I’m in the middle of a massive crafting project, and as a result, I’m re-watching all of the X-Files on Amazon Prime. As one does.
I’m approaching season 3 now, and I’ve finally realized where that nagging “this is ridiculous” thought in the back of my head is coming from. At the end of season 1, in an episode that originally aired in 1994, government whistleblower Deep Throat dies, whispering “trust no one” to Scully. Well, duh.
The entire premise of the show is that the government lies to us. Sure, there’s aliens, but that’s an afterthought, or a metaphor, or whatever. The show is about government, truth, and lies. But in a post-Patriot Act world, none of what they’re telling us is shocking.
In 1994, Deep Throat was a tragic hero. In 2013, Edward Snowden is a traitor. Their motivations were the same, but the world that has happened in between has changed the context.
I don’t have a strong opinion on Snowden, unlike many, many people on the internets. I do, however, feel sorry for him. Let’s take his stated motivations at face value (ignoring any potential desire for 15 minutes of fame or an inflated sense of importance): he wanted the public to know just what was going on behind closed doors.
I think he made a few assumptions that did him in.
1) The public does not care. While this is a pendulum, and I’m sure any day now there will be something horrible that the government does that will make public opinion swing back the other way, right now we still seem to be living in the shadow of terror. We’re still more than willing to look the other way while you scan our nubile young bodies at airports, and pull us out of line just because our names have middle-eastern etymologies.
2) The public already knows. Seriously, man, this is not a surprise. Of course they’re spying on us. The technology exists, and the fear I referenced above makes it the government’s right, nay, duty, to use that technology. We might have not known the details, but there is nothing shocking about the idea.
In 1994, there were a slew of people who wanted to believe, and a growing certainty that our government was carrying on some dark shenanigans behind closed doors. I was right there with them, as a moody, outcast teenager. I watched X-Files religiously, and even looked into joining the FBI so I could be behind those doors, sneaking a look at those ominous secrets.
Since then, the doors have been pried open a few times and, aside from a few squawks mostly from conspiracy theory nutjobs and the far left, they closed again without anything much changing on the other side.
There have always been shadow organizations operating outside of and around the law, but they always had a fear of the daylight. They knew that if their assassination plans reached the public, there’d be a national debate and furor. I’m terrified, more by what Snowden’s case implies than by what he actually told us. I’m terrified because I don’t see people being enraged that they lost their right to privacy, all without much discussion on the matter. It just kinda happened, and we’re all like, yeah, that sucks, but what can you do? Terrorists, you know.
(Also, I wouldn’t use this to prove a point, since it could prove equally that the dark shenanigans are working as intended or that they are completely misguided, but I find it hilarious that more toddlers killed Americans than did terrorists this year.)
Postscript: If you speak Spanish, this is another interesting intersection of Snowden and the X-Files: this video discusses the alien secrets he released at the same time!