For the first time, we introduce a positive award this year. The “Julia and Winston Award” was named after the “rebellious” main characters in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”, from which the “Big Brother” concept is also taken. The award is to honour persons who have taken an extraordinary stand against surveillance and data collection mania.
The winner of the first Julia and Winston Award is Edward Snowden.
In Berlin, the German parliament (Bundestag) has established a committee of inquiry to investigate the NSA scandal. It is strange that the majority of the committee do not want to invite the person who uncovered this scandal. The committe’s CDU/CSU1 members talk about Snowden as if he had an infectious disease. And there is hardly any objection from SPD members. That is gross ingratitude.
The man has already said all he has to say, the argument goes; so there is no need to question him again. That is premature consideration of evidence, which is forbidden in all areas of law and in the German parliament as well. Snowden offers critical evidence, as everyone knows. The real reason why nobody wants to invite him is this: Chancellor Angela Merkel fears a peeved and harsh reaction from her hosts during her US visit in May. That is more than just fainthearted. The Chancellor has sworn in her oath of office to protect the German people from harm. Protecting from harm – that entails taking action against the harm inflicted by the NSA. Instead, the German government acts as if that Snowden, not the US, was the injuring party.
Edward Snowden is an enlightener. He uncovered the global US inquisition and had to take refuge from the Grand Inquisitor. Personally, he has gained no benefits from his whistleblowing, only disadvantages. The only benefit is for the integrity of the rule of law in Western democracies – well, it could be a benefit if those democracies used the scandal as an incentive to reign in their secret services.
So Snowden is not just an enlightener, he is also a motivator. He deserves better than a shaky and temporary asylum in Russia. The Americans are pursuing him as if he was the reincarnated Bin Laden. But he is just a single refugee, a textbook case of a refugee. So how should, how must Germany act towards Edward Snowden? Most of all, with gratitude! Snowden deserves protection and support. He is a classic case of a refugee.
We should, indeed we must give Edward Snowden a stable permit of residence in Germany. We should and must offer him safe passage. All this is legally possible. Instead, the politicians of our “grand coalition” act as if the United States’ power were a legislative force. Germany needs enlightenment about the comprehensive US eavesdropping. Enlightenment is the way out of self-inflicted immaturity.
Snowden’s actions may be punishable in the US, due to violations of US law; but what is truly criminal are the circumstances and the machinations that he is denouncing. Snowden has acted against US secrecy regulations. Does that make him a traitor? No. The people who call him a traitor have betrayed basic rights themselves. Snowden has given emergency aid to the democratic state under the rule of law.
His actions deserve recognition from the judiciary and the state, in Germany as well as the United States. He has kickstarted a debate that will hopefully lead to the democratic state protecting itself from the threat constituted by the NSA attacks. He may not really need a German medal; that would not sustain him. But he needs protection and support.
“Unhappy the land that has no heroes!” says Galileo’s scholar Andrea Sarti in Bertolt Brecht’s play. So America can consider itself lucky to have someone like Snowden. But Galilei’s response to Sarti is this: “No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero”. That is true as well.
Snowden is a symbol for courageous resistance by an individual against a powerful state system. He is a tiny David that stood up against a super Goliath. Snowden has resisted, and he continues to do so until today.
Resistance is a word that people associate with rebellion against a dictatorial regime. But resistance is also a necessity in a democracy, even under the rule of law. Resistance only has a different name in a democracy: it is called dissent, civil courage, standing upright – or simply, Edward Snowden.
If dissent is penalised: dissidents hazard the consequences. They do so to instigate change, to eliminate deficits and injustice. Arthur Kaufmann, the late Philosopher of Law, once called resistance in a democracy “the small resistance”. This small resistance had to be offered “to make the large resistance unnecessary”. But sometimes this so-called small resistance is in fact a very large one. That is the case with Edward Snowden. His resistance fully involves the physical and psychological existence.
Thank you, Edward Snowden.
The award comes with an endowment of one million – not one million Euro, though. Digitalcourage will distribute one million stickers with Edward Snowden’s image to demand that he must be given asylum in Germany. The stickers can be ordered at no charge in the Digitalcourage shop. We encourage people to display these stickers in large numbers and in prominent places, to photograph the stickers and spread our campaign online as well, using the hashtag #Snowden and the
1 The CDU and CSU (Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union) are Germany’s major conservative parties. They are “sister” parties, with the CSU operating in the Federal State of Bavaria and the CDU in the other 15 Federal States.