“This is the most visible line in the sand for people. Can. They. See. My. Dick?”
And with that, comedian John Oliver manages to land an interview with “the most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history” (Oliver’s words), AND easily explain the National Security Agency’s domestic spying programs.
What a coup.
It’s the latest example of “comedians doing better journalism that journalists.” Oliver flew to Russia to interview Snowden, the man responsible for the 2013 NSA leak. In the program, Oliver tried to explain the Patriot Act and its controversial Section 215 which allows widespread spying on American citizens, but found it hard to boil down such a big issue. Enter Snowden.
In the interview, Oliver lets Snowden talk about the reasons behind his actions (and gets Snowden to say he “misses Hot Pockets”), but he also challenges Snowden on whether his methods were safe, whether the journalists he’s worked with are competent, and whether his actions have actually made a difference.
And that’s where the interview takes a turn for the brilliant. After Oliver confronts Snowden with man-on-the-street interviews with people who didn’t know who Snowden was, the pair discuss the challenges of helping people understand such a complicated issue. After all, if the topic is too complicated (and believe me, it is), how will people care?
That’s where the dick pics come in.
Oliver and Snowden go program-by-program and explain how they allow the government to “see your dick.” Whether it was the NSA intercepting your dick pic, or Google sharing the dick pics you sent via Gmail, Snowden laid it all out, and Oliver kept him on track by constantly referring back to “what does it mean for my dick?” It was the most entertaining, simple, and surprisingly thorough method of condensing a complicated issue to the American people I’ve seen in recent memory.
Whether you agree with Snowden, think he’s a hero or traitor, or just think he should have gone about things a different way, you can’t deny the impact of his actions. And thanks to Oliver, people can have a better understanding of why it’s so important. It’s what good journalists should do.
Just watch it, already:
Video courtesy "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"/HBO