FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Oliver Stone’s Snowden is the Best Film of the Year


Snowden is the most entertaining, informing, and important film you are likely to see this year.

It’s the true story of an awakening. It traces the path of Edward Snowden’s career in the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and at various contractors thereof. It also traces the path of Edward Snowden’s agonizingly slow awakening to the possibility that the U.S. government might sometimes be wrong, corrupt, or criminal. And of course the film takes us through Snowden’s courageous and principled act of whistleblowing.

We see in the film countless colleagues of Snowden’s who knew much of what he knew and did not blow the whistle. We see a few help him and others appreciate him. But they themselves do nothing. Snowden is one of the exceptions. Other exceptions who preceded him and show up in the film include William Binney, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, and Thomas Drake. Most people are not like these men. Most people obey illegal orders without ever making a peep.

And yet, what strikes me about Snowden and many other whistleblowers I’ve met or learned about, is how long it took them, and the fact that what brought them around was not an event they objected to but a change in their thinking. U.S. officials who’ve been part of dozens of wars and coups and outrages for decades will decide that the latest war is too much, and they’ll bail out, resign publicly, and become an activist. Why now? Why not then, or then, or then, or that other time?

These whistleblowers — and Snowden is no exception — are not passive or submissive early in their careers. They’re enthusiastic true believers. They want to spy and bomb and kill for the good of the world. When they find out that’s not what’s happening, they go public for the good of the world. There is that consistency to their actions. The question, then, is how smart, dedicated young people come to believe that militarism and secrecy and abusive power are noble pursuits.

Oliver Stone’s Ed Snowden begins as a “smart conservative.” But the only smart thing we see about him is his computer skills. We never hear him articulate some smart political point of view that happens to be “conservative.” His taste in books includes Ayn Rand, hardly an indication of intelligence. But on the computers, Snowden is a genius. And on that basis his career advances.

Snowden has doubts about the legality of warrantless spying, but believes his CIA instructor’s ludicrous defense. Later, Snowden has such concerns about CIA cruelty he witnesses that he resigns. Yet, at the same time, he believes that presidential candidate Barack Obama will undo the damage and set things right.

How does one explain such obtuseness in a genius? Obama’s statements making perfectly clear that the wars and outrages would roll on were publicly available. I found them with ordinary search engines, needing no assistance from the NSA.

Snowden resigned, but he didn’t leave. He started working for contractors. He came to learn that a program he’d created was being used to assist in lawless and reckless, not to mention murderous, drone murders. That wasn’t enough.

He came to learn that the U.S. government was lawlessly spying on the whole world and spying more on the United States than on Russia. (Why spying on Russia was OK we aren’t told.) But that, too, wasn’t enough.

He came to learn that the U.S. was spying on its allies and enemies alike, even inserting malware into allies’ infrastructure in order to be able to destroy things and kill people should some country cease to be an ally someday. That, too, was not enough.

Snowden went on believing that the United States was the greatest country on earth. He went on calling his work “counter cyber” and “counter spying” as if only non-Americans can do spying or cyber-warfare, while the United States just tries to gently counter such acts. In fact, Snowden risked his life, refraining from taking medication he needed, so that he could continue doing that work. He defended such recklessness as justified by the need to stop Chinese hackers from stealing billions of dollars from the U.S. government. Apart from the question of which Chinese hackers did that, what did Snowden imagine it was costing U.S. taxpayers to fund the military?

Snowden’s career rolled on. But Edward Snowden’s brilliant mind was catching up with reality and at some point overtook it. And then there was no question that he would do what needed to be done. Just as he designed computer programs nobody else could, and that nobody else even thought to try, now he designed a whistleblowing maneuver that would not be stopped as others had.

Consequently, we must be grateful that good and decent people sometimes start out believing Orwellian tales. Dull, cowardly, and servile people never blow whistles.

More articles by:

David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition.

July 23, 2018
Pam Martens
Koch Industries Is Staffing Up with Voter Data Scientists to Tip the November Election to the Extreme Right
Binoy Kampmark
Ecuador’s Agenda: Squeezing and Surrendering Assange
Vijay Prashad
America’s Reporter: the Hersh Method
Colin Jenkins
Exposing the American Okie-Doke
Patrick Cockburn
What Boris Johnson Doesn’t Know About British History
Jack Random
Asylum Seekers in the 21st Century
Howard Lisnoff
How We Got Sold on Endless Wars
Ed Meek
Trump Has Taught Us Some Valuable Lessons About Executive Power
Myles Hoenig
Trump, the Mr. Magoo of American Diplomacy
Winslow Myers
The Mind Reels
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail