Tuesday night on his show “All In With Chris Hayes” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes made an analogy that has been made a lot over the last two weeks in the wake of the current NSA leak scandal plaguing the nation. Hayes, like civil liberties hawk Glenn Greenwald, brought up the massive Government surveillance experienced by civil rights leaders of the 1950’s and 60’s, most notably Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hayes walked his audience through audio taped quotes offered up by then President John F. Kennedy who expressed concern over aligning himself with MLK saying that King coming to the White House was like “ (Karl) Marx coming to the White House.” Kennedy also referred to King as being “our boy.” There was also the public admittance of authorized wire taps of the home and various hotel rooms of MLK by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Combine that with the ruthlessness exhibited by then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and you come to the conclusion that what King and others like him faced is something that is on a completely different level.
I like Hayes, in large part because his work and political ideology pretty much line up with my own so I think that it is a safe assumption to make that he wasn’t saying the admitted NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden is the same type of martyr that Dr. King was or is. While Snowden is, in my opinion, already being unfairly treated and will be unfairly prosecuted by his government he still has certain advantages. How many people of color who weren’t born into a middle class family and just so happened to be a high school dropout would land a good paying job with an American consulting firm that has secured millions in Government contracts over the years.
More importantly here is where Hayes got it right. There is Government overreach taking place with the NSA leak scandal. Individual Americans are having their phone calls listened to, their text messages screened despite President Obama’s assurances that safeguards are in place to prevent these things. Is this intrusion to the level of what Dr. King and others faced in the 60’s, probably not but we don’t know that for sure because so much of the information is classified. Elected officials in Congress can’t even get on the same page in terms of whether or not they have been briefed on the information.
The backlash that Hayes received on Twitter was typical. Everything from the theory that invoking Dr. King’s name was a ploy to draw in African-Americans who haven’t been that responsive to the NSA leak story to white liberals caring more about “fake” Government spying cases more than black and brown kids being “Stopped and Frisked” on the streets of New York City.
First of all in defense of Hayes, his work has taken on everything from Stop and Frisk to mass incarcerations of people of color to the right’s assault on America’s public school system and how it effects young black and brown kids. Secondly, while some white liberals have been tone deaf to the plight of people of color in certain areas (one example being the silence of some prominent white feminists concerning The Onion’s disgusting tweet of 9 year old actress Quvenzhane Wallis back in March) that doesn’t mean the issues of poor black and brown men, women, and children have been completely absent from liberal websites, blogs and television shows.
At the risk of going all Tavis or Cornell, a large portion if not all of the backlash that Hayes and liberals like him receive is due to the notion that to a lot of people on the left feel as though Barack Obama should not be criticized in any shape, form, or fashion. I wonder how many of the B.O. supporters would be as up in arms if the far left were criticizing President Bill Clinton for spying on everyday Americans, I would imagine that there would be more silence. I understand the urge for people who are intrigued by politics to defend or even blindly trust “their guy”. If Barack Obama says everything is being followed to the full letter of the law and nobody’s phone calls are being listened to then most people who pulled that lever in that voting booth for him will say okay and go about their business. What happens though, god forbid if President Marco Rubio, or really god forbid President Ted Cruz says the same thing in four or five years.
Hayes wrapped up the opening portion of his program on Tuesday by interviewing the legendary civil rights icon Julian Bond, who talked about receiving his own file that was compiled by the FBI and why they spent their time watching him and not catching real criminals. Bond also wondered about our elected officials doing things that they shouldn’t “Governments do these kinds of things and once they do them they can’t control them.” he exclaimed.
When asked about Barack Obama and whether he trusts the Obama Administration on the handling of these matters Bond said “ I’m conflicted too, I have a lot of trust I want to trust, but I’ve seen this happen before, I seen us go down this road before and I’m afraid we may well go down this road right now. I don’t see anyone stopping it or telling me we are not doing it. Just telling me to trust people is not enough for me.”
If a legend like Julian Bond, who has experienced the wrath Government surveillance firsthand is saying that blind trust is not the remedy he should be listened too. Apparently Chris Hayes is listening and that’s why he is absolutely right on this issue.