The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

91° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mainstream media losing focus on real issue of Snowden case

    Edward Snowden’s story is making for good TV.

    Or no, maybe it’s the big screen his story truly belongs on. After all, Tom Hanks played an earnest do-gooder stuck in a foreign airport in “The Terminal” nearly a decade ago and the people are always hungry for another airport-based romantic comedy.

    “Espionage, Russia, the pole-dancing girlfriend”, it’s a Tom Clancy novel just waiting to be written. And it wouldn’t hurt if he had a striped shirt and matching hat that Snowden would suspiciously resemble a certain missing fellow by the name of Waldo.

    Yes, Snowden is all over the place lately but maybe his story of avoiding extradition and seeking asylum from the United States’ biggest rivals isn’t what we should be spending our time watching and focusing on. Questions and debate still remains about what Snowden initially broke to the American public and the mainstream media just isn’t covering it enough.

    The question of “Where’s Snowden?” is taking the spotlight off the real issue that is keeping Snowden stuck in transit in the first place. The NSA’s policies regarding American security and the lines they are willing to blur between Big Brother keeping an eye out against those wishing to do us harm, and our government spying on innocent civilians, should be the main focus.

    Early in June, Snowden released public documents to The Guardian, revealing that the National Security Agency was monitoring the phone calls and Internet use of American and British civilians in an attempt to thwart potential terrorist threats, but simultaneously infringing on privacy rights of everyday citizens. Initially there was some outrage from the public and some media outlets such as the New York Times. Writer Maureen Dowd covered the controversy and made the story something worth talking about.

    But soon things began to change in Snowden’s journey and so did the coverage right alongside it, specifically the cable news networks. When Snowden’s various attempts to seek exile in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Iceland were all denied, he ended up stuck in an airport in Russia where Putin seemingly wants nothing to do with him.

    With Snowden’s possible destination in constant flux, the 24 hour cable news networks have shifted their coverage away from the real story and instead fixated on the details that should be on the periphery of their reporting.

    In the broadcast journalism world where first is often considered best, stations like Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN obsess over breaking the news before anyone else just so they can win the always important numbers game.

    UA professor of cultural anthropology and instructor of several honors classes pertaining to privacy issues and surveillance, Victor Braitberg, similarly feels that the details regarding Snowden and his personal life and whereabouts are trivial when compared to the real issue at hand.

    “I think that focusing on Snowden the individual, his motivations, what will become of him, his girlfriend, how much money he made, his educational background, etc…are all of little or no importance and are only distractions for the real issues that we should be thinking about,” said Braitberg.

    Braitberg also added that he believes that a worldwide movement is growing and beginning to reject ultra-invasive security policies. “I think what we have here is a public, or maybe better a social movement that seems to be forming around issues of surveillance, transparency, and unchecked state power. But this is a concern shared by people who belong to many different nations,” said Braitberg. “I think we have on our hands a transnational anti-secrecy movement that is still relatively insignificant in terms of numbers and political clout but seems to be growing as a movement and I think will continue to over time.”

    However, these movements may struggle to grow if the most widely viewed media stations continue to reject the most important aspects of stories, like in the example of the Snowden case.

    Marty Kaplan, a professor at University of Southern California who keenly studies how the press, culture, and politics impact our society, recently said in an interview with Bill Moyers how media can turn its focus away from real issues in order to fit a certain agenda.

    “That’s what circuses are about, is to distract us and make us happy while we’re being distracted. The challenge is not only to give us the information that we should be paying attention to and to do it in a way which keeps our attention, the challenge is also what do we as citizen with that,” said Kaplan.

    He went on to say, “And I think there is an aspect of journalism which is afraid of taking that extra step and empowering citizens or covering the citizens who have empowered themselves to try to make a difference.”

    In a recent poll conducted by the Huffington Post, 38 percent of Americans think Snowden did the wrong thing in revealing the NSA’s surveillance program while 33 percent said he did the right thing and 29 percent remain unsure.

    Maybe those numbers would shift dramatically if the mainstream media did a better job of arousing debate and making the public interested in what is going on in the shadowy hallways of the Pentagon.

    True journalism is a service that provides the public with information on important issues that affect our lives, and a forum to spark public debate and discussion on the things that affect us the most. But right now it seems the breaking news of Snowden’s recent visit to the Sheremetyevo International Airport’s Cinnabon demands more of our attention.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search