Dear Everyone: Please Don't Turn Edward Snowden Into Julian Assange
from the focus-on-the-story,-please dept
As Tim Cushing recently noted, reports are that Edward Snowden is on the move. With supposed help from the Wikileaks organization, Snowden was supposed to have flown from Hong Kong to Russia, where he would later make flight to Cuba to eventually end up in Ecuador. However, dozens of journalists are said to have boarded that same flight to Cuba, only to find that Snowden's seat was empty. Per The Guardian:
My colleague Miriam Elder didn’t manage to get on that plane to Cuba – but she’s very glad, since it seems Edward Snowden never got on it either. I just spoke to her. She said Aeroflot officials had told her “with a little smirk” that they had been expecting Snowden too.So, we're left to believe either that something of a shell game is going on, with Snowden doing a feint on one flight ostensibly to board another, or else the game is already over and someone, somewhere has Snowden in custody. And this is something we all really need to focus on because... well...
But Miriam pointed out that Snowden had never actually been sighted in Moscow, and there was actually no real evidence that he had ever been in Russia at all. Meanwhile a planeload of journalists are now off to spend the day in Cuba …
Actually, we don't need to focus on it. It's a story and there's nothing wrong with reporting on Snowden's whereabouts, but this is all beginning to smell far too much like a Wikileaks style thumb-fest, where all the attention is placed on the person rather than the story. That can't be allowed to happen. It'd be far too easy for the American government and the press to be able to shine a spotlight on Snowden as opposed to what he revealed. While the headlines are filled with breathless reporting on the real life game of Where's Snowden going on, less attention is paid to his leaks and what those revelations mean for the American system of government. That's how we lose any focus on John Kerry's incredible statement:
I suppose there is no small irony here. I mean, I wonder if Mr Snowden chose China and Russian assistance in his flight from justice because they're such powerful bastions of internet freedom, and I wonder if while he was in either of those countries he raised the question of internet freedom, since that seems to be what he champions.The irony that exists, of course, is that the United States government has been caught hacking and surveilling those same countries. For Kerry to then turn and accuse them of risking a free internet, which wasn't even the crux of what Snowden revealed, is hubris so strong it might just power motor vehicles. What Snowden was actually exposing, of course, was the American government's policy of subversive collection of communications data globally. Sure, you can point to the Chinese and Russian governments and say they don't have a free and open internet, though I'd caution levying that charge against Hong Kong. Of course you can say that they have similar spying programs in place, too. But this isn't about China and Russia, it's about America and what Snowden revealed.
The lesson here is that Snowden can't turn into another Assange. The cult of personality is the worst kind of celebrity worship, since it distracts so completely our attention from the actual issues in this case. Focus on what is being revealed, not who is revealing it, I'm begging you.