The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson really puts professional twerp David Brooks in his place:
David Brooks, in a column on what he takes to be the inner life of Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. leaker, has a long list of those he believes Snowden has betrayed. Among them are “his employers,” Booz Allen and the C.I.A., who “took a high-school dropout and offered him positions with lavish salaries. He is violating the honor codes of all those who enabled him to rise.” He also “betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed.”
This is an odd perspective. The founders created the Constitution in part so that a solitary voice could be heard, whatever strictures of power surround him. More than that, they would not want a twenty-nine-year-old to feel so overcome with gratitude for his social betters—so humbled that they had noticed him—that he would be silent. The “honor code” that Brooks claims was violated is perhaps nothing more than condescension mitigated by social obligation. People with graduate degrees thought that giving someone not in their circle a chance was proof of their decency; by getting his hands dirty, Snowden not only broke whatever non-disclosure agreements he was asked to sign but intruded on their sense of their own goodness. By David Brooks’s logic, the next time they put aside the résumé of someone who attended a community college, it’s really Edward Snowden’s fault.
And she ends:
The press is not among the elements of civil society that Brooks lists; and yet it is the one to which Snowden turned. He did not drop his documents from a helicopter, and neither did the reporters, who are often there when what Brooks might regard as less crass safeguards fail. Whistle-blowing and investigative reporting can be loud, and grating, and necessary.
Reading Brooks’s laments about Snowden and “the fraying of the social fabric,” I found myself thinking about Norman Rockwell, if not in the same way Brooks might. (In 2008, after what he saw as a rhetorical triumph by Sarah Palin, Brooks wrote, “Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.”) The image that came to mind was one of the panels from Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series: the one on freedom of speech, in which a man stands up at what looks like a town meeting. He might be about twenty-nine. He is wearing a work jacket, so maybe he’s a high-school drop-out. There are better dressed people in the hall. And they are listening to him.