Is Edward Snowden a modern Martin Luther?

(By J.M. Porup)

Quiz time, people. Identify the following:

A powerful church that has betrayed its founding principles. A secretive priesthood that knows all your sins. An empire that anoints princes. But one priest’s complaint provokes a backlash, and the empire crumbles.

Who am I?

If you guessed Martin Luther, you guessed wrong.

Try Edward Snowden.

The parallels between the two men — and the two systems — are striking. The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages preached Christ’s teachings of brotherly love, chastity, and poverty, all the while engaging in war crimes, torture, and a grisly Inquisition. Popes with bastards? Drunken debauchery in Rome? Rapine and plunder in the name of Christ? What a joke!

But nowhere near as funny as the good ol’ US of A. Written by a pantheon of now-divine Founding Fathers, whose words are quoted as scripture, our holy document has Ten Commandments, too — whoops, I mean Ten Amendments — none of which we show the slightest interest in following. America has become a laughingstock. Freedom? What freedom? Honestly, you couldn’t write a funnier satire if you tried (and believe me, I have). The land of the free and the home of the brave is now a totalitarian dictatorship run by the secret police. Oh, and with a sugar coating of democracy for appearances’ sake.

We’ve even got our own version of the Inquisition, and it’s been going on for decades. The Catholic Church pursued, harassed, tortured, and murdered heretics — thought criminals who dared to think different. The CIA pursues, harasses, tortures, and murders heretics — thought criminals who dare to think different. How many hundreds of thousands of people have died of “accidents” or “heart attacks” merely for supporting, say, trade unionism in Latin America? How many millions were purged in Indonesia because they believed in the Communist Heresy? How many dissidents and activists are being murdered right now, today, inside our borders, in plausibly deniable ways?

Likewise, the Church had a global spying apparatus. It was called the confessional, and it was mandatory to confess your sins at least once a year. Since society believed that an all-seeing God watched their every move — and would damn them to eternal hellfire if a priest excommunicated them — the secretive priesthood had dirt on everyone. This gave them untold political power.

Hmmm… any of this sounding familiar?

Enter stage left: one angry priest.

Martin Luther was no cynic. He became a monk because he believed in God and the Church. But he saw from the inside the horror of what Rome had become.
Martin Luther was no cynic. He became a monk because he believed in God and the Church. But he saw from the inside the horror of what Rome had become. Unable to stomach the hypocrisy, and the grave threat to mens’ souls, he stood up, alone, unaided at first, and said, “This has got to stop.”

Edward Snowden became a secret high-tech priest because he believed in the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. But he saw from the inside the horror of what America had become. Unable to stomach the hypocrisy, and the grave threat to mens’ souls, he stood up, alone, unaided at first, and said, “This has got to stop.”

Martin Luther seized on the recently-invented printing press to spread his ideas and force a schism between Rome and half of Europe. In so doing, he ended the global spying apparatus, destroyed the secretive priesthood, and drastically weakened the Pope’s power. In so doing, he led us from a total surveillance state into a world in which privacy could exist for the first time.

Snowden, aided by Glenn Greenwald, has also seized on a recently invented communication platform — blogging, the internet — to spread his ideas, and force a schism between Washington and the rest of the world.

But here the similarities end. Even if he succeeds, even if the NSA were shut down tomorrow — a highly unlikely possibility — the technology will continue to exist. Pandora’s Box is open.

With the advent of cheap, ubiquitous spying, we are entering a new Dark Age, in which we must assume that everything we do, everything we say, every sin we commit is being recorded — only not by a benevolent God who will forgive us our sins, but by power-hungry secret “priests” at the NSA and other security agencies, who judge us and condemn us in secret.

Can we hope for a Reformation? Or will the Inquisition pursue heretics with even greater vigor, dooming anyone who objects to harassment, poverty, torture, and death?

– –J.M. Porup

Former Lonely Planet author J.M. Porup now writes satire. His piss-take of the NSA — the United States of Air, available wherever ebooks are sold — resulted in him being put under surveillance and subject to digital harassment. He now lives in Uruguay, where he eats a low-cholesterol diet, gets plenty of exercise, and looks both ways before crossing the street.


Related video:

The Real News has a video interview with Ray McGovern on the unconstitutionality of NSA mass surveillance:

6 Responses

  1. Snowden is hero. He ought to be give a Nobel Prize for his work. He let the world know what was going on, loud and clear. Once he made public what he knew, it simply could no longer be denied. It is out in the open. He isn’t a traitor. He is a patriot. Snowden exposed the rot.

  2. Luther was side of opposition to the Catholic Church. Calvin was another. And let us not forget King Henry.
    I have just watched the HBO series about John Adams. I had always had a pretty low opinion of Adams because of the Alien and Sedition Act. But now that I was forced to more fully consider the circumstances of the time I understand how difficult it was to do the right thing at that time. Who can really say what the right thing was. If I were tranported back in time I would be partial to supporting France in its war with England. If that had been done who can say how history might have changed. There might have never been a Reign or Terror or a Napoleon. On the other hand the USA might not have survived the war of 1812. I can now understand that Adams had good reasons for doing what he did when he did it.

  3. A little earlieer I brought our glass bottles to the glass collection point. It was the first time in more than 17 years that all of the glass jars and bottels were clear. I found that ironic. You see at the time I was thinking about something.
    I forget now what it was but I wrote about it somewhere else but I think that it has something or other to do with tranparency. I like Snowden but I do think that he is wrong about something and the US Constittuion is outdated on some significant matters. One of those has to do with monitoring.
    I say that the US government not only has a right to monitor my every politcal thought, even before it is fully formed, it has an obligation to do so. Since most of my thoughts are politcal the NSA, CIA, DIA, FBI, OSI, CID, CIS, INS, BATF, and DEA should all be asking for large increase in appropriations from Congress. If money has to come from the Dept. of Education to make do then so be it. It has been said that for these organizations I am the Department of Education. That it was said by me should only reinforce the accuracy of the statement.
    So haveing gotten that out of the way. I would now like to confess something that has been troubleing me today. It is a hypothetical question that really has no bearing on anything practical. It is only a hypnotic exersice.
    What if……….What if in March of 1942 top scientists reported to the government leadership in Japan, the Soviet Union, Gemany, the United Kingdom, and the United States that a large Astroid is moving towards the earth and has a 50/50 chance of striking the earth in 1950. The astroid is so large that if it strikes the earth nothing will survive. Then in March of 1944 these scientists report that new better calculations indicate that the chances that this astoid will strike the earth in 1950 are 99.999%. The political leadership tried to keep the news from spreading but by March of 1945 every adult had heard the story.
    If this had happened would anyone have bothered to finish fighting the war? I must say that if the final chapter of human existance was the victory over the Nazis and the death of Hitler that would have been a pretty classy way to go out.
    But what good is a great ending to a story if there is no one to hear the story? Could the privates of any army have gotten themselves out of bed on the cold mornings in March when no matter what there would be no one left to save from death and slavery when everyone was going to die in the not to distant future? Could the officers have in good faith asked their men to advance towards the enemy when civilization itself had just been given a death sentence not in the distant future but in the quite near future? To die in the ruins of Breslau at that time might have been a blessing. But if one took such chances one might not die but be crippled or blinded. Then as the end drew near and civilzation came unglued such people would be defensless from the whims of fate. Things would never get better after the war but only worse and worse and worse.
    I am glad that it did not happen that way. There is no telling how our war would have ended. The only thing that might have motivated soldiers to get out bed each morning might have been the desire to aquire enemy booty. The pilaging and murder that would have preceeded the impact of the astroid might have been a fate much worse than the astroid itself.
    Sorry it really should not be the season for a trip to the cemetary.

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