I wrote a note to U. S. Senator Diane Feinstein a few days ago. Feinstein serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and I was disappointed to learn she had labeled Edward Snowden a traitor because he’d taken his information about government surveillance to the press rather than to her. As I listened to her remarks, several thoughts collided in my head. First, I wondered if she’d forgotten the long history whistleblowers have with the free press when government ethics are called into question? Second, I wondered if she couldn’t see how her repudiation reflected upon herself. As a ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, she is expected to know the scope of NSA’s surveillance. She avows that she didn’t. If true, that ignorance speaks volumes about her ability to right the wrong.
Worse, Feinstein’s umbrage doesn’t suit the occasion. Can she and likeminded colleagues really be so insular and self-regarding that they fail to recognize how little of the public’s trust they hold?
Recently, PEN, an association of professional writers, sent me the results of a questionnaire to which I and others responded. The results were so startling they were reported in The New York Times. What the data showed was that writers have “never been so worried about our privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today.“ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/books/pen-american-center-survey-finds-caution-among-members.html?_r=0. What’s more a significant number admitted they had curtailed activities on social media and steered clear of certain types of emails and phone calls. Sixteen percent admitted they now avoided writing or speaking about hot button issues.
I hope Feinstein and her fellow members of Congress saw the report and paid attention. Artists are like the canaries in the coal mine. They are keen observers of society. Any decline in their willingness to exercise free speech is a harbinger of rougher times ahead. This is the inconvenient truth of which all of us should be aware.
(Courtesy of socialevolutionforum.com)