In years to come what will I most remember about 2013? Or who? I figure it will be either Edward Snowden or Miley Cirus. It’s not really a close race, but now that I’ve linked them together, when I remember one I will likely remember the other. I appreciate mnemonics more each day.
I will remember Snowden more because the ramifications of his actions will keep giving like a Mother Teresa. They will prompt a cottage industry of analysts who will ponder for years their significance. Miley Cirus not so much.
But she did show me that a surprisingly long tongue and grinding hips employed in a distasteful way called twerking (I learned) in prime time can prove a surprisingly good career move. Or at least celebrity move.
The more people like myself tut tutted, the more her celebrity star shifted into warp drive. Not reaching the galaxy of a Kim Kardashian as yet, but really who has? That’s a creation unto itself. Miley shows promise.
But back to Snowden.
My sense of Snowden’s lasting significance was accentuated by Day Six, an NPR a program Saturday devoted to looking back over 2013. The whole show is worth listening to as a thoughtful look over the past year, but it was the segment about Snowden that struck the deepest chord. He was awarded Disruptor of the Year status – ” people whose work and ideas challenge convention and shake up the status quo.”
In essence what Snowden did was to expose our program of intelligence as existing on a scale larger than most could imagine. The intelligence “community” here and in Britain screamed bloody murder as to the harm this did, in particular to alerting terrorists as to some of our methods, which they might better evade as a result. However, that immediate cost in protecting our “free society” from danger without must be judged in conjunction with other ramifications that seem to protect this freedom from danger within. Four of them in the order listed in the program are:
Four: Snowden’s actions pitted big tech vs. the government. NASA relied on information gleaned from companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, often without their knowledge. Since Snowden’s revelations, these companies have teamed up to speak out against NASA overreach and to lobby for reforms.
Three: News organizations had long suspected government surveillance of their activities. Snowden made th0se suspicions concrete and has changed the way journalists see their work and what they need to do to protect it.
Two: Other countries have passed legislation restricting the operation of American companies which seem “in bed” with NASA. Meanwhile core technologies for international business are being developed and American companies might be left out in the cold. This could be a negative consequence but might be turned positive if our companies can demonstrate an unwillingness to be pawns of NASA as indicated in point Four above.
One: Snowden ignited a movement united by the issue of privacy. An organization called Stop Watching Us has been created which links a wide spectrum of groups concerned with the issue of privacy, from Tea Party types to Islamic groups. I can’t imagine a more surprising coalition, but our privacy seems likely to benefit.
Together these points suggest to me that however one might judge Edward Snowden the man, his actions may well be looked back upon in years to come as protecting our free society more than endangering it. My slim summaries are not adequate to give a sense of this nine minute radio segment, but I hope they entice you to listen to it at this link.
And if you want to remember 2013 forever, envision Edward Snowden and Miley Cirus twerking.