Edward Snowden is not a hero.
There are many other things that we could call him. A traitor? In one sense of the word, yes. He betrayed the trust of the government by revealing government secrets, the trust of everyone who enTRUSTed him with these secrets.
A whistleblower? Sure. He did exactly what a whistleblower does — publicly expose a controversial part of government that he feels needs to be changed — and that probably needs to be changed, or at least publicly known.
But a hero?
If Edward Snowden were really trying to play the hero part (and let’s be honest, “hero” is a term that others have applied to him), he would have surrendered in Hong Kong and flown back to the United States to stand trial, to stand up to the government. Popular opinion — and there is a lot of it behind him — would have virtually assured him a fair (maybe) and public (definitely) trial. And through that, there was always the possibility he could have revealed more of his injustices to the world. If he had been given the maximum 30 years with which he was charged, he would definitely have become a martyr for basic human rights.
What he actually did is nothing short of pathetic. He was very bold in exposing the NSA surveillance program and was vowing to fight extradition charges from Hong Kong, but as soon as he found out that the US was seriously going to bust its ass to get him he turned tail and ran, like a 5-year-old from his angry mother. And he’s in cohorts with Julian Assange, he of Wikileaks — who is himself in exile because he’s afraid of being extradited to the US for documents that he leaked. (Assuming, of course, that he’s acquitted of not being able to keep his pants on first.)
And of course he would pick countries to flee to that are relatively antagonistic to the United States. He’s trying to grasp for his freedom — a freedom that he willingly gave up when he admitted that he had committed these crimes. (Oh, put your hand down. Just because it’s “right” doesn’t mean it’s lawful. That’s why we have the ability to change or get rid of those laws.)
If I had to pick another word to describe Snowden, it would be “naive.” Perhaps he only meant to start a debate over the surveillance state that would eventually lead to its demise and a free, private American people, but he clearly didn’t think about the possible negative consequences of his actions. He didn’t expect the US to begin hounding him the way it has over the past few days. And he almost certainly didn’t intend for this event to blow up into the major diplomatic debacle it has turned into, that has basically completely overshadowed the actual issue he wanted to address. Some “hero.”
Snowden is lucky that he picked the United States as his guinea pig. I would love to see him try to expose Russian or Chinese state secrets and see how long he survives. (On a side note, I would love to see all these people up in arms about NSA surveillance try to live in these two countries, especially the China of mass internet censorship. Or Soviet Russia, although it’s 20 years too late for that. I’m also shocked that Americans are apparently so naive as to think that the government hasn’t been watching us for years and years, although that’s a topic for another article.)
What’s really funny is that Snowden’s flight could actually be the catalyst for a more oppressive police state. A leak like this basically forces the government to double down on security efforts to make sure something like this never happens again, which leads to more spying — not discussion.
Only time will tell if his leaks change this country for the better, but his actions after the fact are about as far from noble as you can get. And because of these actions, eventually his name and his 15 minutes of fame will be lost to history, and hopefully then we can get on to creating real change in America.
So stop calling Edward Snowden a hero. Because he’s not one. At all.