John Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden explains surveillance with NSFW pics

The video is a must-watch - but why aren't we doing this in the UK?

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Last night America was treated to a 20-minute interview with Edward Snowden, courtesy of HBO’s satirical show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

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It was as educational on the matter of government surveillance intercepts as it was superbly puerile, largely because the phrase “d**k pics” was used about 20 times. 

See for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykfGWcmUbbk

All done?

You already know John Oliver is brilliant. His smart, in-depth segments on ‘boring’ subjects like football corruption, internet neutrality or the prison system have shown satire doesn’t have to be four guys snickering around a table. It can inform people while still making them laugh.

Even getting the interview is impressive enough and involved a 10-hour flight to Moscow, where Snowden fled after leaking thousands of documents to outlets including The Guardian. Then there’s the refusal to treat Snowden as a total hero, taking him to task about how “f**k-ups” in reporting gave information to the enemy.

But confronting Snowden with his own irrelevance? Questioning whether he might have done it all for naught? “On the plus side it looks like you can go home, because no-one knows who the f**k you are or what the f**k you did.” Why that’s ballsy as six pairs of truck nuts, which Oliver also brought with him…to demonstrate a point about American patriotism. 

And this is all before the satirist starts on his central metaphor: explaining systematised global surveillance not in technical terms, but by asking whether the government can see your genitals. This is bravura stuff: genuinely educational, genuinely funny, and poised to become the next YouTube viral hit.

“Bulk collection! Now we’re talking about my d**k.” 

But why is a guy from Birmingham doing this in America? Why has he fled, Snowden-like, across the Atlantic? Why don’t we have this in the UK? We invented TV satire. Compare and contrast with Jeremy ‘a loser says what’ Paxman at the not-debate last month. Smarmy without being informative. What did we learn? What was the point? Why are American audiences trusted more than Brits?

As Snowden says: “I think we’re seeing something amazing thing, which is that if you ask the American people to make tough decisions, to confront tough issues, to think about hard problems, they’ll actually surprise you.”

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Particularly if those hard problems involve rude pictures.