John Stossel and The Wire Creator David Simon Think NSA Spying Isn’t a Big Deal Since the Drug War is Worse

Lucy Steigerwald, June 21, 2013

nsa-spying-logoLibertarian television show host John Stossel, and liberal creator of the acclaimed HBO series The Wire David Simon have reacted to the National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal in a similar fashion – -namely, they suggest we stop worrying about it so much since there are worse things in the world.

This reaction is almost understandable given some of the salient points they raise after this terrible one.

On occasion, libertarians and rabble-rousing peaceniks are criticized for, say, reacting to a domestic tragedy such as the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by pointing out how little Americans seem to care about such bloodshed when it happens abroad — and worse, when it happens because of their own government’s actions. This is an arguably callous reaction, but it raises an unquestionably important question — why are some tragedies, atrocities, or oppressions worse than others?

The news media will — thankfully — cover something as undeniable as the NSA spying when the story falls into their laps. They are much worse at covering policy-evil. That is, much of what the federal government does every day. Wars, scores of thousands of troops all over the world, the drug war and the prison industrial complex at home; all of these are a constant in the world, and the harm they do is much more clear-cut than even the most insidious spying program.

And so, it’s not a bad thing that Stossel and Simon used the NSA scandal to remind readers about the constant misery of the drug war. You know, that monstrous policy which, in spite of Gil Kerlikowske, Eric Holder, or Bill Maher’s pronouncements, is far from over. Simon, whose The Wire is beloved by libertarians due to its bleak portrayal of policing, political corruption, and the war on drugs has written a great deal about the NSA revelations. Much of it was…weird. The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf has been deftly responding to some of the more muddled, communitarian, NSA-and-government-trusting nonsense coming from Simon.

But within his tidal wave of text, Simon also points out that the kinds of violations that your average middle class white person may suddenly worry over with this spying have been rampant for decades thanks to the war on drugs — and the victims there have largely been poor minorities.

On this same topic of not caring about the NSA scandal, John Stossel last week wrote a bizarre, weak piece about how he already assumed his privacy was gone so he can’t summon the energy to care about this spying. (Stossel also added that the U.S.’s shaky economic situation is also more serious than the scandal. Which one could argue is true, but that too is a subtle slide into disaster. War and prisons are happening right this second, and their victims are suffering in ways that don’t require an understanding of free market fundamentals to comprehend.) Two days ago the mustached Fox Business host followed that up with a piece on how “The Drug War Is Worse Than NSA Spying”. Within that column Stossel’s most relevant point is that “we’ve become accustomed to the older abuses” like the war on drugs. True, and so important. Maybe it’s okay to use current outrages to remind people of older, more entrenched ones, no?

(Sadly Stossel, like Simon, could use some more general distrust of government. In his first NSA piece he managed to disparage the government, scorn excessive military spending, and still lazily write “terrorists do want to murder us. If the NSA is halfway competent, Big Data should help detect plots.”)

And so when Simon, with understandable frustration, asks where white people’s rage over privacy was for the past forty years while minorities were drowning under the war on drugs, we should sympathize. But if Simon cares about that,  he might remember that plenty of minorities also suffer under the war on terrors’ clunky dragnets. Ask Muslim communities in New York City how much they value their lost privacy in the wake of the NYPD’s massive spying campaign. Hell, ask the people lingering in Gitmo after more than a decade whether worry over spying is the privilege of white, middle-class Americans. No matter how many Johnny-come-latelys appear, full of righteous Fourth Amendment-loving outrage, due to Eric Snowden and others’ leaks, and no matter how tempting it might be to yell, “where the hell have you been?!” the point still stands — we’re all going to suffer from the powers of the NSA if we don’t check them now. The existence of worse violations is not a reason to dismiss pretty-damn-bad ones. Libertarians and people empathetic enough to write about the nastiness of the drug war should know this better than anyone.




8 Responses to “John Stossel and The Wire Creator David Simon Think NSA Spying Isn’t a Big Deal Since the Drug War is Worse”

  1. Tell me again how stealing our info helped you prevent Sandy Hook and the
    Marathon Bombing? Oh, that's right-it didn't!

    My grandfather fought in WWII, and I have no intention of forgetting how the
    Nazi party was able to gain strength so quickly-thru tactics like those you
    employ. No. I will not sit by and watch my country go to hell because of power
    hungry government fools who forget The Declaration of Independence:

    "…-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it
    is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
    Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers
    in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and
    Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established
    should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all
    experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are
    sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are
    accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably
    the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is
    their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new
    Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these
    Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their
    former Systems of Government."

    Still holds true today. You should have expected us!

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  2. We ought to ask ourselves: whom is the War on Drugs good for? Well, it has been a good war for a whole host of parties that feed off and are fed by the industry, the criminal industry, prohibition really is: financial services, military industrial complex, enforcement agencies, security service providers, corrupt politicians, captains of industry…you name it!

    As far as the US is concerned, it has used the War on Drugs to both blackmail and entice drug producing and transit countries to follow US foreign policies, amongst them, its drugs policies. For instance, it has used the War on Drugs as a securitisation tool, i.e. as a decoy to pursue its national security policies in drug producing and transit countries. The Plan Colombia is a perfect case in point.

    Certification is another tool the US has keenly used to force producing and transit countries to follow US policies. In order to "certify" (or "decertify") a given country, the US State Department evaluates on a regular basis the level of cooperation shown by that country with the US anti-drugs policies, and depending on how strong and committed that cooperation has been in its eyes, the US gives or denies its "seal of approval".

    Needles to say, decertification is no children's play. . On the one hand, it can have, and does have, serious implications insofar as the the credibility of the country concerned among the international community. On the other, it may have, and does have, dire economic and financial repercussions as well, including commercial restrictions, difficulties to obtain loans from international lending institutions and trade sanctions.

    And then, there is the icing on the cake: the so-called "aid programmes" such as the Mérida Initiative and the Plan Colombia, for instance.

    For starters, to call them "aid" is a misnomer, a seriously misleading one, for it leads people to believe that they are some sort of donation or gift, but they are not. They are, for all intents and purposes, something akin to "lending money to oneself".

    Even though they are expressed as X or Y amount of dollars, they are actually the equivalent in dollars of the goods and services provided by the "donor", in this case the US—usually helicopters, guns, security companies services, advisers, and so on and so forth.

    Estimates vary according to the specific destinations and objectives of any given "assistance programme", but in many cases the percentage remaining in the US could be as high as 90%.

    To add insult to injury, the counterpart, in this case Mexico or Colombia, is usually required to match, although not necessarily dollar to dollar, what it has received from the "donor".

    It is estimated, for instance, that Mexico spends 13 US dollars for every dollar the US "gives" to Mexico to enforce the War on Drugs. And guess what, the lion's share of this expenditure is not spent in goods and services provided by Mexican or Colombian companies, but by companies overseas, mainly US suppliers.

    One thing is for sure, US "aid" is not a gift to the countries concerned; rather, it is an economic mechanism to prop up industries and services in the US. As history has shown us again and again, every war has losers…but it has winners, too. And judging by what has happened over the last 50 years, I would say the biggest winners have been those who feed off and are fed by the war on drugs.

    Gart Valenc
    Twitter: @gartvalenc

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  4. Let's not argue about which of Big Brother's programs is "worse". They're all evil.

  5. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12”
    ? Saint Paul, The Epistles of Paul and Acts of the Apostles

  6. Obviously reading the above article many will accept this as it’s real so its great seeing an author thats stating this publically to read.

  7. Interestingly reading this topic many will resonate with this since its correct and it is pleasant to read from a poster that’s showing this publically to consider.

  8. Yes, that's true, NSA Spying isn’t a big deal since the drug war is worse. We all know that drug war is a worst problem, there should be an action with this matter.