Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of Communication Studies
Joel Iverson, Lee Banville
public sphere, surveillance, security, panopticon, whistleblowing
University of Montana
Speech and Rhetorical Studies
In May of 2013, National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong with thousands of classified NSA documents. He contacted Glenn Greenwald, blogger, activist, and journalist for The Guardian. Greenwald and several other reporters flew to Hong Kong, where they spent a week interviewing Snowden. Greenwald began reporting on the documents in The Guardian, publishing many articles that demonstrated that the US government was spying on US citizens without court warrants. The leak was considered the biggest in NSA history. One year later, Greenwald published No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, and The U.S. Surveillance State. In this book, he discussed his meeting with Snowden, the NSA documents, and his concerns about the US surveillance state.
In both Greenwald’s Guardian articles and No Place to Hide, the journalist discusses the implications of NSA surveillance. He explains technical means of surveillance and encourages the public to resist these tactics. Analyzing Greenwald’s rhetoric, I find that he takes a Foucauldian perspective on surveillance. NSA surveillance, Greenwald argues, leads citizens to self-discipline and suppress their own dissenting thoughts because of the possibility of being watched at any time.
Additionally, Greenwald’s case can be analyzed through Goodnight’s three spheres of argument. Many scholars express concern that the technical sphere, which is open to only elite members with specialized knowledge, is eclipsing the public sphere, or the arena in which citizens discuss matters of common concern. This case demonstrates the effects of a public sphere pushback on isolated, technical arguments. Greenwald calls for the public sphere to deliberate as an antidote to surveillance. He characterizes the NSA as an isolated technical community which does not consider public concerns. Central tenets of the public sphere include public access and openness, and central tenets of surveillance power include public inaccessibility and technical closure. Greenwald’s rhetoric juxtaposes these competing values to encourage public sphere resistance of surveillance. He asks his readers to resist the NSA by continuing to discuss NSA surveillance.
Rice, Rebecca, "Resisting NSA Surveillance: Glenn Greenwald and the public sphere debate about privacy" (2015). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 4480.
© Copyright 2015 Rebecca Rice