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Edward Snowden and the Death of Nuance 388

Trailrunner7 writes "As the noise and drama surrounding the NSA surveillance leaks and its central character, Edward Snowden, have continued to grow in the last few months, many people and organizations involved in the story have taken great pains to line up on either side of the traitor/hero line regarding Snowden's actions. While the story has continued to evolve and become increasingly complex, the opinions and rhetoric on either side has only grown more strident and inflexible, leaving no room for nuanced opinions or the possibility that Snowden perhaps is neither a traitor nor a hero but something else entirely."
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Edward Snowden and the Death of Nuance

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  • hero (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:09AM (#46108835)

    Because a traitor wouldn't have the balls to go public, exposing him/herself.

  • This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:10AM (#46108839) Journal

    "World isn't black and white"

    News at 11. /facepalm.

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:10AM (#46108841) Homepage Journal

    How have people not noticed that we live in a society where EVERYTHING is a false dilemma. EVERY debate we have politically is a false choice.

    The biggest one is this constant claptrap of socialism vs. capitalism. If you think that we should have a national health system immediately you have a backwards yokel yelling about socialism. The U.S. isn't pure capitalistic and never has.

    Every debate is derailed because there is someone that can't think in a shade of gray. If you want to do something that a business doesn't like then you are anti-business. Conversely if you want to help a business then you're a capitalistic pig.

    We really HAVE to get past this if our society is going to move forward. The answers are almost never at the ends of the spectrum.

  • Re:hero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ifiwereasculptor ( 1870574 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:23AM (#46108917)

    Thanks for making the same point as the article with your "obviously Y because X". I don't think Snowden brought it. We've seen multiple times right here with Android vs iOS, Windows vs Linux, GPL vs Apache/BSD etc. People are forming opinions then sticking to them like sports teams. Nuance is out, and so seem to be reassessment and compromise. This is more evident in the US and I think it has to do with the polarized bipartisan system, but one can see it in other countries, too. I'd attribute it to the high bpm rhythm of communication and life. Too much news, too fast, the TV presenting them with headstrong showmen instead of analytical journalists because it makes for better ratings. It creates parrots who stick to a party's talking points, not critical thinkers. And, if you're being honest and really thinking about it, you can see yourself adopting such behaviour from time to time, automatically. It's somewhat concerning and probably not unrelated to the exponential growth of divorced couples. We don't know how to interact, we have firm, fixed beliefs and don't know how to deal with disagreement anymore, at least not in a productive way. All we do is drift towards those who think like we do and divide ourselves in thought factions.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:24AM (#46108929)

    I don't think that represents the mentality of society as a whole. Just the media, because their financial incentive is to lock in an audience by tailoring their message.

    The sooner we realize that's poison to civic discourse, the faster we'll get back on track to a functioning democracy.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FriendlyLurker ( 50431 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:28AM (#46108949)
    Edward Snowden is not "central" to this debate (if you can call it that). The illegal acts of the NSA are central to the debate - Snowden is just a messenger. Only propaganda spin-meisters want to make the debate about "characters", mainly because it is completely irrelevant. No thanks for trying, Trailrunner7.
  • Balance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:28AM (#46108951) Homepage

    Seeking a false balance between the truth and the lies, is a common strategy when the lies have failed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:40AM (#46109025)

    Isn't it sad that you have to ask nowadays?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:46AM (#46109069)

    a nuclear-armed federal government

    Can't tell if trolling, or if you're just that large of a dipshit.

    But I'll bite. Tell me again how the Federal government would be able to deploy nuclear weaponry against its own citizens, even in the midst of a civil war, without losing every last shred of legitimacy it might have had? Yes, you'll need to account for the global ramifications.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:46AM (#46109075)
    Sadly, so many people believe to their core that the world is black and white that it is kinda news. News they will discount and then ignore,....

    Simple ethics are REALLY important to many people, they build their whole framework on the basic idea and interpret not only the actions of others but their own behavior through it. Adding in complexity opens up the possibility that they have in the past acted unethically, which makes them uncomfortable.
  • by lophophore ( 4087 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:55AM (#46109147) Homepage

    General Keith Alexander. Meant well (trying to protect Americans), lied under oath to congress, violated federal laws. Knew it was wrong. Should be punished.

    James Clapper. Meant well (trying to protect Americans), lied under oath to congress, violated federal laws. Knew it was wrong. Should be punished.

    Edward Snowden. Meant well (trying to protect Americans), stole and released classified materials, violated federal laws. Knew it was wrong. Should be punished.

    The fact that Snowden is being pursued for what he did, while Alexander and Clapper appear to be getting off scott-free is the biggest hypocrisy ever.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:58AM (#46109171)

    Note the headline here: "Edward Snowden and the Death of Nuance". Not the decline of nuance. Not the end of nuance. Nuance was stabbed and left dying in the street, and it looks like Edward Snowden is involved somehow.

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:59AM (#46109175) Journal

    They're not liberals.

    They're slavers and feudalists. They want to cement the power of the powerful by taking control of all aspects of our lives. They do it in the guise of charity, to numb us to the autonomy they are taking away a bit at a time.

    You can identify liberals by what they want to do - they want to legalize things for individuals; they want to increase liberty.

  • Re:hero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:03AM (#46109217)

    Nicely said. My thoughts exactly, except when mentioning US partisanship, I suppose there is also a lot of money, power, ego and ruthless self-interest involved -certainly not the "greater good" of the country- which makes this subject an order of magnitude more complex than what you outline above.
    Apart from this, I couldn't have said it any better. Kudos.

  • Re:hero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:09AM (#46109279)

    Traitor to the NSA, hero to the USA, its citizens, and those of many other countries?

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:21AM (#46109425) Homepage

    "Either you're with us, or you're against us." -- hardly invented by G. W. Bush

    There's a reason it's called the silenty majority, the extremists on either side of any issue tend to get extremely vocal. In a shouting match with "No, black!" "No, white!" "No, black!" "No, white!" suggesting "Umm... gray? Green? Yellow?" will get you carved to pieces by both sides for insinuating that it's not [black/white, depending on who's doing the carving]. See vi vs emacs for further examples.

  • Re:hero (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:24AM (#46109459) Journal

    Yes and no. Maybe the notion of hero/traitor is just a social construct based on some sort of nationalistic fantasy into which we are indoctrinated from a young age. People's behavior and motivations tend to be a lot more complicated, but we want to be able to comfortably categorize a cultural figure into one role or the other.

    I get this every time I hear someone refer to anyone who served in the military as a "hero". Now, I know guys who served in the military because the choice was either that or jail and they did the absolute minimum, during peacetime, and got an honorable discharge by the skin of his teeth. But a radio talk show host would invariably call him a "hero" and say he's "making sacrifices to protect the rest of us", when in fact the guy was nothing but self-serving and spent his entire enlistment period getting drunk in base towns either stateside or in Seoul.

    And of course, if someone is a member of the opposing political persuasion, they will invariably be referred to as a traitor.

    I think it has something to do with our desire to see clear lines in life. If our viewpoints are challenged, even political viewpoints, our amygdala sends messages to the brain that our very life is in danger. This, of course, leads to some very unpleasant holiday dinners with relatives.

    We don't know how to interact, we have firm, fixed beliefs and don't know how to deal with disagreement anymore, at least not in a productive way.

    I think a great deal of this is by design. A divided society is one that's a lot easier to manage during crisis, and I think the people who rule our society prefer it that way. This great "divided nation" stuff tends to ignore that the agenda of people at the time stays the same no matter who is in power, while the rest of us are fighting over trivialities, as if our society was nothing but Packers vs Bears.

    Every bit of our news media is now party to promoting this "us vs them" mentality. And make no mistake, the corporations running those media are led by people who would deem themselves our rulers.

  • Re:hero (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak ( 773371 ) <obsessivemathsfr ... .net minus physi> on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:34AM (#46109607) Homepage Journal

    Nuance is out, and so seem to be reassessment and compromise.

    Ridiculous. Nuance and compromise are just fine. The problem here is extremism.

    Organisations like the NSA and their supporters are extremists. It is extremist to suggest that every phone call, email, web page connection and Facebook Like should be monitored and recorded by a security agency. Extremist.

    A reasonable person would suggest some communications traffic me monitored. A hardliner would demand that more traffic be monitored. But only an extremist would call for absolutely all traffic to be monitored. I'm not sure what you would call someone who actually goes about doing so.

    We're supposed to put aside the dystopian scale of NSA surveillance, and sit down to debate "both sides" of this? There is no "both sides" here. We have a one group of dangerous megalomaniacs who want to monitor all communications traffic on planet earth and -- the rest of us.

    Naunce is fine. What the NSA is doing is wrong; wrong enough to blow all nuances right out of the water. You may as well asked people to be nuanced about a man building a hydrogen-bomb in his shed.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:39AM (#46109693)

    I disagree. A large part of the debate is about Snowden's conduct;

    Only when "propaganda spin-meisters" are crowing away to all who will still listen. It is not a debate when discourse limited and narrowed to concentrate on the messenger rather than the much more important message. It is a well known propaganda technique for deflecting and distracting from the real issue at hand - i.e. the illegal acts of the NSA and the incompetence/malice of the politicians who give them free reign.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:49AM (#46109841)

    Who gives a flying fuck about what entirely different thing the messenger is? You don't shoot the messenger, why would you over analyse the messenger? This is the crux of what makes ad hominem a fallacy. THE MESSAGE IS MORE IMPORTANT. The leaks revealed that our worst fears had come true. Everything else is bullshit indirection.

    Focus on the solution, not the problem.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:22AM (#46110247) Homepage

    I'll just point out that Snowden did NOT damage the U.S. reputation in any way. Getting caught for your actions, getting caught committing a crime, the loss of reputation is not due to the one who catches but for the one committing the actions.

    The behavior of the US damaged it's reputation.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:32AM (#46110387) Homepage

    The Founding Fathers were considered traitors by the British.
    Patriots by the Colonials.

    Snowden is considered a traitor by NSA and government cartal and the Americans that support that system.
    Snowden is considered a hero and patriot by Americans who believe in liberty and that our government should not be abusing power.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:36AM (#46110455) Homepage

    Yes, the last one merely violated a law. The others are violated the Constitution...our most sacred binding document. The last one broke a law. The others committed an act that obligates EVERY service person active or prior to stand up against.

  • Re:hero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:41AM (#46110535)

    This was the method of the Sophists, and the reason that Socrates despised them. Truth should be the goal, not winning.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:58AM (#46110737) Homepage

    Be careful here. We must distinguish the difference between "extreme" and "principled."

    Snowden's initial leak showed violations of the law and the constitution. If that was his only leak, lots more people would call him a whistleblower. But other leaks by Snowden show perfectly good, legal, constitutional countintelligence programs. It is perfectly valid to say he is a whistleblower for one leak but a traitor for the other. THAT ISN'T NUANCE.

    Nuance is "a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound." If one leak was completely black, and another completely white, we should not mix them together and call the result gray and nuanced. If someone murders person A then saves person B, we don't compromise and call it manslaughter. We say they are guilty on one count, and not guilty on another. We need to look at Snowden this way.

    Do we have a lack of nuance, or a lack of principles?

    In the US, we have a constitution that lays down the basic theoretical philosophical principles of government. People who react loudly when the government violates those rules are principled. Principled means "acting in accordance with morality and showing recognition of right and wrong based on a given set of rules." Principled is not the same as extreme. Being principled is a good thing. If you are outraged by what the NSA did, do not let someone label you as "extreme" in order to bargain you away from your beliefs.

    But we have people in this nation who want to be able to get away with this stuff, while still claiming to follow the rules. They want the issue to look "nuanced," so that there is wiggle room to violate the principles. Do not let the "nuanced" view turn into a slippery slope that the government uses to skirt the law and erode the constitution.

    From the article:

    Saying that there may be some middle ground or grey area is seen as a sign of weakness, of moving off the party line.

    That is true. People need to be able to change their opinions, or not forced down an extreme side. That tendency is why we have these two ridiculous parties in America. People follow banners more strongly than they follow principles. But Snowden's leaks are not about party. It isn't flip-flopping to say leak A is one thing and leak B is another. These leaks are about our principles. This is not the time to back down. Back down on gray things like immigration, healthcare, spending, and tax codes. But for this one, follow the principles.

  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:08PM (#46110857) Homepage

    "When Krushchev said "we will bury you" at the UN, he *meant* "we will be around after you are gone" like "a son buries his father". It was a common Russian expression, and we had access to fine, nuanced Russian translators. Instead it became this famous threat of nuclear Armageddon, please pass the collection plate for more nukes of our own."

    And more recently when a certain Persian was widely reported to have said "Israel must be wiped off the map" (and people still repeat this every day) what he actually said is reported by competent translators as more along the lines of "the regime occupying Jerusalem will one day vanish from the pages of time."

    It's nothing new. War is a racket, and that means it has a marketing department.

  • Re:hero (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cfulton ( 543949 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:20PM (#46111027)
    The "Greatest Generation" is a polite fiction my friend. The "Greatest Generation" did (for the good of all) fight and win WWII and I thank them for it. Let's not get too proud of them though. Their parents won WWI and their ancestors won the Civil War and theirs gave us our independence. So, They are not the first or last generation to go to bat for their country. And then let's really see what they did when they came home from the war.
    • -Nuclear Proliferation
    • -The Red Scare
    • -The McCarthy Hearings
    • -The continuation of the American version of Apartheid.
    • -No action taken to give voice and rights to women.
    • -A blind and bland national narrative based around a lifestyle that never existed ("Leave It to Beaver" anyone).

    Now I am not so strident and inflexible in my views as to say that they were a "bad" generation, but the whole "Greatest Generation" thing is a little overblown.

  • blackmailed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:40PM (#46111241) Journal

    Snowden was blackmailed.

    At some point it very likely that he did indeed have altruistic motives, but there's no denying that Snowden's hubris got him mixed with shady characters who were not at all looking out for his interest.

    I was very happy to see this article come across the /. feed. WE NEED MORE OF TFA.

    the hero/villain narrative is completely reductive and not fit to use for examining Snowden's actions.

  • Re:hero (Score:5, Insightful)

    by melikamp ( 631205 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:21PM (#46112353) Homepage Journal

    Snowden has demonstrated that a traitor can be a hero

    No, he demonstrated that a hero will be called a traitor by the actual traitors he exposed.

    traitor (noun) One who violates his allegiance and betrays his/her country; one guilty of treason; one who, in breach of trust, delivers his country to an enemy, or yields up any fort or place intrusted to his defense, or surrenders an army or body of troops to the enemy, unless when vanquished; also, one who takes arms and levies war against his country; or one who aids an enemy in conquering his country.

    When did he betray USA? When he exposed massive surveillance, which is almost certainly unconstitutional? When he exposed the fact that NSA is operating without any practical oversight? Or the fact that most (if not all) of the Congress has no right to know whether they are being spied on? Or the fact that the highest NSA officials lied, and continue to lie under oath? He broke a low, granted. That makes him a criminal, not automatically a traitor. And in this instance, it also makes him a hero, since the law he broke is oppressive and should have never been on the books.

  • Re:hero (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:25PM (#46112927) Journal

    I take it then that you are part of the continent that prefers for a large body count of your fellow citizens to accumulate

    What a load of bullshit. You're more likely to die from choking on a piece of meat than you are to be killed by a terrorist. The terrorist threat has been amplified by a corporate media and government that like it better when we're all scared to death because we're more compliant. A hell of a lot more people in the US died from accidental gun deaths over the past ten years than have died at the hands of terrorists.

    Fuck that. I'll take my chances with the terrorists and I'll learn how to clear an airway if someone chokes on a piece of meat.

Loose bits sink chips.