Arkadi

Snowden and Galt

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57 minutes ago, Arkadi said:

I find this article insightful (well... except for the inexplicably ridiculous claim that Rand was a "peasant", ha-ha), and would welcome any comments: https://fee.org/articles/snowden-s-muse-was-ayn-rand-s-john-galt/ 

 

I had to sign up for something to read it so I passed on it. Didn't Ayn's father own a drug store, though they may have had to bag sweetener after the communistic dictators took over, beginning 70 years of horror on earth?

Peter

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I tried twice more. I need to sign into some Microsoft app to read the story. Odd, because my home page is MSN and I use the old Hotmail.

Petet

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I am copy-pasting it below; the formatting got screwed up a bit, so some passages may be out of sequence :--------------------

Did Edward Snowden Draw His Main Inspiration from Ayn Rand?
Jeffrey A. Tucker
Jeffrey A. Tucker
snowdenrandpurple.jpg?anchor=center&mode

Something has always bugged me about the case of Edward Snowden. He worked in a massive professional machinery of enormous power, prestige, and money. His world was the pinnacle of achievement for his skill set. Everything about the massive surveillance state broadcast that there was no escape. Everything about his environment demanded compliance, service, and submission. His job was to check at the door his individualism, integrity, and character and become a faithful cog in a machinery of superiors.

Unimpressed by the machinery all around him, he saw it not as his master and not even his equal.

Everyone else went along. They didn’t question it. If they did question the goings on, it was purely abstract. Surely there was no real escape. You could only adapt, enjoy the power, take the money, and die someday.

 

Snowden, for whatever reason, decided to take a different direction. Alone, and without consulting even those closest to him, he struck out on his own. He took the unfathomable risk of copying all the most pertinent files. He put them on a tiny disk and embedded it in the Rubik's cube he often carried. He plotted his escape. He walked calmly out of the National Security Agency and boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he met two reporters he had contacted through encrypted email. What he revealed rocked the world.

Throughout it all, he was scared but never indecisive. Unimpressed by the machinery all around him, he saw it not as his master and not even his equal. He saw it all as beatable. He knew that what he was doing was right, and he did it all because – against all odds – he thought he could make a difference. He literally risked his life in the service of human freedom.

Why?

What would drive a man to do such a thing? Many may have thought about it. That running a global and indiscriminate dragnet was both illegal and immoral was not unknown to his colleagues. But only Snowden stepped up to do something about it. It’s actually remarkable that such a man exists in our time.

Having followed the Snowden case carefully, this always puzzled me. It’s fine to say he has character, that he acted on principle, that he showed courage. That’s all great but where did this come from? He is not particularly religious. He seems to have a libertarian streak, but he doesn’t seem particularly ideological in his politics. I’ve always wondered: what is the moral guide that led Snowden to do the unthinkable in the service of truth?

Here is where I’m deeply grateful for Oliver Stone’s new movie Snowden.

Rand Was His Muse

Each person who confronts this machine must make a decision: join it, defend it, ignore it, or fight it through some means.

There is a moment early on in the movie when Snowden is being interviewed for his first national security position. He is asked what books have influenced him. He mentions Joseph Campbell. (The influence on Snowden of Campbell’s notion of the “Hero’s Journey” would itself be a fascinating topic to pursue.). And then, crucially, Ayn Rand. The interviewer quotes a line from Atlas Shrugged: “one man can stop the motor of the world.”

 

Snowden agrees, and the movie proceeds.

This is it! This makes sense of so much. In the novel, everyone faces a gigantic and oppressive state apparatus that is gradually pillaging the producers and driving society into poverty. Each person who confronts this machine must make a decision: join it, defend it, ignore it, or fight it through some means. Those who take the courageous route know better than to take up arms. Instead, they do something more devastating. They walk away and deny the regime their own services. They decline to partake in their own destruction. In so doing, they are doing society a great service of refusing to have their talents contribute to further oppressing society.

There we have it. Edward Snowden must have had this riveting story in his mind. As any reader of Atlas can attest, the book creates in your mind a huge and dramatic world filled with epic moral decisions. People are tested by their willingness to stand up for what is right:  to stand as individuals confronting gigantic systems against which they otherwise appear to be powerless. Her message is that one human mind, inspired to action by moral principle, can in fact change the word.

Here is where Rand’s book is decidedly different from all the other postwar literature in defense of freedom against the state. She was emphatic about the individual moral choice. She created a fictional world, a tactile and unforgettable world, in which history turns on doing what is right, regardless of the personal risk and even in the face of material deprivation. (The silliest rap on Rand is that she favored material acquisition above everything else; the truth is that she favored moral courage more than security, power, or even a steady income.)

Why Is This in the Movie?

One way to understand Rand's books is as entirely autobiographical.

This movie was made in close cooperation with Edward Snowden himself, and he actually appears in the final moments of the film. He surely signed off on all the biographical elements of the film, including this one.

 

Why would Oliver Stone – a famously left-wing, conspiracy-driven producer – want to include this bit of biographical detail? Part of the drama of the film chronicles Snowden’s own ideological enlightenment, from being an uncritically pro-American patriot type to becoming a deep skeptic of the military-industrial complex. In order to see the truth, he had to gradually shed his conservatism and embrace a broader point of view.

It is possible that Stone included this vignette about Rand as a way of illustrating his right-wing biases and how they gradually became something else in the face of evidence. I don’t have evidence for this, so it is pure speculation on my part. But it makes sense given the popular impression of Rand as some kind of goddess of right-wing thinking.

Moral Courage

But the truth of Rand’s influence is very different. One way to understand her books is as entirely autobiographical. She was born in Russia and fated to live under communist despotism. Had she acquiesced to the systems around her, she might have lived and died in poverty and obscurity. But she wanted a different life. She wanted her life to matter. So she plotted her own escape from Russia. She came to the US and lived briefly in Chicago.

Snowden followed the example of John Galt in doing what was right regardless of what society expected. 

Alone she moved again, this time to Hollywood and built a career as scriptwriter, before writing her own plays and becoming a novelist. This peasant born in Russia made a brilliant career for herself, becoming one of the 20th century’s most influential minds – all without an academic career or any champions in the centers of power.

 

Rand’s greatest characters follow a similar path of refusing to go along just because powerful and rich people are in charge. Her message is that one person with a mind and moral stamina can stand up to even the most powerful machinery of oppression. It takes cunning, daring, and a single-minded focus on doing what is right by one’s own lights.

This is precisely what Snowden did. He followed the example of John Galt. Instead of shutting off the motor of the world that he invented, Snowden sought to shut down the motor of the state that he was helping to build. And he did it because it was the right thing to do.

If Stone included this passage to show Snowden’s evolution, he is deeply mistaken. It makes far more sense to me that Rand was actually Snowden’s muse throughout. And this makes me personally very proud of the mighty contribution she made in this world. Though she died in 1982, her influence is still being felt in our times. In fact, her influence is usually underestimated.

If I’m right about this, Rand’s influence is still making the world a freer place.

And consider whether he made the right choice. He is now one of the world's most in-demand speakers. He can pack in a crowd anywhere in the world. He is a leading spokesperson for human dignity, privacy, and freedom. Thanks to technology, he now reaches billions and billions. He has a lifetime of good work ahead of him – all because of the choices he made. 

Ayn, you have done it again.

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2 hours ago, Arkadi said:

I find this article insightful (well... except for the inexplicably ridiculous claim that Rand was a "peasant", ha-ha), and would welcome any comments: https://fee.org/articles/snowden-s-muse-was-ayn-rand-s-john-galt/ 

 

Try this.

fee.org/articles/snowden-s-muse-was-ayn-rand-s-john-galt/

As to the article, I view what he did as being of value to me. If its a value to him, great. I'm not so sure what it makes him. Perhaps he knows. Im conflicted because Im sure there were some aspects that may have gotten some killed. Have you heard that in Obamas reign that 12 CIA agents were killed by the Chinese? That was the result of a major outing.

By whom?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/world/asia/china-cia-spies-espionage.html

Thats why I reserve my judgement on Snowden. And what is known and unknown and quite possibly unknowable. I see him now as serving a fundamental purpose for our enemies that represents the chink in our intelligence armor. 

 

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I agree with turkeyfoot. I do not see Snowden as a hero. When you sign a security agreement, you know that you are pledging your honor. And the fact that he gave the secret intelligence he stole to hostile regimes was traitorous. He should get a firing squad not a medal.

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To be a willing accomplice in a crime against American people is not an honor but a disgrace. Yet this posting is not about Snowden's deed but about the parallel drawn between it and Galt's deed in the article I cited.

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The author doesnt say if the reference to Rand was a device used by Stone or something Snowden actually said.

I also havent seen the movie to know whether Stone is sympathetic to Snowden or what his point might be. After seeing JFK I wouldnt be using his movies as biographical references.

The author seems to interpret a Randian influence on Snowden despite that he too has trouble verifying it.

He says Snowden surely signed off on the biographical content. Who knows why Stone wants to depict this character this way other than perhaps wanting to be faithful to the material provided. And after finding a conclusion to Snowdens motivation he suggests, "if Im right about this Rands influence is making the world a freer place."

Uh, no, if anything it is less free.

The author says, "He (Snowden) followed the example of John Galt. Instead of shutting off the motor of the world that he invented, Snowden sought to shut down the motor of the state that he was helping to build. And he did it because it was the right thing to do."

He didnt shut down the motor of the state and his motivation wasnt because it is morally right, rather it was his conclusion that he was doing the right thing.

The value Snowden did is found in the increased public awareness and the opportunity to voice an opinion by voting their choice.

The author is trying to hard to equate a fictionalized character with the supposed motivations of Snowden.

He could have done better by first interviewing Snowden then Stone to find out, first hand what was intended rather than create hoopla out of whole cloth. 

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turkeyfoot --If you have doubts about the trustworthiness of the movie they can be resolved by reading the reviews. Do you have access to Google?

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I'll limit myself to the article at the moment, thanks. Its as puzzling a piece as trying to figure out where you stand on it. Since you have an opinion, opine, please. It seems odd you arent posting an opinion other than to say what the article is not about. 

Again, I dont like movie biographies, theres dramatic license considerations that can change anything to something its not. While theres usually another medium to find the facts.

The articles (author) question seems strange, while the answer doesn't worry me.

Ask the man or the director, theres no need to wonder. Is there? It's wishful fantasy to discuss something unknown to us. What is the basis of his reporting on something unknown to him other than sheer conjecture? As a reporter he should be able to provide an answer at least a few relevant questions, dont you think? 

 

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turkeyfoot, read the article you linked to:

Quote

The Chinese government systematically dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years ...
From the final weeks of 2010 through the end of 2012, according to former American officials, the Chinese killed at least a dozen of the C.I.A.’s sources.

Snowden outed the illegal, unconstitutional, and dishonrable actions of the NSA in May 2013, almost a year and a half after the above.

Also, the C.I.A. is corrupt as hell.  Read the late Rodney Stich.

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10 hours ago, Mark said:

turkeyfoot, read the article you linked to:

Snowden outed the illegal, unconstitutional, and dishonrable actions of the NSA in May 2013, almost a year and a half after the above.

Also, the C.I.A. is corrupt as hell.  Read the late Rodney Stich.

Thx, Mark. Yes, I became aware of the timeline. The dates dont connect Snowden to those CIA deaths but reframes the question over his innocence/guilt into one that asks at what cost. I suppose we could say CIA is responsible for its own agents and they know the risks. More than anything the IC is full of holes and they know it. Its their bed and they can lie in it.

I think it was Binswanger and Schwartz who claimed the breach gave up human assets. Their reliance on news relating to Clapper (a liar) was astonishing.

Thx for the link.

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21 hours ago, Arkadi said:

(quote from article)

"If I’m right about this, Rand’s influence is still making the world a freer place."

Her influence is powerless to affect collectives... however, she does influence individuals to make their own world around them a freer place.

 

Greg

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Rand had to really, really detail why it was moral for someone to blow up a building or revolt against the United States government. Why did she feel the fictional need to strike back at her adopted country? I think she wanted to change the culture. The violence and the smoking in “Atlas Shrugged” make a lot of parents and school boards not want their younger kids to read Rand’s fiction, just as Accomack County Virginia banned “Huckleberry Finn” because of the hundred or more uses of the “n” word.   

Peter     

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33 minutes ago, Arkadi said:

Greg--You cannot make your own world around you "a freer place" if you are under surveillance, don't you think?

Good thinking, but I think there is a need for government to protect us and some surveillance is necessary. They call London the most "watched" city in the world because of all the cameras but they are still suffering terrorism. Not that I think it is a choice between surveillance and safety. A guy on Rush is just speculating what if an A list celebrity was killed like George Clooney? Would the left be deeply conflicted if one their own were killed?

Peter

 

 

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Peter--"Would the left be deeply conflicted if one their own were killed?"--Are you insinuating that it is mainly the people on the "right" who are the targets of terrorists?

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37 minutes ago, Arkadi said:

Peter--"Would the left be deeply conflicted if one their own were killed?"--Are you insinuating that it is mainly the people on the "right" who are the targets of terrorists?

No, though the terrorists recently targeted little girls. The caller to Rush was wondering if a left wing progressive celebrity were killed, would that change their hesitance to ban Muslims or people from dangerous countries? We need a ban and I think many free countries will keep them out as well as the usual bans from more totalitarian regimes which keep some people out and their own people IN.

From Wikipedia. The U.S. Constitution: Second, specific constitutional provisions may check customary executive authority. Notwithstanding his executive power, the President cannot make treaties or appointments without the advice and consent of the Senate. Likewise, the President's pardon power is limited to offenses against the United States (federal crimes) and does not extend to impeachments or violations of state law.[2] As treaties are by U.S. law official agreements with foreign governments recognized as such only after Senate ratification, the President obviously cannot make treaties unilaterally. However, the President does determine and decide U.S. foreign policy and can enter into non-binding discussions and give conditional approval to agreements reached with foreign governments subject to Senate ratification at a future date.

And from The LA Times: The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion said the travel ban “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

A governor can instill a travel ban in his state if there is a lot of snow expected. So if we are expecting terrorist attacks a president should be able to enact a temporarily ban and then get something through congress.  

Peter

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On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 9:57 AM, Peter said:

Why did she feel the fictional need to strike back at her adopted country?

She didn't... because America isn't the moochers or the government employee looters...

...it's independent self motivated productive individual Americans.

 

Greg

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On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 10:22 AM, Arkadi said:

Greg--You cannot make your own world around you "a freer place" if you are under surveillance, don't you think?

Yes, I can... and I do. :)

I'm free to work to create wealth by producing useful goods and services, and free to use that wealth to refine the quality of my life. Surveillance, even if it exists, is irrelevant.

There can be no real freedom in America without first working to earn your own economic freedom.

 

Greg

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Greg--Necessary conditions (e.g., economic freedom) are not always sufficient ones as regards satisfying quality of life. Some people are satisfied regardless of whether they are under surveillance or not; others are not.

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