My television, Internet news pages, and Twitter timeline are filled with hit pieces on Edward Snowden — he’s an egotist, a narcissist, an opportunist; he’s in it for the money, or the glory; he’s out to embarrass the President; he’s a spy, a mole, a traitor. I see these pronouncements and shake my head. The narrative has quickly moved away from the abhorrence of the PRISM program and the Cthulu-esque tentacles of the Patriot Act reaching into every area of our lives, and focused squarely on Edward Snowden and all his personal idiosyncracies. It’s classic “kill the messenger” — pay no attention to the government spying on you from behind the curtain. Yes, he’s arrogant; arrogance doesn’t make the truth less true. Stephen Hawking, Keith Olbermann, Salman Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens, Steve Jobs — all people I deeply admire, and all of them incredibly cocky. Their conceit doesn’t make them any less brilliant or less talented, and if they make a correct assessment of a theory or a person or a political situation, their braggadocio does not make their deductions any less accurate.
“He’s in it for the money.” He was making as much as $200,000 a year, what he himself described as living “very comfortably.” I wouldn’t use that term to describe his life now. “He’s in it for the glory.” He’s being vilified by the world and hunted by the U.S. government — where’s the glory? “He was dissatisfied with his life and this was his way out of it.” Well that one is hard to argue with. A high school dropout with a patchwork college education and an online degree who found himself making between $100,000 and $200,000 a year, living in paradise with a girlfriend who can put her ankles behind her ears — yeah, that life must have been hell.
Honestly, do some people actually think this is plausible? “I’m tired of sun and beautiful beaches, I hate my job and I want to break up with my girlfriend, but I hate uncomfortable conversations — I know! I’ll become a whistleblower and go on the run! I’d rather be hunted by the government than my ex.” It would be funny if it weren’t so serious; so deadly serious.
“He’s out to embarrass the President.” I think the President has every reason to be embarrassed; he’s been called on his own double-dealing. If you trash a hotel room and another guest informs the management, did that person do it to embarrass you? Perhaps. Perhaps he simply wanted the proprietor to know that there’s a mess in his establishment. If that embarrasses you, it’s probably because it should.
Snowden said some really stupid stuff online. Okay folks, let’s pause for a moment and take a good long look back at our online activity over the years: who hasn’t, at least once in their life, been an ass on a forum or an online chat? Funny, I’m not seeing many hands — the ones I am seeing, I’m calling you all out right now as liars. Everyone has; it’s the GIFT that keeps on giving. Add to that the fact that Ed Snowden fancied himself a hacker — not the best of online company, and we’re lead right back to the first argument: just because someone is a colossal pain in the ass doesn’t affect the veracity of their statement once it’s proven. And this is not even taking into account that he said this stuff six years ago, when he was 24. I know I was a much different person at 30 than I was at 24, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he underwent an ideological transformation during that time. I would hope Mr. Snowden has matured at least somewhat during those six years.
“He’s a traitor.” This is the one that twists my gut the most. What makes Edward Snowden a traitor, and Bradley Manning a hero? Both revealed horrendous violations perpetrated by our government, and both should be hailed for it. The difference is that Manning’s revelations were against the Bush administration; Snowden’s are against Obama’s. If Edward Snowden’s information had come out against Bush and his enablers, he would be elevated to the same exalted position of political martyr as Manning. But Snowden made the mistake of pointing out that the Emperor’s new clothes aren’t as new as we thought, that the man who once loudly denounced the Patriot Act has not only embraced it, he’s put it on steroids. Snowden’s great sin was revealing that Barack Obama is a politician — no more, no less.
It’s a classic tactic: we can’t stand the irrefutable facts pummeling us in the face so we deflect them by taking out the deliverer, distract the public from the truth with down-and-dirty character assassination. It shouldn’t matter whether or not Edward Snowden is as pure as his surname implies or if he’s the biggest jerk to walk to earth, because he is not the story, his facts are; and by putting the focus on Snowden and his flaws we are burying the lede, which is just how the key players at the top want it.
Truth is truth, whether it’s brought to you by a sinner or a saint, and an immoral act is always immoral, whether it’s being perpetrated by a Republican or a Democrat. What happened to all the liberals who decried the Patriot Act? Under Bush, it was a travesty, an outrage, a naked power grab and an unacceptable violation of rights. Now that act is being utilized by a Democratic president, and many of those same liberals turn a blind eye. You cannot ignore truth simply because it does not fit your narrative. Liberals often refer to the Fox Bubble, the impenetrable barrier that hardline conservatives have swaddled themselves with, keeping them blissfully protected from any information which threatens their narrow view of the world. The revelation of PRISM has shown that the other side is not immune to the Bubble Effect, or at least to the practice of clapping their hands over their ears and chanting “La la la” to keep from hearing truth they don’t want to face. “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart once said “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values — they’re hobbies.” Sadly, I’m seeing a lot of progressive icons being revealed as mere hobbyists, as opportunistic as they accuse Edward Snowden of being. It’s deeply disappointing to see people you admire revealed as sycophants at best, hypocrites at worst.
Edward Snowden is being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion for being a turncoat, a political hack, and an arrogant ass, his real crime though, of being the bearer of an inconvenient truth is far more unsettling.