Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing on the National Security Agency (NSA) has resulted in widespread discursive battles on popular and social media. The purpose of this study was to theoretically and empirically explore how various participants discursively engaged the debate with digital media. It sought to identify and analyze the discursive forces at play, investigating how ‘storylines’ and ‘antagonisms’ are enacted, reinforced, and contested. Performing a type of ‘online ethnography’, the digital realms were analyzed on a macro-level before 22 articles were selected for in-depth analysis. Additionally, a corpus of nearly 40,000 YouTube comments was built then analyzed, and 5 interviews with Snowden were taken into consideration. Analysis reveals how and why the terms ‘hero’, ‘patriot’, ‘traitor’ and ‘villain’ come to be used for many whistleblowers, including Snowden. Furthermore, the study offers explanations for the roles that these ‘terms’ played when taken up and resisted by diverse participants.