Spongy-faced Russian Emperor Vladimir Putin did some kind of Face The Motherland forum on his own personal television network, and he had a Very Special Guest: American/Russian hero/traitor Edward Snowden! Snowden began by stating that America’s intelligence-gathering methods are indiscriminate, ineffective, and abusive, then asked Putin if Russia did the same things. According to Slate’s transcript, Putin responded, in part:
“We don’t have a mass system of such interception, and according to our law it cannot exist … [W]e don’t have as much money as they have in the States and we don’t have these technical devices that they have in the States. Our special services, thanks god, are strictly controlled by the society and by the law and are regulated by the law.”
Putin did NOT go on to explain that, on the other hand, of course he personally directs Russia’s police and armed forces to violently squash any hint of civil protest against his government, and of course he’ll just go around slicing off pieces of other countries for Russia to eat in violation of international law, because that would undermine his point about being pretty much the best and sexiest beacon of Law and Freedom. He is a smart dude!
Putin’s reasons for wanting this exchange on television are clear. But what about Snowden’s? Here are three of them, and sorry Team Snowden, none are very flattering to your guy.
The First One: Snowden was naïve, fell into Russia’s trap.
Probably the most likely explanation. We have ample evidence that Snowden is, or was, rather naïve – the record of his online socializing showed that he was at one point a libertarian gold bug, and some of his disclosures seemed weirdly idealistic, most notably the “revelation” that we spy on China, which is not so much a disclosure as a “Yeah, and…?”
So Snowden the Idealist maybe developed a rosier picture of what would happen to him as a stateless freedomblower – Surely some nice country will take me in, I am doing good stuff! Costa Rica, maybe?
Unfortunately all of the nice countries are friendly with the United States, or at least they don’t need the headache that Snowden would bring. That leaves our geopolitical foes, which tend to suck a lot worse than the US. Whoops.
And double whoops, the country he ended up in is historically very willing to force people to do stuff they don’t want to do, like go to jail, or – in this scenario – appear on TV as a kind of trophy with instructions to tee up a nice softball question for a ruthless autocrat.
The Second One: Snowden’s ends justify his means.
This scenario is similar to the first, but gives Snowden a little more credit for foreseeing that he’d end up a poster-person for irony in a country with a significantly worse record of civil liberties abuses than the one he’d left. But! He went ahead anyway because it was the only way to push the world to renounce yadda and yadda.
Sure, whatever, maybe. It would have been much more admirable – and much less beneficial to assholes like Putin – if he’d returned to the United States to face prosecution (and maybe Obama would pardon him, to great fanfare and neocon hollering!), but we can’t say we’d be that brave ourselves.
The Third One: Snowden is an actual traitor who spied for Russia.
Sorry, but even if you love Snowden, you have to acknowledge this possibility. We’ll say this is the least likely explanation of the bunch, but it’s hard to argue that Snowden’s appearance with Putin was anything other than unambiguously shitty and hypocritical if it wasn’t coerced.
So those are the three possibilities we could dream up up right this minute. Don’t hate us, civil libertarians, because we think it’s the first one, the naïve one! And that would mean Snowden can also be the hero of your dreams, a naïve hero which is the best kind, like Luke Skywalker or Forrest Gump.
And NO, we are not saying this to hump Obama’s leg. And we are not doing it because Snowden’s personal politics seem kinda dumb. We are doing it because it’s in the news, duh we are a blog! And if it pisses you off, then damn it, at least you felt something today. Something real.
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