It would seem as if the trending topics around Snowden have been in flux since the initial reaction of his #whistleblow in 2013. This past weekend, for example, a simple search for #snowden has resulted in a flood of reviews and opinion pieces about the new movie, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival this past week. The reviews alone cannot help but ask us to view the movie in a political light– calling into question the veracity or “propagandic” nature of the portrayal of Edward Snowden as a protagonist. This cautious view of Snowden’s story seems prevalent among much reporting done on Snowden and his actions– as if the world/”media” hasn’t quite figured out how to handle him, so they keep him at an arms length.
(A scatterplot [?] linking [kindof?] a number of figures involved with National Security and Snowden to Russia)
A big theme around the hashtags I searched on twitter, facebook, reddit, and tumblr, is distrust. Distrust of politicians, of government, and especially of “the media.” Some of that distrust, it would seem, stems from the argument that “They do not report on the same things as ‘independent’ news sources (usually small blogs),this is why the media (establishment? trusted sources?) cannot be trusted.”
(This, in reference to the “pre-Snowden” Snowden: Daniel Ellsberg, who released CIA documents on the Vietnam war in 1971)
This presents an essential problem for analyzing this topic. It calls into question the editorial process through which reporting is selected in a newsroom. Often times, however, the distrust goes even deeper: claiming that the information that comes into the newsroom is manipulated by the government, with the intention of misleading the public. This claim engenders more distrust of “the media” within the community, and has seemingly resulted in a split between information that the general public holds as true, and what the #hacktivist community holds true.
Unlike fans of Edward Snowden, whose base of supporters resembles the fandom of a teenage hear-throb in passion and number, the community who opposes him does not speak out with regularity. This has made it difficult to discern major patterns and influencers in the discussion.
As I mentioned before, while journalists pursue an interview with Snowden like hawks, much of the reporting on him is done carefully, and at an arms length. Much of this, I have to assume, is due to a reporters inability to verify many of his claims.
Most people who publicly admonish Snowden’s actions, are politicians (especially conservative) and other entities concerned with national security. When asked in the CNN Democratic Primary Debate, “Snowden: Criminal or Hero?” Secretary Clinton responded:
“He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistle-blower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistle-blower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that. In addition—in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.”
However, even the more left leaning candidate, Bernie Sanders, agreed that he should face trial, saying: “I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined… He did – he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is.”
It is worth noting (begrudgingly) that all these are slight sentences in comparison to the one Republican Presidential nominee decided in 2013:
While the #jailsnowden campaign may be obscure, this is probably mainly to do with the location I was looking for it. The internet is known to be a place where people relish the freedom of information (which makes sense) and #Snowden has become a sort of martyr of free information and the internet. It makes sense then, that finding an active community of internet users who have negative opinions about Edward Snowden and his actions, on the internet, would be a difficult task.
But if we are giving validity to conspiracy theories (which it seems many #Snowden supporters do with gusto) then maybe we need to think about the fact that maybe Mr. Snowden has wiped out entire online communities of people who speak poorly of his actions…