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My theory is that with that last line Snowden is actually trying to laugh away the pain.

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I believe the Constitution—particularly the Bill of Rights— became, for Snowden, a kind of lonely companion, or perhaps something like a rescue animal that only he cares for sufficiently. Secrecy as disease. Ellsberg was handsome and charismatic…. He did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard, where he wrote a Ph.

And whom does [Ellsberg] entrust with those forty-three volumes?

The Times , which rents a suite at the Hilton, posts security guards outside, and assigns a team to spend the next three months reading through the collected documents…. Would the Times have won a Pulitzer for publishing the Pentagon Papers if the study had been unclassified? Not a chance. Snowden did not study under a Nobel Prize winner, or give career advice to the likes of Henry Kissinger. He was a community-college dropout, a member of the murky hacking counterculture…. Gladwell quotes this without the slightest concern for self-incrimination.

When I worked on the science desk at the Washington Post , my colleagues and I would read a front-page story by our counterparts at the Times and invariably know where the leak on which the story was based came from.


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The first order of business was typically to call the leaker and complain that he or she was playing favorites. Cozy, elite, secret—others. Whenever I thought about contacting the Times , I found myself hesitating. If the Times , or any paper, did something similar to me…it would be tantamount to turning me in before any revelations were brought before the public. What if it is precisely your immediate superior who is unreliable, corrupt? Is the chain of command corrupt as well? Essentially, the problem Snowden faced with his direct military superiors was the same he faced in considering mainstream journalism: the chain of command might function as a trap for heretics.

Meanwhile, Ellsberg—who, when I used to meet him at the counter of used bookstores where I worked in Berkeley in the s, seemed very much the canny old hippie—has, since his ejection from the corridors of power, dedicated his life to activism against US military interventions; been arrested in multiple nonviolent protests; spoken in support of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Snowden; and camped on Sproul Plaza during the Occupy movement. Like many of us, I have become acutely conscious of the way my brain degrades when I strap it in to receive the full barrage of the internet—those unlimited channels, all constantly reloading with new information: births, deaths, boasts, bombings, jokes, job announcements, ads, warnings, complaints, confessions, and political disasters blitzing our frayed neurons in huge waves of information that pummel us and then are instantly replaced.

As Tolentino paints it, this is an experience defined by its paralyzing incoherence. As for the constants of surveillance and self-surveillance, these end in stalemate. Or perhaps it is a form of Stockholm Syndrome, of learned helplessness. Or: I was on their watch-list anyway. I was born in Some of my favorite books attempt to account for what life was like before, during, and after some large rupture in the collective human prospect, or the advent of a reality-reshaping rupture, ideology, or technology.

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George W. Much of that writing, especially the s writers clustered around Galaxy magazine, Sheckley among them, now looks to me like thought-experiments for a society overwhelmed—intoxicated and traumatized, both—by the advent of radio, television, rocketry, Madison Avenue, and nuclear war.

I currently teach writing to people much younger than myself—to the children of the Internet and the post—September 11 security state and triumphalist global corporatism and climate doom. The majority of my students find little nourishment in the placid assumptions underlying contemporary realism. They crave acknowledgment, not that the world has changed, or is changing, but that the world is change. I think direct testimony also plays well these days, for my young students, and for a lot of us.

Snowden, for his part, offers a meticulous and expressive description of the advent, in his young life, of computing, and the seductions of the virtual:. This Compac [computer] became my constant companion—my second sibling, and first love. It came into my life just at the age when I was first discovering an independent self and the multiple worlds that can simultaneously exist within this world…. This was a technologized puberty, and the tremendous changes it wrought in me were, in a way, being wrought everywhere, in everyone….

Readers who were born postmillenium might not understand the fuss, but trust me, this was a goddamned miracle…. You could pick up any other phone in the house on an extension line and actually hear the computers talking …. It was like I was in a race with the technology. My younger readers, with their younger standards, might think of the nascent Internet as way too slow, the nascent Web as too ugly and un-entertaining.

But that would be wrong. Back then, being online was another life, considered by most to be separate and distinct from Real Life.

The virtual and the actual had not yet merged. And it was up to each individual user to determine for themselves where one ended and the other began. Snowden born specifically credits anonymity with the liberatory power of the early Web:. I could be anybody. The anonymizing or pseudonymizing features brought equilibrium to all relationships, correcting their imbalances….


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  4. I could even be multiple selves…. Thus we acknowledge and share the life and nature of many by not treating ourselves like rigid, invariable, single individuals. Tolentino born associates anonymity with nihilism and bullying. My only experience of the world has been one in which personal appeal is paramount and self-exposure is encouraged; this legitimately unfortunate paradigm, inhabited first by women and now generalized to the entire internet, is what trolls loathe and actively repudiate. They destabilize an internet built on transparency and likability.

    Part of this difference is gendered: Snowden, as a man, can afford a certain obliviousness to all the stalking and doxxing, since most of it is aimed at women. By his testimony, the CIA even maintains a completely separate version of Facebook for the socializing of agents. Snowden wants us to understand that, unless you employ three-layer encryption, they even know your breed.

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    If one is possible. She immerses herself in the paradoxes of an experience that relentlessly exfoliates metaphor:.

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    People used to talk about the internet as a place. The information superhighway. A frontier. The internet was something to get on…. Now people talk about the internet as something to talk to; it is a someone. Even casually, people discuss the internet—insentient, dumb—as living, real. A friend or foe. Something with eyes.

    Truly rotten racist trolls online were free to ruin communities…. A user could wake up one morning, delete a newsgroup subscription from their Usenet client, and go about the rest of their life never talking to that community again. Doris Lessing: The Alchemy of Survival. Athens: Ohio University Press, Fishburn, Katherine. Doris Lessing: life, work, and criticism.

    Descents into Hell: the later novels of Doris Lessing

    Fredericton, NB: York Press, Budhos, Shirley. The theme of enclosure in selected works of Doris Lessing. Troy, NY: Whitston, Sprague, Clair, and Virginia Tiger, eds. Critical Essays on Doris Lessing. Boston: G. Hall, Draine, Betsy. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, Taylor, Jenny, ed. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Seligman, Dee. Doris Lessing: an annotated bibliography of criticism.