We Should Send Him an Invite to Metafilter ...
June 17, 2021 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Edward Snowden's Newsletter: "The depredations of surveillance have merely become more entrenched, with the capabilities that used to be the province of governments now in the hands of private companies, too, which employ them to track and tether us and attenuate our freedoms[; ...i]n the resulting zero-sum blood sport that public reputation requires, combatants are incentivized to occupy the most conventionally defensible positions. [...] I want to revive the original spirit of the older, pre-commercial internet, with its bulletin boards, newsgroups, and blogs — if not in form, then in function."
posted by metabaroque (56 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
n the resulting zero-sum blood sport that public reputation requires, combatants are incentivized to occupy the most conventionally defensible positions.

That's a lot of evocative words for "why can't white men say things without consequences anymore?"

People say contemptible shit. They now put their name on it. If you do those things you're going to suffer the reputation of people having known you said contemptible shit. Polite society just isn't going to politely ignore your racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/whatever anymore. It's like how you directly quote a Republican politician and they accuse you of playing dirty political tricks of pointing out their own fucking words.

You want to have anonymous battles over consensus? 4chan still exists. But society sure as hell isn't and shouldn't be going back to quietly tolerating intolerant people.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:02 PM on June 17 [36 favorites]


Ah yes, ye glorious olde pre-commercial internets....

ON SUBSTACK

c'mon
posted by chavenet at 3:03 PM on June 17 [12 favorites]


That's a lot of evocative words for "why can't white men say things without consequences anymore?"


While very, very true, it does go both ways. I won't publicly post ANYTHING political with my real name on it
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:24 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


"For the past eight years, I've spoken out in defense of speech freedoms on various platforms, but none has been a home. I've been edited by editors, moderated by moderators, crammed into newspaper and magazine columns next to the ads for fancy wristwatches; I've had my thoughts contorted by character-limitations and tripped-up by threads, even before they were taken out of context and misinterpreted, accidentally and willfully. Platforms should ensure a writer has full control over, and full ownership of, their intellectual property, so I'm glad to help give this one a fighting chance. "

There was a glorious interview with Mark Hosler of Negativland at an art gallery where he destroyed this simple-minded viewpoint. It's too bad it is gone from the internet, it was an amazing interview that has informed my opinions on art for a long time.

The gist of it however, is that once a human views a piece of art, reads a piece of poetry, etc., those things become part of that persons mind, and those ideas grow and change in their mind, and they might mimic the ideas. The reality is that is just kind of how humans work, and how our minds work, and so, in Hosler's view, once you release something into the public sphere, you've already lost control of it. Just because you own it as "intellectual property" essentially means nothing when people are growing and changing the ideas you seeded. In other words, if you want to have complete control over your art, don't share it with the public sphere. Keep it in your home, share it with your friends.

In Snowdens case, it means that it doesn't matter how clear he tries to be, or how much he tries to own it, others can spin his words however they see fit, whenever they see fit, quite easily. Because most people won't bother with his website. The idea that having his own website will somehow prevent that is the most dumbly libertarian thing I can conceive.
posted by deadaluspark at 3:37 PM on June 17 [31 favorites]


We Should Send Him an Invite to Metafilter ..

Hard pass. My experience with Special Celebrity Members of web communities is not that favorable. It stinks up the joint.
posted by thelonius at 4:01 PM on June 17 [19 favorites]


Trump sucks!

I won't publicly post ANYTHING political with my real name on it

You were saying?
posted by Jubal Kessler at 4:40 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


"In Snowdens case, it means that it doesn't matter how clear he tries to be, or how much he tries to own it, others can spin his words however they see fit, whenever they see fit, quite easily. Because most people won't bother with his website." I wanted to repost this three times, but I'll just second it.

Also: "Hard pass. My experience with Special Celebrity Members of web communities is not that favorable. It stinks up the joint." Are you talking about the secretly fairly cool uncool club? Because I've never heard of such a thing and we don't talk about that. Also, sometimes 'celebrities' are incredible and sneak among us, but you probably know this.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:55 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


As always, I am contractually obligated to add the words, WORST BOYFRIEND IN THE WORLD, when ever this man's name is posted.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 5:07 PM on June 17 [11 favorites]


Also, sometimes 'celebrities' are incredible and sneak among us, but you probably know this.

This reads like something Scott Adams would write. Hmm....
posted by star gentle uterus at 5:22 PM on June 17 [9 favorites]


Pretty sure he's not here (hopefully - in theory he's super misodgy, but I've never met the guy). Point was saying 'celebrities' are just people, sorta nullifies the adamses. What about Snowden, now?

(I actually learned about Scott Adams from metafilter, or I wouldn't know who he is.. and now I'm not sure how to feel.)

Edit: (a quick Google: "Scott Adams poses as his own fan.." ha!)
posted by firstdaffodils at 5:35 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


bulletin boards, newsgroups, and blogs

These things aren't gone. You aren't probably going to get a lot of traffic on your blog on your own domain, but you also don't answer to moderators or editors, or have to contend with tracking or ads.
posted by tclark at 5:41 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


“Platforms should ensure a writer has full control over, and full ownership of, their intellectual property, so I'm glad to help give this one a fighting chance. "

I mean, blogs have existed for like 20 years? Your buddy Glenn Greenwald started his career on one.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:47 PM on June 17 [8 favorites]


capabilities that used to be the province of governments now in the hands of private companies, too, which employ them to track and tether us and attenuate our freedoms[; ...i]n the resulting zero-sum blood sport that public reputation requires, combatants are incentivized to occupy the most conventionally defensible positions. [...] I want to revive the original spirit of the older, pre-commercial internet, with its bulletin boards, newsgroups, and blogs — if not in form, then in function."

Yeah, I want to hear about freedom from a man who is essentially the personal pet of the most powerful dictator in the world, and who doesn't so much as flush the toilet without producing a notation in a surveillance log.

Putin kept him pretty quiet when Trump was President, but now is choosing to trot him out.

Guess why.
posted by jamjam at 5:48 PM on June 17 [12 favorites]


"These things aren't gone." Thank you for saying this, it's as valid as noting the necessity to create more of them.

The idea of Snowden as a pet is interesting. I don't believe I'd say this but that particular gray area seems to get bizarre pretty quickly.

"Is it Adams' enormous success at self-promotion that makes you jealous and angry?" (sorry, I think these articles are quite funny and I don't want to derail a Snowden thread, but omg)
posted by firstdaffodils at 5:50 PM on June 17



I mean, blogs have existed for like 20 years? Your buddy Glenn Greenwald started his career on one.


To be fair, Greenwald had a law practice from the 90's to the mid-2000's. So, his career was already started and ended and writing on a blog was just a fucking rich-boy passtime after he got tired of defending Neo-Nazis in court pro bono.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:17 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I want to hear about freedom from a man who is essentially the personal pet of the most powerful dictator in the world, and who doesn't so much as flush the toilet without producing a notation in a surveillance log.

I wonder why he ended up in Russia. Did the U.S. government (including the current president) pressure the dozens of other countries where he applied for asylum, or is he just Putin's pet?

Putin kept him pretty quiet when Trump was President, but now is choosing to trot him out.

This is just sad. He writes and gives interviews all the time. He has a Twitter account lol. You can search his Twitter by the dates of the Trump administration if you want to see what he was up to while Putin was supposedly keeping him quiet.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 6:22 PM on June 17 [17 favorites]


I'm a little confused about the hate for Snowden on display here.
posted by swift at 6:37 PM on June 17 [25 favorites]


It seems far more complex than being a pet Snowden.
posted by firstdaffodils at 6:38 PM on June 17


This person?
posted by firstdaffodils at 7:12 PM on June 17


I definitely don't understand the accusations of Russian chicanery either, but to be fair, as Snowden became more and more well-known, his libertarian leanings which first made him trust the surveillance state to begin with became more and more obvious.

Many of his libertarian leanings have been sort of leaking out through things he says, including here. He genuinely thinks having his own website means he has some "control" over the information about him.

I don't hate Snowden, but I certainly think he's a very imperfect messenger on the front of modern mass surveillance, and he is certainly, erm, less clever than folks seem to make him out to be. This is an example of that.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:42 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


He genuinely thinks having his own website means he has some "control" over the information about him.

I don't know him so I don't know what he thinks, but in the linked post he says his motivation is control over his speech and how it's presented, not his information.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 7:53 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


I think 'imperfect messenger,' is great phrasing and very tactful. I think some of the fawning that comes with 'notoriety,' can be obscuring and annoying.

Still, courageous-imperfect messenger. The admiration or commendation isn't without merit.
posted by firstdaffodils at 8:05 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


but in the linked post he says his motivation is control over his speech and how it's presented, not his information.

Anyone can take his words off of his website and present those words however they want, cutting them up and up twisting them. If he's hoping for "intellectual property" protections maybe Russia isn't the place to be? Like, you have to live in a country that actually respects international IP law before you can trust that yours will be respected.

Seriously, I could spin up a webserver in a country with shitty IP laws and copy and paste his whole blog and make money off of it through ad-sales and domain-squatting. It's a dumb attitude from Mr. Snowden.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:05 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]




Anyone can take his words off of his website and present those words however they want, cutting them up and up twisting them.

I think the former CIA contractor is aware you can copy-paste text from a webpage, but again, that is not what his concern is:
For the past eight years, I've spoken out in defense of speech freedoms on various platforms, but none has been a home. I've been edited by editors, moderated by moderators, crammed into newspaper and magazine columns next to the ads for fancy wristwatches; I've had my thoughts contorted by character-limitations and tripped-up by threads, even before they were taken out of context and misinterpreted, accidentally and willfully. Platforms should ensure a writer has full control over, and full ownership of, their intellectual property, so I'm glad to help give this one a fighting chance
Having a site/blog/newsletter allows him to post what he wants, how he wants, and edit and delete and sell it at his pleasure. I'm not sure where the nefarious libertarianism comes in here given this is a non-controversial, regularly-posted-on-Metafilter observation. I'll drop the back-and-forth here.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 8:20 PM on June 17 [10 favorites]


I'm trying to imagine what a perfect messenger would look/sound like.
posted by philip-random at 8:38 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


Platforms should ensure a writer has full control over, and full ownership of, their intellectual property

In the Before Times, the slogan of the extremely online was "information wants to be free".

If you're going to wish for a return to the Good Old Days, it seems prudent to remember the Good Old Days.
posted by flabdablet at 9:26 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]



Sorry, Ed. The Beat Moves On. You are old news. Nowadays, we're into the dismantling of the American Experiment at the hands of the GOP, and we're no longer interested in illegal domestic spying by our own agencies.

Before you ask, no, you can't have your life back.
posted by mule98J at 9:29 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


*raises hand* what if some of the dismantling is within the illegal domestic spying.


you may recreate many honorary moments, but never the same one.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:43 PM on June 17


Speaking of actually remembering the Good Old Days:
our exposure to an indigestible mass of shortest-form opinions that are purposefully selected by algorithms to agitate us... The products of the irreconcilable differences this process produces are nothing more than well-divided "audiences," made available to the influence of advertisers
This criticism of the internet is identical to criticisms of the media that were being made in the 19thC and early 20thC about the cheapest and most irresponsible forms of media; muck-raking newspapers, cheap cinema serials and pre-Code Hollywood films, party-political newsletters, and most of all commercial radio. In fact, it's older, in forms, probably as old as print; the concern that media technology reduces us to advertising-targets, enrages and inflames unreasonable passions, and eliminates nuanced consensus, is as old as mass literacy. Hobbes would have recognised the concern instantly.

Media history is all about these questions of what media is for; whether it's to elevate and educate people searching for truths and betterment (Snowden's idea, which has a Christian history), whether it's to manage and mediate a society of masses (the Soviet concept, but also widely held in the West in the era of national broadcasters), or whether mediation by technology gives power to the free-individual having a right to speech (which has been one of the oldest concerns in the United States). Snowden is just continuing a venerable tradition of media criticism, though he can't possibly know it.

These are arguments about literature as much as they're arguments of technology or law—and the even deeper irony is that similarly, the CIA's major contribution to the 20thC wasn't to technology or justice, but as deep-pocketed patron of international media and literature...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:55 PM on June 17 [25 favorites]


A short further—most media historians would probably say that the interesting bit to study isn't what a piece of media says, far less what kind of person produces it, but what kind of effects it has, how broadly, and for what motivations. Anyway, I've subscribed.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:06 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


Fiasco, can you post more? These are good.
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:10 PM on June 17


philip-random: "I'm trying to imagine what a perfect messenger would look/sound like."

Laurie Anderson
.
posted by chavenet at 12:47 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]




I'm trying to imagine what a perfect messenger would look/sound like.

Some people are pretty great over all, occasionally say the wrong thing and have to make a retraction or apology, but their heart's in the right place.

Other people, like Greenwald or Snowden, come to notoriety for perfectly expressing and encapsulating an argument in one moment, but they're more like a stopped clock.
posted by explosion at 11:12 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


My memory cells haven't gone completely and I don't remember the past being nearly as rosy as he describes. The "good-old days" of early networking were not open, by any stretch of imagination. Access was almost entirely mediated by people with money to spend on and learn the technology and communications networks involved — as well as knowing the right people for getting access, in most cases. Most outlets for expression were just as privileged then, as they are now — even if the scale is admittedly quite different today.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:35 PM on June 18 [8 favorites]


It's weird how Barrett Brown has turned out to be the most likable person from that time. Maybe because he was always (proudly?) a fucking mess from the get-go.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:31 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Snowden can f right off. He fled to Russia, whose protection he enjoys. Russia is a surveillance state par excellence. In my view he was always working for Putin.
posted by spitbull at 2:18 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


yeah he totes should've stayed in the us and gone to prison instead
posted by Bangaioh at 2:38 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


this thread is peak liberal brainrot
posted by Bangaioh at 2:38 AM on June 19 [16 favorites]


Not asking this as a rhetorical question or to stir up shit but I'd really like to know where people think Snowden should have fled to?
posted by Kosmob0t at 5:14 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


This thread is an embarrassment. Some of you should do at least the smallest thing possible and read a wiki page about how and why Snowden ended up in Russia.

Peak liberal brainrot indeed.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 9:15 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


There’s nobody new on the site; we’ve all been here for all the previous Snowden threads. The only difference is instead of him being an abstract symbol for Everything America Does Is Bad, we’re discussing some of his actual human opinions.

And we, as a commentariat, dislike most people’s opinions and most people in general. We wouldn’t welcome him here, but we don’t welcome anyone else either.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:36 AM on June 19 [8 favorites]


Snowden spills the beans about US and British intelligence to Greenwald (which I think was a good thing) and ends up 'safe' in Russia; Reality Winner spills the beans about Trump and Russia to The Intercept, where Greenwald is one of three founding editors, has her identity exposed to the Feds *somehow*, and ends up in federal prison.

Quite a difference in outcome, but in retrospect, not too surprising.
posted by jamjam at 11:36 AM on June 19 [10 favorites]


"ON SUBSTACK," I mean, at this point in circumstances, people are paying (their attention is the currency) for a narrative or inspiration. E. Snowden is possibly aware (seems like he could be a perceptive guy)

If the narrative inspires them to act or create, I certainly don't see the problem.

Hm. Commentariat is a great blog title.
posted by firstdaffodils at 1:07 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Btw, for "imperfect messenger" mention/coinage/w.e. it isn't to draw away from the person's work, in my perspective the phrasing acts like a nullifier for notoriety that sometimes gets in the way of focus/concept/actual material (subject material).

Sometimes it can really help a large number of frightened/confused people to hear, "focus on what the person is saying/doing, not the person."

Hope that's clear. I think it could be said of most anyone.

I am sometimes particularly annoyed with celebrity in the US (and also creepily fascinated).
posted by firstdaffodils at 1:14 PM on June 19


this thread is peak liberal brainrot

Unfortunately, I have to agree. This site used to be all about reasonable debate, staying away from stereotypes, tropes, or too-easy conclusions. Skepticism. Which is fine with regard to Snowden, but should be applied to all aspects of the story.

It seems that Trump broke people's brains to an extent that we're still trying to figure out. I'm guessing the reason Snowden is now considered bad is because he wasn't sufficiently anti-Trump, or perhaps because he's associated with Wikileaks, which is associated with Trumpworld, or because he fled to Russia. Russia is a catch-all for everything wrong in the world, so anything vaguely Russian is suspect. Putin, the master manipulator, is to blame for almost everything, despite being unsuccessful in most of what he's accused of actually meddling in.

It's really astonishing to see skeptical people so eager to believe anything and everything connected to big bad Russia.
posted by chaz at 2:59 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


If you challenge it directly, it may never go away.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:37 PM on June 19


I didn't pay a lot of attention to Snowden when the wiki-leaks stuff was going down. I had a lot going on in my life and, bluntly, I just wasn't that surprised at the revelations. My impression of big organized evil (regardless of what flag it's flying) has long been that it will use whatever means it can to accomplish its ends. So yeah, of course it was going to feed on people's personal info via the internet ... and so on.

Later, with Snowden "safely" ensconced in Russia but still showing up every now and then for some commentary or an interview, an impression grew that he was a lot like the Christopher Boyce character from the movie (a true story) Falcon and the Snowman.

The Falcon and the Snowman is a 1985 American spy drama film [...] based on the 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage by Robert Lindsey, and tells the true story of two young American men, Christopher Boyce (Timothy Hutton) and Andrew Daulton Lee (Sean Penn), who sold US security secrets to the Soviet Union.

Boyce was in more of a Cold War situation, of course, but like Snowden I think, he was what amounts to a true believer, an all-American boy, who due to his job, came across incontrovertible evidence that his country was doing some pretty evil things. So, perhaps recklessly, perhaps heroically, perhaps selflessly, perhaps selfishly (probably a combination of all of the above) he acted. And in Snowden's case, he made history. The world's never going to be quite the same.

An imperfect messenger for sure. But aren't we all?
posted by philip-random at 6:53 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Russia is a catch-all for everything wrong in the world

Russia is literally responsible for Brexit and other Euro-skeptic right-wing extremist parties in Europe. They are literally responsible for misinformation networks like Parler, and undercover agents like the Mercer, Koch, and Trump families. Literally responsible, as in money and logistical support to these terrorists. Its government also gives legal cover to computer terrorists who shut down healthcare and energy distribution networks in Western countries, in exchange for hard currency.

Why should anyone try to defend these gangsters? Because Putin gives shelter to Snowden to garner liberal sympathies, really? It's so obvious, he'll be traded over as soon as it is expedient, anyway. Who are we kidding?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:01 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]


; Reality Winner spills the beans about Trump and Russia to The Intercept, where Greenwald is one of three founding editors, has her identity exposed to the Feds *somehow*, and ends up in federal prison. ...
posted by jamjam at 11:36 AM on June 19

Reality Winner is in prison because The Intercept posted onto their site direct copies of what she sent them, because they are, apparently, dumb as a sack-full of hammers. You print anything, on any printer, and there are identifying marks on the page that tell who the printer was sold to, what time the document(s) were printed. It's as good as DNA. I was astonished by their stupidity, appalled by their stupidity, I wrote them, reamed them out, quit giving them money, told them why; not that I am some huge mega-donor but it's the only thing I could do, aside from writing/reaming. I support them again, I think that their heart is in the right place, I trust them to at least *try* to do the right thing.

In any case, it's The Intercept that put Winner in prison, due to straight-up incompetence.

~~~~~

this thread is peak liberal brainrot

posted by Bangaioh at 4:38 AM on June 19
The word "liberal" struck because the word means nothing, any more than the word "conservative." IMO; YMMV

No shit. Snowden is one of the finest US citizens of my lifetime. He put everything he had on the line because his principles would not let him rest otherwise.

Which is to say: He has Integrity. He has courage.

He's smart as hell -- I'm sure that there are a few ppl on this site with the technical chops that he has. A few.

And I'm sure that there are people on this site whose ideals are as well-thought out, whose ideals are as defined as Snowden's. But I doubt that there's even one person with the integrity to hold to those high ideals,to live to them, especially knowing as Snowden knew exactly what happens to ppl who "Speak truth to power."

I don't understand the Snowden loathing here.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:21 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Snowden is a right wing Ron Paul libertarian, who suddenly had an awakening about state spying when a black man entered the White House.
posted by PenDevil at 1:46 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Snowden risked his career/freedom/life to share documentary evidence of massive illegal domestic and international U.S. surveillance. That is a good thing. Not sure how his politics or current living situation alter that in any way. Unless you're cool with massive illegal surveillance, I guess.
posted by Lyme Drop at 10:09 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Why not just call him a racist, PenDevil? Why write those words in that particular order unless you mean to say Snowden hates black people?
posted by flamk at 10:19 AM on June 20


it's not a bad link

awakening about state spying

feels well researched and presented, and probably required reading for anyone who's signed up for the Edward Snowden Hagiography Society. But yeah, PenDevil's framing lands as heavy handed at best.
posted by philip-random at 12:00 PM on June 20


I think the weakest points in that piece PenDevil linked to are the Snowden bits. Which is why I suspect the author placed them at the front of the piece rather than end with what basically amounts to a 16 year old writes dumb uninformed things on the internet, libertarians are bad, mkay? (Don't get me wrong, my sympathies agree, but it isn't the strongest argument) and people sometimes have complicated, maybe even confused political views that I don't agree with. But none of this seems to be the silver bullet in discrediting Snowden like the author believes it is...
posted by flamk at 1:22 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


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