Film Review: CITIZENFOUR.

citizenfourlogoIt will not be the least bit surprising to our Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ that we simply adore the human person named Edward Snowden, such that we intend to fully deploy every resource at the Palace’s disposal to ensure that he wins the US presidency in 2016. (Take that, Koch Brothers! HA!)

Award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras obviously feels the same way, and to that end she has cleverly released a campaign ad disguised as a feature film length documentary, one that reveals in every detail all of the reasons why Mr. Snowden should win in a landslide. Yes, this is despite the fact that he does not meet the constitutional age requirement (35) for the presidency. Oh, and then there is the pesky matter that he is currently confined within the borders of Russia, having been granted political asylum there after the State Department—i.e., President Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton—canceled Snowden’s US passport at a stopover in Moscow, while he was en route from Hong Kong to Ecuador. He also goes by “Ed,” which, I’m sorry, doesn’t sound very presidential. Maybe this is why our Founding Fathers wisely decided that you have to be 35 to be The Big Willie? I mean, it was probably even true way back then that nobody serious goes by “Ed” after the age of 35! Hello?! On the other hand, he’s not exactly hard on the eyes…

But NEVERMIND ALL OF THAT! We are as convinced as ever of the dignity, decency and, yes, patriotism of Edward Snowden, such that we are prepared to do whatever it takes to win.

snowdenmanning2016SNOWDEN/MANNING 2016

laurapoitras

Laura Poitras, Snowden presidential campaign co-chair (along with Iris Vander Pluym).

Okay, in all seriousness though, CITIZENFOUR plays like a top-notch thriller. (In these quarters, BTW, that is a high compliment.) If you’ve followed as I have the stories about NSA surveillance that have come courtesy of Mr. Snowden and the journalists who reported them, there will be no shocking revelations here. Nonetheless it is deeply touching to watch as Snowden navigates the emotional, political and media firestorms he was certain were coming—indeed, he quite knowingly and deliberately sparked them—and tremendously moving to witness his quiet moments of satisfaction and vindication as news coverage of these revelations roiled the globe.

But like all firestorms, these are difficult to contain and maybe impossible to control. It would be the ultimate tragic irony if the denouement to this story turned out to be an even less transparent surveillance state, with slicker PR. But you know what? That is not up to Edward Snowden. He fucking did his part, willingly, and at great cost to himself. It is in fact up to everyone else. All of us. (Oh, I have no doubt that we will fail him, and badly. But of course that’s just how I roll. Go ahead, humanity! Surprise me! Hahaha—as if.) In the meantime, the film’s website links to EFF’s “Surveillance Self-Defense“, a comprehensive resource offering tips and tools for safer online communications, for everyone from neophytes to advanced online security veterans.

I do have one major criticism of CITIZENFOUR, and it’s the same one I have made many times with respect to virtually every media story about mass surveillance. It is the one crucial fact that is entirely missing in all of the debate: IT DOESN’T FUCKING WORK. At least not for its alleged purpose of Keeping Us Safe™ from The Terrorists™. (That this is not, in fact, its purpose should be blindingly obvious at this point, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of drones.)

Relatedly, I watched a TED Talk by Glenn Greenwald in which he related a telling anecdote. One of the “criticisms” he regularly hears in response to his reporting on the Snowden docs is one I’ve heard, too. It goes something like this: “I don’t care about my government spying on me! I have nothing to hide!” This naturally infuriates me to no end, and I had a raft of responses on hand that ranged from “Have you really never heard of the Stasi?” to “Go fuck yourself you un-American shitweasel.” But Greenwald came up with an even better retort. It’s so simple, really: he replies that if they’ve really got nothing to hide, they should be perfectly willing to provide him with access to all of their online accounts.

Shockingly, no one has ever taken him up on it. Not once.

TL;DR: this is what a future president an American patriot looks like, people.

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is interviewedEdward Snowden

 

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