Snowden deserves praise and honours say human rights activists and sociologists

Snowden deserves praise and honours say human rights activists and sociologists

The link is to an op-ed (translated from Swedish into English) published in Sydsvenska dagbladet on 29 August 2013.

The author, Stefan Svallfors, is Professor of Sociology at Umeå University (Sweden) and the Institute for Future Studies (Denmark) and he makes a couple of very excellent points with which I agree whole-heartedly.

As such, Svallfors states that “Snowden’s revelations make explicit demands on citizens and politicians to act and react”, asking the question of how we have “responded to these demands”.

“Not in any impressive way one must say,” he argues. “Individual politicians and many citizens have reacted, expressed support for Snowden, trying to act in his defence […] But otherwise an awkward silence, evasive answers, gentle tiptoeing.”

“It is tragic,” he writes, “to see how thin the liberal veneer is in many places. When liberalism is no longer easy and obvious, when it requires courage and sacrifice, when we are forced to choose and our choices have real costs, what happens then? We fall into line, we bend to power. Without grumbling we let fairly manageable threats from terrorists sweep away fundamental rights and freedoms. We must demand more of ourselves and our elected officials than that.”
He, is right, of course, it is high time, we demanded more than that – of ourselves and our elected representatives.

Meanwhile in Germany, anti-corruption group Transparency International, together with other civil rights groups have awarded Snowden the Whistleblower-prize honouring his courage and sense of responsibility and expressing their gratitude for his actions. The prize honours informants who act in the public interest.

Well done, at long last, I say, and stand with Snowden!

Common sense is not so common – the “Snowden saga” three months on. Part one: Tinker, Tailor, Hero, Traitor?

Image“Protesters supporting Edward Snowden hold a photo of him during a demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong”. Reuters/Bobby Yip

It has been more than three months now since Edward Snowden, former employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii, carrying four laptops that gave him access to highly classified material.

Only days later, the Guardian published the first of what has become an extensive series of stories on systematic mass surveillance carried out by the NSA on US citizens and people and governments all over the world.

Even though it is becoming increasingly clear that a lot of what Edward Snowden said in those initial interviews (Parts one and two here) in which he outed himself as the source behind the leaks is true, people continue to defend the NSA and its surveillance apparatus, insisting that these practices are necessary and that Snowden committed an act of treason by exposing them.

Over the past three months, the Guardian, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and people who have helped them have had their names smeared, their partners detained, their equipment taken or destroyed, and their motives questioned countless times.

I think it should be pretty clear from my previous blog posts what my view of the situation is.

Surely, not many of us want to live in a world where every bit of communication is recorded? Where journalists, their spouses or others not guilty of any crime are detained and questioned for hours in gross disregard of their rights? Where one country is so powerful that it not only thinks itself above international law but where many others are so afraid or eager to please that they are willing to tolerate, even replicate, that view? Where people who inform us of things we need to know are hunted, marooned, abandoned, made stateless, called liars, thieves and traitors?

To me and many others I am sure it is simply common sense that the NSA, GCHQ, and the governments of the US, UK and Europe have gone too far (or not far enough, depending the subject).

Sadly, Voltaire’s observation that “common sense is not so common” seem to be proving correct yet again.

Yet again in the most recent weeks, the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald (and his partner), Edward Snowden, and people who support them, have been called liars, traitors and – most recently – terrorists, or people who condone terrorism. Consider Louise Mensch’s or Imani Gandy’s blogs on the subject.

Both are of course entitled to their opinions, even though personally I take issue with Mensch’s emotionally overcharged but apparently under-thought (not to mention under-researched) accusations, and Gandy’s denunciation of Glenn Greenwald as a “bully”. More so, because the person Gandy quotes on the matter is none other than Joshua Foust, the flaws in whose arguments I myself and others have previously criticized. Probably, that makes me one of Greenwald’s “minions” or a “Snowdenite” (I wonder if the term is going to make the OED like “omnishambles” recently did).

Be that as it may, I have so far made sure to stay away from the “hero-traitor” rhetoric so readily employed by both Snowden’s supporters and his opponents alike. Truth be told, I find it a bit silly. Never minding the fact that the dichotomy paints things in black and white, I hardly think that either term sufficiently summarizes what Snowden and his disclosures have come to mean.

I should imagine that the people calling Snowden a “traitor” not only feel he has violated their trust and betrayed his country but that he has also violated a principle of obedience loyalty or patriotism that seems much more entrenched in the US collective consciousness than it is in others. Snowden’s own words that “the country is worth dying for” seem to attest to that – only, he has a different interpretation of them than some of his peers seem to do.

I certainly do not share that view. Frankly, the words make me uncomfortable; they sound excessive and bring to mind countless instances in which people zealously acted to die for Queen (or King or President) and country without really thinking about the consequences. Personally, I never thought dying for a concept as abstract as “the country” was a particularly good or heroic idea. However, that might just be because I cannot know what “the country” signifies for Mr Snowden. I can certainly imagine, even follow, that some of the people calling him “hero” appreciate the sentiment. By contrast, the traitor-faction of society would probably contest that he didn’t really think about the consequences of his actions either.

Considering the facts – that he walked away with a trove of NSA and other secrets and made them available to the public, something which, given the abuse that has led him to do it and the risks that he has taken, seems an honourable and brave thing to do – you could argue that both terms apply. I, for one, believe that he did something very courageous and very necessary. Quite possibly at the eleventh hour too.

If asked, Snowden himself would probably say that he is neither hero, nor traitor but patriot. Again, not my favourite way of putting things but personally, after reading Peter Maass excellent feature in the New York Times, I am less reluctant to call Snowden and the people who work with him heroes. Consider the risks they continue to take, the sacrifices they continue to make, their commitment to what is an extremely uncomfortable, if not outright dangerous, cause, their refusal to back down and simply swallow the half-truths they’re being told, the care they are taking with what they know. These are things I personally value very much and I do admire them for that.

At least until proven otherwise.

And yes, that absolutely includes Glenn Greenwald, against whom in particular there is a lot of name-calling. Arguably, it does look like he is asking for it sometimes. Take his alleged threat that he would be “far more aggressive in [his] reporting from now” and that the UK would “be sorry for what they did.” I am the first to admit that the words were perhaps a little ill-chosen. I also think, however, that it should be taken into consideration that the man had been through the ordeal of not knowing for hours if his spouse was going to be charged with some bogus act of terrorism or aiding and abetting or whatever it’s called these days. More than that, he had just witnessed what has been widely criticized as an attack on press freedom and an attempt at intimidation. Given the immediate circumstances, I should think it understandable that any initial response from Mr Greenwald sounded a little heated.

If that’s even the case.

I have harboured this hunch that the exact meaning of what he said might have got lost in the translation from Portuguese to English. Greenwald himself later tried to rectify this in an email to Reuters: “I was asked what the outcome would be for the UK, and I said they’d come to regret this because of the world reaction, how it made them look, and how it will embolden me – not that I would start publishing documents as punishment or revenge that I wouldn’t otherwise have published.” As far as I’m concerned there is little reason, given his handling of the situation so far, to believe that he would launch some act of revenge that flew in the face of his responsibility towards his source. A responsibility that both he, Laura Poitras, and the Guardian seem to take seriously.

Now, it’s up to anyone to decide for themselves whether or not they think this is believable or whether my argument holds water. Obviously, nothing anyone says will ever stop Greenwald’s and Snowden’s critics from at best accusing, at worst defaming them, no matter how much care Greenwald and other people involved in the reporting have so far taken with the Snowden materials. That care itself has been hotly debated, as have Edward Snowden’s assurances that he never meant to harm the US. I don’t think that debate will seize as long as new documents continue to be published.

And it may be that enough words have been written and spoken over this, i.e. Snowden and Greenwald as persons. If you think that’s the case, don’t read on, I may just be indulging myself here.

However, I believe that the debate over Snowden and the dichotomies that fuel it are worth looking at. People love a good dichotomy, don’t they? Pitching two extremes against it each other makes it seem very simple to choose the one that best describes one’s sentiment.

And there is very much an opposition of two camps here: Snowden critics shout at (and ridicule, eh Ms Mensch?) Snowden supporters and vice versa. In between them, possibly, sit a few people who are not quite sure who or what to believe, together with some others who correctly remind us that we must not forget to “talk substance”. They are right of course. Yet talking substance is not always easy in a highly charged atmosphere, particularly when one or both sides try to deflect attention away from it.

In any case, I have always thought that to expect the message and the messenger to be treated completely separately was perhaps a little too much to ask. After all, if nothing else, John Bolton’s argument that Snowden’s leaks are a grave threat to national security, shows us that people do worry about what the leaks, his decision to go public and his acceptance of asylum in Russia tell us about Edward Snowden’s character (as to the latter, I still believe it doesn’t tell us anything much, other than that Snowden was forced to make decision in reaction to the very unfavourable situation the US government had created for him. I will keep repeating that view too. Ad nauseam).

Much of Mr Bolton’s argument (published after the first revelations in June) is of course outdated by now. More than that, it has been proven wrong. For example, what may, to some, have looked like a combination of “elements of truth […] paranoid speculation, outright lies and pure hype” have since turned out to be quite accurate assessments on Snowden’s part. Also, three months on, we do seem to have a pretty clear idea that Snowden did not, in fact, jeopardize US agents. Rather, as far as we know, he has stuck to his promise not to reveal any material of the kind that directly endangers people’s lives. As far as I’m aware, there is no direct proof, either, that Snowden’s leaks did “endanger[…] the national security of 300 million other Americans.” Yet this seems to be the one argument that many of his opponents still rely on, not only to justify the powers given to the NSA but also their condemnation of what Snowden did.

I would also argue that the claim that “[t]he NSA’s programs, at least, were approved by all three branches of our government, two elected by the people and the third populated by the first two” is simply false. The debate the Snowden leaks have prompted in Congress is but one example that these programmes do not find the approval of all branches of government or the majority of Americans.

Yet, Mr Bolton’s opinion is exemplary of a view held by many who have chosen the traitor-side of that particular dichotomy – hero/traitor being only one of many pairs of opposites evoked in relation to Snowden and the people he works with.

By contrast, Jerry Kroth calls Snowden a hero who courageously toppled a giant with nothing more than a slingshot – a rather overused but perhaps still effective metaphor.

Whether or not either is valid yet remains to be seen. After all, in light of everything, the question of how much can we ever really know is more pressing than ever.

That said, it does seem clearer, three months on, that much of what Snowden said in those initial interviews was valid. I think it is important to point that out because Snowden, as the messenger, may be more important to the evaluation of the substance of his leaks than some people want to admit. I don’t think that Snowden was oblivious to that either. I understand that it is one of the reasons why he came forward in the first place.

People who do not trust Snowden or Greenwald will find it hard to trust their disclosures and will not easily be persuaded to discuss them objectively – obviously, the name-callers will probably never be persuaded to discuss anything objectively.

Which is why I propose that we look back at the story so far. Let us attempt a round-up of what Snowden said and how much of it seems accurate. It may just help us see a little more clearly who has the better arguments; the messenger, his “minions”, or the people who are so quick to symbolically shoot him.

I will attempt to do a bit of that in my next posts. As it seems a bit of an undertaking and I have taken some (perfectly valid and much appreciated) criticism for the lengths of my posts, I will spread it out.

Watch this space and thank you for your kind attention.

Peter Maass’ excellent NY Times article on Laura Poitras and her work with Snowden

Peter Maass’ excellent NY Times article on Laura Poitras and her work with Snowden

I have taken a few days off and am travelling at the moment, so it will take a little bit longer for me to write my next post. I am already laying the groundwork in my head though (just have to decide what exactly it’s going to look like).

Meanwhile, I would like to share with you an excellent article investigative journalist Peter Maass wrote for the New York Times. It features a person who played an important part in the Snowden revelations: Laura Poitras, the documentary film maker who filmed Greenwald’s initial interviews with Snowden. 

In this article, Maass recounts how he met Poitras and Greenwald and stayed with them for several days, observing how they worked and witnessing the care they took when analyzing Snowden’s material and releasing story after story. It also has quite some background on how Snowden first made contact.

I think this is something people who accuse Snowden and Greenwald of carelessness, untruthfulness or worse should take careful note of. 

Hurrah! A nomination! Versatile Blogger Award

Dear Kitty has generously nominated Notes from Self for a Versatile Blogger Award!

Image

As I haven’t been blogging for very long, I feel very honoured. I will try my best to live (and blog) up to it.

Here are the rules for this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you.

2. Nominate 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award and include a link to their site (and tell them that you have nominated them).

3. State 7 things about yourself.

Seven things about myself:

1.) I wish I was a sloth: hanging from a branch all day, not giving a sh** about what’s going on seems like a sweet way of life sometimes.

2.) I am the opposite of a sloth: I cannot sit still.

3.) The most ridiculous thing I have ever done: walking across a bridge across the River Charles in Boston leaning against gale-force winds in the middle of winter – it gave me cold burn on my face and traumatized my friend.

4.) I have a very squishy nose.

5.) I am a vegetarian and I don’t kill spiders.

6.) Spiders terrify me.

7.) I love marmite.

My fifteen nominations:

1. Don’t Bite the Dog

2. Fencing with Kierkegaard

3. 2012: What’s the ‘real’ truth?

4. James Elliott

5. Librarian Shipwreck

6. Another Angry Woman

7. Words of Matter

8. Zany Zach’s Blog

9. Archaic Sugar

10. Transcending Borders

11. Behind the Hedge

12. The Business of Emotions

13. Paper, Paint and Pixie Dust

14. Reinventing the Event Horizon

15. Tim Zimmerman

Don’t bash my bro! A b**tch blogs back.

And so I find myself once again writing about Benedict Cumberbatch. This seems to be becoming a pattern.

It is strange because firstly, I still don’t consider myself anyone’s b****. I am not anywhere near as committed as some of these ladies (but I just had to have that title for this blog post, come on!). Two, the shenanigans of actors are hardly the subject-matter of what seems to be “my kind” of blog post. As I am still finding out what exactly my kind of post is, however, they might be – who knows?

This isn’t to say that I am not following what is going on in the world of film and television – I trained as a performer for a bit, I am still very much in love with the stage and frankly, the prodigious talent of some of the actors out there bowls me over (as do the goods looks of some of them, I am not ashamed to admit). However, given the things I have so far obsessed about in my blog ramblings, whatever Mr Cumberbatch is up to seems like an odd choice of topic.

Then again, perhaps it isn’t. After all, amongst the things that really irk me are a journalists drawing questionable conclusions. Also, Mr Cumberbatch and I seem to share concerns these days (as do a lot of others but there you go; I happened to come across his expression of them). I address these concerns but ranting about them – perhaps rather ineffectually, given the reach of my audience – on here, while Mr Cumberbatch has found his own way of going about them; by holding signs up to the paparazzi. Undoubtedly, he is reaching a much wider audience than I am. I am glad of it; here’s someone who can make more people aware of the things most of my few (but all the more valued) readers already know about.

The downside for him – and possibly upside for me – is that he draws criticism whereas I, so far, haven’t (and not for lack of trying either).

As happened, again, this week, when Mr Cumberbatch decided to hold up a 4-page statement to the paparazzi, raising some questions about recent events regarding the omnishambles that is the NSA revelations, David Miranda’s detention, the reaction of governments, the threat to a free press and miscellaneous.

Now, personally I think that anyone taking it upon themselves to shine a light on these issues and alert more people to them is doing a laudable thing. Or perhaps because I am biased because I have been missing outrage, protest and dialogue on the part of anyone who isn’t a journalist, blogger, human rights activist or government official. So hat tip to Mr Cumberbatch for hopefully reaching another section of the general public.

Strangely, this had made him a subject of some derision or – as I like to call it – Cumberbashing. If that term was ever to make it into the OED (omnishambles did too, after all), I’d probably define it roughly like this: “habit of some members of the media to deliberately misunderstand what someone (usually a high profile public figure) is saying at every turn and drawing questionable conclusions. Synonyms: Snowdenbashing, Greenwaldbashing…” Or something like that anyway.

An example of what I mean: In response to Mr Cumberbatch’s efforts on set, Marina Hyde asks in the Guardian whether or not he is “using his powers wisely”. Now, that sentence alone prompts questions about what status exactly Ms Hyde assigns Mr Cumberbatch. I mean, if she expects him to be some kind of Caped Crusader who she thinks should be aware of the great responsibility that comes with his great power, then I am not surprised she is easily disappointed. I am pretty sure that superheroes exist only in comic books. Then again, given the quite heroic choices (and even though I don’t like the hero-villain rhetoric, what better example of the attribute “heroic” is there in this day and age?) of a certain NSA whistleblower whom I applaud with deepest respect and gratitude, perhaps there are some heroes in this world too.

I am not implying that Mr Cumberbatch’s actions weigh as heavily as Mr Snowden’s but that doesn’t mean they aren’t laudable either. Much like the rest of us mere mortals (i.e. the mostly un-heroic mass blundering about trying to cope with life), he is doing his bit.

Again, you could dispute my idea that Mr Cumberbatch is like the rest of us but, really, why? Because he’s in the public spotlight and we’re not? Surely, simply being seen by a large amount of people doesn’t make anyone extraordinary by default. It is their actions that do. And given the virtual silence of so many others on subjects that should provoke public outcries (and by that I don’t mean the usual suspects but the actual public), what Mr Cumberbatch is doing makes him stand out in a good way, doesn’t it? He isn’t alone in drawing attention to things that alarm him either. Many celebrities – and non-celebrities, obviously – have protested against Russia’s anti-gay laws for example – and rightly so! I didn’t see them drawing much criticism or being accused of “subconsciously holding [their] fans in contempt.” Tilda Swinton when she waves a rainbow flag outside the Kremlin isn’t accused of hinting that we should all be ashamed of ourselves for looking at pictures of her rather than protesting against Putin.

So why Mr Cumberbatch? You see, here is precisely what irks me and why this might (its connection with the Snowden-Miranda-case aside) fit in with my usual obsessions after all: this is another example of someone making illogical deductions. So in a way, that’s precisely the kind of journalism or commentary that I like to dissect and which started this blog. Back to my roots, so to speak.

More specifically, I do not see how Mr Cumberbatch “subsconsciously holding his fans in contempt” follows from Mr Cumberbatch offering “idiots [i.e. paparazzi] some much-needed perspective.” I fail to see where there is a fine line in between the two because “the unfortunate implication of Benedict’s signs [isn’t] that the sort of people who might see the photos have such a lack of interest in anything else in the news that this is their only access to trenchant comment on the big news of the day.” Neither do “the signs hint – unintentionally [or not] – that the world is divided into two discrete sets: people who already know about things such as Egypt and the Miranda case, and people who might be interested in set shots from the new Sherlock.”

Now, I cannot be the only one who thinks that this is a bit of a leap. I mean, how does it follow that Mr Cumberbatch harbours the thought that “the idea that there might be people right up to speed on events in Cairo or the Guardian’s basement, who also happen to be vaguely interested in flicking through a few shots from the Sherlock set […] seems a modern bestraddling too far”?

Similarly, how does the conclusion of a divide between people interested in the “Sherlock” set and people “who already know about things such as Egypt and the Miranda case” follow from the simple act of holding up a couple of pieces of paper with Mr Cumberbatch’s thoughts in written on them? Is there some secret NSA code at work here that I am not partial to?

Yes, certainly there will be people who are interested in the “Sherlock” set and who have little idea about what is going on in Egypt and Syria or what happened to David Miranda. Vice versa, there will be people who know a lot about those things and nothing about “Sherlock.” But that doesn’t mean that the two are mutually exclusive or that Mr Cumberbatch was implying any such thing.

I for one, consider myself an example of the kind of person who, while trying to keep up with the atrocities committed the world over, still quite likes to read the latest gossip from the world of celebrity – mostly because I like making holes in it but also because it affords me a bit of a break sometimes and, on many occasions, has its own examples of people “using their power” to do good. And why shouldn’t they?

What I find strange is that just by being the centre of attention of a type of media that Ms Hyde herself seems to hold in contempt (she does call them idiots, which they may or may not be), Mr Cumberbatch seems to have turned from an otherwise perfectly ordinary person, who shares many of the views the rest of us hold in regard to Egypt and David Miranda – and who has found his own way of expressing these views to the public – into someone who “is troubled by what might be perceived to be his role in this debased culture, and is struck by the injustice of his being – only by association, of course – lumped in with that second group”. The “second group” being the shallow idiots who are more interested in snapping a pic of the “Sherlock” set than what are unarguably more important issues. “Thus,” Ms Hyde continues, “he makes a brave bid to differentiate himself from all the trivia-narcotised morons who might be vaguely interested, for a couple of minutes, in glancing at some snaps of him.”

I find the rhetoric strange. On the one hand, Ms Hyde accuses Mr Cumberbatch of unconsciously, pre-consciously, consciously or whatever making this about himself by trying to differentiate himself from the “morons”, on the other hand she calls this a “brave bid”. Clearly, she is being ironic, as there is nothing brave about jumping on the Miranda or Egypt bandwagons to make oneself appear in a favourable light?

Allow me to answer your question, Ms Hyde. No, “Benedict’s” signs do not “imply that anyone who finds themselves in the sort of intellectual backwater where they might happen upon a picture taken on the Sherlock set should “Go read about Egypt”? In such a market-led sector, it can only be as much a comment on the consumer as the producer.” This inference is flawed. B (implication that anyone who finds themselves in that kind of intellectual backwater… and so on) does not follow from A (Mr Cumberbatch telling journalists to “show the world something important”). This deduction seems to be based on your own (self- ?)contempt for people who you believe are by default swimmers in intellectual backwaters for being interested in pictures of the “Sherlock”-set. Or on contempt for Mr Cumberbatch for what you think is his indictment of such behaviour – quite possibly because you feel that this includes you. This kind of reminds me of that scene in “The Reichenbach Fall” when Kitty Reilley and Sherlock meet in the loo and he tells her in no uncertain terms to get lost. Off she goes on a crusade against him that then sees her inadvertently partnering with the Sherlock’s nemesis.

You see, you’ve yourself fallen into a trap here; you suggest that Mr Cumberbatch holds the view that both the photographers and the people seeing the photograph inhabit the same intellectual backwater. Some might, you are probably right. But you yourself write that this is indeed everyone who takes these photographs, anyone who shares these photographs and anyone who happens to see them. Surely, you will admit that this is nonsense in a world where content is multiplied a gazillion times by millions of people? Surely, no one would suggest that they’re all intellectual retards? And surely, you are not accusing Mr Cumberbatch of thinking that? How daft would he have to be?

Then again, perhaps I getting you wrong. I do admit that your final two paragraphs give me pause. Surely, you do not mean to say that entertainment photography has no place in this world? Surely, you don’t mean to say either that “1) [being interested in] world affairs, or 2) typing out disparaging comments about people who are not talking about world affairs at that moment […] are the ONLY acceptable pursuits, AT ALL TIMES”?

Nah, I don’t think I’m getting you wrong. And since and I’m obviously completely desperate to become the subject of your derision for writing you a 2,000-word response, even though I don’t smoke, can I just say that the words used in your final paragraph (“dullardry”, “well-meaning”, “total irrelevance”, “benighted”) and most importantly the transition from the informal use of “Benedict’s” first name to “Cumberbatch’s” last name, make it quite clear who you accuse of harbouring views 1.) and 2.). I am sure some people do. I am not sure that Mr Cumberbatch doesn’t. For all I know he could despise all those daft morons who snap pictures of him on set – and the morons who multiply them and the morons who look at them etc etc.

Ah but you see, then he might also just be some guy who is troubled not so much by what he perceives to be his own role in “this debased culture” but by what is going on in Egypt and much closer to home. Fine, you might say that as he is evidently in the public spotlight, he might have chosen to go about it in a different way. Interestingly, I do not see you suggesting how.

I say, let the man make a statement. If it reaches people that are not yet aware of the atrocities being committed around the world, and helps them become aware of them – all the better. He’s clearly in a position where he can nudge people, and I for one am sure that many of his fans will start looking these things up. I am sure many Cumberb****es are capable of that – if they aren’t pretty well informed already! I am worried that you don’t seem to give them as much credit. Rather, you seem to display precisely the attitude you attribute to Mr Cumberbatch.

I am not even sure he was drawing attention to the problem you mention; that people are unaware of what’s going on away from the immediate vicinity of the “Sherlock” set. The not knowing. Perhaps it was more the deliberate ignorance – the refusal to discuss – displayed by many of the media that he was drawing attention to. And that is something that should be, and has been, criticized.

I am not sure either that there is a “philosophical trap” here, as you call it – and least none other than the one you have built yourself. Namely the idea that there are people who know and people who don’t know what an “acceptable pursuit” is, and that the people who do know (like yourself) are entitled to deride anyone who doesn’t follow these pursuits. Unless they’re called Benedict Cumberbatch – then they aren’t even entitled to voicing their opinion because whatever they say is based on the fear of being equated with the implied “wrong” half and not on any legitimate concern about the state the world is in.

You see, what irks me is how you deride Mr Cumberbatch for underlying assumptions that you think prompt his actions when you are guilty of exactly the same thing.

Mr Cumberbatch himself has something to say about this: “[People] know you from the trail you leave with your work […] They assume things about you because of who you play and how you play them, and the other scraps floating around in the ether. People try to sew together a narrative out of scant fact.”

You see, that’s the real trap here – and you, Ms Hyde, seem to have fallen right into it.

Now. Maybe that’s not true. Perhaps I am sewing together a narrative out of scant information. I certainly don’t profess to have a better idea about Mr Cumberbatch than you do and I am aware that people have accused him of moaning. So considering that he seems to be entitled to stating his views in public only when it doesn’t involve anything serious or – heaven forbid! – the questionable conduct of some of the media, perhaps he should keep his mouth shut.

But hang on! That’s what he did, isn’t it? He didn’t actually say anything this time around, did he? He wrote it down. He made sure it was caught on camera (how beautiful is the subtext when you consider that this time he raised questions about NSA spying and silencing investigative journalists?). He is now being accused of making everyone who photographs him holding up his scribbles turn themselves into the morons you think he thinks they are. But perhaps he was simply trying to turn an unfortunate situation – namely his understandable annoyance at being hunted by photographers every step of his way – into an opportunity. That’s not being mean, that’s not even being negative. That’s clever. That’s seeing a chance and seizing it. That’s taking the opportunity of shining a light on something that has been on his mind and about which is he right to think that it’s important.

Perhaps if we stopped assuming the worst of people then instead of bashing them for their alleged ulterior motives, we could instead discuss the things they are trying to draw attention to in the first place.

I, for one, am going back to discussing world affairs now. Because they upset me. Because they concern me. Because I am interested. Because they should be discussed.

I’ll still continue to look at photos from the “Sherlock”-set. I will be curious to see what Mr Cumberbatch comes up with next. And I might discuss it on here because it’s fun – and because I am perfectly well capable of doing both: being interested in world affairs and following up on celebrity news.

Benedict Cumberbatch holds up a 4-page statement on set, asking some tough questions

Benedict Cumberbatch hold up a 4-page statement on set, asking some tough questions

Hat tip to Benedict Cumberbatch for a wee piece of awesome.

Mr Cumberbatch seems to be getting into the habit of holding up statements to journalists on set. A couple days ago he held up a sign telling the paparazzi to photograph Egypt and “show the world something important”. Today he had a 4-page long go at the UK government!

A small show of support that warms my heart.