According to the May 12 Today show, if you’re an "ordinary" American, you should be afraid of the President’s "snooping." Using the time honored media tradition of word repetition, the NBC program sought to portray the NSA’s gathering of phone numbers as highly sinister. In a report that aired at 7:07AM EDT, reporter Kelly O’Donnell stated that the phone records of "ordinary citizens" were compiled. In the 8AM hour, Ann Curry reported that the phone information of "millions of ordinary Americans" had been compiled. An hour later she again announced that those "ordinary Americans" had been targeted. Get it? It’s the average citizens who ought to be worried.
As Mark Finkelstein has already noted, Matt Lauer interviewed MSNBC host Chris Matthews at 7:10AM. After admitting that the NSA is simply collecting data, not listening to phone conversations, Lauer confidently stated, "At the very least though, the government is doing some snooping." A few minutes later, he referenced the earlier NSA program that eavesdropped on conversations with overseas terrorists. Lauer wondered:
Lauer: "...Is there going to be a huge political fallout here? If you remember, the, the Americans seem to be pretty evenly split about this domestic surveillance program, saying, look, if it makes us safer, then a little snooping is okay. Do you see this as the same situation?"
Matthews most certainly did not think Americans would find the events similar. He replied:
Matthews: "No. I think this tilts over because nobody can imagine being on the telephone with an Al Qaeda agent overseas, but they can imagine privacy matters. For example, the government apparently is not just attempting to get a few numbers. They want all the phone calls that have been made, when they were made, how long they were. Lots of information about personal relationships. Now I imagine people thinking, wait a minute, 'I make certain phone calls I don't want anybody to know about.' Now we know the government knows about them. And I think that that is invasive. I think politically, the answer to your very first question, this hurts the President far more because it gets into peoples' private lives in the way that the other one doesn't."
Well, no. According to a just released Washington Post poll, 66 percent of Americans approve of the plan. Also, has Chris Matthews never received a cell phone bill, a document that lists every call made? Is he not aware that phone records can be subpoenaed in court cases? Matthews was echoing an earlier comment by Kelly O’Donnell. Her report described the President’s comments yesterday about the program as "attempting to diffuse public anxiety." Again, 66 percent of Americans support the plan. If anyone has anxiety, it might be the media and their fear that this program could actually improve the President’s standing in the polls.