Contrary to the arguments in Louis Nayman’s somewhat befuddling “In Defense of PRISM,” progressives who criticize the abuses and excesses of the National Security Agency are not “delegitimizing the government.” Rather, as Zaid Jilani rightly points out in his response to Nayman, almost the obverse is true: Indiscriminately defending the government’s actions—merely to avoid providing fodder for the Tea Party—threatens the legitimacy (not to mention the coherence) of the progressive movement.
Nayman’s defense of the NSA is particularly disturbing coming from a self-identified labor organizer. It’s difficult to imagine a constituency that should have deeper qualms than organized labor about vesting so much surveillance and police power in the hands of the state at a time when the collusion of corporations and government has never been so intimate. Defending PRISM because it “keeps us safe” presumes that the government always operates to preserve the interests and safety of all, equally. But as labor activists know better than anyone, that isn’t true.