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Edward Snowden: a Hero or a Villain?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2013-06-15 10:05:01
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I would have appended the following comments in the comment section of Ovi if its abuses had not prompted the magazine’s editors to temporarily shut it down. So, to get it off my chest, I am writing write a slightly different take on the subject as presented in Ovi; an alternate view, so to speak, in the form of a very short article which picks up on the conundrum evident in the media lately regarding the characterization of Mr. Edward Snowden as a hero to some, a villain to others.

What is intriguing about this conundrum is that it cannot be dichotomized into Republicans vs. Democrats, or liberal vs conservatives; it is truly bipartisan. This in itself is quite a change and a refreshing phenomenon in our sad days of partisan “truth telling” and double truths.

For example both ultra-liberal Michael Moore and arch-conservative Glenn Beck have praised Snowden to high heaven calling him a “hero.” Of course the motivation of each, motivation not always being transparent, may be slightly different, albeit not wholly impossible to fathom. Others, again on both sides of the political spectrum, have characterized Snowden a felon, a traitor or worse. Jeffrey Toobin a legal analyst at the New Yorker has called him “a grandiose narcissist who deserved to be in prison.”

He goes on: “Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent. In his interview, he said he went there because ‘they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.’ This may be true, in some limited way, but the overriding fact is that Hong Kong is part of China, which is, as Snowden knows, a stalwart adversary of the United States in intelligence matters. (Evan Osnos has more on that.) Snowden is now at the mercy of the Chinese leaders who run Hong Kong. As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government—which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?”

I think that Toobin has put his finger on what is crucial in this phenomenon and has so far been missed by the media in general: that is to say, the issues of free speech, right to privacy, and national security. Depending on where the emphasis is placed one will come up with the characterization of “hero” or “villain.” As it was to be expected the Director of the FBI in his testimony before Congress on 13 June put all the emphasis on national security. I can wager that the same will be the case for the Director of the CIA. Ultra liberals such as Michael Moore or libertarians such as Ron Paul will place the emphasis on the right to privacy or the first amendment right to free speech.

But regardless of motivation, political posturing and motives, the fact remains that Mr Snowdon has broken the law. Of course one may appeal to Thorough’s duty of “civil disobedience” or Gandhi’s or Martin Luther King’s “non violent resistance,” in order to continue considering Snowden a hero of sort. But wait a minute: when Thorough or Gandhi or Martin Luther King advocated civil disobedience to unfair laws, they also gave a prime example to all who wished to imitate them by their willingness to assume the consequences of breaking the law and go to jail if need be. They never counseled running to China, or Canada for that matter.

During the Vietnam War the US lost some fifty thousand young soldiers who responded to the draft when called to military duty. Some considered the war immoral and protested it and resisted the draft. Some went to jail for that resistance. Others went to Canada and came back only when pardoned by President Carter. I for one considered the former the true heroes and the latter the pseudo heroes, heroes on the cheap, if not outright villains, and this despite their best misguided intentions.

So what Mr. Snowden has done, regardless of what we brand him as, remains quite puzzling and disturbing. Without descending to ad hominem accusations, it remains at the very least debatable whether or not he is a true “patriot.” It remains to be ascertained whether he is truthful and honest.

There is indeed an incongruity in his contradictory traits that remains to be sorted out and reflected upon. If he is so brilliant, as he himself claims, as to know in his twenties all the ins-and-outs of the nation’s most sensitive surveillance programs to be able to shut down the entire system in a few hours, if he wanted to, as he has also claimed; if he “had full access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all around the world,” how patriotic is it for him to run to China with that kind of knowledge, a country known for cyber snooping and stealing intellectual property from the US via cyber space; a country not exactly know for its advocacy of free speech and civil rights around the world. A country which, even if Snowden is unwilling, could easily extract all those secrets out of him.


It is indeed a very strange mix of “patriotism” brilliancy and honesty. I still don’t see the heroism though.  


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pertti2013-07-05 03:55:43
Poll: 40% of Finnish people consider Snowden a hero, 9% a villain and 51% don’t say/ don’t know. obama deception, you tube.

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