Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oliver Stone Tells 'Wired' Magazine That Edward Snowden 'Admired' Ayn Rand? Hmmm...

Stuart K. Hayashi

First off, please don't take this as an unqualified endorsement for Oliver Stone.  I consider many of his actions in the public eye to be terribly misguided.  He spread a lot of misconceptions about market economics with his 1980s motion picture Wall Street and also in his propagating Howard Zinn's silly revisionist history about how U.S. institutions in general are all founded on exploitation (with the usual equivocations between "big business" and "imperialism").  Moreover, as I type this, he is presently floating around a conspiracy theory that the Democratic National Committee is only pretending to have been hacked by Russians. -_-

As for Edward Snowden (who, by the way, worked very close to a place where I ate about three times a week), I overall appreciate the hard decision for which he is most famous (or "notorious").  I definitely do not agree with all of his Tweets. Indeed, I think he sounds heavily influenced by Glenn Greenwald and even Greenwald's friend Noam Chomsky.  However, I am overall grateful for his public disclosures on what the NSA was doing.  On a cost-benefit analysis, I would rather he make those disclosures -- even the ones that allegedly put national security at risk -- than for him to have sat on the information and made none of those disclosures. I would hope that if I were in his place, I would have taken the same actions.  What he did took a lot of courage, and -- whatever mistakes he may have made -- I salute him for his overall choice.

Anyhow, this is from an interview that Michael Hainey conducted with Oliver Stone for Wired magazine to promote Stone's new movie about Snowden:

Michael Hainey: "There’s a line inspired by Ayn Rand in the film: 'One man can stop the motor of the world.' Is Snowden a Randian?" 
Oliver Stone: "He admired her. [Hmmm, I wonder if him using past tense rather than present tense indicates a change... —S.H.] He was definitely libertarian in his origins. He was an admirer of Thoreau and the original Tea Party. Those men broke the law and started a revolution. Breaking the law can make sense when it’s for a greater good. To me, this is the basis of the theme of the movie—a young man with an extraordinary conscience. And people lose that conscience. I saw this in Vietnam—people gave up their self-sovereignty to a larger authority."

My father would not dispute Mr. Stone's point about Vietnam.  My father was drafted for Vietnam around the same time he started reading Atlas Shrugged, and he thought that the government's insistence that he sign his draft card—as if there was something consensual about this conscription—eerily paralleled the part in the story where Hank Rearden is blackmailed into signing a "gift certificate" to the State, as if that was voluntary.  (My parents never became Objectivists but were fans of Ayn Rand's long before I was born. But that's another story for another time. ^_^ )

Despite my misgivings about Mr. Stone's politics and, worse, his conspiracy theories, I was planning on seeing his Snowden movie.  This news definitely has not caused my interest to recede.

My Self-Indulgent Anecdote That Only Indirectly Relates to the News Above ^_^
Although Snowden worked near an eatery where I dined regularly, it appears the closest I came to meeting him was on Valentine's Day of 2015 when I attended a conference under the auspices of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Audience members were able to submit questions for Snowden to answer via live feed.  To my chagrin, my question was not chosen. :'-(

Probably the closest I will ever get to having a selfie with Edward Snowden (answering questions via live feed on the screen behind me)

Although I didn't get to interrogate Mr. Snowden, I did meet, face-to-face, his attorney from the ACLU, Ben Wizner.  At Amy Peikoff's recommendation, I asked Wizner what he thought of the Third Party Doctrine and whether it would be overturned, as the Third Party Doctrine is cited to rationalize mass surveillance as constitutional.

Mr. Wizner replied that civil libertarians are making a lot of progress against the Third Party Doctrine, and that, "I think the Third Party Doctrine might be on its last leg."  However, he made it clear to me that even if the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Third Party Doctrine, that would not be the end of mass surveillance, as the NSA would easily cite some other rationalization to keep mass surveillance going.

In any case, despite my disagreements with Mr. Snowden and Mr. Stone, I am quite impressed by what Mr. Stone told Wired magazine . . . even if Mr. Snowden later tweets that he "grew out of liking Ayn Rand" and hates her now. Hee-hee.  ^_^  My fascination with this topic has not diminished.