Snowden and A-Rod: Partners in “Crime”

Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez’s suspension was, per ESPN, “cut down” to 162 games. Ian O’Connor, writing for ESPN, talked about Rodriguez’s “legacy” and how it would suffer in the years to come. Anyone with a finger on the pulse of the BBWAA knew already that Rodriguez would never make the Hall of Fame despite having all of the necessary credentials; Jeff Bagwell and now Craig Biggio know that all you need is for one person with a big ego and a paycheck from a scandal rag to turn you into a suspected steroid user, even though there is literally no proof of wrongdoing. Rodriguez, for whom there is some level of proof, will be facing a season-long suspension because Major League Baseball decided they wanted him to. All of us remember the Ryan Braun hearings, in which the arbitrator who found for Braun instead of MLB was fired. Frederic Horowitz, presumably knowing which side his bread was buttered on, found for MLB against Rodriguez. Does it seem likely that Rodriguez used steroids? Sure. And did MLB buy “Biogenesis documents from a guy who got them from a guy who stole them from a guy who stole them from Biogenesis“? And did MLB threaten lawsuits against Tony Bosch, a man that the league referred to as a drug dealer, in order to get him to cooperate?

Meanwhile, Edward Snowden remains in Russia, continuing to hope for asylum. Time’s runner-up for Man of the Year in 2013 (and in a universe where we would rather fete a pope for his ability to internalize fifty pages of the New Testament instead of remember that he was no Oscar Romero in his relationship with the Argentine junta of the 1980s, no one is surprised) gained infamy as the man who dared to tell the world that the United States government was (extra-legally, though see comments on Horowitz above) spying on its citizens through the NSA’s unprecedented phone taps. Snowden got the ball rolling in late 2012 when he first spoke to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras about his intentions, and became a household name in June, when those documents first began to trickle out. Should he return to his native land, he will meet a fate not unlike Chelsea Manning’s. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans sit in the back of the SUV, putting their index fingers millimeters from Congressional Democrats’ noses, yelling, “I’m not touching you!” Congressional Democrats cry, “Neener neener neener!” in return. A recession continues and one-quarter of this nation’s children live in poverty, and a bipartisan effort to pull up the federal government’s pants after Snowden stole its belt grinds on.

The figure who has most fascinated me in the Snowden affair is Greenwald, who has became one of the faces of the leak due to Snowden’s understandable desire for personal secrecy. Greenwald has repeatedly stated, on Twitter and in interviews, that the results of the Snowden affair will go a long way in determining the state of a free press in the United States; what Greenwald refers to as good investigative journalism is referred, rather rashly (and to be fair, he has apologized for this statement) by those like Rep. Peter King as treason. There is, however, a moment which stands out to me as especially instructive in the Snowden affair; it is the moment which connects Rodriguez to Snowden.

One Sunday morning, I was refreshing my Internet pages when I found a link to the interview where David Gregory of Meet the Press asked Greenwald why he shouldn’t be charged with a crime for releasing Snowden’s leaks. Greenwald was, understandably, amazed. You should watch the video (or find the whole interview on YouTube, preferably), but Greenwald’s basic reaction — “How does one so-called journalist accuse another for plying his trade well?” — resonated with me. And the answer, really, is terribly simple: follow the money.

A David Gregory’s existence is based on his ability to break political stories. An Ian O’Connor or Jerry Crasnick’s existence is based on his ability to write on baseball stories. And it cannot surprise us when the reporters who rely on the powerful base of the White House or the offices of Major League Baseball become little more than walking press releases. Maybe, if the David Gregorys of the world cooperate a little less, they break fewer stories. And if they break fewer stories, and if they break the networks they have so painstakingly built in order to go against the base, why would the base use them to preach their evangel? There’s another David Gregory or Jerry Crasnick out there just waiting to play Howard Beale for the base’s Arthur Jensen. At least O’Connor had the guts to say that Selig ought to have testified in the arbitration; Crasnick all but suggests that suspending Rodriguez has made up for Selig’s utter negligence in the Steroid ’90s. Crasnick knows what side his bread is buttered on.

In a perfect world, journalists would be iconoclasts instead of foot-kissers, having the ambition to tear at the base’s arrogance instead of being their bird dogs. That would require courage, though. It would require cutting off bases of supply every now and then. It would require more introspection than genuflection; it would mean taking drinks to the face instead of sipping scotch with The Famous. It means that David Gregory puts Keith Alexander on the show and asks why he shouldn’t be indicted, and it means that Jerry Crasnick writes a column asking why the MLBPA is lying down and letting a union member get crucified. 

ESPN.com’s top story today (1/12/2014) claims that Rodriguez meant to reach 800 home runs. You can hear the scandal. How dare he scale those heights. How dare he try to break holy records by unholy means. And how dare Snowden expose federal sins and secrets, and how dare he leave the country rather than face “justice.”

I guess I’m trying to figure out what’s the good of having a First Amendment if you aren’t going to use the darn thing?

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