Friday, September 16, 2016

Snowden - The Movie

I've avoided posts about Edward Snowden.  Yes, I've mentioned him now and then, but I've held off from writing about him in much detail.  My dissertation was on privacy.  I've studied whistle-blowing.  Daniel Ellsberg is one of my heroes.  I knew I was primed to be supportive of Snowden and wanted to hold off.  (And whether I say something about him or not isn't going to matter in the bigger scheme of things anyway.)

I wanted to know more.  Well, I really wanted to drop by and talk to him for a couple of days and see if he was the guy I wanted him to be or not.

I've watched some of his tapes and I've pretty much settled, for the time being, on the Snowden the whistleblower side.  He's the good guy who believed in the ideals of his country and was willing to risk his freedom, even his life, to keep his country honest.  That's the narrative that fits most comfortably with what I've seen and heard about Snowden.

So we went to the 12:50 pm showing of Oliver Stone's Snowden today.  I did read a New York Times review when I was checking last night about when the movie played here.  After seeing the movie I'd concur with the reviewer.

This may be the movie that Oliver Stone has been practicing for.  It's restrained and straightforward.  It goes back and forth between the 'right now' and flashbacks.  The 'right now' starts with his arrival in Hong Kong.  The film is totally consistent with my sense of who Snowden is and why he did what he did.

The surprises for me were:

  • how conservative he was politically and personally
  • how he voiced concerns to others he worked with and for while he was an employee or contractor with the various security agencies
  • that he suffered from epileptic seizures

So, until others can present a more convincing narrative - along with supportive evidence - I'm more than willing to call on Obama and others to find a way to let Snowden come back to the US honorably.  Don't make this like the Cuba sanctions that go on forever or our marijuana phobia because we can't admit we're wrong.

There are more thoughts, but I need to do other things and this movie is worth seeing.  It's well made and is entertaining.  At the very least, it should further open the discussion how we keep spy agencies accountable.  And how we treat those who call them on it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great in the starring role. And I liked how the real Snowden's image replaces the actor's at the very end.


  1. I wanted to write a simple, short reply. I couldn't. I have 2 or 3 major points and then so many diverging thoughts on these that a blog-world reply wouldn't be welcome. I will leave it to my main concern, and it isn't about this one person. Snowden. It is about privacy, however.

    I have (as I believe many have) begun to act and live as if my thoughts could be used against me at any time. I use my name in my electronic dealings as metadata aggregators work everywhere on the net. I have surrendered (almost all) of the notion of my privacy not only to governments, but commercial banks and the finance sector, the health and charitable sector, and that most omnipresent force in our lives today, social media. Our phones track our movements, our computer cameras can be controlled.

    Snowden did help me become aware of this. Where I differ is in believing I can fight it. And I do see it getting worse in the future as we explore memory augmentation (bio interface with computers) preceded by genetic coding in reproduction with the necessary data-keeping for these human signature areas.

    Our species is finally creating the world of social order we first employed to survive so long ago, now perhaps, too well. In my own small way, I am arriving at that point that sensing mortality brings to one: that life is maybe best left to those who must deal with what we have created.

    That’s a moment when I take a walk to clear my head of such thoughts, leaving my mobile phone at home, aware surveillance cameras watch me for public safety, and oddly feeling safe “they” don't yet trace my thoughts whilst I walk.


    1. Read a line the other day:

      "...we had all the privacy of a goldfish."

      We are aware of this, but like the goldfish can't do anything but keep swimming, living as authentic and meaningful a life as we can -- " unpaid extras in a movie set. The politicians are the actors, but the true directors -- you never see. The show is run from the wings, not under the spotlights." (David Mitchell, 9 Dream, 2001)

      I think Snowden understood this and just wanted everybody to wake up. But it's nicer just to be in our warm, safe bowl.

      At best he won't be thanked, at worst, he'll be heavily prosecuted for it. Nobody likes to be shown to be a manipulated fool.

      That Snowden may now be being manipulated is another issue.

  2. Aah, admitting one was wrong... pretty much the pivotal point of much great literature -- King Lear, Pride and Prejudice spring to mind -- (that, and redemption) but sadly not of fearful people, religious extremists or politics.

    After decades of an American right-wing owned/Christianist media pimping a culture of fear, why are we surprised at the rise of Trump and his ilk?

    I'm not, but appalled that it doesn't seem to be able to be turned around. Trump now "bullish" in the polls!? (Sorry, but I still think Sanders would have been the antidote, rallying young people and real liberal progressives to have something to hope for, for without hope the people perish.)


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