Edward Snowden: the new Che Guevara?

by Toby Manhire / 25 August, 2013
The whistleblower has "joined the pantheon of leftist icons turned unwitting money makers".
Ed Snowden on the WikiLeaks T-shirt, and the winning Che-style T-shirt design.

At the WikiLeaks online store, alongside familiar merchandise emblazoned “Senator Assange” to promote the founder’s Australian political ambitions, is something new: a T-shirt featuring former NSA employee Edward Snowden, with the all-caps entreaty: “I want you to blow the whistle in defence of our liberty”. Mugs and posters are also available.

It’s not the only effort to cash in on Snowden’s status, writes Elias Groll at Foreign Policy.

“The former NSA contractor has officially joined the pantheon of leftist icons turned unwitting money makers,” he says.

In China, for example, “the electric car company Hong Yuan Lan Xiang has filed an application for the ‘Snowden’ trademark in both English and Chinese. They're even claiming a vague product tie-in: Their 'top secret' technology promises to be as earth-shattering as Snowden's leaks.”

And in Russia, a handful of applications to trademark images of Snowden have been lodged at the Patent Office.

“One even depicts the whistleblower with long hair in the style of Che Guevara,” says Groll.

Their hope: that the modestly attired, bespectacled Snowden's image “will become the next T-shirt sensation for moody, café-dwelling intellectuals the world over”.

The idea has certainly caught among some - see for example this competition to create a "Che Guevara style" Snowden T-shirt.

An absurd notion? Not really, reckons Jonathan Jones, art writer for the Guardian.

Snowden is no Che – but who was Che? A fantasy figure of guerilla violence for an age that preferred its politics drugged up with romantic fantasy. Snowden is an icon for a less deluded era when the true dimensions of power are more apparent and the true risks of dissent more sombrely visible. 

To fight the power today you need a laptop, not Che's gun, and the skills and intelligence to outwit a vast surveillance state. Snowden looks like that guy, because he is that guy. A T-shirt hero? Why not?

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