People who’ve paid attention to the news recently are probably sick to death of hearing about Edward Snowden. Unfortunately for those people, I intend to talk about him, albeit briefly.
As we all know now, Mr. Snowden, after disclosing the existence of the PRISM program, which logged call information for everyone in the United States, fled the country to go to Hong Kong, which is currently controlled by China. This has caused numerous questions as to his motivations for revealing the existence of the program, especially as it comes out that he’s kind of a paranoiac and has a bit of an ego.
(As a side note, what’s with guys with Snow in their names and thinking that Communist China is a good place to be? Yes, Edgar, I’m looking at you.)
Here’s the deal, though. Whether Edward Snowden is a hero, a traitor, or a misguided fool/idealist (take your pick) has as much bearing on whether or not PRISM needed to be revealed as a math teacher’s membership or non-membership in the Klan does on whether or not they are correct when they say that the sum of the angles of a triangle is 180 degrees.
However, shooting the messenger has long been considered a good way to try and get rid of unpleasant news. This is not a problem unique to situations like this one. It can be seen all over the place in American culture and politics, and it works. Make the messenger look like an idiot, and the message gets lost in the noise.
Mention that there might be a problem with massive conglomerations of economic power? Well, you’re a socialist, and look how that worked out in Russia, or you’re a would-be tyrant who wants to control people’s choices. Suggest that the American government has too much power? Then why don’t you go to your no-government paradise in Somalia, you anarchist who obviously wants to exploit workers and minorities! Suggest that homosexual marriage might not result in the immediate moral collapse of America, and you’re a libertine who doesn’t want to follow God. Mention that there might be negative consequences to homosexual marriage, and you’re a bigot who wants to burn homosexuals at the stake. I’m exaggerating here, but not by much.
Now, here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t check people’s personal motivations at times. Those times, however, are when we’re actually considering whether or not to give them power. When we’re considering whether their ideas are correct or not, however, that is not the time to talk about if they’re a fascist/socialist/anarchist/vegan/greedy/envious/bigoted/libertine person. The question is whether or not the idea actually makes sense, or the policy notion will work. Now, when it comes time for implementation, then it becomes very important what the motivation is, because that will affect implementation greatly.
As a side note, by the way, make sure that your spokespeople are sane, rational, and coherent. It’ll help your cause quite a bit.
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness