June 17, 2013

NSA Leak: The Mainstream Media ‘Groupthink’ Smackdown Of Edward Snowden

Schieffer Series: Understanding Japan's Elections - photo by CSISConservatives are correct that we should not trust the mainstream media, but it’s not because of liberal bias. In fact, the biggest reason the media deserves scrutiny is groupthink.

Wikipedia — Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

Just watch Fox News for a clear example of conservative groupthink. But the mainstream media doesn’t suffer from ideological groupthink. Their in-group thought processes align in less defined ways, but if there’s one thing you can count on, if a “rogue” reporter breaks a big story, the mainstream media will likely align to discredit that story. That is exactly what has happened in response to the NSA leak by Edward Snowden and the reporter who broke the story, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald. Just look at some of the hyperbole from long-established and “trusted” media figures:

The Huffington Post — In trashing NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Sunday, CBS’s Bob Schieffer joined a fast-growing club of establishment pundits who have derided his actions and questioned his character.

It has seemed sometimes that commentators have been trying to compete for who can come up with the most sneering description of Snowden.

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, for instance, called him a “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.” Tom Brokaw dismissed him as a “high school dropout” and a “military washout.”

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen seemed likely to win the contest when he confusingly dubbed Snowden a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” (Huh?)

Schieffer might have managed to trump all of those rivals, though, when he lamented that Snowden did not live up to the likes of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King:

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr.–they are true heroes. I’m not ready to put Edward Snowden in that category. For one thing, I don’t remember Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks running off and hiding in China. He then called Snowden “just a narcissistic young man who has decided he is smarter than the rest of us” who may not have even had a “valid point.”

So we have “grandiose narcissist” from Jeffrey Toobin, “high school dropout” and “military washout” from Tom Brokaw, and “narcissistic young man” from Bob Schieffer. I’m not even going to comment on Richard Cohen. Did any of these “news professionals” do anything other than listen to Snowden’s interview before dropping these melodramatic bombs? Did they even listen to the entire interview?

I listened to and read the interview transcript, and Snowden sounds intelligent and lucid. There’s nothing in that interview that should provoke these kinds of responses from established news personalities unless their intent is something beyond that of quality journalism. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I find the mainstream media backlash against Edward Snowden alarming. Maybe Snowden isn’t a whistleblower in the classic sense, but maybe today’s mainstream media isn’t the place for whistleblowers to take their story. While the Guardian could be counted as part of the mainstream media, Glenn Greenwald definitely sits outside that classification. If a longstanding and respected member of traditional print journalism broke this story, would we see such an all out assault on the character of both the whistleblower and the reporter breaking the story?

photo by CSIS

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