The consistently insightful Branko Marcetic has a new article out with Jacobin titled “After the Ukraine Documents Leak, Mainstream Media Is Missing the Story” about the way imperial narrative managers have been manipulating the discourse about the information released in the Pentagon leaks by Jack Teixeira.
Marcetic criticizes the way mass media outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times (who actually hunted down and outed Teixeira before the FBI even brought him in) have been dragging the conversation kicking and screaming away from the contents of the leaks into discussions about how bad leaks are and what a bad, bad man Teixeira is.
“What’s more corrosive to US democracy?” asks Marcetic. “That the president secretly put US boots on the ground in an incredibly dangerous, constantly escalating war zone, explicitly breaking a promise in the process and acting against the wishes of the majority of the voting public? Or that the public was finally told about it? If we truly believe that ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness,’ then it makes little sense to vehemently oppose turning on a light.”
“It also means less time and energy spent on thinking about the years-long, bipartisan war on leaks that this young airman is the latest to be ensnared in,” Marcetic adds. “It means no one discusses the government’s now-routine practice of ruining people’s lives over even admittedly inconsequential leaks, and how the point of it is to intimidate future leakers and ensure the political and economic elite can continue to operate in secrecy.”
I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the possibility that Teixeira is an unwitting patsy and that these leaks were planted by the US intelligence cartel to help facilitate various foreign policy agendas and/or manufacture consent for the odious RESTRICT Act, and that’s possible — by far the most prolific leaker of documents from the US government is the US government itself. But whether that’s what happened or not, it seems a safe bet that this young man is going to be spending many years behind bars in one of the most draconian prison systems on this planet.
Teixeira’s life is being ruined, perhaps permanently, under the justification that he revealed true things about his government. That is the one and only crime he stands accused of.
And I don’t think people pay enough attention to how insane and outrageous it is that this happens. It’s one of those things that gets more infuriating the more deeply you contemplate it. The government has no business keeping secrets from the public about important matters that are relevant to their interests, much less about matters relating to their government’s own lies and misdeeds, and it has still less business punishing people for trying to bring that information under public scrutiny where it belongs.
When government misdeeds are exposed, the only people who should ever be punished are those who perpetrated them, and those who tried to cover them up. Teixeira, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Daniel Hale, David McBride — they should all be living free and without fear of persecution. And those who persecuted them should be imprisoned.
It’s just so crazy how it’s taken as a given that governments keep these secrets for good and noble reasons which must be protected with as much force as necessary, when we know for a fact that this is false and have known it for generations. As Julian Assange once said, “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”
People shouldn’t be punished for revealing the secrets of the government, governments should be punished for keeping secrets from the people.
It shouldn’t be illegal to expose the abuses and deceptions of your government, it should be illegal for your government to abuse and deceive.
The government says it needs secrecy in order to win wars and protect freedom. History says the government needs secrecy in order to start wars and restrict freedom.
The amount of power you have should be inversely proportional to the amount of secrecy you’re allowed. Those with the most power should be a completely open book who aren’t permitted to hide anything from anyone, while those with the least power should have complete unimpeded privacy. Instead it’s the exact opposite: ordinary powerless people are getting more and more surveilled, while governments get more and more secretive and unaccountable.
Slashing government secrecy would solve so many problems — partly because malfeasance functions best in the dark, and partly because it would give democracy a fighting chance by letting the electorate make informed decisions about what’s going on in their world. You can’t claim to have democracy when you’re using government secrecy, censorship, propaganda, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, and the war on journalism to control what people see. People can’t use their votes to advance positive change if they can’t see what’s happening.
That’s the thing about The Washington Post’s slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness”: it’s completely true. It just happens that The Washington Post actively works to help keep things in the dark.
If I ever stumble across a magic genie’s lamp there’s a limit to the things I’d be willing to change about the world because I wouldn’t want to intervene on human sovereignty, but eliminating the ability of the powerful to obfuscate and distort the truth is something I’d happily commit to. End government secrecy, end censorship, end propaganda, end Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, and end the war on journalism, so that people are free to see what’s really going on in their world and help steer things in a positive direction.