I seem to have made a habit of annoying the editor of this site. First it was my unpopular views on intervention in Syria, and now this! Once again a piece I have written elsewhere has piqued their interest – this time over my lack of love for much vaunted martyr-in-the-making Edward Snowden. Once more, I have been given a chance to air my “unorthodox” opinions here, and do so with relish.
Essentially my point states that we must be pragmatic in pursuit of greater freedom; both at home and internationally. With regards to the travails of Mr. Snowden, we see a man who has – in a move allegedly about promoting liberty for all – shacked up with a brutal, murderous autocrat. While President Putin of Russia continues to provide the heavy weaponry which rains down on Syrian civilians at night, and continues to battle for religiously-sanctioned gay-bashing at home, Snowden hangs on to his virtual coat tails – subsisting on his hospitality, and operating with Putin’s leave.
For me, this is the stuff of dark irony: the earnest young crusader for freedom, ending up in the arms of a tyrant, in a desperate bid to harm a nation built on principles of independence and personal sovereignty. That Snowden is lionised for his actions is a deeply worrying sign of the way the movement is heading: towards hating the only nation-state which is effectively on our side.
This might seem an odd place to say it, but I am an American patriot, despite the fact that I was not born there. I see the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as the finest point of law on the planet because (as I wrote in my article for Trending Central):
[J]ournalists and the public are granted freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. There is also the small matter of religious pluralism, and of the secular state – neither of which is too popular in Russia; see the Orthodox Church for further details.
In this respect, it is even more disappointing to me that Snowden has ended up as a de facto ally for the Putin regime. In his attacks on the US government, he is furthering their cause, and doing their bidding. For me, the bizarre attitudes of arch Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald perfectly sum up my case. He has an issue with the United States. A resident of Brazil (another repressive society, but oh well), he has promised retribution to the British government for the perfectly reasonable and legal detention of his partner, David Miranda.
Miranda was acting as an information mule, in ferrying classified documents and the like to Greenwald and his handlers at the Guardian. This action is helping, and thus conducted with the blessing of, a dictator. Notice I did not include the typical ‘foreign’ before ‘dictator’. In times such as these, with the increasing globalisation of the world’s nations, there is no such thing as a ‘foreign dictator’: all tyranny is local. For me, the ends – in this case the exposure of US spying – do not justify the means: cosying up to a truly evil individual, and requiring the support of the vile repressive government he leads.
It does not help that other organisations have been turning up ‘revelations’ such as this legally in the recent past. And, even if this had not been mentioned before, would it have actually surprised you? Genuinely, can you claim to have been entirely not expecting news such as this? I thought not. In reality, this debate has been conducted in the open for a few years now, and no act of trans-continental flight can alter that salient fact. The faux-outrage is out in force, and the story is routinely thrown back into the news cycle to remind us every so often that the US government are, like, bad. But I’m sure most of you – like me – never really cared.
This is, after all, what governments do. If this sort of thing is needed – and that is most firmly a debate for another time – then I can see no fundamental problem with the work of the PRISM programme and its sister projects. As I have suggested earlier, if you genuinely do: then you should actually do something about it.
Use websites which alter your IP address, base your snarky political gossip site in somewhere where it has some legislative protection over its head. Do something, instead of regularly moaning and then accomplishing nothing when it comes to crunch time.
Other than that, all I can do is to sit back in desperation. The lack of pragmatic sense among libertarians is simply staggering. Of course it is easy to go against the United States’ government, very easy indeed: it is a free country, after all! But to reject this intellectual and political laziness is far nobler. Rather than attacking the target closest to hand, maybe it is time to begin thinking internationally: and advocating for those in societies like Russia – who don’t have that simplistic luxury at all.