Snowden’s Twitter strategy; flawed but necessary

Ed Snowden launched his twitter account this week. He has gained millions of followers, which reflects his international celebrity status. A status nurtured by a well-managed media campaign. Glen Greenwald, Laura Poitras, The Intercept and others promote him. For nearly two years, Snowden’s appearances were limited to high profile media interviews or webcasts. The high point is likely his short alternative Christmas message to the UK on Channel 4.[1] The limited access raised his status. His presence in the news yet absence in the public domain contributed to his mystique. For a time, this worked for him and his media handlers. However, that strategy started to slip. The turning point is likely to have been the John Oliver’s interview.[2] The interview showed the public’s ignorance of his name and disinterest in his message. His mystique and showed the fragility of his appeal. He went from a hashtag to a punchline.

Popularity is the currency for a media figure

His arrival on Twitter, though, is not surprising. He can only exist and be sustained if he is a valuable commodity. He is now a media commodity. As a media figure, his value is from the publicity that he generates. His message is now lost as the US has done some political reforms and other cybercrimes[3] have diverted attention.

The strategy is flawed but necessary. It is necessary as his survival, which requires his sustained relevance, now rests on publicity. It is flawed because it turns him into something he denied– a publicity seeker. Here are the drawbacks to his strategy.

First, Twitter relies on a frequent flow of tweets. Although a million followers will give his tweets greater effect, he will lose followers without a steady stream of new content.

Second, it shows he has feet of clay. His mistake on notifications shows him to be human, which undermines his image, aggressively pushed by his supporters and handlers, that he is a computer whiz.

Third, Twitter creates a record of his views. The audience will note inconsistencies and broadcast them. Even retweeting others will put him at the mercy of his public persona. The first tweet that does not conform to expectations will show the limit of his independence. The more he appears himself the less people will take an interest. The less he appears himself and echoes his public persona, the more he appears manufactured.

Fourth, this does not help his legal case. He is in a media Catch 22: he needs to be seen and heard but the more he is seen and heard the more he weakens his legal case.

Will Snowden become another outrage hustler?

Ed Snowden is now a media figure. He will live and die by media attention. The more he tweets, the more he becomes another partisan and the less he appears a whistleblower. The more he tweets, the more he becomes the message and the less his message is heard. Is his fate to become another outrage hustler?


[2] For an analysis of this interview see

[3] The OPM security breach has drawn the most attention and anger.


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to Snowden’s Twitter strategy; flawed but necessary

  1. Very interesting. I tend to agree with what you said. I now have a sense of urgency to go follow him on Twitter 😀

    Thanks for posting.


  2. Filippi says:

    Now he is on Twitter, he has to produce novelties. And which sorts of them?,He has to demonstrate that USA is spying him. But all the twittos are spying. He must demonstrate he can’t speak about NSA but everyone can speak about NSA on Twitter. He is dead.

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