Snow & Zuck

There’s a WebCam
Hidden in the Toilet

Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg shared a week in the headlines. The whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s dirty secrets has a memoir out. And the Facebook’s inventor was caught on tape expressing fears of a future of greater scrutiny and accountability.
Apart from that, their notoriety, and the fact they were born within a year of each other, they’ve got little in common. One, whose daring act cost him his freedom, is an example of moral clarity, while the other embodies the very disregard for principles driving the ownership class.
The fate of their parallel lives, however, is an imperfect but still fitting metaphor for these times: follow your conscience and face exile and the hounds of the establishment. Use your privilege to generate wealth and soon you’ll get to rub elbows with the rich and the powerful.
Snowden‘s ‘Permanent Record,’ rather than boasting his ‘good guy’ image, as a slayer of sinister state-surveillance agencies, zeroes in on the fractured and the personal. It’s a humble account of surviving the pushback while still honoring ethical and private choices.
The leaked audio of Zuckerberg‘s raging about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, throws a glare on his shrewd political calculations. As in the 2016 elections, he’s prepping his social media mammoth to play again the role of king’s maker.

Six years ago this November, they were the focus of a Colltales’ Curtain Raiser, an excerpt of which is adapted and reposted below. To many, Snowden’s woes have somehow anticipated our current reality, where a U.S. president uses the government to go after his political enemies.
Or that Facebook, which Zuck started in 2004 – a decade before the NSA scandal broke – would go on to become more powerful than many nations. After all, free, non-regulated access to private citizen’s data is now as common as using cellphones to track people down.
As in 2014, they’re still frozen together in amber: Snowden in the White House’s hit list, unlikely to receive a fair trial if he ever comes back from Russia to fight for his rights; and Zuckerberg, who along the top 0.01% of the population, controls 80% of all the planet’s resources.

‘The Big Brother age has produced its first titans whose duality mirrors the ambiguity and radical change of the way we live now. Born within a year of each other, Snow and Zuck have perhaps unwittingly, defined the times: a reboot of government accountability, or our downgrade to a totalitarian society.
They made their choices and so will we. Zuck’s created FB with one thought on his mind, besides getting dates: get rich. He achieved that by eliminating early collaborators and potential competitors, and swiftly establishing his wraparound, impenetrable hold of a niche market.
He succeeded beyond his most outlandish visions of power by conceiving and enforcing the tenet of his business model: the complete eradication of any notion of personal privacy, except his, and (more)
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catering to young minds as crucial leverage tools for generating wealth.

On the other side of the chip sits Snowden, just another nerd in the anonymous army of millions feeding data to the NSA and other surveillance concerns; he was all but untroubled by the technology’s massive implications. Until, of course, he snapped out of it.
It’s unclear what pushed him out of the assembly line and into the national security cross-hairs. Perhaps it was when he called a world-class journalist to sort the NSA secret files according to public interest, not gossip. Or the moment he tried to seek asylum in South America.
In any event, and despite all odds, he’s inhabited the whistleblower role with skill. Make no mistake though: his is far from a glamorous, Ian-Flemming-style life choice. But we offer that history will be kind to his efforts, and may others be inspired by his sense of duty.

That’s why it’s relevant to learn from their dramatic arc. One, graced with entitlements and special treats reserved to A-List hacks. The other, disgraced but unbowed, even when forced to beg for clemency. Two moral templates that should be taught in schools.
Sadly, there’s no question who will be feted and celebrated, and who’ll be avoided like the plague. Zuck’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.
Snow, however, has struggled to find a sympathetic ear and has been the run since before the last of the docs got published. He’s bound to be outgunned by powers that be, and eventually, prospects of rotting in an American prison at least for a bit may be hardly avoidable.’

(*) Adapted from a Curtain Raiser published on Nov. 4, 2013.

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