Obama’s Wired Opportunity Is Odd

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

September 6, 2016

That Barack Obama harnessed the internet in a campaign noteworthy for its web-wizardry is no doubt why he was tapped by Wired to contribute an article in November. Given his penchant for being politically and publicity savvy, it is likely that one of the conditions was that it appears in time to influence the presidential election.

This condition was met because Wired will be available on newsstands nationwide on October 25, two weeks before Election Day. Political pros don’t miss a trick.  In the article, Obama will also likely re-frame the recent Democratic primary, during which he and his presidency had been savaged. Look for a more favorable portrayal of his presidency, to be sure.

A key phenomenon is becoming apparent when viewing the current political scene in the U.S., and which highlights the importance of Bernie Sanders’ ill-fated run. Bernie Sanders seemed to offer the hope of some fresh air in government – maybe even extending to the subjects of surveillance versus privacy. We know now for sure from the WikiLeaks email dump that the fix was in, and the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, was the choice all along to be coronated.

Similarly, Donald Trump, however bombastic, crude, and insulting mad he is, is still making waves as an anti-establishment outsider who is running not only against Clinton, but also the Republican establishment machine. Trust me;  it’s less Trump’s style that turns them off, than the notion that if he should somehow win, they will not get to dip their beaks so much into the generous government money coffers, because he will have done the worst thing imaginable – to upset the status quo.

From my vantage point, I can’t gauge the effect a Trump presidency would have on civil liberties, privacy, and mass government surveillance, because he is all over the map on so many issues that it is often difficult to know where he stands. Some doubt that even he knows what is going to be said next!

But as Hillary Clinton keeps genuflecting to Obama in order to court his former constituency staple, and gain more than ninety percent of the black vote, I think I know what a Clinton presidency would do for privacy and transparency – especially given her record and proven penchant for secrecy and obfuscation. It, coupled with the Obama administration’s lack of transparency, does not bode well for individual liberty and privacy in the next administration.

That’s why the forewarning that Obama will guest-edit a piece in November’s edition of Wired is such a head-scratcher and perplexing to me, though totally understandable from one who is obsessed with an attempt to rewrite his real legacy. That, after all, and despite promises to do the opposite, is the least transparent presidency in history, including Richard Nixon’s!

Consider that more journalists have been prosecuted under this president for merely doing their jobs than in all other presidencies combined! At the same time, it has disregarded, dodged, delayed and just plain stonewalled the most Freedom of Information Act requests than of any previous presidency. As Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, notes,

It’s incredibly unfortunate when someone waits months, or perhaps years, to get a response to their request – only to be told that the agency can’t find anything.

Consider, too, that “the government counted 250,024 times when it could not find records, a person refused to pay for documents or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.” So how, with this record of obfuscation and ignominy, does Obama merit a contribution in what is purported to be a transparent organ of digital communication and the nation’s leading technology and science magazine?

For its part, Wired insists that though a sitting president has never guest-edited for any newspaper or journal, this will just be a normal extension of how the Internet and the digital age have evolved allowing for such an opportunity.

So, it might have to do with the Obama campaign’s internet mastery and how it secured his office as he raked in cash from internet donations hand over fist. It was this same techno-advantage that Obama had which allowed him to cow and dupe journalists to report the administration’s line during his tenure as president.

In the past, Obama has been very reticent about revealing details of his web-wizardry, not to mention very guarded about lending the apparatus to cohorts and candidates. The big question is, will he come clean in Wired, or merely write a puff-piece to further burnish his legacy?

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