Is MoveOn Less Progressive Than the New York Times Editorial Board?

too-much-nsa-350The New York Times is hardly a progressive newspaper — but when it comes to the surveillance state and ongoing militarism of the Obama White House, the establishment’s “paper of record” puts to shame.

And so, the same day that the Times editorialized to excoriate President Obama for his latest betrayal of civil liberties, MoveOn sent out a huge email blast sucking up to Obama.

The Times was blunt in its Saturday editorial: “By the time President Obama gave his news conference on Friday, there was really only one course to take on surveillance policy from an ethical, moral, constitutional and even political point of view. And that was to embrace the recommendations of his handpicked panel on government spying — and bills pending in Congress — to end the obvious excesses. He could have started by suspending the constitutionally questionable (and evidently pointless) collection of data on every phone call and email that Americans make.”

But, the newspaper added: “He did not do any of that.”

As the Times editorial went on to say, “any actions that Mr. Obama may announce next month would certainly not be adequate. Congress has to rewrite the relevant passage in the Patriot Act that George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama claimed — in secret — as the justification for the data vacuuming.”

Let’s reiterate that the Times is far from a progressive outlet. It serves as a highly important megaphone for key sectors of corporate/political elites. Voicing the newspaper’s official stance, its editorials are often deferential to spin and half-truths from favored political figures. And much of the paper’s news coverage feeds off the kind of newspeak that spews out of the Executive Branch and Congress.

But on crucial matters of foreign policy, militarism and surveillance, the contrast between Times editorials and MoveOn is stunning. The “progressive” netroots organization has rarely managed to clear a low bar of independence from reprehensible Obama policies.

Instead, millions of people on MoveOn’s list are continually deluged with emails pretending that Republicans are the only major problem in Washington — while nearly always ignoring Obama administration policies that are antithetical to basic progressive values.

And so, on the same day the New York Times was ripping into Obama’s latest affront to civil liberties and privacy rights, MoveOn was sending out a mass email that began by quoting from Obama’s 2008 convention acceptance speech — as though his five-year record as president still makes him an apt source of inspiration: “The change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.”

After five years, MoveOn seems not to have noticed what the New York Times editorial board has often pointed out: that some of the change Obama has brought to Washington has not been in a progressive direction. As the Times put it in a follow-up editorial Sunday, at his latest news conference Obama “insisted that there was no evidence that the phone surveillance program was being abused — a truly disturbing assessment given all the revelations since June.”

As usual, the MoveOn email did not include a single word of criticism, much less challenge, of Obama. Instead, the email blamed Congress for all the political obstacles to needed “change.”

norman solomonThis is typical. Year after year of the Obama presidency, MoveOn has been routinely silent on such crucial matters as U.S. drone and cruise missile strikes across borders, war in Afghanistan, assaults on press freedom and whistleblowers, and methodical undermining of precious civil liberties.

The intertwined warfare state and surveillance state have little to fear from MoveOn. And that’s tragic.

Norman Solomon


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    The good news is that at least MoveOn and NYT each align only 95% with the latest self-serving stance of the Obama White House. Of course, most of the time, all three are in sync. For instance, all of them agree that, as long as Assad uses NON-chemical weapons, he should continue to slaughter and displace the people of Syria. All of them love ‘peace’ agreements like the wonderful ‘deal’ with Iran. Namely, Iran terror-theocrats are OK-d to work on nuke weapons and missiles, so long as for six months they observe a few basic rules: FIRST build the roads and buildings, and THEN use them to install the plutonium reactors.

  2. Joseph Maizlish says

    Re: Normal Solomon article “Is MoveOn to the Right of the New York
    Times Editorial Board?”

    MoveOn, for all its weaknesses, assisted hundreds of vigils
    against U.S. bombing of Syria. That was valuable.

    The NY Times calling for curtailing surveillance doesn’t mean it
    too isn’t “chickening out.” The NYT, along with most critics of
    the surveillance, doesn’t discuss the surveillance in terms of its
    relative effectiveness in serving its stated purpose, “keeping
    Americans safe” and compare that with the expectable effectiveness
    of other ways to achieve that narrow but worthy goal.

    To the extent that the surveillance is really about its stated
    purpose of opposing terrorism and “keeping Americans safe,” it is
    a grossly inefficient approach, especially when compared to the
    obvious alternative. What is officially (and selectively) called
    “terrorism” is in part a violent reaction against the seventy
    years of U.S. government and corporate efforts to control the
    politics and resources of the middle east region. The government
    decision-makers seem determined to maintain those policies rather
    than change them, whatever they cost in terms of “American
    liberties,” “American lives,” or the presumably less valuable
    lives and liberties of the policies’ direct victims.

    Opposition to the
    on the limited basis of privacy concerns forfeits the public
    debate on the security aspect to the “keep us safe from the
    badguys” justification/excuse. Since many people, perhaps most,
    will reasonably acquiesce to or even support intrusions on their
    privacy if they believe them necessary to save their lives, the
    narrow objection to the surveillance has hard going
    politically. Worse yet, focusing exclusively on U.S. privacy
    rights without regard for the oppressive impacts of the foreign
    policy supports the exceptionalist mentality which
    enables the policies destructive policies which in turn contribute
    to the oppression and hostility which in turn feeds the attacks
    the surveillance is supposed to save us from.

    Everyone loses — even those fully (but uselessly) employed in the
    security apparatus who could have constructive jobs!

    Let’s broaden our critique. No exceptions on privacy rights — or
    human rights.

    Joseph Maizlish

    Los Angeles

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