The Profound Hypocrisy of a Clintonian State Department

Hillary Clinton, whose State Department has been involved in overseeing renditioning, who ran for president in 2008 on a more pro-torture platform than John McCain, has condemned Turkey for human rights abuses. In particular, Turkey has cracked down on journalists and has plans to restrict internet freedom.

In 1998, responding to the internet gossip about her husband’s sex scandals in the Oval Office, Clinton lamented that the World Wide Web had no “kind of editing function or gatekeeping function,” presumably wishing there were such functions to be handled by the federal government. She elaborated:

I don’t have any clue about what we’re going to do legally, regulatorily, technologically—I don’t have a clue. But I do think we always have to keep competing interests in balance. I’m a big pro-balance person. That’s why I love the founders—checks and balances; accountable power. Anytime an individual or an institution or an invention leaps so far out ahead of that balance and throws a system, whatever it might be—political, economic, technological—out of balance, you’ve got a problem, because then it can lead to the oppression people’s rights, it can lead to the manipulation of information, it can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes which we have seen historically. So we’re going to have to deal with that.

One could note that this was thirteen years ago and perhaps Clinton, although she was in a sense very close to power back then, was not actually in charge of a major governmental department as she is now. In any rate, maybe she has changed her tune. We should remember, even insofar as this is true, that her instinct was to want to control the internet to prevent unseemly discourse about the president’s love life. Although all excuses for censorship fall apart upon closer examination, hers did not even rise to the level of superficial urgency that comes to mind in evocations of the incitement of riots or yelling fire in a crowded theater.

Yet we have a fresher example of Clinton’s authoritarian impulse on the question of free speech on the ‘net—one that relates directly to the question of the journalistic freedom that she finds so imperiled in Turkey: Last November, she condemned WikiLeaks for its truth telling about U.S. diplomatic vagaries and the ugly side of America’s allied regimes, and she vowed to take “aggressive steps” against those abusing internet freedom in such ways that she did not approve. You see, the internet, like all technology, is a double-edged sword, presumably one to be regulated by the benevolent planners in DC:

[A]mid this unprecedented surge in connectivity, we must also recognize that these technologies are not an unmitigated blessing. These tools are also being exploited to undermine human progress and political rights. Just as steel can be used to build hospitals or machine guns and nuclear energy can power a city or destroy it, modern information networks and the technologies they support can be harnessed for good or ill. The same networks that help organize movements for freedom also enable al-Qaeda to spew hatred and incite violence against the innocent. And technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.

What’s more, the threats to internet liberty have only mounted under the Obama administration, although I personally believe it is loath to go all out and trample America’s remaining frontier of true freedom. The backlash would be immense. Yet the president has surrounded himself with folks who have more than toyed with the idea of systematic, centrally administered, strategically implemented acts of covert political thought control.

We live in interesting times, and our rulers are especially brazen in their two-faced pronouncements of loving liberty while demanding more control. But Clinton’s State Department hypocrisy is simply par for the course for the U.S. empire and its audacious diplomatic posturing. The U.S. government kills civilians by the thousands with cluster bombs and other assorted ghoulish means, then condemns other regimes for doing the same, even to a smaller degree. The U.S. government rules a nation with the world’s largest prison population in both real and absolute terms, dispenses torture, spies on its citizenry, and abuses civil liberties and human decency in myriad ways while sanctimoniously admonishing other nation-states for their sins, usually with the implication that only it, the U.S. government, can and should promote human rights worldwide. With Clinton the hypocrisy is particularly conspicuous and ghastly, yet she is only the latest in a long line of elites at the reins of American military and political hegemony to manifest such disingenuous finger-pointing.

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