(July 15, 2013)
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Hero or Fool? Manuel García's Tony Judt, Edward Snowden, And "The Excluded"
Hey Mr. d'Aymery:
Your readers must be disappointed. Swans may be the only political publication that has mostly ignored the Edward Snowden news saga. You dismissed it with Gallic humor. Manuel García took it more seriously, lamenting the loss of freedoms in the U.S. (an old story). Can you imagine: Less than 4% of the world population could be on the verge of losing the Fourth Amendment! It certainly will make a huge difference to the remaining 96%. But I would respectfully suggest that Mr. García walks in the Californian streets and asks passers-by if they know about the 4th Amendment. He'll be amused by the degree of ignorance.
Without falling into the yawning trap of the binary hero-traitor characterization of Snowden, quite a few people find him rather foolish and self-interested; and we are tired of self-defined moralizers who take it upon themselves to right all the perceived wrongs in the world. Did Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers end the Vietnam War? What good did Assange's "revelations" bring to the well-being of societies? And poor young Manning who wanted Americans to know about atrocities committed by some of his brothers and sisters in uniform, has only brought the ire of the state upon him. Has anyone seen a war without atrocities, or know of a war without atrocities?
Snowden only confirmed facts that have been long known. He did not reveal anything particularly new or exceptional. Governments and corporations are in the snooping business and studies after studies have documented that reality. After a few days of European complaints and once it was divulged that they followed the same practices and cooperated with the NSA, the critics went on vacation. As one French politician remarked, we are fishing, they are trawling. It would be more interesting and constructive to analyze the role of so-called whistleblowers in the public and private spheres, and to revisit the notion of privacy in the XXIst century. You know that the US Postal Services scan both sides of letters and packages that go through their system -- that's about 160 billion items a year. Privacy anyone?
Thinking of heroism, I did not know that stealing secret information, fleeing the country, leaking the stolen secret data to the media, seeking asylum and publicity deserve the appellation. Live and learn, I suppose. In my book the 19 special-unit firefighters who died in the line of duty to humanity two weeks ago in Yarnell, Arizona -- 14 of them in their twenties -- trying to save the homes of families they did not even know and people they had never met, are real, true heroes. I don't know their names but I salute their memories. Snowden definitely does not deserve the appellation.
Keep at it.
Paris, France - July 9, 2013
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