Welcome to WHAT NOW, a morning round-up of the news/fresh horrors that await you today.
To a particular brand of political obsessive on the internet, former FBI Director James Comey’s Twitter account—where he tweets about the goodness and honor inherent in the nation’s ever-expanding spying apparatus—is enormously gratifying.
“All should appreciate the FBI speaking up,” Comey tweeted on Thursday evening. “I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.”
Although he doesn’t directly reference THE MEMO, Comey was likely referring to an unsigned public statement from the FBI—a rare occurrence, of course, because the FBI is largely unaccountable to the American public—expressing “grave concerns” over the Trump administration’s preparations to release Republican congressman Devin Nunes’ memo about the Russia probe.
And the people loved it! The Comey-is-bad-no-actually-he’s-good whiplash liberals were left to contend with after they blamed the former FBI director for helping sink Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the 11th hour, only to see him get fired by a president so bad they’ve decided George W. Bush was a saint by comparison, is firmly in the past. He is now a hero. Much of this worship is based on Comey’s Twitter presence, which he made public after his secret account was unmasked by Gizmodo. He now whimsically tweets such instant classics as the text on the Statue of Liberty when he’s not doing this:
The tweets are objectively terrible, combining Hallmark card insipidness (look, a Christmas tree!) and vaguely “uplifting” dad commentary (a tweet that combines a Bruce Springsteen theater program and a Martin Luther King quote) with defenses of the unchecked surveillance state.
But even worse than the tweets are the support they’ve garnered. At its heart, the admiration for Comey is borne out of a deeply misplaced notion that a former director of the FBI should ever be held up as a #Resistance leader. It’s sickening to watch an avalanche of praise be heaped on a man who reported for work every day in a building still named for J. Edgar Hoover.
This country’s intelligence apparatus exists to protect its own and ensure its survival—aims that it carries out, even as presidents come and go, with brutal efficiency. Comey ran an agency that’s spent the last nearly two decades vastly expanding its warrantless surveillance of Muslims, instituting rules to spy on journalists, and infiltrating activist groups like Black Lives Matter.
While all of this is going on just out of sight, polling out late last month found three times as many Democrats as Republicans have “a great deal” of trust in the FBI. This is staggering, and it’s owed in no small part to the public relations boost the agency has enjoyed as Comey emerges as a supposed voice of reason.
The absolute last thing we need right now is to embrace the FBI—especially an ex-FBI head who spent the Bush administration twice giving a thumbs-up to the use of waterboarding and offering a full-throated defense of indefinitely detaining American citizens on American soil. Working for an agency that actively tries to subvert American civil liberties is not honorable. So let’s stop making Comey out as a hero, and for god’s sake, let’s try and make him stop tweeting.
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