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Why did US media ignore Jimmy Carter’s remarks on Edward Snowden?

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter gestures before delivering a speech at a hotel in Yangon on April 5, 2013.
Soe Zeya Tun | Reuters
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter gestures before delivering a speech at a hotel in Yangon on April 5, 2013.
Posted July 31, 2013, at 1:16 p.m.

Anyone is naive who thinks the commonly available sources for news in the U.S. are effectively superior to the Soviet news organization Pravda, whose Orwellian name is a hybrid noun meaning both “truth” and “justice.” There seems to be little difference between the dominant news organ of the old U.S.S.R. and U.S. corporate media, which might just as well have a single outlet perhaps titled “Fairalanced” (an English hybrid noun I just made up, meaning both “fair” and “balanced”).

Here in Germany, where I am spending the summer, I have just discovered a stunning illustration of this reality. In mid-July, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on remarks made by Jimmy Carter in his home state of Georgia in which he defended the actions of Edward Snowden and called his revelations “useful,” declared the National Security Agency “has gone too far,” and concluded, “America does not have a functioning democracy at this time.”

This is truly mind-blowing stuff, and yet the American press has played it almost strictly hands off. Eight days after the Hamburg-based weekly, one of continental Europe’s most influential news magazines, reported what the former U.S. president had to say, there had been only a couple of brief reports in the U.S. news media, most from virtually unknown outlets taken secondhand from Der Spiegel at least three or four days after the German news magazine went to press.

I checked out Google News at this time and typed in “Carter.” Surely, I thought, that would be sufficient to cue up anything of such significance about the former American president.

After passing over an ad for Carter’s baby clothes, I came upon a link to someone’s blog mentioning President Carter’s recent remarks about the George Zimmerman trial but nothing about anything he might have had to say about Snowden or the decline of democracy in America. This was followed by a promotion about how “Peggy Carter kicks so much ass” in the new “Agent Carter” short by MTV, a Seattle Times review of a concert including work by the late composer Elliott Carter, then the former president once more, this time talking about what he sees as the increasing difficulty of achieving peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

After a collection of articles about Helena Bonham Carter’s role in a just-aired British TV biopic of Elizabeth Taylor, I finally hit pay dirt. The biweekly magazine The New American was the first listed source to report on Carter’s recent remarks in Atlanta via Der Spiegel regarding Snowden and his grim but increasingly evident conclusion that this nation is no longer a functioning democracy.

The New American bills itself as “the essential news source for freedom-loving Americans.” Maybe it is, but a little research reveals that this magazine is published by American Opinion Publishing, a wholly owned subsidiary of The John Birch Society, a group that advocates for limited government.

I don’t know what this world is coming to.

It takes a German news magazine, which I must rely on my daughter and son-in-law to translate for me (Der Spiegel’s abbreviated English language edition omits this story), or a homegrown, right-wing rag to tell me that one of our four living ex-presidents — the only one of them doing anything honorable and useful in his post-presidential life — that my country is going to hell.

Peter Taber of Searsport is a former journalist.

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