You already know what I'm going to say, right? The newspapers are full of Snowden's run. Weighty statements are being made by the president, by the secretary of state, and here on the orange, diary after diary is all about Traitor! Hero! Traitor!
It is all very exciting and everyone has an opinion. It took a few days for it to sink in that he made his release in a territory of the People's Republic of China, albeit Hong Kong. Now the shift is in full force. The news has him in Russia, where presumably he can ask his baby sitters for a walk past Philby's grave, and President Obama is speaking of "all legal means", which lately seems to mean quite more than we thought. No matter. We always knew this was going on, who cares, and do you think Snowden will end up stuffed in a case next to Putin's Superbowl ring? Milk in your coffee?
The thing is, there are different kinds of knowing. Now we know we are well and truly watched, in a way sane folks would imagine to be just plain too expensive and absurd to contemplate. It is no longer a fancy for paranoid people to rave about and normal people to jape upon. We know that our lives are observed and recorded without our consent, in great detail, so that an expedient society may choose to weigh us full or partial and dispose accordingly.
I haven't blogged this, because I think -- based on Western Europe -- that vast data collection can coexist with individual liberty, when there are real safeguards in place, and also that America can no more discuss privacy than guns. And...I think accretions of military and political power like the U.S. Government don't build a perfect Spy Google and then give it up to anything but history and entropy. So -- John Gardner reminded us that all words are moral, move us to life or death -- my words on this are not very moral. I'm cynical, for the most part.
But if we have anything to argue about this, can it not be about Edward Snowden being good or bad? It is amazing to me to sit here and realize it worked, it has become entirely about whether he is a hero or spy (at least for the moment). I mean, really? I guess there really is no disagreement about that near-univeral spying thing, then. Or the turning the data over to Bob Prosecutor when it turns out to be, y'know, incriminating. All good.
But I'm like everyone else, a sucker for a fascinating tale. I ended up looking at Philby's Wikipedia page, and saw that he spied for both Britain and the USSR during the Spanish Civil War, won a medal from Franco(!) and had quite a storied career. It made me realize that casting Snowden as a spy, even in traditional terms, is a bit of a sad joke. More to the point, Philby wasn't giving his data to the press. Who in turn informed us, that we might act as vigilant and thoughtful citizens :}