Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Edward Snowden and English Classes for the DOS

Edward Snowden and English Classes for the DOS

by Meg Curtis, PhD

American rhetoric needs an upgrade in the Edward Snowden dilemma. The US continues to argue that foreign countries should return this man to his home country, like some runaway Huckleberry Finn. Too often, the American media refers to him as a high school drop-out, even though the best sources insist that Snowden completed his GED, took college courses, and studied foreign languages.

Does no one realize that attempts to downgrade Snowden's qualifications reveal the most superficial understanding of the modern technical workforce? This impression is reinforced by recommendations to have employees watch each other in the future, and report abberant behavior to superiors. All such suggestions underscore this fact: technical workers know more about the US security system than POTUS.

Meanwhile, the US insists that Snowden damaged US security, even while expecting countries--which it also insists benefited from Snowden's release of intelligence data--to return their accused benefactor to his home base. Do we have this straight? His beneficiaries should act contrary to their own interests, as described by the US government, and punish him for—according to the US--benefiting them?

This argument would not receive a passing grade in any competent freshman English class. First, it is circular, which is a major rhetorical fallacy, a flaw in logical thinking. Second, it violates the most basic relationship between a speaker and his/her audience. Memo to the DOS: Do NOT ask a foreign country to violate its own interests without a reward or benefit. Do NOT ask Americans to ignore ignorance.

So, who is the audience of the US position on Edward Snowden? The most obvious answer appears to be the media—if it chooses to repeat claims without questions. If journalists do ask thoughtful questions, will they end up like James Rosen, the Fox News Washington Correspondent harassed by the DOJ? Mindless repetition would be the safe choice, wouldn't it? So, is the poor quality of journalism here the result of fear? 

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