put on his righteous pundit hat:

It’s unclear whether… Julian Assange is an anarchist or a righteous defender of the rights of individuals. It’s unclear. It’s equally unclear to me, I know I’m speaking not as a reporter but strictly as a critic and a commentator, how Edward Snowden has the temerity [chuckling] to seek refuge in Russia. Whatever the American security state is, he has just  been accepted by the open arms of a gathering tyranny. And it is an explicitly authoritarian state. And to me, pundit, to me, opinionator, it seems like the height of hypocrisy.

Does the media host have any respect for why Snowden finds himself in the position he does? I suppose if Edward Snowden had asked Garfield what to do weeks ago, he’d still be working for the NSA in Hawaii.

Snowden has expressed great fondness for the U.S.

America is a fundamentally good country; we have good people with good values who want to do the right thing, but the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics.

J’s comment at the WNYC site notes all the good that Snowden has done for Americans, and why he might have good reason to seek refuge in Russia:

That Snowden does not wish to spend the rest of his life in jail, in no way diminishes the fact that he exposed, to the benefit of the American people and system, government surveillance like that of authoritarian states in what is supposed to be a transparent democracy. That he had “the temerity” to go to Russia–one of the few countries willing or able to stand up to U.S. pressure–does not diminish the benefit of his actions to the people of the U.S., transparency, and democracy. It only shows how far astray the current administration has taken the U.S. from it’s constitutional principles by prosecuting whistle-blowers and reporters as spies.

Garfield’s critique of Snowden as being a hypocrite for not happily skipping to a jail cell for the rest of his life–even if he is forced to go to an un-democratic state–is misguided and reveals Garfield as an armchair warrior.

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24 Responses

  1. Krauss
    August 3, 2013, 11:59 am

    I think the Snowden saga has allowed a younger generation – not steeped in the Cold War morass like flinted minds such as Garfield’s – to see for the first time, very clearly, that their own country isn’t brilliant.

    The Iraq war was also such a catalyst, but the aftershock of 9/11 can explain that away for many, even though they never liked the war, they remember the frenzy the country was in at the time.

    The Snowden story is different. You have a reasonably “progressive” president, the wars are all unwinding slowly and what they see is their country being exposed for its use of brutal power. I don’t think Snowden idealizes Russia in any way whatsoever. But it’s Garfield that idealizes his own country.

    NPR’s foreign policy coverage is really quite stunning in it’s right-wing tilt. On Israel/Palestine they’re essentially hard-right Zionists.
    No wonder it’s easy to drum up the public for war if this is supposed to be the “left-wing”.

    And as always, one of the important backstories of the entire Snowden story is the media itself and how it has utterly failed. Maybe I should read more Chris Hedges.
    I dismissed him as a hothead and a sensationalist, initially, but everything he has written about – the collapse of the liberal press, the judiciary system that has become in-hock with the national security state – is truly coming apart before my eyes now.

    Of course, for most people in the Democratic party, as long as one of “our guys(or girls)” is in the White House that’s all that matters. Like the opposition to Bush’s policies that Obama not only continued but intensified, as fast as Obama came in, it all melted away. Makes you wonder how much principle a lot of people in the Democratic party actually have. The conservatives have long let it known that they will accept a lot of wars and torture all in the name of ‘patriotism’. My hope there is the younger, Ron Paul-inspired activists who are gaining ground but are still attacked viciously by the neocon establishment.

    • elephantine
      August 3, 2013, 8:33 pm has had great coverage IMO. About Snowden and his leaks and also about Bradley Manning’s court martial. They always have great guests too. You should check it out if you haven’t already.

  2. atime forpeace
    atime forpeace
    August 3, 2013, 12:03 pm

    Here is Andrea Mitchell speaking about seeking refuge in anti gay oppressive Russia and Glenn Greenwald’s response.

    • piotr
      August 3, 2013, 4:23 pm

      By the way, is Glenn effectively in exile? He seems to avoid US soil lately.

      • elephantine
        August 4, 2013, 5:18 am

        He’s been living in Brazil for several years..

        Glenn Greenwald has been living in Brazil (where he has a permanent visa*) for the past eight years with his partner, David Michael Miranda. Now that the Defense of Marriage Act has been struck down, Greenwald says they’re considering moving back to the United States. —

  3. Donald
    August 3, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I wonder if the NPR nitwit thought it was the height of hypocrisy for refugees from communist countries to come to the US when the US was supporting equally heinous rightwing regimes that persecuted leftwingers. Refugees go where they can–if they had the power to set policy in whatever country that took them they’d be superheroes, not refugees.

    Ideology makes people really really stupid.

  4. seanmcbride
    August 3, 2013, 12:55 pm

    Snowden isn’t the issue — the development of a total surveillance state in America is.

    Why do mainstream media pundits like Bob Garfield and Andrea Mitchell have such a difficult time focusing on the real issue? Or is it that they believe that the development of a total surveillance state, under the control of people who share their political agenda, is in their best interests?

    • MRW
      August 3, 2013, 5:24 pm


      Snowden isn’t the issue — the development of a total surveillance state in America is.

      Thank you. The issue in a nutshell. The apparatchiks of this encroaching state are people like Garfield.

      Why do mainstream media pundits like Bob Garfield and Andrea Mitchell have such a difficult time focusing on the real issue?

      Because the people don’t yet; however, Greenwald’s slow rollout may be able to achieve the impossible.

      Americans have an intellectual understanding of surveillance and totalitarianism. In Russia and some countries in Europe, it’s visceral. The consequences are known.

    • Citizen
      August 3, 2013, 10:20 pm

      @ seanmcbride
      They believe they are good people and wise cowboys and cowgirls over you, the herd. There’s not a persistent introspective bone in their bodies.

  5. piotr
    August 3, 2013, 12:57 pm

    It is better to have a life sentence in a solitary confinement in a supermax prison in a free country than a good job and fun in an oppressive country. I wonder what would be poll results on that question.

    • Xpat
      August 3, 2013, 7:03 pm

      I wonder why Snowden can’t make his way to the eastern edge of Russia and fly to South America. Will the Russians let him out if he wants to move on?
      What’s in this for the Russians (besides smearing egg on Obama’s face)? They must be doing everything they can to get their hands on Snowden’s treasure trove of NSA material.

      • Citizen
        August 3, 2013, 10:26 pm

        @ Elliot
        For the Russians, he’s a pawn, same as he is for the Americans. But he knows it; he’s a very conscious pawn, actually more acutely conscious than either Obama or Putin.

      • RoHa
        August 3, 2013, 11:27 pm

        “I wonder why Snowden can’t make his way to the eastern edge of Russia and fly to South America.”

        Or take a ship that sticks to international sea lanes.

      • piotr
        August 4, 2013, 6:30 pm

        Eastern edge of Russia is what Sarah Palin can see from her window. Even if her description was a wee bit off, it is quite a stretch from Alaska (or Kamchatka) to South America.

        More realistically, there are direct flights from Moscow to Havana, and from there, to Venezuela etc. However, these planes fly over USA, and our government could try a bit of piracy, as we now know.

  6. Justpassingby
    August 3, 2013, 4:43 pm

    Yes indeed hypocrisy that western world refuse to grant this man asylum, dont you think Mr. Facepalm,..uh Mr Bob Garfield?

  7. MRW
    August 3, 2013, 5:53 pm

    Why do people go on and on about Russia being oppressive, or tyrannical, today? Where’s the oppression? Or the “gathering tyranny?” And if so, why aren’t they leaving in droves?

    I can fully understand why Snowden would stay there. It’s a massively beautiful, haunting and culturally diverse country. There’s an educated common class we certainly don’t have here. I don’t know what happened since the breakup, but the free, actually compulsory, university education available to all high school students was better than what was available to American kids. (If you couldn’t get into university, there were trade schools.) Grim, gruesome life under communism for those who didn’t have the mental skills to be a part of the intelligentsia, for sure. The people running the country today were educated under the old system, but as youth, lived to see their country change.

    Then there’s the damn cold. That’s enough to make someone want to leave. After Hawaii, Snowden should be glad that he got to experience Moscow first in summer. ;-)

    Listening to commentators on radio and TV go on and on about tyrannical Russia, or oppressive Russia, is like listening to some fossil in 2013 still complain about ‘how kids today are going to be harmed by Elvis’s music, it’s the devil got ’em’.

    • piotr
      August 4, 2013, 10:05 pm

      In Soviet Union university education was by no means compulsory, or even available to the majority. To enter a university or college (it would not be called college) you needed to get a slot through competitive exam. The material disparity between the intelligentsia and the rest was small, but it is highly subjective if the life was “grim and gruesome”.

    • Sibiriak
      August 4, 2013, 10:54 pm


      Why do people go on and on about Russia being oppressive, or tyrannical, today?

      Russia has opposed U.S. policy in some important areas, therefore must be demonized.

      • piotr
        August 4, 2013, 11:51 pm

        USA is also in dire need of examples of the kind “Our human rights record is better than …”. Israel is reduced to citing Sudan and Zimbabwe, but USA has higher standards. Opponents of the government can be assassinated in Russia while in Russia, while American government does it only abroad. Posting translations on Internet can land you 17 year sentence is USA, but we do not jail cute young women for singing, even if they were singing obscene anti-Semitic couplets in a synagogue (although I wonder what would happen in such a case). Police in USA is only infrequently beating unarmed and non-resisting citizens to death.

  8. Stogumber
    August 4, 2013, 4:57 am

    I don’t think that Snowden should take the risk to leave Russia. Most countries, shipping companies, air trafficers etc. are simply to weak to resist the United States. And yes, he needs a strong protector.
    As for “democracy”, Putin doesn’ prevent every opposition. He prevents a takeover of Russia by native or foreign capitalists (oligarchs). And that’s the base of his genuine popularity.

    • elephantine
      August 4, 2013, 5:37 am

      Wouldn’t he need a passport anyway?

      I find the outrage over Snowden’s decision to stay in Russia really absurd. He’s only in Russia because the US was going to get him extradited back from Hong Kong and revoked his passport leaving no other option but to stay. Why would he go back voluntarily to end up like Bradley Manning? Yes, the hypocrisy is sickening. They are really not doing themselves and Americans any favors by behaving the way they have been – especially when Bradley Manning is facing up to 136 years in prison for revealing government and military lies and war crimes, none of which have been or will be prosecuted. They lost any credibility but they haven’t even realized it.

      • piotr
        August 4, 2013, 10:28 pm

        Absurd seems to be the norm and credibility seems to be a notion harking back to the times of Founding Fathers. Our establishment has such a narrow tunnel vision that it is hard to figure out if any thinking is done at all. As opposed to anti-thinking, active resistance to any symptoms of logical reasoning.

        By the way, this article on our topic is pretty good:
        I disagree with libertarians more often then not, but on foreign affairs they often do a good job. And when I disagree with them, at least I see decent efforts to argue a case.

  9. PilgrimSoul
    August 4, 2013, 3:21 pm

    I don’t think it’s true, as Krauss speculates, that most people in the Democratic party don’t care about this NSA creation of a total surveillance state, simply because there’s a Democrat in the White House. Or if they did, they’re beginning to change their minds, thanks to the brilliant Snowden/Greenwald strategy of rolling out the bad news a little at a time. Remember that the Democratic party is the only political game in town for many people. Black people in this country will be occupied with winning back the right to vote for at least a generation, because the Republican party has committed itself totally to voter suppression. It will be a very difficult fight, in which large masses of people will be in action on the street, and may even result in loss of life. This will happen at the same time that the economy–and the corporate upper class–continues to push middle class and working people down into a new suburban/urban peasantry.

    But the Democratic party consists of a Rooseveltian coalition of labor, minorities and liberals. Many liberals I talk to are astonished and upset at the way the media figures have gone after Snowden, trying to silence criticism of the NSA in the same way that they silence criticism of Israel. The role of the progressive in the Democratic party is to tell liberals this is a make-or-break situation: they’ve got to take a stand, or the surveillance state will win. Progressives in the Democratic party now need to explain to their coalition partners the danger they’re in from the total surveillance state, but they have to speak out fearlessly on their own, regardless of what the others think or say. Think of Cornel West: he’s a left-socialist, has been active in the Democratic party, and is even a friend of Obama, but criticizes him regularly on drones and surveillance.

    Now might be a time for liberals to read a little Gramsci. He understood the implacable operation of economics on everything else, but also insisted that to influence others, you have to have an attractive, powerful idea about the world and the good life. Our job as progressives is to convince others–especially the libertarian-influenced young people–that they cannot keep what they win politically until we confront the nature of this new form of systemic evil. I think the Snowden/Greenwald strategy creates an opportunity to do that.

    In the meantime, don’t give money to NPR, and tell them why you won’t.

  10. miriam6
    August 4, 2013, 10:22 pm

    I am assuming Mondoweiss is planning to cover the alleged recent security scare which has resulted in the US closing its embassies.

    It seems peculiar that this dramatic heightening of security coincides with a period in which the Bradley Manning case has reached its endgame with Manning being jailed, and the Snowden affair on-going and causing a diplomatic row between America and Russia over the offer of asylum.
    At this precise moment , the authorities wish to grab at and make the most of , an opportunity to remind us all a threat still exists , that the secretive nature of state activity and intelligence gathering is paying off , and must be maintained despite Snowden and Manning’s actions and revelations.

    The US reportedly intercepted al-Qaeda messages and will shut at least 21 embassies and consulates on Sunday.
    Interpol issued a separate global security alert, citing jail breaks linked to al-Qaeda in nine countries.
    The international policing organisation said “hundreds of terrorists” had been freed during breakouts in countries including Iraq, Libya and Pakistan in the past month.
    Interpol said al-Qaeda was suspected of “involvement in several of the breakouts” and asked its 190 member states to help “determine whether any of these recent events are co-ordinated or linked”.

    The closure of a swathe of US embassies and consulates across North Africa and the Middle East is an unusual step.
    The intelligence on which it is based – which is not being publicly disclosed but is reported to be intercepted communications – is thought to be credible but not specific about possible targets, leading to the very broad alert.
    Embassies have been targeted in the past by al-Qaeda – including in Yemen, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based.
    Washington will also be mindful of the political controversy over whether it did enough to protect its consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
    The US administration may well be hoping this warning may protect its interests, disrupt the plans of its enemies and also protect it from criticism at home.
    The UK does not appear to view the threat in quite the same way – acting in the wake of the US and closing only one embassy and not issuing the same kind of broad travel advice

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