Curtain Raiser

Two Kids Who Bent the World, Colltalers

The Big Brother age has produced its first titans whose duality mirrors the ambiguity and radical transformation of the way we live now. Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg, born within a year of each other, have both, perhaps unwittingly, made decisions that are defining these times and cast them either at the reboot of government accountability, or our downgrade to a totalitarian society. They made their choices and so will we.
By creating FaceBook, Zuckerberg had only one thought on his mind, besides, of course, getting dates: to get rich and powerful, which he achieved by swiftly eliminating early collaborators and potential competitors, and quickly establishing his wraparound, impenetrable hold of a niche market.
He succeed beyond his most outlandish visions of power, and remains unapologetic for creating and enforcing the tenet of his business model: the complete eradication of any notion of personal privacy, except his, and the catering to young minds as crucial leverage tools for generating wealth.
On the other side of the chip sits Snowden, who’d been just another nerd in the anonymous army of millions that feeds data to the NSA and other surveillance concerns, all but untroubled by the massive implications their technological expertise serves. Until, of course, he snapped out of it.
We don’t know what kind of deviant streak pushed him out of the assembly line and into the rows of the U.S. national security targets. It’s likely that he wasn’t fully aware of what he was about to trigger by calling a world class journalist, but he’s inhabited the role of whistleblower with great skill.
That’s why we’re singling out these two – one fully graced with the privileges and special treats reserved to fellow billionaires, and the other broke and disgraced, unbowed but forced to the humiliating position of asking for clemency – as the exemplary role model brackets of this century so far.
Sadly, there’s no question who will be feted and celebrated, and who’ll be avoided as a plague by the powerful and the influential. Mark’s everyone’s pall, and could be doing even more of the celebrity circuit weren’t his sweat glands so awkwardly drawn out by the floodlights of media studios.
Edward, on the other hand, has struggled to find a sympathetic ear, and once he’s out of the voluminous but ultimately limited, arsenal of leaked surveillance documents, he’ll be outgunned and may be finding the prospect of rotting in an American prison for life hardly avoidable.
For, although many countries have shown rhetorical support for his decision in leaking classified information, and the U.S. secret forces’ propaganda machine has had a hard time creating an equally powerful narrative to counter the resonance of his gesture, it’s all been played out for the bleachers.
The photo op posing ‘I’m shocked, shocked’ attitude, taken by U.S. allies upon ‘learning’ that their top officials, along with some key industries, have been mined for confidential information by the NSA, allegedly even without President Obama’s explicit knowledge, couldn’t last, of course.
Unless one’s been living in some alternative universe (under a rock is definitely not an excuse, since many of these officials do have bunkers), the realization that political leaders and their apparatchicks profusely spy on each other is yesterday’s news, with yesterday being circa 1917.
What’s really an insidious factor about all this ‘spy you, spy me’ parlor trick is the fact that it obscures the still overriding reality that technology now allows them to keep fat and engorging files on regular citizens, not agents or organizations with their own invisible cameras and poison umbrellas.
Again, no surprise there, as the progressive nanotization of recordable knowledge had no complains when used to get us a better mousetrap and fast. That less than suddenly turnaround was years in the making, and if now your toaster is looking at you funny, well, it comes with the territory.
Which is why this myth that technology is a neutral tool, there to help us navigate the natural world by constantly obliterating it, but ever under orders, because, really, who wants a robot who won’t take our commands, is a fallacy. The real question is, on whose orders are they being shaped?
Soon-to-be Dr. Z., on the account of honoris causa doctorates he’s bound to get, is rewarded not for the social network he owns, for that too is an old idea, but for cashing in so flawlessly on people’s willingness to surrender their inner lives in exchange for a platform to be trivial in a global scale.
For Snowden, the outlook for cashing in his chips couldn’t be more discouraging. The act of dumping his own life and career continues to fade and be upstaged by the relentless efforts of those he rattled, the state security apparatus and shadowy organizations that unwelcome his flashlight.
The nations that benefited from the disclosures, and may use them for leverage negotiating trade agreements and cozy contracts with the U.S., are unlikely to be willing to sacrifice all that, and incur in the wrath of the administration, by granting Snowden political asylum in less than a year.
As illustrated by the case of Chelsea Manning, former Pvt. Bradley, of whom we won’t be hearing from anytime soon, personal sacrifice in the name of conscience is deemed, in the cynic age of FB, another form of showmanship, highly punishable at the least hint of threatening the powers that be.
Even Glenn Greenwald, the articulate journalist who was instrumental in getting Snowden’s revelations into the public discourse, hasn’t been able to protect his personal life and those he loves: David Miranda, his Brazilian partner, has just been accused of ‘terrorism’ by U.K. authorities.
The charge is as outrageous as calling Snowden a traitor, or Manning an enemy of state, for that matter. For Miranda’s rights (pardon the poor pun) are the ones that got violated when he was detained for nine hours by security forces at Heathrow in August, with no access to legal counsel.
And some of the spies who actually profited from selling secrets to U.S. enemies are done with their sentences and now walk free, something that’s been denied to Manning, and probably will be prescribed for Snowden too, in his eventual prosecution. That is, if the president won’t intervene.
For in just a couple of years, aided by the perspective of time and the pressings of salvaging a tainted legacy, the prospects of a pardon for Manning and Snowden may represent some sort of redemption for an administration that has been marked by double talk and drone assassination missions.
We’re not holding our breath though, nor should you. And what would be effective, and possibly ironic, for those who wish to do something, and rescue Snowden from the system that’s staked against vulnerable targets like him, to a more deserving place in history? why, to start an FB campaign for his pardon.
Since that’d make Zuckerberg even wealthier, Colltales would be probably excused from being part of it. But may we suggest adding another petition to the same page? to demand the right of every subscriber to gain full, ungarnished access to his profile. And of course, privacy for everybody else. Have a great one. WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Ha – I like that addition re privacy… “except his”. He would surely be private, yes.

    I like this line, “We don’t know what kind of deviant streak pushed him out of the assembly line and into the rows of the U.S. national security targets.” Great writing!

    An excellent article, Wesley, & totally love your closing lines.


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