Monday, June 24, 2013

Snowden Chase Modern Day Version of OJ Televised Car Chase

[Think of this as a quick jump into the river of data flowing out over the internet.  A short swim.  Then we get out, dry off, and go about our business.]

There's a lot we don't know and jumping to firm conclusions on any side is clearly premature.  One's gut reactions are probably more related to one's basic belief system than to the actual facts at this point.  But, eventually, we'll know which first impressions proved to be more accurate.

My reaction is in the title - this reminds me of the OJ Simpson car chase coverage.  That one used helicopters to follow Simpson and the police through Los Angeles.  This one is using the internet and who knows what else to give us less direct and less verifiable information.  The OJ chase led to a trial that left White observers shaking their heads and Black observers smiling.  The later may not all have believed in OJ's innocence, but the fact that a Black defendant had been able to get out of a charge of murder of his White girlfriend showed that enough money to get a great attorney now worked for Blacks as well as Whites.  But it didn't end there and everyone seemed to hold to their pre-trial conclusions.  We'll see if that foreshadows what's going to happen here where the stakes are so much higher.  

I went to Twitter to see what was happening there.   Snowden isn't even in the top 10.  Here's what Tweeters think is important at this moment in time*:

I searched Snowden (not the hashtag #Snowden.)  Tweets are rushing in.  Most seem sympathetic to Snowden.  Here are just two:

4h"He who tells the truth must have one foot in the stirrup." - Armenian proverb

 ‏@OccupyWallStNYC6hIrony in the US getting upset about going to Cuba to avoid the law, which is exactly why Bush put Guantanamo there.

I decided to look for the negative tweets and searched "Snowden traitor" (not the hashtag #snowdentraitor.) Here too it seems tweeters are pretty supportive of Snowden though if you wait a few minutes you get a stream of 'he's a traitor' tweets. From search for "snowden traitor":

I initially thought Snowden was a whistle blower, but if he is sharing NSA secrets with China & Russia, then he is a traitor 
.18 JunMichele Bachmann says Edward Snowden is ‘clearly’ a traitor: 18 Junpolitico Traitors r those who swore 2 uphold & defend the constitution & trample it Those who warn U your rights being taken away R heroes
Expand17 JunDick Cheney calls Edward a traitor, says fleeing to China suspicious, implies he may a spy for China:
 ‏@TheAtlanticWire2hThe growing consensus that  is a terrible traitor, or 'America's #1 fugitive' 
But another tweet took me to newsguild (the newspaper guild, communications workers of America)
which has an online poll:

Snowden Survey

Thank you for taking our survey.*


*I had to vote to see the results.

I'm not sure what this all means, but the basic questions falling out are:
  • Snowden's motives  - I don't see much about Snowden being motivated by money or any other reason to sell out his country.  Some say he's doing this for the attention.  Most say he's exposing the ugly side of America.  Some say he's helping China and Russia (and other countries with terrible free press records) to score points against the US.  It seems that most people writing think that he, at least, thinks he's doing this as a whistleblower, not as a spy.  
  • Traitor/Spy - This charge seems to come more from the act and specific violations of the law and the contract he signed to keep information confidential than from belief that he has been paid to do this by some foreign government - the usual notion of a spy.  The idea is, he broke the law and is doing harm to America therefore he is a traitor.  Implied, I guess, is that he is just a mere cog in the process and therefore doesn't understand the big picture of why the surveillance needs to be done.
  • Hero - There are a lot of folks (on Twitter) who see Snowden as part of the Daniel Ellsberg, Julian Assange tradition of whistleblowers who expose government's evil ways.  
  • Just a troubled man - 
    Ex-CIA Chief: Snowden neither hero, nor traitor but very troubled young man
Technology may give us access to more data faster, it doesn't make us wiser. It does give us more of a sense of what people are thinking and with that we can start to assemble the ways people are framing the situation and the questions that need more facts to help reach more justifiable conclusions. (Conclusions can include: "We don't have enough information to conclude.")

*  As I towel off and get back to other things, here's the Twitter Top 10 as I'm about to hit the publish button:

· Change

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