June 17, 2013

Edward Snowden (Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/The Guardian Newspaper)

In an extremely well-circulated live chat on the Web site of the Gaurdian, now-famous leaker Edward Snowden was asked this question:

“So far are things going the way you thought they would regarding a public debate?”

Snowden responded:

Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.

Absent a Nexis search documenting this premise, the Erik Wemple Blog doubts the disparity that Snowden alleges here. Whether it’s in the commentary pages of your average regional newspaper, the cable airwaves or living rooms around the country, Snowden’s leaks have prompted a serious debate about privacy and how badly we need it. This “welcome debate,” too, shows little sign of abating, thanks to the ability of Snowden and his classified goodies to keep themselves in the news.

That said, yes — mainstream media organizations have indeed stumbled all over themselves to document the ins and outs of Snowden’s past. So have non-mainstream media organizations, for that matter. Here, for example, is a recent piece in the Washington Post examining Snowden’s upbringing, which alleges that he “craved the limelight.”

Why would they do such a thing? Perhaps it’s all explained in the Guardian’s initial profile of Snowden. It said this, among other things:

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

If that’s indeed the case, it’s hard to fault any media — mainstream or otherwise — for chasing the biography.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.