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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.

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"We seek arrest because the so-called freedom is slavery.  We are challenging the might of this Government because we consider its activity to be wholly evil. … We desire to show that the Government exists to serve the people, not the people the Government.” 

In a third article, Gandhi wrote:

"No empire intoxicated with the red wine of power and plunder of weaker races has yet lived long in this world, as this British Empire, which is based upon organized exploitation of physically weaker races of the earth, and upon a continuous exhibition of brute force…"

There is something remarkable in what the judge said as he proceeded to announce the sentence:

"Mr. Gandhi, you have made my task easy in one way by pleading guilty to the charge.  …  Nevertheless, it would be impossible to ignore the fact that in the eyes of millions of your countrymen you are a great patriot and a great leader; even all those who differ from you in politics look up to you as a man of high ideals and of noble and even saintly life.  … I do not forget that you have consistently preached against violence, or that you have on many occasions, as I am willing to believe, done much to prevent violence.”

The prosecutor was Thomas Joseph Strangman, the first lawyer to successfully prosecute Gandhi. Many of the quotes I mention above come from Strangman’s book, Indian Courts and Characters.

As you can see Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have much in common with Gandhi. They are voices of conscience speaking truth to power.

Furthermore, Gandhi’s writing has much in common with what Greenwald and The Guardian have been doing lately. What is surprising is that the British allowed the Young India to run as long as it did. On January 4, 1932 Gandhi was arrested again for sedition and was held without a trial, not unlike the prisoners at Guantánamo today. Young India folded for good that year. Today, the US government is doing what they can to suppress the Guardian. “The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday's Herald, but Armywide,” Monterey County The Herald reported yesterday.

Did Gandhi and Young India practice “advocacy journalism”? You bet, they did. His distaste for mainstream media was so strong that on June 19, 1946 he made a naughty remark about the Indian newspapers: “If I were appointed dictator for a day…I would stop all newspapers.”

Glenn Greenwald is also practicing advocacy journalism, as Matt Taibi pointed out in the Rolling Stone on Thursday. Taibbi made an assertion that NBC’s David Gregory had a “brain fart” when he asked Greenwald: "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you be charged with a crime?" It may sound funny to you today, but in time, his assertion will find its place in serious history books on journalism. Greenwald’s journalism has shattered the orthodoxy of his field. Today, the corporate media will continue their smear campaign against Greenwald, as if he is running for the US Presidency, and we should dig up his dirty laundry. In the years to come though, there will be—Columbia School of Advocacy Journalism (or something similar elsewhere). Students and scholars will be debating about “comparative advocacy journalism”—across practitioners: Taibbi or Greenwald; across mediums: Goodman or Greenwald; and across time: Gandhi or Greenwald.

It remains to be seen if the courageous work of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald will inspire us to fight for a more just society.

 
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