With all of the talk in the past week about satire, freedom of speech and comedians abusing or somehow not doing what they can with that privilege, it’s even more remarkable to consider what John Oliver did during that week.
Oliver and a camera crew flew to Russia and interviewed Edward Snowden, the 31-year-old former CIA computer tech who later worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency and was so distressed by what he discovered there that he leaked a lot of their operations to the media in 2013.
“It is vital that we have a discussion about this now,” Oliver said, 15 minutes into what normally would be a half-hour episode of his Sunday night HBO series, Last Week Tonight.
Then launched headlong into 33 minutes on surveillance, and specifically the June 1, 2015, deadline to reauthorize and/or change the provisions of The Patriot Act, which somehow — even though the legislation’s author never intended it to — enabled the NSA to keep tabs on all of our cell phones and the records contained with them via domestic surveillance through Section 215 of that act. Oliver went the extra mile and thousands more by traveling to Moscow to interview Snowden — where he has been living and hiding out from the American government, which has charged him with espionage.
Here’s where Oliver proved the true power of satire.
Sure, he asked Snowden some very silly questions that he may have learned to ask from his past stint as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But then, Oliver and his writers and researchers showed due diligence by digging into the Patriot Act’s provisions to find a way to make any of us — no matter how apathetic or ignorant — care about the law. Would you believe he found it in dick pics? Yes. Sexting. If you think female celebrities have been horrified knowing that perverts could hack into their cell phones and laptops and share the nude photographs they’d exchanged with their boyfriends and husbands, just wait until you realize that the NSA already has been doing this and sometimes even mocking your very own nude selfies and more.
“Edward, if the American people understood this, they would be absolutely horrified,” Oliver told Snowden.
To which Snowden replied: “I guess I never thought about putting it in the context of your junk.”
What happens next is truly unexpected, inspiring and patriotic.
Take a half-hour of your time to watch all of this, and then demand action. It’s the patriotic thing to do.