Edward James Snowden was the name specified by the United States Government in its request for authorities in Hong Kong to arrest the famed whistleblower. Snowden's actual full name, however, was Edward Joseph Snowden.This gesture conveyed two things. For one, it conveyed that the United States Government would be brutal and relentless in its pursuit of a citizen who was simply exposing violations of the United States Constitution. Secondly, it conveyed that while the United States Government would use the full force of the State like any tyrannical government would to pursue an honest young man, it would also not sweat the details. Thus, the United States Government simultaneously was single-mindedly determined to devour Snowden, but it also couldn't be bothered to get the basic fact of his name right.We are all Edward James Snowden. Any American who has seen the terrible bureaucracy of today's government and corporations in action knows that it has a dual nature. It wants to crush you, to make you an object of its will out a deep-seated hate. But it is also blissfully unconcerned - uninterested, even distracted when it comes to the details of who you are.It was entirely appropriate, then, for the United States Government to demand the arrest of Edward James Snowden. That was, in fact, who they were after. That is who they are always after.
John Hagan is John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University. He is the author of numerous books, including Northern Passage: The Lives of American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada.Sumit Ganguly is the Rabindranath Tagore Professor of Indian cultures and civilizations and professor of political science at Indiana University, Bloomington. A contributing editor to Current History, his most recent books include Fearful Symmetry: India and Pakistan in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947.