From which of the actors engaged in the thoroughly entertaining case of Edward Snowden has come the biggest spewing-out of cant, do you reckon? Edward himself? The Guardian? Or the Yanks or -Chinese?
Edward was a fairly low-level CIA technical contractor in Hawaii when he released to the world details of his government’s clandestine electronic surveillance programme (Prism) and also some stuff about our own much-loved GCHQ in Cheltenham. Apparently shocked to the core to discover that the security services were secretly spying on people, Edward was gripped by a spasm of narcissistic outrage and said: ‘I don’t want to live in a society which does these sorts of things.’ No, indeed — at which point he duly fled the immoral and abusive USA for a bolthole in the open, transparent, consensual and liberal People’s Republic of China, where ‘these sorts of things’ are beyond the pale.
The Chinese did not arrest Edward and send him back to the USA, as some politicians in Washington — presumably whacked out of their minds on psychotropic substances — fondly imagined they would. Instead they let him get on a plane for another sort of bolthole in a similar paragon of democracy and openness, Russia. Cue, then, some fantastic expressions of faux outrage and cant from Washington about China’s ‘deliberate choice to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant’. Also weighing in was that charismatic political powerhouse and Mr Punch lookalike John Kerry, who described the Chinese inaction as ‘deeply troubling’.
I assume the commies were rendered insensate with laughter for a while after hearing this stern admonition: Snowden’s revelations, of course, concerned covert surveillance directed primarily at the Chinese (in particular, Chinese mobile telephone companies), and Beijing subsequently praised the traitor for ‘tearing off Washington’s sanctimonious mask’. Well, quite. Why on earth should China offer succour to the US, under such conditions — and who would be daft enough to think it would? This was confected outrage for public consumption, of course.
The official reason for not having extradited Snowden was that the American paperwork was said not to be in proper order, but one assumes they chucked the relevant forms in the bin and, sniggering fit to bust, put the bloke on the first plane for Moscow.
And of course China’s outrage is a bit on the cantish side too, no? China is considered, not unreasonably, to be the gravest cyber-threat to the USA, with the People’s Liberation Army having been accused of training 30,000 cyber-spies to hack into US defence and financial companies, and another 150,000 private sector cyber-spies paid for by Beijing to wreak similar havoc. A recent US report — Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013 — stated: ‘China is using its computer network exploitation to support intelligence against the US diplomatic, economic and defence and industrial base sectors that support US national defence programmes.’
I can’t see much reason to doubt this assertion. I wonder if the CIA contractor Edward Snowden was aware that the Chinese, too, are partial to a bit of jiggery-pokery themselves? We have yet to be offered Edward’s opinion as to whether or not the Chinese electronic espionage is morally OK or not, which is a shame, because I for one need urgent guidance on this issue.
Right now, though, we do not even know where Edward is, so we cannot look to him for further moral guidance. We do know that he got on a plane for Moscow and was holed up for a while in one of those weird capsule hotel rooms at the airport. He had been expected to depart the next day on a flight to the freedom-loving bastion that is Cuba, from which destination he was expected to take a further flight to Venezuela and hence to that last recourse for faux-leftish narcissistic whistle-blowers, Ecuador. This supposed stage of his trip, then, comprises exclusively belligerent and corrupt gringo-hating quasi-socialist banana republics where the respective records on human rights leave a little to be desired, frankly. Ecuador, for example, has recently been castigated by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for ‘undercutting’ freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as having a corrupt and politically partisan judiciary and locking up people on trumped-up terrorism charges. When he eventually arrives in Quito, will Edward be forced to conclude once more that he does not wish to live in a society which ‘does these sorts of things’? Or will he manage, somehow, to square it with his overweening conscience — in the manner of that other supreme narcissist, the WikiLeaks weirdo Julian Assange, who is still holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy and appears every so often on the balcony to wave to his deluded supporters (Mr J. Pilger Esq.) and smirk at Jemima Khan.
The notion, for either Assange or Snowden, that there might be greater evils in the world, and that they might well be aiding these greater evils, simply does not impinge. For Snowden, clearly, it is the precise opposite of that old exhortation, my country right or wrong. It’s any country but my country, no matter how wicked it might be. It is again the unthinking absolutism of the fool, or the tyrant.