Whistleblower or Traitor:
Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg
and the Power of Media Celebrity
Anthony Moretti, Ph.D.
[email protected]
Robert Morris University, Moon Township, PA (USA)
2013 Moscow Readings Conference
Moscow State University,
Moscow, Russian Federation
Snowden and Ellsberg
 Polarizing figures – hero and villain (but to whom?)
 Interested in publicizing a (perceived or real)
government mistake
 Endured the wrath of that government
 Operated in a different media and political
Daniel Ellsberg
 RAND Corporation employee who photocopied and then handed over to
multiple news agencies a 7,000-page assessment of the U.S. involvement in
the Vietnam War
 TIME magazine: Nearly a day went by before the networks and wire services
took note [of the initial set of “Pentagon Papers” published by the New York
Times]. The first White House reaction was to refrain from comment so as
not to give the series any greater "exposure.“
 Democrats: Publication underscored the “deception” taking place in
Washington and affecting both parties
 Republicans: How dare the New York Times make its own rules about what
is national security
 Media never offered a “label” for him
Edward Snowden
 CIA contractor who sent thousands of documents to The
Guardian and other newspapers about NSA surveillance of
Americans, and foreign governments
 Democratic and Republican politicians: traitor
 Sharp criticism directed at journalists, especially Glenn
 Instant labeling of Snowden by media: whistleblower, source,
leaker, implied traitor
40 Years Is a Long Time
 Explaining the differences in the media and political environment
 Corporate Ownership
More media owned by fewer groups
Cutting news staffs; shrinking news holes; declining emphasis on
investigative reporting; the “homogenization” of news coverage;
demanding ever-higher profits; and emphasizing people/celebrities
as newsmakers
1970s: Who Ellsberg is/what makes him tick irrelevant in a national
conversation about serious reporting and analysis about serious
2010s: A kind-of pop psychology about why Snowden did what he did;
how social media reacted to it; drama about deportation/extradition
40 Years Is a Long Time
 Explaining the differences in the media and political environment
 Technology
Fenton: “Speeding it up and spreading it thin”
Opinion seeping into news coverage
Boczkowski: “A journalist spends more time learning about other
media than ever before, and this information increasingly influences
editorial judgments
Carr: an emerging Fifth Estate of leakers, activists and bloggers
Mainstream media losing their prestige, audiences
1970s: What is happening here answered by fewer media, reaching
larger audiences and journalism standards clear and enforced
2010s: What is happening here answered by MSM, social media,
opinion programs; focus on the individual becomes easy
40 Years Is a Long Time
 Explaining the differences in the media and political environment
 Changing and weakened government policies
FCC and its “public interest” raison d’ etre
Ownership of newspaper/broadcast entity and audience reach
Shaffer and Jordan: “Members of Congress have sponsored legislation
aimed at severely limiting – and even stripping – FCC regulators of
their power to review acquisitions”
Supreme Court ruled in favor of New York Times in 1971
So What?
 Should media reporting and analysis be on the actors and their
motivations, or their actions?
 If fewer voices are involved in conversation, then which sources
enter media discourse?
 If a journalist injects himself/herself into an issue, then what
industry standards has he/she violated? And who is defining
those standards?
 In a deregulation modus operandi for government, should we
be surprised that lax policies exist in media?

Whistleblower or Traitor: Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg and the