When it comes to Edward Snowden, the London Times of 1851 was ahead of the New York Times of 2013

After a summer of media denunciations of Edward Snowden, I thought this comment from Robert Lowe, a 19th century Liberal who opposed the extension of the franchise and other progressive measures, was especially apt. Lowe was a frequent editorialist in the London Times; this is from a piece he wrote in 1851.*

The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. The statesman collects his information secretly and by secret means; he keeps back even the current intelligence of the day with ludicrous precautions, until diplomacy is beaten in the race with publicity. The Press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history of our times….For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences—to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world.

It’s hard to believe in progress when a Times editorialist in 1851 is out in front of Times editorialists in 2013…

*Cited in Alexander Cockburn, A Colossal Wreck, a posthumously published memoir of the 1990s and 2000s by the wonderful radical journalist, which just came out this year.

One Comment

  1. Tom September 2, 2013 at 7:36 am | #

    When it comes to the disclosures over the call database, those were first revealed in 2006, and the reaction of the press, public, and congress has been somewhat different after Snowden leaked some minor confirmation of the program.

    The NYT withholding the warrantless wiretapping story until after the 2004 election is an entirely different situation.

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