The right wing has been screeching about President Obama's absence from the Paris Unity Rally over the weekend, but apparently they've got no problem whatsoever with the rank hypocrisy from the leaders who did show up. Don't expect this to be a blaring headline over at Faux "news" anytime soon.
They love to attack President Obama, but you won't see them going after the administration for their own hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of the press, because it would mean attacking their new BFF's Putin and Netanyahu as well, and we can't have that.
I could care less whether or not the Obama administration sent someone with a high enough profile to suit the right or not at the march. Actions and our policies matter, not whether someone shows up to lock arms while the lot of them talk out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to press freedom and the surveillance state.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about this latest news out of France.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, well, I mean, first of all, you know, what we saw yesterday on display, on the one hand, was very heartening, to see so many people come into the streets. And, you know, one of the core issues of press freedom, if this is a moment where the whole world is saying we have to have a free press, and that no matter how controversial or hateful some of the speech is or may be interpreted in some communities, that we judge a free press by how we treat the journalists or the stories that we don’t like or that we’re offended by.
But on the other hand, this is sort of a circus of hypocrisy when it comes to all of those world leaders who were marching at the front of it. I mean, every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments there have waged their own wars against journalists. You know, David Cameron ordered The Guardian to smash with a hammer the hard drives that stored the files of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Blasphemy is considered a crime in Ireland. You had multiple African and Arab leaders whose own countries right now have scores of journalists in prison. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel has targeted for killing numerous journalists who have reported on the Palestinian side, have kidnapped, abducted, jailed journalists. You know, there’s this controversy right now: Why didn’t President Obama go, or why didn’t Joe Biden go? You know, Eric Holder was there already and was representing the United States.
I think that we should remember—and I was saying this on Twitter over the weekend—that Yemen should have sent the Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye as their representative. He, of course, was in prison for years on the direct orders of President Obama for having reported on secret U.S. strikes in Yemen that killed scores of civilians. Or Sudan should have sent Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera cameraman who was held for six years without charge in Guantánamo and repeatedly interrogated by U.S. operatives who were intent on proving that Al Jazeera had some sort of a link to al-Qaeda. So, you know, while there is much to take heart in, in terms of this huge outpouring of support for freedom of the press, hypocrisy was on full display in the streets of Paris when it came to the world leaders.
AMY GOODMAN: Reporters Without Borders issued a statement saying it, quote, "condemns [the] presence of 'predators' in [the] Paris march," and, quote, "is appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt ... Russia ... Turkey ... and United Arab Emirates." A Gabonese journalist covering the march expressed similar reservations about his president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, participating in the event.
GABONESE JOURNALIST: [translated] He banned demonstrations in his own country and is coming to a demonstration in France. That’s intolerable for us. It’s a complete hypocrisy. We’re here not only to show our outrage for what happened to Charlie Hebdo, but also to show our outrage over the fact that dictators like Ali Bongo Ondimba are present here in Paris, in a country that supports human rights, at an assembly that is in fact dedicated to freedom of expression, freedom of the press.
AMY GOODMAN: That, a Gabonese journalist covering the march, expressing reservations about his president participating in the march, Jeremy.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, and then you have—you know, you have General Sisi, the dictator of Egypt, who apparently is showing his solidarity for press freedom by continuing to preside over the imprisonment of multiple Al Jazeera journalists whose only crime was doing actual journalism and scores of other Egyptian journalists that never get mentioned in the news media.
Another thing that I think is really absent from a lot of the coverage of the aftermath of this horrific massacre is that France also is a surveillance state. And France has a very Islamophobic position toward their immigrant community, but also toward second- and third-generation Arabs or people from other Muslim countries who have settled inside of France. And there’s going to be an intense—intensification of an already overreaching surveillance system inside of France.
You know, some months ago I was on the show talking about the U.S. watchlisting system, and one of the things that we heard when we were doing this report on how you end up on the no-fly list or on the watchlist was that people within the U.S. counterterrorism community, who are actually trying to prevent acts of terrorism from happening, say that they’re flooded in information and that if everyone is on the watchlist, effectively no one is on the watchlist when it comes to actually looking at who might be engaged in these kinds of terror plots.
A similar phenomenon is happening in Paris, France. You know, people talk about an intelligence failure, an intelligence breakdown. When you are putting people on these lists for monitoring or surveillance based on flimsy or circumstantial evidence, what that means is that you overload your own bureaucracy. So, on the one hand, you have a surveillance state that unfairly targets Muslims and immigrants, in both the United States and in France, and on the other hand, you have a system that is intended to stop acts of terrorism or to monitor people that are plotting acts of terrorism that has become its own hindrance, its own biggest obstacle to actually figuring out the reality of these plots.
And let’s remember, while horrifying and reprehensible, these incidents represent a relatively minor threat to Western society. You know, in terms of the actual threats facing our society, this doesn’t even rank in the top five. And so, you know, to have this kind of a reaction is not only a waste of a tremendous amount of money, but it is going to encourage, I think, future acts of terrorism. Read on...