Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Second thoughts on Snowden

I'd have a lot more respect for Edward Snowden if he did everything differently than he's doing it.

I get what he's trying to say: "LOOK AT ME, LOOKING OUT FOR YOU! I DO THIS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF AMERICA. OOPS, GOTTA GO." And, secondarily, that the U.S. government is keeping extensive records of all citizens' electronic communications. Is that latter point truly surprising to anyone? I can't say I'm proud of the idea, but it's not shocking news. It can be done and has considerable practical applications, so of course they're going to do it. We'd also be outraged if the government didn't do it, because we also want to be hard on crime. It's a no-win situation and collectively, we apparently like it that way.

Snowden strikes me as a professional contrarian. People like him make terrible whistleblowers, because it's too easy to question their true motivations. He's not doing himself any favors by threatening to spill more secrets unless some country grants him asylum; he should share the information out of public concern, not withhold it as leverage to improve his lot.

Not that I'd consider him a true whistleblower. Snowden isn't sharing a bombshell intended to startle the public without regard for personal consequences — he's telling us specifically classified information to reinforce what we already know, and is now trying to evade the fallout of that illegal action. There's nothing particularly courageous or enlightening about that.

People who hold up Snowden as a hero should seriously reconsider doing so. Whatever legitimate questions exist about the government's actions (and there are many), siding with the opposite extreme in an enemy-of-my-enemy approach is not the wisest move. 

There is room in this world for gutsy people exposing true wrongs. Those people, though they may face brutal consequences, deserve support and acclaim. But let's not be so desperate for heroes that we make one of the wrong guy.

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