“Fenton here was a dyed-in-the-wool paranoid schizophrenic who believed that radio active fluids were invading his skull and that hugely complex high-tech-type machines had been specially designed to pursue him without cease until they caught him and made brutal sport of him and buried him alive” From Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
There’s been a lot of column inches and blogging on Edward Snowden. Some see him as a traitor, some a hero, still others a fool and a self-publicist. Whistle blowers have long been pilloried for revealing confidential or classified information in the belief that the detail should be in the public domain. This information reveals the underhand, misguided, or illegal activities of state or corporation. Movies like Serpico and Silkwood celebrated the whistle blower as conscionable people who witnessed corruption and acted. Whatever the public opine, these people are not naïve, they are well aware of the route they have chosen and it’s potential outcomes.
The shadow world that is revealed is mirrored in the world that the whistle blower finds himself or herself in as a result. Edward Snowden is in exile; stateless, caught in a no mans land at Moscow Airport. He’s neither arriving nor leaving. Julian Assange is also in exile, camped out at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Its stalemate but not checkmate…yet.
Meanwhile vitriol and anger versus admiration and gratitude. This is about ‘privacy’ and our perception of what it is, what it means and who has a right to it. The revelations that some 80% of online and telecom traffic is being monitored for our security raises lots of issues. That the NSA uses GCHQ intercepts to circumvent certain laws in the US is plain devious and illegal. This information, until now, was deemed classified and therefore none of our business. The extreme paranoia at the core of the State Security Machine is based on the premise that we are under attack.
In civil society deluded and paranoid human beings are sectioned for psychoanalysis and medication in secure hospitals for their own good and that of the public. Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn from this level of state paranoia is that the lunatics have taken over the asylum with our blessing.