Here’s What People Think About You, When You Dis Edward Snowden

Dear Melissa Harris-Perry (again),

Since posting my open letter to you on CounterPunch two days ago  I’ve received a couple dozen emails in response. I thought you might be interested in seeing them.

I haven’t edited them, except to omit names, and I post all of them below, in the order received and without comment.

CounterPunch is of course a website founded by the late great Alexander Cockburn, proudly dedicated to what its editors call “muckraking journalism with a radical attitude.” Its readership is probably not representative of all the people of this country; it appeals especially to people who view themselves as progressive to left-radical although it’s read by libertarians and others in the broad antiwar movement, and just random people). It gets between 1.5 and 2 million hits per day.

I just mention this because this is precisely the audience most inclined to visit MSNBC as opposed to the cable news alternatives, and most likely to view your contributions sympathetically. You will notice that your position on the Snowden Affair has little support among the letter-writers, and hopefully reflect respectfully on what they have to say, even though some express themselves quite rudely.

My sole intention is to urge you to re-think the Snowden issue, and to use your bully pulpit to treat the man with respect, and more importantly, examine the meaning of what he has revealed.

Have you, by the way, seen this piece by Matthew Schofield, of the McClatchy Washington Bureau, filed in Berlin?

I recommend it. Schofield interviewed a former department chief in the former East Germany’s much-feared Stasi. Wolfgang Schmidt declares that the current U.S. domestic spying operation (which we only know about because of Snowden’s actions) “would have been a dream come true” for the GDR’s state security apparatus. “So much information, on so many people.”

In East Germany, the number of phones that could be tapped by his department at any time was limited to 40.  According to Schofield, the former Stasi officer  “finds breathtaking the idea that the U.S. government receives daily reports on the cell phone usage of millions of Americans and can monitor the Internet traffic of millions more.”

Does that not bother you? So far you seem more bothered by Snowden than by the realities he has bared, at great cost to himself. It’s like you want to punish the messenger for bringing the bad news.

Your colleague Rachel Maddow (who often disappoints me too) did a nice segment last night on the harassment of Bolivian president Evo Morales as he tried, aboard his presidential plane, to return home to La Paz from Moscow.

Because the Obama administration suspected that the plane carried Snowden, it demanded that allies including France and Spain deny it entry into their airspace en route to Portugal, where it would refuel. So the plane had to land in Austria. (“Austria, of all places,” said Rachel with a quizzical look, although she might have noted that Austria is formally a neutral country, not in NATO and maybe less subject to U.S. diktat.)

There it was searched by the Spanish ambassador to Austria, among others, who determined that Snowden wasn’t there, while the Bolivian president was detained 13 hours before his plane was allowed to return home.

They are that determined to capture Snowden. To do so, Obama was willing to humiliate the leader of a sovereign state and infuriate all of Latin America. It’s like this elected leader of a Third World country (Bolivia’s first Aymara president),  was pulled over to the side of the world by the global cop, who searched his vehicle while dissing him and of course, afterwards, no apologies. Indeed, no comment at all from the U.S. State Department.

(Many people in this country can no doubt relate. And maybe ask themselves, why is Obama doing this? Maybe you’re quietly wondering too.)

In any case the detention of Morales was a clear warning to Venezuela or any other country not to try bringing Snowden out. (I’d been thinking he could take the regular flight from Moscow to Tehran, and then fly on to Caracas from there. But Obama has made it clear that the U.S. can prevent that by pressuring countries to close their air space to any aircraft suspected to be transporting the whistle-blower.)

Rachel Maddow called it “bizarre.” It’s more than that. It’s so hugely wrong that if you can’t see that, your moral compass is out of kilter.

Anyway, as promised, readers’ comments on my open letter to you.



July 2

10:48 a.m.

All elites turn, look down, and laugh at their poorer brethren.  It is despicable.  Just like Nelson Mandela and the rest of the mis-leadership black aristocracy.  Funny part is, they think they are part of the cabal.  Lordy, do they have a surprise when they find out the truth.  Woooooha.

F@#* Melissa Harris and the rest of the bastards at the top.

Thanks for expressing urself fully!  You sir are truly speaking for me.


11:22 a.m.

I saw this show and I thought just as you did.  Well done.

11:26 a.m.

Thank you for your open letter in CounterPunch. I do not watch TV news, so only can imagine the news show you comment on.  But I am sure that it is typical of mis-reporting.  I think the US has lost all rights to talk about human rights or about weapons proliferation or about rule-of-law or about democracy.  Sadly. Tragically.  So unnecessarily.

It seems we are obsessed with continuing with 19th century national geopolitical conflicts aimed at getting more than one’s fair share of resources.  Even though it should be clear that this is not the 19th century, that the 20th century imitations of the 19th century did not work out well, and that our current 21st century has serious threats of climate change, resource depletions, epidemics, etc., all of which require global cooperation not national conflicts.

11:35 a.m.

Hi Gary, I think we’ve corresponded in the past.  And although I will go back and truly ‘read’ this piece later on today, I just found it ironic because I literally sent her an email yesterday about her Snowden remarks, which I read per chance on some website.

However, I kept my email short and referenced the ‘cable pundit zone’ as a veritable junior high school hallway.

So thanks for what appears to be a very engaging piece.  I think she has her eye on some kind of government post.  It is difficult to point the finger at any one of these mouth pieces since they are so obvious and obnoxious.  George Stephanopolous  was actually so ill informed as to make his inquisition of Assange rather ineffectual.

2:19 p.m.

Thanks for your devastating (and depressing) article about Melissa Perry’s sadly single-pointed establishment biased report on the Snowden  revelations. And discouraging to see that as usual the establishment  media are slowly winning the hearts and minds of the American public to  their view on Snowden.

2:37 p.m.

I applaud someone finally noticing what she is doing.  She made me so mad I stopped watching her show.

3:45 p.m.

Your item is on point, my only disagreement is that it’s just not Melissa Harris-Perry, it’s the entire crowd at liberal MSNBC that have adopted the ‘it’s ok’ approach.  For example, just yesterday evening Rachel Maddow inteviewed Frank Rich and the 2 of them poo-pooed the entire issue with the comment that nobody really cared about their privacy concerns, citing polls, etc blah blah.  I do not agree with this entire ‘nothing to see here–move along’ approach, but they all seem to be guilty.

3:49 p.m.

she is on american tv – the bottom line wasteland.

maybe the last person of value to be on tv, phil donohue, was taken off because he had value.

3:57 p.m.

I always like what you have to say and this time I again like what you write. However, you may or may not be aware of the broader context that she delivered the crap you highlight. She has been “writing” in the Nation for quite some time and there also supplying the same crap shielding the black face of neoliberalism. In one particularly disgusting missive, she upbraided white liberals for unfairly focusing on Obama as compared to what they did or did not say about Hillary Clinton. On one level its hilarious that she would think this was a devastating comeback and perhaps for some liberals it was. It just further illustrates the bankruptcy of both the liberal African-American and white intelligentsia that either side of this “debate” would find her framework as “important.” She joins the not so long list of relatively prominent neoliberal apologists, fools and just plain disgusting African American pundits such as Derek Jackson of the Globe who became outraged by Cornell West and Tavis Smiley’s right on critique of Obama Inc. Off course, these jerks join the much larger group of pernicious white liberal toadies who do the same thing.

Thanks for your regular contributions to Counterpunch which I always have found helpful.

[Cambridge MA, academic administrator]

4:11 p.m.

The state of journalism in this country is truly pathetic; I get the Sunday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (which I refer to as the Urinal!), but sometimes don’t even look at it.  I used to watch some of the MSNBC programs in the evening, but my wife and I decided that there was too little of value on TV to justify having cable, so we cancelled it.  Can now do more reading—e.g., tonight I’m planning to start reading a book about a girl who had been brought up in a Shaker community.


4:38 p.m.

Thoughts upon reading your passionate dressing-down of Melissa Harris-Perry: Last night, I had a wonderful dinner with a college mate I see only every 10 or twelve years. As a student in 1972 my friend was a local coordinator for the doomed candidacy of McGovern, and has remained a stalwart liberal ever since. He now is vice-president and managing editor of a major metropolitan newspaper (in so far as any of today’s “toy” newspapers can be said to be major). But when I said, as a matter of fact, that Obama was worse than Bush, his jaw dropped.  I hope he’d come over to our side if (when?) we actually descend into a police state, but, who knows? I had always understood in theory Chomsky’s take on the corporate media, but it has taken the Snowden affair to really bring home to me in a concrete dramatic way the fact that people I had long liked (like Ed Shultz and, yes, Melissa), were at long last company folk, differing from Chris Matthews only by degree.  // I appreciate your insightful commentary–yours is always one of the first names I click on the CounterPunch site.  Have you written on on the highly suspicious death of  Ibragim Todashev?

[South Carolina prof]

5:10 p.m.

I’ve read your articles with appreciation and benefit over the years.  The most recent one regarding MSNBC and Melissa Harris-Perry really hit the mark for me. It really bothers me to see liberalism as a fashion accessory, if you will, and not a matter of principles.

Keep up the good work!

[Penn State prof]


Snowden is nothing more than a cowardly, fleeing criminal, and he doesn’t give a shit about your liberty or your privacy.  He has a visceral hatred of America that he is masking as a disagreement over national security measures. This is bullshit, of course.  He could have raised the issues in a dozen ways that would not have required jumping in bed with China and Russia.   I have no respect for Snowden.  None.

[FICOH executive]

8:52 p.m.

Congratulations on your fine letter to Melissa Harris-Perry, a true media whore if there ever was one. I never miss your essays. Keep on keeping on.

8:58 pm

As I was reading your timely article on the newscast you watched this morning about Snowden. I my mind I had the lyrics from and old Don Henely song he did solo without the rest of the Eagles. The song was Dirty Laundry, here is a few lyrics.

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five

She can tell you’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye

it’s intersting when people die

Give us your dirty laundry

Can we film the operation?

Is the head dead yet?

You know, the boys in the newsroom got a running bet

Get the wideow on the set!

Give us your dirty laundry

[man in San Diego]

July 3

11:41 a.m.

Thank you for that. I watch little mainstream news, but when I get a glimpse of it, it always infuriates me.

12:54 a.m.

Your open letter written to Melissa Harris titled: “Brain Death, Live on MSNBC ” was beautifully written. It’s quite comical to watch the Obama administration’s glitterati fans continually place their own foot in their mouth. Again great article!

1:05 a.m.

Thanks and praying for a miracle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4:25 p.m.

Sir- A minor point.  I too am caught by the appearance of MHP, but she looks nothing like Nefertiti–whose images are well documented.


Great article, Brain Death.

Even now, sometimes, I still hold out hope that we can wake up.

But then, the more I know, the more I realize that the vast, vast majority are just like Melissa.

TV has made everyone zombies. I left the US 8 years ago. When I come back to visit family I am saddened by the shallowness, the shopping malls, the gratuitous violence, the wasted hours watching idiots on the screen. They have all taken their toll and there is no turning back. It’s not like you can wake up from a 30 year slumber and instantly have the lost 30 years of knowledge and wisdom at your fingertips.

I am disappointed in all of us, Melissa is merely a symptom, no more to blame than your neighbor. I see it each time I pass through immigration into the land of the brain dead.

Lost opportunity, criminal actually. The gift of life and humanity deserved better. I have no hope, only a beautiful natural world to live in for the time being.

Fewer and fewer people who can understand my thoughts, seduced by something better, always something better, never enough.

7:56 p.m.

Thank you so much for articulating our views so eloquently.

I look forward to following your work.


July 4

12:37 a.m.

I want to thank you for your astute essay which I recently read at Counterpunch. Thank heavens someone has the courage to say what you said. Ms. Harris-Perry’s obsequiousness and devotion to whatever crap butters her bread makes my skin crawl.

I wish we could have a purple president of no known gender. Then maybe people would start looking at policy. My thanks for your efforts.

[woman in Indiana]

5:29 p.m.

My wife and I just read your piece in Counterpunch about Mellissa Harris Perry’s June 29 remarks about Edward Snowden. Bravo!! You spoke for us as well, especially when you compared civil disobedience in the age of Bradley Manning to civil disobedience in prior times.

Although we watch her now and then, she is no Amy Goodman.

[NY professor]

6:13 p.m.

Brilliant writing. I avoid the mainstream media almost entirely and never watch any TV, so I must rely on written articles from people such as yourself to inform and provoke me.

I’m closely following the Snowden saga, and you are absolutely correct the media elite and those who rule us are terrified of being exposed, just as Snowden’s open letter stated the other day. He’s a “criminal” for exposing the crimes of the state against its people and our Constitution.

I haven’t celebrated Independence Day for several years, because we’re right back where we were 237 years ago. Both you and Mr. Snowden validated that belief.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at:



Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: