Why we’re watching “Citizen Four”

I noticed some of you were pretty fidgety and bored as we watched the first part of “Citizen Four” yesterday.

Sorry, not sorry.

I am testing an assumption: that you care about the future of the democracy. Edward Snowden’s revelations shocked some people into the realization that the democracy faced a new threat from within because the government had constructed a system of mass citizen surveillance in the aftermath of 9/11, one that could be used in a nefarious way to infringe people’s freedom.

Lots of people didn’t care, according to polling. A really smart friend of mine who is an endowed chair in a very esoteric subject at a major university said at the time that he didn’t see what the big deal was. “I’m not doing anything wrong. So why does it matter?”

I found that deeply troubling.

I don’t know what your reaction was to finding out about the NSA surveillance program. Mine was, wow, this sounds scary but it’s really complicated and I wish I understood it better. I vowed to sit down and read as much as I could about it.

I wasn’t alone, as it turned out. Lots of Americans just didn’t get it. And it took me a while to understand the terrifying implications for journalists. (I have since installed encryption software on my gmail account, in case I need it.)

And then I saw this absolutely amazing (and funny) “Last Week Tonight” segment on the government surveillance program and felt that I had been thoroughly schooled. What John Oliver demonstrates in this piece, somewhat vulgarly, is a very important thing for journalists to understand.

Watch the whole thing. It’s only 30 minutes, and it will prepare you for our conversation on Thursday after we watch the end of the film.

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3 Responses to Why we’re watching “Citizen Four”

  1. Glenn Greenwald’s Ted Talk on the revelations also did a great job of explaining the danger behind NSA surveillance.

  2. Blake Nelson says:

    I love that movie passionately. What encryption software do you use? I need some.

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