If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, then we’ve lost the will to pay it

This morning’s Observer column on apparent public indifference to pervasive Internet surveillance.

What’s even more alarming is that the one group of professionals who really ought to be alert to the danger are journalists. After all, these are the people who define news as “something that someone powerful does not want published”, who pride themselves on “holding government to account” or sometimes, when they’ve had a few drinks, on “speaking truth to power”. And yet, in their reactions to the rolling scoops published by the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Der Spiegel, many of them seem to have succumbed either to a weird kind of spiteful envy, or to a desire to act as the unpaid stenographers to the security services and their political masters.

We’ve seen this before, of course, notably in the visceral hatred directed towards WikiLeaks by the mainstream media in both this country and the US. As I read the vitriol being heaped on Julian Assange, I wondered how the press would have reacted if Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning had handed his CD downloads to the editor of the Des Moines Register who had then published them. Would that editor have been lauded as a champion of freedom, or vilified as a traitor warranting summary assassination?

Last week in the US, we saw a welcome sign that some people in journalism have woken up to the existential threat posed by the NSA to their profession – and, by implication, to political freedom…

Full text.