Edward Snowden, Get Ready For Your Closeup

A 29-year-old IT contractor named Edward Snowden turned out to be the source of last week’s wealth of revelations about the National Security Agency’s digital spying on Americans and foreign nationals. In a substantial interview with the Guardian, he says while he never intended to remain anonymous, the story shouldn’t be about him, but rather about what the US government is doing to its citizens in their own name.

Snowden’s desire to try to keep the story on the machinery of espionage is pretty adorable, all things considered. To butcher a Trotsky quote, he may not be interested in the spotlight, but the spotlight is suddenly very, very interested in him. After all, we know what happens to people who disrupt the official narratives that Washington prefers to spread. Snowden should get ready for some very powerful people to put his life under a very powerful microscope. And that’s assuming he doesn’t end up with a hood over his head in a plane headed back to the US, or worse.

His family, of course, is now “fair game,” as Valerie Plame was once described. People who might have comforted themselves with the idea that only Republicans will attack and smear critics of the government should pay close attention for the next little while.

One of the things that comes through in Snowden’s interview with the Guardian is that he is a careful, careful person. Snowden distinguishes himself from Bradley Manning, saying that unlike Manning’s massive document-dump to Wikileaks, he carefully evaluated the documents he leaked to prevent harm to any particular individuals. If nothing else, the self-described radicals and their fellow-travelers who are likely to raise Snowden up as an icon of their cause should probably think on this for at least a second and realize that he very probably isn’t one of them.

According to his interview, Snowden was in fact, a loyal servant of the security state, starting with his desire to serve in Iraq during that war, an attempt to join the US Army’s elite special forces, and years of service with the CIA before working as a contractor for the NSA. He gives us no reason to believe he’s a radical at all, except for his belief that pervasive surveillance is toxic to democracies.

So of course, like all great American believers in the protections of their constitution, he’s now hiding in a jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China. I happen to be writing this from a hotel lobby in Boston, a short walk from the site of the Boston Massacre and the first reading in this town of the Declaration of Independence. There are days when this country’s capacity to introduce irony into the universe is too much, even for me.


Find Hazlitt on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Next

Teenage Horrors: On Pretty Little Liars and High School Melodrama
A hand emerging from a pile of loosely packed dirt typically hails the beginning of a zombie movie, not the end of a season of teen melodrama. But by the time the dead were (maybe!) rising in the third-season finale of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars , it felt less like a shock than a standard scene transition. The twists in this show can come so furious—and be so ridiculous—that a dragon could flambé the main foursome and my primary reaction would be to wonder how long we’ll have to wait (one whole episode? Less?) to find out they’re still alive. That’s slightly unfair, actually: one of the sheer joys of Pretty Little Liars is how good it is at setting up its twists, at making each one such a visceral thrill that, even if the fact of it were obvious from the opening credits, the details and subsequent pay-off are enough to inspire in you (well, me) incredibly dated bitchy proclamations (“Damn gurllll!”, “Oh no she dinnit!”, etc.). Most of the shows that draw wide cultural attention these days— Pretty Little Liars is not only the network’s most popular show ever, it was the first-ever show to rack up one million tweets while it was airing —have taken some kind of lessons from the plotting of soap operas; Pretty Little Liars has injected the DNA and mutated it into a more perfect form, taking it further even than its teenage melodrama predecessors.

Previous

Resurrecting the Dead, or, Writing about Family
Wayne Grady grapples with the sometimes outlandish demands of his dead relatives, who metamorphose from real people into fictional characters once he begins to write their story.