Five Best Friday Columns

Kirsten Powers on the backlash to Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald on his long week, Francis X. Rocca on the new pope's relationship with Jews, Sherrilyn A. Ifill on the future of affirmative action, and Sasha Weiss on our age of online exposure.

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Kirsten Powers in The Daily Beast on the backlash to Edward Snowden What does the widespread blowback among Washington's circles of power to the NSA leaks say about the nation's political class? "Politico's Roger Simon called Snowden 'the slacker who came in from the cold,' with 'all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger,'" notes Kirsten Powers, citing a bevy of examples. "That people feel comfortable sneering about grocery workers—a respectable job—and writing off Snowden’s years working as a security guard as sloth tells you a bit about the culture of the nation’s capital, doesn’t it?" She continues: "It says something about the lack of a positive case for keeping the NSA spying programs secret that the main line of defense is to attack Snowden for lacking the proper credentials to speak out against the government." Dana Milbank at The Washington Post posits his own theory of backlash — to government secrecy: "Attempts to keep the public in the dark have created a backlash in which the risks to national security can’t be controlled."

Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian on his long week Blogger-turned-columnist-turned-gumshoe Glenn Greenwald addresses the political rancor — and genuine concerns — arising from his recent reporting on the NSA's surveillance programs. He says he won't be going away: "The documents and revelations are too powerful. The story isn't me, or Edward Snowden, or the eagerness of Democratic partisans to defend the NSA as a means of defending Preisdent Obama, and try as they might, Democrats won't succeed in making the story be any of those things." He goes on: "The story is the worldwide surveillance apparatus the NSA is constructing in the dark and the way that has grown under Obama, and that's where my focus is going to remain." At the same time, writes Rick Perlstein at The Nation, Greenwald needs to be careful about how he reports: "It's not too much to say that the fate of his broader NSA project might hinge on doing so effectively—because the powers that be will find it very easy to seize on this one error to discredit his every NSA revelation, even the ones he nailed dead to rights."

Francis X. Rocca in The Wall Street Journal on the new pope's relationship with Jews "The College of Cardinals could not have elected a man with a clearer commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations than Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio," says Francis X. Rocca, who explores Bergoglio's tenure in the context of not-always-peaceful relationships between the two religions. "As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Hannukah in local synagogues, voiced solidarity with Jewish victims of terrorism, and co-written a book with a prominent rabbi. ... Pope Francis's pontificate now offers the prospect of an achievement no less historic for Catholic-Jewish relations: normalcy." Other conversations remain difficult, however. As Sylvia Poggioli at NPR points out, the pope recently referred to gay people as "the gay lobby." But: "By making himself accessible and living as normally as possible on his own terms, Francis has bypassed the Curia machine and is dictating his own message."

Sherrilyn A. Ifill in The New York Times on the future of affirmative action Sherrilyn A. Ifill argues that shifting from race-based preferences to class-based ones will be costly to the individuals affirmative action seeks to benefit in the first place. "By pushing universities to substitute class for race, we may simply reinforce stereotypes within the student body that will equate minority students with poverty, masking both the economic (and ideological) diversity within minority communities but also the challenges that confront white working-class students," she writes. "At any rate, the true benefits of diversity cannot be achieved when, as the University of Texas discovered in 2003, nearly 80 percent of its classes contained only one black student, or none at all." Napp Nazwroth at The Christian Post adds: "As long as universities aim at racial diversity, rather than class diversity, they can recruit wealthy minorities that have less need for financial aid."

Sasha Weiss at The New Yorker on our age of online exposure After inspecting the now-deleted blog of Lindsay Mills — the (possibly ex-) girlfriend of Edward Snowden — Sasha Weiss weighs the Internet's implications on privacy. "The fact that we are increasingly prepared to fling out details of our lives prompts the question of what, exactly, we fear when we rage about a loss of privacy," she notes. "Most of us react with horror to the idea that our online messages are in the hands of the government—in the sense of being collected in a massive stream of data and analyzed for suspicious patterns—but have no problem posting a photo of our kids, our wedding, or our lunch on Facebook or Instagram." At the very least, writes Caroline Craig at InfoWorld, the discussion is worth having: "Snowden may end up jailed under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information. The much-needed debate, however, is over whether he exposed practices that should never have been secret in the first place."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.