There is a lot of fan fiction swirling around right now about Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the NSA's programs to collect all phone calls and all email. The NSA's surveillance programs, even if you wholeheartedly support them, are the more important story since it reveals that the government has computing power so awesome that it borders on sci-fi. But pundits prefer the personal and since Snowden has only spoken to literally three reporters and before that worked in classified organizations his entire career (no chatty co-workers), there is not actually much known. So writers need to extrapolate between the known data points, and many have found it irresistible to imagine things about Snowden's personality as facts rather than supposition. All we know about Snowden is he is 29 years old, he never graduated from high school, he's into computers, he worked in national security, he has a girlfriend who's into dancing. Admittedly, it's a lot of material to work with, but what's made up beyond there reveals a lot more about the pundits than it does about Edward Snowden.
The claim: Edward Snowden is a spoiled and cynical Millennial who spent too much time on the Internet, according to The New York Times' David Brooks.
Explanation: "Though thoughtful, morally engaged and deeply committed to his beliefs, he appears to be a product of one of the more unfortunate trends of the age: the atomization of society, the loosening of social bonds, the apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments." Further, "Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good." Snowden is making individualism "worse."
What it says about you: Your primary job is to articulate the conventional wisdom, which you represent in columns perfectly calibrated to reflect the views of your associates who benefit from the status quo. You think the most moral position is the median position. You think a massive security state, which is a real tangible thing, is as big a problem as "the corrosive spread of cynicism," which is an abstraction that lives on opinion pages.
Explanation: "[Glenn] Greenwald wrote that Snowden 'lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping' and that 'he puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.' Greenwald said that 'Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers.' I think he’ll go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood." Snowden is "ridiculously cinematic... merely narcissistic."
What it says about you: Though you work in an industry dominated by nerds, it is paradoxically fashionable to adopt the macho swagger of people who never had much interest in political commentary. Therefore you conflate physical courage with moral courage. You are fixated with masculinity because you get paid to use words to describe relationships between people more powerful than you, which is something high school girls do. Further, while it's not cool among your peers anymore to be a gay-basher, you can still chuckle over a gay joke.
Your claim: Edward Snowden is a flashy sissy who wants to be famous, according to Fox News analyst Ralph Peters.
Explanation: "We’ve made treason cool. Betraying your country is kind of a fashion statement. He wants to be the national security Kim Kardashian."
What it says about you: You are also fixated on masculinity. However, you carry an additional resentment that your use of words on television does not make you as famous as someone who had sex on the Internet.
Your claim: Edward Snowden was probably really annoying in the office, The National Review's Jim Geraghty.
Explanation: "My God, he must have been an insufferable co-worker," Geraghty writes. Geraghty continues with this vignette:
‘Look, you guys just don’t understand, okay? You just can’t grasp the moral complexities of what I’m being asked to do here! Nobody here really gets what’s going on, or can see thebig picture when you ask me to do something like that!’
‘Ed, I just asked if you could put a new bottle on the water cooler when you get a chance.’"
What it says about you: This is literally fan fiction. You are bored with your job.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.