When Snowden finally arrived at an answer that Greenwald found “vibrant and real,” the whistleblower, in Greenwald’s retelling, describes himself in almost saintly terms: “The true measurement of a person’s worth isn’t what they say they believe in, but what they do in defense of those beliefs. If you’re not acting on your beliefs, then they probably aren’t real,” Greenwald quotes him as saying. Snowden goes on to describe growing up playing video games in which a lonely protagonist is confronted by profound injustice. His realization that the NSA was “building a system whose goal was the elimination of all privacy, globally,” according to Greenwald, completed his conversion into a whistleblower.
But like the characters that populated the video games of Snowden’s youth, the portrait of the whistleblower that emerges in Greenwald’s book is flat. He exists in the background as a mere martyr. Having made this profound sacrifice, Greenwald and his colleagues must live up to Snowden’s memory — for once he disappears from Hong Kong to Russia, he is little more than a memory in the book.
It’s a shame that Snowden, arguably one of recent history’s most compelling characters, chose as his chronicler a journalist lacking much of a human touch.
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