The other day, a man named LZ Granderson had an interesting take on the Fast and Furious controversy developing between the congress and the attorney general's office. It's a debacle, he says, and we absolutely should not get to the bottom of it.
Granderson does not offer an opinion on behalf of executive privilege or against an opportunistic Republican base going crisis shopping. He just thinks we need to stop being nosy. That's it. His column's title is, "Don't be nosy about Fast and Furious." Disputes between congress and the executive fall somewhere on the public interest scale alongside Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched. For God's sake, just close the drapes, honey. Laugh track. "America: Created by Sol Saks." Fadeout.
Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald picked apart Granderson's column as it pertains to the press' abdication of its role as whistleblowers, particularly regarding Wikileaks and the silence greeting journalists targeted by the Obama administration. That still leaves plenty of dead-thought exercise masquerading as an editorial.
Granderson's opening conceit sets the "peevish elderly shut-in writing a letter to the editor" tone of the rest of the column. "We are a nosy country," he writes. "Between the 24/7 news cycle, social media and reality TV, we have been spoon fed other people's private business for so long we now assume it's a given to know everything."
If Granderson wants to clutch at his blue-dyed tresses and wonder what's to be done with these Kardashians, he's welcome to. Unfortunately, what he's doing is linking the actions of public officials—in a government ostensibly of, by and for the people—to private citizens who used to make Mary Hart have to say the ugliest things on Entertainment Tonight. This is CNN.
Next, he tells us that, "We still don't have access to all of the messy facts surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal that erupted during the Reagan administration." This is somehow an argument for less disclosure instead of a cry of disgust that president George H.W. Bush was able to kill further investigations by pardoning men who were probably his co-conspirators. Worse, his argument segues into generation-old fawning over Oliver North.
See, Eric Holder is a lot like Oliver North, and Oliver North "was a fall guy. Not for president Reagan but for all of us." It's a persuasive reading of the Iran-Contra affair, so long as you are totally unaware of anything else about it. North admitted to lying to congress and destroying evidence, and talking heads rewarded him with discussions about whether he was the soul of honor and an embodiment of the loyal nobility of America. Ollie just saluted so crisply, and he had a code—like Omar, from The Wire, except white. Also, if Omar robbed drug dealers and gave the money to central Americans who rape nuns.
Granderson almost gets it right, here. North really does present a fall guy for America—not for what we coveted but for what we turned away from. In the court of public opinion and in the pages of a lazy punditocracy, he got off. And in the then-biggest post-Watergate scandal affecting the military and the presidency, a cultish fetishization of power, secrecy, presidential immunity and the inherent "honor" of command structure trumped transparency and the rule of law.
That's the moment at which America abdicated its duty to nosiness. When it came time to ask questions, too many of us discovered that the answers were unpleasant. Besides, the answers weren't as fun and didn't offer the self-satisfaction of mythology, and the ensuing 25 years only created and nurtured the insular, self-satisfied, no-need-to-know bubbles like Granderson's.
When he thinks of assassinating bin Laden, he knows it was illegal, but just look at all those people dancing! In Granderson's world, there were no immediate negative reactions to something like that; nor does he question what it says about us when, as a colleague put it, the only "big thing" left that "America can accomplish is the tawdry, soul-sapping killing of a dilettante porn-addicted rich killer." If you come after us, we will hunt you, we will find you, and we will kill you. America is the Liam Neeson speech from Taken.
But Taken was a simple Hollywood entertainment. Real life deserves greater criteria than how rad an execution is, and unfortunately you spoil the sausage by asking how it's made. Granderson knows that whacking an old dude cornered in his home in the dead of night is the rat droppings, foreign particles and ground anus of the American vengeance diet, but vengeance just tastes so good. So good it oughtta be illegal! Don't look at Florida just now, but I think America's sporting a massive kill-boner.
Don't look too carefully at the rest of Granderson's archive, either. At the end of his column, he supports the clandestine aims of Fast and Furious by saying, "Take off the head and the body dies." It's a strategy that's very similar to something that New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams said when hammering home his team's illegal bounty targets: "Kill the head, and the body will die." Granderson knows all about Williams' speech, because a busybody documentary filmmaker named Sean Pamphilon recorded it and then handed it over to a bunch of nosy journalists at Yahoo Sports.
That might sound like nothing to you, but to anyone following the NFL for the last few seasons, actions like Williams' endorse violent hits that contribute to long-term player injuries. Granderson knows about the risks there, because he mentioned them in a column on the death of Junior Seau, which discussed the risks of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the still incompletely understood brain condition that renders 40-year-old lineman palsied husks with early onset Alzeheimer's and other terrifying neurodegenerative conditions.
Of course, Granderson likely wouldn't know anything about that, either, if it weren't for "nosy" people like Harvard grad Chris Nowinski, who's badgered the sports world to contribute to long-term studies on CTE. The NFL, on the other hand, has dragged its feet on such research, choosing to protect their brand rather than admit that the fundamental structure of football—the after-snap collision on the line of scrimmage—pulverizes the brains of a dozen people on every play. Instead, the league has targeted big hits like Williams' team's, hoping that authoritarian crackdowns on flashy problems paper over the thousands of collisions per game that are likely annihilating players' brains over time.
Granderson can write columns about these issues because of investigations from documentarians, citizens, neurologists, sports-medicine specialists and journalists. These issues have the power to fundamentally change a billion-dollar industry and force us to reckon with the destruction of thousands of minds and the ruination of countless lives. This is what "nosy" gets us.
But that's the NFL. It's not some piddling shit like the republic.
Image by Jim Cooke.