Dec 11, 2013

Snowden smashing the shackles of totalitarianism

Will Edward Snowden get a hero's sendoff when he dies? Crikey's writer-at-large hopes so, as he is a hero every bit as much as Mandela.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


What will the successors to today’s politicians say at the — hopefully long distant — funeral of Edward Snowden?  So one wonders while watching former members of the “hang Nelson Mandela” club line up to pay their respects to the great leader. Will we have to endure endless paeans of praise for the integrity of the man who gave us the clearest possible proof of a system of total surveillance of supposedly “free” societies? Stuff about the indomitability of individual courage in the face of indifference, etc?

It is looking increasingly likely that this will be the case. As the former urban guerrilla and ally of communists is laid to rest redefined as a “healer” and “forgiver”, the post-Snowden campaign is just hotting up. Several days ago, Google, Microsoft and several other groups that had been involved in the “PRISM” program of passing on comms information to America’s National Security Agency suddenly rediscovered their earlier, hippier side, and made a statement urging that the NSA be restrained from general all-purpose information collection, and be permitted only to target specific individuals.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

12 thoughts on “Snowden smashing the shackles of totalitarianism

  1. David Coady

    I think it’s wrong to see this as a left/right thing. The real division here is between those who worship power (whether corporate or state) and those who believe in individual freedom. There are certainly plenty of conservative libertarian-minded people who have supported Wikileaks and Snowden right from the start.

  2. AR

    Didn’t Le Carre show ‘Karla” & Smiley having much more in common with each other than the respective Establishments?
    Let us at least acknowledge that no decent human being would do what spooks routinely do, whether for ‘the Crown’ or ‘the People’ or wotever alien overlord happens to be in the seat of power.
    With their intrinsic lack of empathy, these men without navels would, in the real world without the shield and huge weapon of secrecy, be lucky to be an apprentice to Good Soldier Schweik in his civilian job.

  3. MJPC

    Can we please include Bradley Manning in this coterie as well. Snowdon, Manning, the Occupy movement are all heroes before their time.
    The sad fact of Mandela is that he achieved his aim of getting rid of a despised process in SAFR, but the inequities for the ordinary black African (slums, lack of health care etc)were not addressed in his revolution. The enemy of the ordinary person is not necessarily the government processes, it is what’s behind them and who pays the piper; revolution now!

  4. zut alors

    ‘Not only are we not allowed to know what they know, we are not allowed to know what we don’t know about what they know.’

    Good grief, Rundle, for a moment I thought you were channelling Rumsfeld.

    Re Mandela’s funeral, the Leunig cartoon summed up the mourning dignitaries neatly.

  5. Mark out West

    Given that the spying industry in America is one of their largest employers, isn’t it incredible that till now there have been only 3 people who though this was a problem.

    The issue is that tens of thousands of American and Australian’s (Asio Etc) within this industry though what was happening was okay, I find frightening.

  6. klewso

    Isn’t “intelligence” there/paid to verify party government initiatives and “national interest” as it benefits their politics? Think WMDs? “Keelty/terror take 1” – before being rhetorically bitch-slapped by Howard? “Hicks/Haneef/Habib”?

    Isn’t “the national interest” more likely to be the benefit of commercial interests pulling politicians strings? Think Woodside?

    The likes of Snowden, Manning, Assange and Co undermine that prostitution/devotion of national resources to party clandestineness by lifting those scabs.

    …. Wasn’t Mandela lucky he wasn’t a modern communist/terrorist – with the “initiatives” at the disposal of governments today?

  7. Limited News

    Well put, Guy. I’d only add that Assange’s strategy was explicitly about creating paranoia within conspiratorial groups (govt being the exemplar) and thus destroying their ability to conspire. And it’s working.

  8. MJPC

    Klewso, you have summarised it in one. The first building occuied/guarded in the “librated” Bagdad was the Iraq Ministry handling oil production. The corporations control the USA, not the elected government. Any different here, I don’t think so with our new Government, Woodside is just one example; revolution now more than ever!

  9. Kfix

    Snowden’s acts can seem as if they are in contrast to the WikiLeaks process, since Snowden’s act appears to be a noble and individual act

    Sadly, this is as much to do with the personalities and demeanours of Snowden and Assange – as much as I admire his goals and actions with Wikileaks, his personal failings and poor management of the Wikileaks Party debacle make Assange hard to love, while Snowden is so cuddly that I just want to hug him. In an intellectual way, of course.

  10. Scott

    Snowden a hero? Doubt it.

    The contrasts between Mandela and Snowden couldn’t be more stark. Mandela loved South Africa..ultimately he was a nationalist and people, especially black South Africa could identify with his struggle. Everything he did could be seen through that prism, and hence forgiveness of past sins and the acquisition of power and legitimacy could be given with ease, even by his former foes.

    Snowden however has none of that. Most of us will never understand the motivations behind his betrayal of his country and profession. He wasn’t fighting for the oppressed masses, just the educated elites who don’t like to be held accountable for what they do on the web. No one writes folk songs about that. Snowden, in my opinion, will go down in history as more of a Philby than a Mandela.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details