Following the news on Wednesday that Pope Francis was selected Time's person of the year despite speculation and, for some, hopes that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was the top pick, critics from around the world are blasting the magazine for snubbing Snowden in favor of the less controversial choice.
The former Guardian journalist who has worked closely with Snowden to break the leaks, Glenn Greenwald, tweeted Wednesday:
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 11, 2013
To some, the nomination for the award, which goes to the person who had the most influence on the news throughout the year, should have clearly gone to Snowden, whose NSA leaks to the mainstream press sent shock-waves around the world and continue to produce major headlines on an almost daily basis.
As the Huffington Post reports:
Snowden was undeniably a figure of major consequence during the year, as Time itself acknowledged in its piece on him. In the months since the Guardian published the first round of revelations from the documents Snowden leaked, newspapers and websites in countries around the world have run article after article detailing the stunning breadth and depth of the global surveillance networks tracking the movements of seemingly everyone on the globe.
Pope Francis, on many counts, has also had a widespread effect on the world since his selection in March. As the first pope from South America, Time claims he has changed the perception of the church and has pressed for "compassion over condemnation in dealing with touchy topics like abortion, gays and contraception," as the Associated Press summarizes. The Pope has also spoken out against inequality and the global socioeconomic system that "is unjust at its root."
Nonetheless, critics argue Snowden has had a far wider role in world news this year.
— Andrea Peterson (@kansasalps) December 11, 2013
Peterson continues in a blog post at the Washington Post:
To some, including the politicians who have termed him a "traitor," Snowden is a controversial figure. To others, including the over 140,000 people who signed a (yet unanswered) White House petition calling for him to be pardoned, he's a "national hero." But Time's person of the year isn't supposed to be a popularity contest: Previous selections include Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ayatollah Khomeini. That's why we here at The Switch are naming Snowden our "Person of the Year."
By leaking details about the clandestine programs in use by the NSA and its surveillance partners around the world, Snowden has ignited a fierce debate about the meaning of civil liberties in the 21st century in the United States and abroad. In story after story, the public is learning the true breadth of digital surveillance permeating the Internet age.
In a blog posted Wednesday titled "In Naming Its Man of the Year, Time Proves It Doesn’t Even READ the News" journalist and political commentator Marcy Wheeler notes that while Pope Francis is not a bad choice, Time's decision may actually stem from "either fear or ignorance about what Snowden actually revealed," in which she claims the magazine downplays the vast scope of NSA surveillance revealed by Snowden in its write-up of him.
But reading the profile Time did of Snowden, I can’t help but suspect they picked the Pope out of either fear or ignorance about what Snowden actually revealed. Consider this paragraph, which introduces a section on the lies NSA has told:
"The NSA, for its part, has always prided itself on being different from the intelligence services of authoritarian regimes, and it has long collected far less information on Americans than it could..."
It’s full of bullshit. There’s the claim that NSA collects far less on Americans than it could. Does that account for the fact that, in the Internet dragnet and upstream collection programs, it collected far more than it was authorized to?
The Huffington Post also collected a series of Tweets similarly blasting the decision.