And so fate has decreed that the Edward Snowden asylum saga should shove Venezuela front and center of an international debate on domestic spying just as its government is busy gloating about its own sprawling campaign to snoop on domestic dissidents.
You’d think the juxtaposition would cause just a smidgeon of embarrassment for the boosters of Bolivarian Socialism, but that would be to credit them with a level of self-awareness they haven’t been able to muster in a very long time indeed. (Venezuela, in case anyone doubted, is still trolling you.)
What we’ve seen instead is the genuinely bizarre spectacle of a government gleefully opening its arms to a dissident world famous for blowing the whistle on abuses that don’t actually happen in the place where he denounced them, but do happen routinely in the country ready to welcome him.
Because, let’s get one thing straight: the point of the Big Brother State isn’t that it knows everything. Knowing everything is not an end – it’s a means to an end. That end is political control over the population. It’s in order to crush organized resistance and thereby perpetuate its own power that the Orwellian state spies on its citizens – and it’s the utter lack of restraint with which the state uses information to disrupt the organization of political dissent that lends Orwell’s vision its profound creepiness.
This is the kind of abuse Edward Snowden imagined he was nobly standing against in blowing the whistle on PRISM. Except, of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever of the Obama administration misusing information gleaned from PRISM to harass its opponents and cement its grip on power. Such a scenario is so far off the range of the imaginable nobody, not even Assange, has actually even alleged it.
And what of the country Snowden is seeking refuge in as he dodges the consequences of his brave stand for freedom?
Its government is famously non-challant about illegally recording its political opponents’ electronic communications as a matter of routine. This is something we know not because some Snowdenish whistleblower told us, but because the government itself splashes the tapes all over its official media, usually in prime time and sporadically with added sound effects for impact. Yes, really.
That’s not exactly news. But just in time for Edward Snowden’s arrival, the Maduro administration kicked it up a notch. Last week, Venezuelans witnessed the bizarre spectacle of their Information Minister calling a press conference – a press conference! – to publish an illegally recorded converstation that wasn’t even the product of a “normal” telephone wiretap but instead came from an honest-to-goodness, Lives of Others-style bug planted inside a private home for the purpose of recording a face-to-face conversation between two dissidents.
This, Edward, is the Real Deal: a proper police state utterly beyond the reach of the law, determined to hang on to its own power whatever it takes, totally dismissive in the political rights of those who oppose it, and so utterly incapable of self-insight that its Foreign Minister was recently heard discussing your case and bragging about his own political spying operation in the same press conference!
I can’t wait, Edward, for you to get here. Because nothing shines a light of the immense fatuousness of your Freedom Agenda-cum-#FirstWorldProblem like an evening spent watching VTV.