I like to avoid talking about what everyone else is talking about, but I’ll make an exception in this case. I’ll try to keep it in relation to some of the themes I’ve been raising in this blog.
As usual, the media oversimplifies. We are to choose between “traitor” and “hero”, when he is neither. As for “traitor”–only a fascist government watches everything its people do, invents or exaggerates an external or internal threat (“Communists”, “Terrorists”, “World Jewish Conspiracy”, etc.) and brands anyone who fights back as a “traitor”. If the shoe fits, Obama Administration, Dianne Feinstein, Lindsay Graham, et al., wear it. As for “hero”, he or she is one who breaks an oppressive or unjust law in the public interest and then faces the legal consequences, at least in a country that still claims to operate in accord with the rules of law. (I believe I referred in an earlier post to a somewhat similar choice–although not involving lawbreaking–that I had to make many years ago, i.e. risking prison for a choice of conscience. I do not preach what I would not practice.) Four words: Martin Luther King, Jr.
So what is Snowden? IMHO, perhaps someone who didn’t think things out clearly enough in advance and acted too spontaneously. You don’t take on the entire system all by yourself. That said, he absolutely did the right thing and deserves the support of anyone who wants to fight for the preservation of what is left of our democracy. If he went on trial, he would become a rallying point for us, and I wonder if the government could find the jury it needed. Cold comfort in a cell, but he needed to take that into account before he blew the whistle.
Historical analogy (sort of): “Big Bill” Haywood, leader of the IWW. Like Eugene Debs, he was convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917–the same law that applies to Snowden. He and a hundred other IWw members were sentenced to twenty years. Haywood got out while appealing–and jumped bail to go to Russia, where he died in 1928. Half of his ashes are buried under the Kremlin walls, the remainder in Chicago. Hero? Well, perhaps for his history of labor militance, but not to those who bailed him out and lost their money. If Snowden asks Putin–or a similar villain–for asylum, I’d hold back on the medals.