erik lundegaard

Tuesday April 07, 2015

John Oliver Lets Edward Snowden Know He Ruined His Life for Nothing

This is what I wrote at the end of my review of “CitizenFour,” Laura Poitras's Oscar-winning documentary on Edward Snowden:

We visit Snowden briefly in Moscow, where he’s now living with his girlfriend. ... But the questions I’d like to ask Edward Snowden aren’t asked. What’s it like being so plugged in—as he was at the NSA—and then being completely unplugged, as he is now? Did he think the reaction of the world was commensurate with the problem as he saw it? I’d ask “The Insider” questions: Was it worth it? If he could go back, would he still come forward? Would he still blow the whistle?

Are we worth it?

On Sunday, John Oliver aired his interview with Edward Snowden on “Last Week Tonight,” and we got the following exchange:

Oliver in voiceover: While the risks were significant, Snowden himself has made it clear that he feels that the rewards have been worth it. 

Oliver to Snowden: You said yourself in your letter to Brazil, “I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the world in which they live. My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong.” How did that feel?

Snowden: I was initially terrified that this was gonna be a three-day story and everyone was going to forget about it. But when I saw that everybody around the world said, “Whoa, this is a problem; we have to do something about this,” it felt like vindication. ... I think we're seeing something amazing, which is: If you ask the American people to make tough decisions, to confront tough issues, to think about hard problems, they'll actually surprise you. 

Then Oliver surprises Snowden by showing him footage in which New Yorkers are asked who Edward Snowden is. Many don't know. One woman thinks he “sold some information to people.” Others confuse him with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. 

Are we worth it? Snowden thought we were. Oliver traveled all the way to Moscow to disabuse him of that notion. It's worth watching, partly for that sad theater, but mostly for the questions raised throughout.

John Oliver and Edward Snowden

Are we worth it? Oliver releases crucial data to Snowden.

Posted at 05:30 PM on Tuesday April 07, 2015 in category Politics  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard

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