The Problem With the ‘Privacy Moderates’
Before you reject Conor Friedersdorf’s analysis you might see what other articles that he has authored. You might find that you agree with him much of the time on other subjects.
What if I told you that the surveillance state goes too far in secretly spying on innocent Americans — but that Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who exposed the scope of data collection, and Glenn Greenwald, the recipient of his leaks, shouldn’t be regarded as exalted heroes?
That sort of non sequitur isn’t my style. But if I wrote such a sentence in earnest, you’d know to identify me as a “privacy moderate.”
These are the Americans who acknowledge, as a consequence of recent revelations, that the national-security state ought to be subject to more oversight, debate, scrutiny, and restrictions, but can’t bring themselves to rhetorically ally themselves with the people championing those reforms. Instead, they contrive frames that enable them to criticize both the surveillance state and its antagonists, as if the excesses of both sides are commensurately important and worrisome. Sometimes they even attack critics of the NSA more energetically than the surveillance state itself. To borrow a phrase, their lukewarm acceptance of the civil-libertarian critique is more bewildering than outright rejection. They fail to follow their own judgment where it leads.
The “privacy moderate” has been everywhere in recent weeks, a non sequitur always at the ready. Yes, let’s debate the tradeoffs between privacy and security, they say, but “Edward Snowden’s no hero,” they inject, as if excessive regard for Snowden poses a threat of some kind.
Even sensible analysis is becoming polluted by the pathologies of the “privacy moderate.”