This is my first (and probably my last) post on Edward Snowden.
I recently finished reading Glenn Greenwald’s No Place To Hide, but I haven’t watched Snowden’s interview with Brian Williams. I plan to do so right after finishing this post. Why haven’t I watched the interview? It’s simple. I want to make sure that my opinion of Snowden is not swayed one way or another by his TV appearance.
I am concerned that if he’s a natural in front of the camera, it might lead me to see him in a more favorable light while I’m still not totally comfortable with his actions. I am equally concerned that if he comes off as an arrogant know-it-all, I might judge him too harshly even though I’m grateful for his whistleblowing.
Yes, I realize that in the last paragraph I’ve admitted to both not being totally comfortable with and being grateful for what Snowden has done. Therein lies the reason why I haven’t written about him before.
As it turns out I’m in like company (or I like to think that I am). According to an NBC News poll that was taken after the interview, while 32% of 18- to 34- year olds support Snowden’s actions and 20% oppose, almost 50% (47% to be exact) don’t have an opinion. Granted, it could be that this 47% doesn’t have an opinion because they’ve never heard of Snowden, and/or are not very familiar with the story. However, I seriously doubt it.
But, getting back to me, let me tell you what I think. First, I believe that the monitoring that the NSA is doing belongs more in a totalitarian system than in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” I believe that we should be able to write an email, Skype our family, surf the internet, have phone sex, and feel free to live our lives without the constraints that we would impose on ourselves, thinking that a government employee can read, listen in, and collect truckloads of personal information about us as we engage in our daily routines.
I believe that right now as I write this, it is not only possible but highly probable that an entity, human or digital, is watching my words as I type them, and that this entity started doing it the minute I typed “NSA” above, possibly even long before when I typed the title of this post.
Do I sound paranoid? Of course, but now we know that this paranoia is based on fact and it’s not the result of an overly active or psychotic imagination.
I think that Snowden did an important thing by revealing what the NSA has been doing. I admire his conviction and his courage, even though I also think that, in the end, it will all be for nothing. Even if new laws are enacted and the government is reined in for a while, it will find a way to continue doing what it has been doing. Forget Big Brother, Uncle Sam is bigger, badder, and getting smarter every day. Still, it’s important that we have a chance to fight this overwhelming invasion of privacy. When we put limits on what we can say and write, eventually we will put limits on what we can think. Snowden has given us a fighting chance, no matter how slim it might be.
Yet, at the same time that I recognize that we owe a debt of gratitude to Snowden, I cannot help but judge him. How could he have violated the confidentiality of his position? What person with integrity steals government documents to hand them over to a journalist?
How about me? How can I appreciate what Snowden has done and still be ambivalent about him? Am I too respectful of authority? Isn’t this as bad as being too disrespectful of it?
Why do I have so many questions about this and, finally why can’t I make up my mind about Snowden? I don’t know, but now I know that someone, who doesn’t know me, probably does.