Recently I got around to watching the documentary CitizenFour. It’s about the first hours of Edward Snowden as he reached out to the press as well his first interactions with journalists of The Guardian. The movie evolves into recording his reactions to the initial release of classified information to the world and thus exposing the programs that exist to spy on the public. I believe people are captivated by not only what information he released to the public, but also him personally. What he did took courage. Many call him traitor now, and he is hated by many all over the world. People like to live in comfort and ease. For a man to forsake his life, wealth, lover, and family for his beliefs does take courage. Doesn’t matter if you think he is a traitor or not it takes conviction to do what you feel is necessary.
Yet I can’t help, but think he was bit naive when it come to trusting the press. As many already know the press has become a mouthpiece for the institution that is the state. You are fed the propaganda you want to believe, and proper facts and unbiased analysis are avoided. I am sure the intentions of The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. were pure and some journalists still believe in proper reporting. It is the self-preserving nature of those who are in power of the welfare state who need to make sure that anything that can threaten them be contained.
Computer guys tend not to be the most social, or fluid speakers for that matter. I believe that Snowden stuck with an ideology that existed in his head of what justice and freedom are. He ran with it as someone who believed in the principles of western democracy. If you have been reading my blog you are well aware of the themes I try to convey in my writing. One of those themes is the idea that western principles are decaying fast.
What he failed to understand is that people are networked in. They aren’t going to give up the ease of unencrypted email, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, or Snapchat videos. People aren’t going to bother to create strong passwords or have 5-6 email accounts. Most people don’t even read the terms of service that all software companies force you to agree with. We live in a life of convenience, and luxury.
I once went to see a talk given by the legendary programmer, and activist Richard Stallman. I was hoping to get some technical insight of GNU, but instead became a political speech about promoting libertarianism and that the individual rights of citizens that are being corroded by modern software companies. He had a point, but he is mistaken on what the solution should be. He believes like many before in the need to get politically motivated. In my opinion, only economic collapses get most people motivated. He criticized that “we” tech people always look for a technical solution to the problem, but, in fact, we need to solve it as a political one. Well, I have to say I don’t see the change he keeps yearning for. I see more of the same. I bring up this point because I think Snowden indirectly did the same. He realized there was an issue, and pursued the traditional routes solving the problem. As you clearly see in a sense both have failed. They did have an impact and still do. Yet the sea hasn’t changed color, and we are still drowning in the decay that is the welfare state.
When I started learning about computers it started for the simple fact that I liked video games, and from there my world viewed kept expanding. I started to see the larger role that software and computers were partaking in society. Software is allowing people, and, more importantly, civilization rewrite the rules, and structure of the society. As I get older I realize that as a coder I don’t only have a responsibility to write programs that are technically correct, but that must also follow my morality, and ideology.
There is a battle between software that is closed, and those which are open. Only time will tell which one ends up winning the war. That battle may determine Snowden’s legacy ends up being.