Kofi?! Not Kofi!

One leading complaint about the ongoing NSA data-collection scandal from those truly in the know is how the press has focused so much on Edward Snowden’s own story (e.g. his views towards his native land, his struggle to find asylum, etc.) to the detriment of setting out and analyzing for the public just what it is that American intelligence agencies have been getting away with and why that matters.

Unfortunately, we can today see a further example of this from no less than Die Welt. The headline to their particular piece reads “Kofi Annan was also spied upon”, and the lede:

The NSA eavesdropping scandal continues to enrage minds. But the past shows us that large-scale spy-actions are nothing new. Even UN General Secretary Kofi Annan was spied upon.

And sure enough, there he is: a head-shot of Annan looking serious and pensive is right there at the top.

It’s really rather bizarre if you go on and read into the article that reporters Ansgar Graw* and Julia Smirnova actually wrote, though. “Kofi”? Who’s that? It’s Snowden, Snowden, and more Snowden. Will he get asylum? Will he just stay in Russia? What has happened to change Ecuador’s mind about accepting him? Did he himself even write the letter which was recently made public in which he complained about how the US government was treating him? (It is riddled with British spellings which he presumably would not use.)

In short, there is this strange, wide cleft between headline and lede (and picture) on the one hand, and the article’s actual body of information. Of course, it is editors who generally provide the former as a piece is whipped into shape for publication. It’s also true that the fact that Kofi Annan (and all other UN Secretaries-General) were spied upon by US authorities is returned to at the article’s very end (under the section-heading “Eavesdropping happened always and everywhere”).

But that attitude of “nothing new here” itself seriously downplays the sheer ignominy of the new surveillance developments that Snowden revealed, e.g. how wide-ranging the survellance abuse was (including its coverage of leading European allies), to what lengths Obama administration officials were willing to go to lie about them, and the like. As does of course the People magazine-style obsession with Snowden’s own personal tale – we are being let down by our journalists, in whichever language.

* Doesn’t his name seem like it got mangled in a spelling-machine somewhere? Or that perhaps it should really be spelled backwards?

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