Most of those who would lynch Edward Snowden do not know what he did. The Trumpan lie runs not only through this election cycle, but through the politics and journalism of the American era.
Take David Plotz and the team at the Politics Gabfest podcast as an example. On the last Gabfest, David repeated the fallacy that Snowden ‘dumped’ data to Wikileaks. This from the editor of Slate at the time of the 2013 revelations. Was this basic ignorance or simply an affect of age?
Mr Plotz is what I think of as a solid journalist and honest person. He did good at Slate and Atlas Obscura is a thing of beauty. His co-hosts are at least his equals. Emily Bazelon would certainly count as one of my top three references for US supreme court interpretation. John Dickerson is, in my biased opinion, as close as the US will ever get to another Cronkite.
Here are three eminently intelligent and informed Americans blithely perpetuating a very consequential lie about everything that Edward Snowden did.
It is impossible to describe to the everyman the steps that Edward took to protect the source information he provided to journalists. He waited five months for Glenn Greenwald to get a clue about secure communications. He destroyed his access to the information once the journalists had control of it. He ensured that, at the time of his disclosure, every fact published would go through a writer, an editor and a publisher. Not to mention being checked with the US government for reasonable objections. I am certain that the NSA knows more about the Gabfest presenters’ sources and intimate lives than they know about the data that Snowden took.
I would also contend that no-one has managed source data with greater care than him. Certainly not Hillary Clinton, David Patraeus, the Office of Personnel management, The New York Times, Yahoo… The list of the incompetents is endless.
Here I must pause to invoke Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” or more pertinently but less poetically: “Don’t assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding.” I do not believe that the Gabfest had malicious intent when talking about Snowden. Their discussion was not even particularly egregious compared to much of what is being said. It was simply based on false facts.
I will let Trevor Timm invoke the repudiation of the Gabfest. I will only say this: If every data point a source disclosed was done through the agency of the journalist, how does one claim that the source is tainted while at the same time claiming the purity of the journalist?
It can only be done by fetishisizing the media. It can only be done with the American ideal.
Post-factual America was born in 1787 when James Madison cantered into Philadelphia with a briefcase of ideas clutched to his chest. Ideas about men that did not include women or slaves. Ideas about all men being created equal, without accepting the inequality of their birth. Ideas spawned in the hallowed halls of ideology. Ideas innocent of the battlefield’s blood and the plantation’s whip.
Ideas, in short, that were only ideas. On such shit was the greatest democracy of our time accidentally conceived. On that verbal spaghetti does it persist.
Edward Snowden may have fashioned himself a Cincinnatus, but he was only a Cincinnatus in the time of Sulla or Caesar. A dangerous thing to be.
One can only be betrayed by those they trust and I feel betrayed by my virtual friends at the Gabfest.