NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a godsend for the media.
It doesn’t make a whit of difference whether you want to label him a hero or a fink.
Thing is, the media can’t seem to decide which one. (And we don’t really care, one way or the other)
Maybe it doesn’t really matter what spin you apply to this situation. What does matter is that Snowden is the latest example of the Overnight Celebrity.
Thank heavens for his emergence, too.
We in the media needed some fresh meat off the hoof already. The horrifying stories in Boston and Cleveland now seem like they happened years, not weeks, ago because they have been put through the media spin cycle and largely forgotten now by journalists.
It has been weeks — which counts as AGES in media-speak — since someone stepped forward to sacrifice his or her privacy, common sense and legacy for the benefit of a global press and broadcasting corps of vultures, who want nothing more than to descend on the new kid on the block.
Thank you, Mr. Snowden. There is a little corner of media heaven with your name on it.
Snowden’s notoriety underscores the pitfalls of becoming an overnight celebrity in America. He isn’t the first to have such predicament and he won’t be the last, either.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a politician, an athlete, a movie star or an accused criminal. You have no chance. You can’t stop reporters from carving you up. We will chew you up, spit you out and leave you gasping for air by the side of the road. Your family, too, by the way.
Eventually, you’ll mutter: What has happened to me. I used to be a normal person, not a symbol for something or other. Ask Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame about it sometime.
As a whistleblower, Snowden is a surprise to us. He doesn’t have the rugged appeal or obvious charisma that we might expect from someone who did — whatever else you think of him — something so courageous. As whistleblowers go, he’s no Karen Silkwood or Erin Brockovich.
Maybe Jesse Eisenberg, who brilliantly portrayed Mark Zuckerberg — another nerd-turned-star — in The Social Network could someday play Snowden in a biopic.
Snowden is a very convenient lightning rod. He looks a little shadowy, dweeby, even. He represents the perfect hero or anti-hero for a global media starved for a new victim.
It has been — what? — weeks since journalists had to ponder a natural disaster or a White House imbroglio or one of Dennis Rodman’s startling pronouncements about North Korea or LeBron James.
Feed the media beast!
It shows how precarious it is to become famous in the digital age. Someone can act out of a sense of a strong conscious to fix an injustice. Another one can calculate what it will take to achieve fame.
The result is usually the same. The individual winds up feeling a little like a human pinata, poked, picked apart and battered by every onlooker with a pen or a microphone.
As The Daily Beast put it: “For some, the NSA leaker is a narcissistic traitor. For others, he’s a sexy nerd with an irresistible rebel swagger.”
How would you feel about becoming a household name?
I’m not sure I’d like it. Oh, it sounds, well, interesting to be a celebrity and have everyone know your name.
Give Snowden a few years — or less than that — and people won’t even remember why he became famous in the first place. He’ll be to the media what Charo was to Johnny Carson — someone who becomes famous for being famous. For something or other.
That’s because a new version of Snowden — another overnight celebrity — will come along to capture our headlines and imaginations.
OK, the media will soon be bored with this case and need something brand new to capture our imaginations. It won’t be long.
Edward Snowden, we never knew ye. But thank you.