Thanks to anti-NSA hysteric Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, another wild conspiracy theory has been crow-barred into the surveillance debate. In his column today, Friedersdorf praised the work of economics blogger Alex Tabarrok who raised the question, “Did the Obama Administration ever spy on Mitt Romney during the recent presidential contest?”
Granted, neither Friedersdorf or Tabarrok fully agree that the president used NSA eavesdropping to spy on Romney for political gain, but they both concur that the question is a very serious one, which any reasonable American should be asking. Friedersdorf notes that only “loonies” refuse to investigate whether the White House exploited NSA’s SIGINT operations to win the 2012 presidential election.
Did the Obama Administration ever spy on Mitt Romney during the recent presidential contest? Alex Tabarrok, who raised the question at the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution, acknowledges that it is provocative. Until recently, he would’ve regarded it as a “loony” question, he writes, and he doesn’t think that President Obama ordered the NSA to spy on Romney for political gain.
Let’s be clear: I don’t think so either. In every way, I regard Obama as our legitimate head of state, full stop. But I agree with Tabarrok that today, “the only loonies are those who think the question unreasonable.” * Most Americans have a strong intuition that spying and electoral manipulation of that kind could never happen here. I share that intuition, but I know it’s nonsense: the Nixon Administration did spy on its opponents for political gain. Why do I worry that an unreformed surveillance state could put us in even greater jeopardy of such shenanigans?
Nixon did it, so it’s okay — it’s totally not Alex Jones or Jesse Ventura nutball territory to fire up the “Obama Spied on Romney” crazy machine. Because we really, really need another bogus, half-baked conspiracy/scandal to bat down instead of talking about actual issues. By not utterly dismissing with extreme prejudice the theory as the steaming pile of lunatic fringe horseshit that it is, Friedersdorf and The Atlantic are in effect fueling its momentum.
By the way, is Friedersdorf really one of the lizard-people responsible for hormonal juice-boxes and faking the moon landing? I don’t think he is, but it’s reasonable to ask, right?