The New York Times did more than publish news on New Year’s day. It was the news.
After the paper’s editorial board - consisting of 14 of the papers top editors - published an op-ed asking the Obama administration to give clemency to Edward Snowden, the Internet was abuzz with the Time’s official endorsement of the former NSA contractor.
“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service,” the Times board wrote.
Why was this a big deal? Of course watchdog organizations such as the Times and The Guardian would champion whistleblowers like Snowden, who is currently living in Russia to evade criminal charges of espionage and theft at home.
The answer is simple.
American mainstream media is closely linked to US policy, both foreign as well as domestic, and the New York Times coming to Snowden’s rescue may have some effect –the extent of which remains to be seen.
For those who were skeptical a few days ago regarding a simple editorial’s ability to make a difference need only see the softening stance of some Congressman since the piece was published.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s more of a whistleblower than a villain,” Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern told BuzzFeed.
Coincidently, other members of Congress have also urged the US government to practice leniency when dealing with Snowden since the Times op-ed went public.
Give him clemency. http://t.co/ZcVzR3rc9c— Rep. Alan Grayson (@AlanGrayson) January 2, 2014
The Times editorial also prompted a strong and rather emotional response from other Congressmen who, unlike McGovern and Florida’s Grayson, are staunch defenders of the NSA. Republican Peter King accused the Times of being an ‘apologist for terrorists’ on Fox News.
Whether the changing opinion in Congress will have any effect on how the courts and the attorney general willjudge the specifics of Mr. Snowden’s case remains to be seen, but one cannot deny the effect of the media.
A Syria researcher from the Institute For The Study of War, Elizabeth O'Bagy, wrote an op-ed titled“On the Front Lines of Syria's Civil War.” Here she challenged the ‘conventional wisdom’ of the time regarding who the rebels in Syria really were, but saying that jihadists were not running the rebellion based on what she had witnessed on the ground. This is what both Kerry and McCain used as fodder for their case for US military intervention in Syria.
While O’Bagy’s credentials ware discredited soon after, her op ed serves as yet another example of how the media can factor into politics and policy.
Surely everyone remembers the disaster in Iraq back in 2004 when the media was instrumental in selling the war to the American people by reporting that Saddam did possess weapons of mass destruction.