‘Yes we scan’: Graffiti, memes and T-shirts celebrate Snowden’s NSA leaks
6 Jun, 2014 04:17
As is often the case with contemporary heroes, Edward Snowden has become a popular trend among creative types such as graffiti artists, musicians, writers and even filmmakers. Meanwhile, more down-to-earth people are hurrying to cash in on his fame.
The former NSA contractor who revealed the secret US snooping
program, Snowden is viewed as a hero by some and a traitor by
others. It’s been a year since he’s been hiding in Russia under
conditions of temporary asylum, but his image has also been
spotted in France, the UK, and even in the US – where he faces 30
years in prison.
Many street and graffiti artists have found their inspiration in
the image of the ex-CIA employee who had courage to tell the
truth about illegal techniques used by American and some other
governments to spy on millions of people.
A mysterious artwork appeared earlier this year on the side of a
house in Cheltenham, not far from the headquarters of British
intelligence agency GCHQ. The guerilla graffiti artist known as
Banksy is believed to be behind the mural depicting three
spy-style dressed figures eavesdropping on a street phone.
“Truth is coming and cannot be stopped.” That is how British
artist Sarah Lynn Mayhew (aka SLM) entitled the portrait she
painted on a subway wall in the northern quarter of Manchester
Snowden’s image gazes down at visitors to an open-air
contemporary art museum, the Adobe of Chaos, not far from Lyon,
France. That’s how Thierry Ehrmann, a French
businessman-turned-artist, paid his tribute to the American
No one had heard of Snowden just over a year ago, before Glenn
Greenwald, then of The Guardian, first reported data leaked by
the whistleblower. Now Snowden’s pale, slightly boyish face has
become an iconic image for millions
And Snowden’s glasses have become a trademark. He says that
people in Russia mainly recognize him when he goes to computer
stores, but not when he’s shopping for food or looking at
In a recent interview with Brazilian TV, Snowden refrained from
answering whether he wears a disguise when he goes out.
Snowden’s temporary asylum expires in August. The NSA leaker is
certain that if he returned to the US he would be tried unfairly.
He said he is happy in Russia, but would love to live in Brazil.
The image of the information-era dissident was used in various
forms of art, but his revelations have also boosted world-wide
protests against mass surveillance. Placards and posters with the
“Yes We Scan” slogan – a parody from Obama campaign’s “Yes We
Can” – have inspired a meme.
For business-minded people, Snowden’s popularity is yet another
chance to earn some money. Just like Argentinian revolutionary
Che Guevara, Snowden’s image was replicated on T-shirts, mugs,
buttons and all sorts of things that many people like buying as a
way to have their say on something.
While famed American film director Oliver Stone is now planning
to make a film based on Snowden’s story, dozens of music video
clips inspired by him are already circulating on the net.