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Why Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald's Fight Against Tyranny Follows in Gandhi's Footsteps

Snowden didn’t 'betray' his country, but his courageous act follows Gandhi's model of inciting people to rebel against an unjust state.

There is a linguistic gobbledegoo going on about what it is that Edward Snowden has committed that was made possible by the “advocacy journalism” of Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian. While many, in the US and around the world, seem to believe that Snowden committed a “heroic act” by blowing a loud whistle on the global spying by the US, the established order keeps insisting—noop, it’s “treason.”

Yesterday one more US Senator confirmed the latter view. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Takeaway:

"I've been thinking about this as the story has unfolded, and at first I thought [Edward Snowden] was trying to raise a public debate about important issues, and that maybe he's more like a whistle-blower. … As it's gone on, I'm moving more and more towards the treason end of the scale."

Treason is not the right word. Sedition is.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of— treason is: “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government,” whereas, sedition is: “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.”

Snowden didn’t “betray” his country, but his courageous act and Greenwald’s journalism are certainly “inciting people to rebel against the authority of [the] state.” Viewed in this way, their act could be considered as seditious, and they are in good company—with none other than Mahatma Gandhi.

In March 1922 Gandhi was charged with sedition by the ruling British government in India. He admitted his charges and said: “To preach disaffection towards the existing system of government has become almost a passion with me. … The only course open to you … is … either to resign your post or inflict on me the severest penalty.” He was sentenced to six years in prison.

What did Gandhi do?

He committed a serious crime—journalism.

Gandhi was one of the finest journalists the world has ever seen. “The sole aim of journalism should be service,” Gandhi wrote in his autobiography. Over a period of four decades he edited six newspapers, some in English, while others in Gujarati and Hindi. One of those was Young India, an English-language weekly paper that was in circulation between 1918 and 1932. He was charged with sedition for “spreading disaffection by writing seditious articles in Young India,” V. N. Narayanan wrote

In one article Gandhi wrote:

"I have no hesitation in saying that it is sinful for anyone, either soldiers or civilian, to serve this Government … I shall not hesitate … at the peril of being shot, to ask the Indian sepoy [soldier] individually to leave his service and become a weaver. For, has not the sepoy been used to hold India under subjection, has he not been used to murder innocent people at Jalianwala Bagh, has he not been used to drive away innocent men, women, and children during that dreadful night at Chandpur, has he not been used to subjugate the proud Arab of Mesopotamia, has he not been utilised to crush the Egyptian?  How can any Indian having a spark of humanity in him, and any Mussalman having any pride in his religion, feel otherwise…?  The sepoy has been used more often as a hired assassin than as a soldier defending the liberty or the honour of the weak and the helpless."

In another instance, Gandhi wrote an article in response to a public speech by Lord Reading, the Viceroy. Reading had said: "I ask myself what purpose is served by flagrant breaches of the law for the purpose of challenging the Government and in order to compel arrest?" In his article Gandhi responded with these words:

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