Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, January 03, 2014

Defining Snowden's Deviancy Down

"When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law,” says a New York Times editorial, recommending amnesty for Edward Snowden, “that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.”

The TimesPublic Editor agrees, that Snowden “has done the United States, and in fact, the world, a great service.”

With all due respect, that plea comes tainted by the Newspaper of Record’s partnership with Snowden and his adviser, Glenn Greenwald, whose dedication to tearing down American government and media is legend.

What would the Senate’s last sociologist, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, have made of all this?

“We are getting used to a lot of behavior that is not good for us,” the late New York legislator wrote in 1993 in his now-famous American Scholar article, “Defining Deviancy Down,” arguing that society keeps adjusting for the amount of unacceptable conduct it can tolerate.

He pointed out that, in 1929, the killing of seven gangsters in Chicago became the stuff of legend while half a century later “Los Angeles has the equivalent of a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre every weekend.”

By all means, let the Times advocate for Snowden, if it chooses, but before publishing that editorial, did anyone re-read former Rxecutive Editor Bill Keller’s exchange defending traditional journalism against Greenwald’s open desire to tear down American society with his agenda-driven attacks disguised as reporting? Do we need a Fox News of the left with even fewer scruples to balance Rupert Murdoch?

Snowden’s “patriotism” could have expressed itself in many ways open to whistle blowers, but he chose his outlaw status with Greenwald as business partner, mentor and legal advisor.

Whatever persuades the Times to plead his case, it concentrates on the harm to American society that NSA spying may have done but overlooks the collateral damage that its own partnership with Snowden and Greenwald may have done at the same time.

There is more than one way to define deviancy down in American society today, and the Times should reconsider its self-congratulation in pleading Snowden’s case for amnesty and encouraging those who consider endangering security heroism.

It is a step down from the newspaper that vetted and published the Pentagon Papers in the last century after carefully facing the legal and moral consequences of doing so.

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