Cutting Off Debate on Snowden at The New York Times


  1. New York Times blogger Robert MacKey is certainly capable of covering controversies about Edward Snowden fairly --- he did so on Thursday, when he covered Snowden's propaganda show with Putin. But on Friday, when MacKey covered Snowden's op-ed piece in the Guardian justifying himself to critics, both MacKey and comments moderators cut off debate about Snowden.

    Take a look at his Thursday blog on Snowden's TV question to Putin to establish several things typical of MacKey's blogs -- they are long, you  have to scroll down through all the tweets and videos and links in them; they include some alternative voices, even though it's clear he shares the Times's general support and enthusiasm for Snowden; and he updates it throughout the day -- in this case, the last date stamp is at 5:11 pm. That anyone would question the nature of MacKey's blogs -- including MacKey himself! -- seems preposterous on the face of it, given that they are obviously a) always long b) always updated throughout the day and the last date stamp  is shown; c) and *do* include on occasion alternative views.

    To be sure, looking through all his entries, sure, you'll find short blogs, say on Iran, that date stamp in the early afternoon and aren't updated. But the center of gravity here is long, scrolling, liveblog style commentary on topics, updated regularly throughout the date. So let's see how this story developed and what happened ultimately to cut off debate.

  2. Right away, after tweeting his NYT colleagues' news about the call-in show, MacKey establishes that he is capable of absorbing and retweeting a critical comment about the obvious thing to say about Snowden's disingenuous question: SORM (the FSB's system for monitoring  communications).
  3. MacKey retweets a critical comment from Appelbaum which essentially acknowledges the issue at play here: this is a propaganda stunt. Yeah, we get it that "RT does not equal endorsement" but everyone knows that RTs really are usually about signalling at least *validation* of a perspective if not *agreement*.
  4. His fellow NYT correspondent seems to see this co-optation of Snowden's critique even of himself as a "stunning in-your-face move".

  5. For those following's Ivor Crotty, an inveterate Kremlin apologist, this is a funny interchange, also showing MacKey's proper journalistic skepticism to this propaganda stunt -- OF COURSE Snowden's question had to be selected and approved and did not appear spontaneously when it involved the president of Russia! Croty feigns surprise.
  6. But soon MacKey is letting us know where his real sentiments lie by RTing Greenwald who instantly begins to ridicule anyone criticizing Snowden.
  7. MacKey fails to press further on the issue of just when Crotty knew that question was coming, given his position at

  8. Interestingly, MacKey later RTs Soldatov, because Soldatov now has suddenly appeared to offer a way out for all those Snowden supporters made easy by Snowden's cooptation -- why, it's "starting a national conversation" (remember how much that phrase was manipulated in our own country?). There is no doubt in my mind that MacKey shares Soldatov's take on this -- because of his next blog after the Guardian piece. I believe it's because it helped him rescue the hero Snowden out of the critique that even MacKey had to give Snowden in the first piece.
  9. Here MacKey RT's his own piece about the Snowden/Putin show, and CC's the critics in the piece, Myroslav Petsa, the Ukrainian journalist who aptly asked -- why doesn't Snowden ask about Durov?! -- and Anne Applebaum, who dubbed it a propaganda show.

  10. But the next day, MacKey starts a new blog, because now he sees that Snowden is "defending his part in Putin forum" at the Guardian. This is in keeping with an established pattern of the NYT on *every single* Snowden criticism that is ever covered in their newspaper, i.e. with the stories on the CIA in Geneva. They rush to get the "other side" from Snowden or his "lawyers" or supporters because they are uneasy with the criticism. This isn't just good news reporting, or they'd put that balance of *criticism* every time they run a glowing piece about Snowden including directly from Snowden himself. But it works in the other direction -- any time they are forced to cover criticism of Snowden, they rush to cancel it out with Snowden's own spin which really seem incredible.