Whether in celebrity culture or in our Facebook-mediated interactions, we live in the age of the human being as a public brand. So there's nothing surprising about the reaction to this week's disclosures about the National Security Agency's unprecedented surveillance program. In our cult-of-personality society, that reaction has been predictably -- and unfortunately -- focused less on the agency's possible crimes against the entire country than on Edward Snowden, the government contractor who disclosed the wrongdoing.
Almost universally, the government officials, pundits and reporters who comprise Permanent Washington have derided Snowden and those who helped him disseminate his disclosures. For instance, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., bashed him for committing "treason" while Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called for the arrest and prosecution of the journalists who broke the NSA snooping story. Likewise, establishment pundits from CNN's Jeffrey Toobin to the New York Times David Brooks loyally defended government's national security agencies by respectively assaulting Snowden as a "narcissist" and a loser who "could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school." Meanwhile, plenty of Obama loyalists -- many of whom criticized the Bush administration for much less invasive surveillance -- took to Twitter to berate Snowden as an attention-seeking traitor.
Though they failed to show that Snowden's disclosures endanger national security, these attacks do tell an important story -- not about the whistleblower, but about America.