Tag Archive | Edward Snowden

2015: The Year Activism Got More Retweets Than Justin Bieber

I had long said, of hacktivism: “we need Justin Bieber-level retweets”. 2015 is the year we got them.

Can You Hear Me Now?








Yes, Snowden.

Edward Snowden’s Twitter debut was definitely a turning point. He soon showed where his true loyalties lay by amplifying grassroots activists to his large, global audience. Faces familiar to those of us struggling on the ground, but previously unknown to the mainstream, make appearances on his timeline.

With claims of websites being knocked offline just by Ed sharing a link to them, it is clear that a plug from him on social media has a major butterfly effect for the subjects he profiles.

Citizen Four‘ continues a great heritage of surveillance-by-a-tyrannical government-themed features and has achieved global exposure. Not since ‘Wag the Dog‘ has there been such saturation of a film so political in nature – both films depict farcical Western policy agendas and lead their audiences into some pretty deep introspection.

This year has seen an increasing number of very mainstream public figures speaking out about social issues – not just as spokespeople for NGO’s, but as individuals and seemingly of their own conscience.

So are celebrities waking up?

Regardless of their motives, the effect of pop culture lending access to its substantial audiences remains to be fully appreciated. The impact of the same legions of fans that spend their days pouring over Justin Bieber’s timeline, being exposed to hashtags like #SandraBland by Nicki Minaj, or #BlackLivesMatter by Jay-Z or Charleston by Solange Knowles, will evolve and be lasting.

For critical mass, all corners of all societies must be reached. Messages of social conscience penetrating the mainstream definitely accelerates that.


In utopia we’ll all live to see a day where TMZ only covers celebrities doing positive, role-model worthy things and the paparazzi and Hollywood culture self-reform. Where music television, entertainment and news media corps stop manufacturing reality and start addressing it.

A flow of raw information to people is what empowers them to act most effectively. Those who still live blindly by their television sets, quite literally need to be woken up.

It sure would be something to have the people on those very screens telling them that.



Jeb Bush Meets The Internet

Two days ago Glenn Greenwald himself had shared a link to a 10,000 word transcript of an hour-long interview I gave about my recent Snowden articles.

Then I noticed this on his timeline:

Reading through the comments on Jeb’s tweet I realised the situation really has changed for Snowden. As such, I don’t need to write any more words to complete this article. The people have spoken.

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Why Snowden’s ‘Dick Pics’ Interview Is Going Viral

I can say quite confidently that everyone on Earth either has a dick or knows someone who has one.

Astonishingly, that simple fact is all it has taken to connect the common man with the core messages of dire warning in Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing.

‘Last Week Tonight’ host John Oliver has created a You Tube sensation by publishing an ultra-quirky and contemporary interview with Snowden filmed in Moscow recently. When I first watched it a few hours ago there was 300k views – there is now a million more and still skyrocketing.

















There is no doubt the (utterly hilarious) interview is going viral and for completely understandable reasons. [Update: there is now nearly 5 million views!]

As usual, Snowden exudes sincerity from every pore and is thus initially off-balanced by John Oliver’s absurd lines of questioning and deadpan delivery. Things get downright uncomfortable when Oliver unexpectedly shows footage of various confused “Average Joe” Americans either being unaware of Snowden’s existence and plight, or regurgitating outright misnomers about who he is and what he has done.

Had Ed seen the 2009 viral video of the same man-on-the-street-style interviewing of random Americans, he would perhaps be less concerned! Not only do these Average Joe’s fail to recognise that the United States of America is a ‘country starting with the letter U’, they pick Australia out on a map as being North Korea and suggest invading it, and declare that the head of Al-Qaeda lives in Israel and is named Yasser Arafat.


















With the runaway success of the interview it seems clear Snowden and John Oliver make quite the comedic partnership.

The contrast of Snowden’s issue-focused earnestness (pointing out the NSA was even spying on children’s charity UNICEF) to Oliver’s self-absorbed and borderline sociopathic caricature in response, is irresistibly hilarious.

Unfortunately, the extremely heavy-handed video editing (which may in itself be poking fun at the style of Fox News-type outlets who shamelessly edit what are obviously monologues down to single sentences or part thereof, then restitch them altogether) made me wonder how many of Snowden’s thoughts lay on the cutting room floor.

Indeed the editing is so abrupt that at least one quote appears to be separate lines run together in a way that, if not deliberate, is nonsensical – “In journalism we have to accept that some mistakes will be made/this is a fundamental concept of liberty”.

But the dodgy editing soon gives way to outright hilarity and I couldn’t help but chortle along at the screen.

“It’s like the I.T. guy comes into your office and you go… ‘don’t teach me anything. I don’t want to learn!'” says Oliver, interrupting one of Snowden’s answers for the umpteenth time, then pointing out in no uncertain terms that what Americans really care about isn’t foreign surveillance – it’s whether the government retains their private photos of their genitalia.

Out comes the man-on-the-street interviews again but this time they are asked whether the government should be collecting ‘dick pics’. The answer is a unanimous “NO!!!”

And thus in one fell swoop Oliver brilliantly demonstrates that the way to truly connect the audience with the issues is not through documents, details and debate but through one simple topic to which they ALL can relate: their right to privacy when sharing intimate photographic material with their partners.
Despite the blush-worthy nature of the topic at hand, Snowden remains in really good humour and dishes up some savvy responses.

“The good news is there’s no program named the Dick Pic program. The bad
news is they are still collecting everybody’s information… including
your dick pics.” — Edward Snowden, on ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Oliver correctly explains – “This is the most visible line in the sand for people.” And it is.

Strangers viewing their genitalia without permission and/or trading the pictures with their workmates is so basically immoral, so clearly a violation of privacy, so obviously nothing to do with the War on Terror, that no one in their right mind can defend it.

Which explains why when John Oliver contacted a host of U.S. government representatives including the National Security Council and the White House to find out whether they were retaining the ‘dick pics’ of Americans – ‘They didn’t wish to comment – and I can see why: for every possible reason.”

At the end of the interview Snowden proves why he deserves his, not just whistle-blower but hero status. In worried tones, Oliver asks whether Americans should stop sending dick pics.

“No!” exclaims Snowden. “You shouldn’t change your behaviour because a government agency somewhere is doing the wrong thing.”

And just like that the clouds lift and it becomes clear who really is at fault here and upon whom lies the responsibility to change. Not those who are spied upon – but those who are exploiting the power, infrastructure and means to prey upon the unsuspecting Average Joe’s of the American public.

-CORRECTION- The original version of this post incorrectly suggested that John Oliver was the incoming replacement for Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show. This is not true. The new Daily Show host will be Trevor Noah. Huge thank you to @GarethBerrow on Twitter for kindly pointing this out!


Written by Suzie Dawson

Twitter: @Suzi3D

Official Website: Suzi3d.com

Journalists who write truth pay a high price to do so. If you respect and value this work, please consider supporting Suzie’s efforts via credit card or Bitcoin donation at this link. Thank you!

You Be The Judge: 3 Different Versions of NZ’s “Moment of Truth”

[This post was blogged live and is now complete. Thank you for watching]

The recent “Moment of Truth” (#MOT) event in New Zealand featuring Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, Kim Dotcom, Robert Amsterdam and Laila Harre is best understood when viewed from multiple perspectives.

There is of course, the perspective of the beleaguered and scandalised NZ mainstream media, with which most are by now familiar.

There is the perspective of new media activists like myself and others, well-schooled in #GCSB-related issues from a first person context, present at the Auckland Town Hall event to eye-witness and document this slice of political history, of social evolution.

Most importantly, there is the seldom-aired and oft-forgotten perspective of the non-politically-aware average Joe and Jane Bloggs Kiwis, who knew little or nothing about the GCSB prior to the Moment of Truth but for whom the massive media maelstrom that surrounds everything Kim Dotcom had penetrated enough to pique their interest and lead them to the livestream on the night.

The Housewife

In conversation with a couple that fits just that description, valuable feedback is gleaned that had not been anticipated.

“You know me, I never get into politics”, said Jane Kiwi (name changed to protect identity). “But I actually watched the livestream last Monday night”.

To say Jane doesn’t “get into politics” is an understatement. She frequently hushes others when they attempt to discuss it. Too controversial, and as the old adage goes, not a topic for polite company. A primary school teacher and mother of infants, Jane is a classic case of not having the time or inclination to invest herself in matters beyond her immediate surroundings and concerns.

But watching the stream, Jane soon found herself confused. To paraphrase; “Not understanding much of what Greenwald said made it feel like he spoke for too long. We knew John Key had called him a loser and how embarrassing that was, but I didn’t understand most of what was said that night, so the parts I did understand being about John Key made it come off as self-aggrandizing”.

She greatly enjoyed seeing Snowden and Assange on the big screens but confesses to have comprehended little if any of what was discussed. “We just don’t know why we have the GCSB. It makes no sense” she says.

Another complaint was Kim Dotcom’s mic volume on the stream. While not at all a noticeable issue from within the Hall, Jane says it was too loud in the mix, leading to a perception Dotcom was cackling throughout. Indeed at the close of event, the guest mics were all left open – allowing those departing the Hall to hear the backstage conversations of Dotcom, Greenwald and Harre.

Tellingly, the conversation overheard was the aforementioned noting to one another how wonderful the audience response had been, and how great they felt the event had gone, which was also my experience on the night.

However the rash of open-mic-incidents in recent times does raise question as to whether the open mics were malicious or purely accidental.

So what would have helped Jane to understand? If a group of the most intelligent men on the planet proving, at a highly technical level, how our government intelligence apparatus has been turned on us, couldn’t?

For although Jane has occasionally heard about the plight of Edward Snowden on TV, she has been too busy changing nappies to read Greenwald’s “No Place To Hide“. She will probably never read The Intercept’s articles on the New Zealand revelations.

She has no idea how to explain what is happening to school children.

But she has this nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that something is not quite right. Larger forces are at play in her country and to undesirable effect. Although she has little grasp on who or what that is, she innately knows that somehow, she is a tiny part of the antidote. If only she knew how to take the first step.

Jane is looking for answers. Answers that, truth be told, take countless hours of research to be able to get near. But that is just not within the reach of much of the population. So Jane needs to have it explained to her in much simpler terms.

While not specifically about mass surveillance, Edward Snowden, Assange or Dotcom, this short animated video about the basic elements of liberty instantly springs to mind as a type of teaching tool that is accessible to most members of the public.

Jane is not a terrorist. She is a middle class white female from the suburbs who has, through mainstream coverage of Snowden’s revelations, discovered that for her entire adult life she has been routinely driving past an NSA station in the middle of Takapuna, an upmarket beach-side suburb of Auckland’s North Shore.

Largely dismayed by recent political events, she is among the last demographic of Kiwi consumers to realise that the mainstream media might not cover events with her best interest in mind, but their own instead.

Having been taught her entire life to view politics as a left-right spectrum, it has never occurred to Jane that there might be alternatives to the current paradigm other than to swing between voting red and voting blue.

She is further disillusioned by #DirtyPolitics: a book full of despicable people and despicable acts and too few characters with whom she can relate to, in order to identify and empathise with them.

The barrier that raises prevents her from seeing herself as a victim of privacy intrusion; a concept which remains stubbornly foreign, despite concerted assertions to the contrary from those she speaks with.

To even begin to think outside the box Jane has been brought up in, she needs not only seeds of inspiration and the time to contemplate and form new ideas, but also holistic support at her level of understanding.

This is not something readily available via the mainstream, nor within the esteemed circles of academics, researchers and talking heads on the speaking circuit. If only Jane had a button on her browser that translated geek speak to colloquial Kiwi lingo; political engagement would inch that must closer to her realm of possibilities.

The Dinosaurs

The performance of the proverbial Fourth Estate at #MoT was entirely predictable however is on another level when witnessed first hand.

It was patently obvious from seeing NewstalkZB political editor Barry Soper camped out at the very rear of the hall that the media pack were there to relay sensation, not to pay attention. But to listen to establishment journalists openly colluding over angles at the end of the event was next level. “I’m going to say it was a fizzer”, declared one extremely well-known New Zealand journalist. “Yeah, me too” said another equally recognisable stalwart.

This, after an event where the public had stomped the floor in appreciation so loudly and vigorously that we thought the floorboards would break under our feet. Where standing ovation after standing ovation took place, where poor Edward Snowden had to interrupt the audience’s protracted applause for him, in order to be able to speak. An event at a venue filled to capacity, with another capacity crowd regrettably turned away. An event where 200,000 people watched the livestream in the first 24 hours.

A fizzer, indeed.

Even more embarrassingly, these journalists, many of whom consider themselves to be “new media” and expert at media analysis, made their boasts and backslaps while standing right beside a REAL journalist – one who they didn’t even vaguely recognise.

With global reach and ten times the followers of the “fizzer” conspirators, Tim Pool is the quintessential new media journalist and innovator – a fearless firebrand far beyond the imagining of the establishment New Zealand media. Not only was Tim one of the first Occupy Wall Street livestreamers, broadcasting epic live footage to the world in up to 21-hour stints during the evictions, but he has spent the years since continuing to relentlessly cover, worldwide, what the mainstream media don’t.

From New York to Istanbul, Chicago to Los Angeles to Ferguson, Missouri, Tim has been shot at with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, arrested, and followed in the pursuit of real journalism.

To see him in New Zealand was exhilarating.

Tim didn’t think the Moment of Truth was a fizzer. When I asked him for comment, he said: “this is the biggest story in the world right now.”

Indeed it is. After weeks of #DirtyPolitics lead-up, the “Moment of Truth” broke into the international media in a huge way. Despite this, the New Zealand mainstream media continued to target Kim Dotcom in precisely the same way warned about in Nicky Hager’s book.

At the press conference backstage after the event, they appeared to spontaneously and collectively obsess over an email related to Kim Dotcom’s case, conveniently forgetting to ask questions about the Snowden revelations or Greenwald’s reporting. Finding himself in the uncalled-for situation of being grilled about Dotcom’s business rather than actual journalism, Greenwald remained polite under fire.

In this unedited video shot live, the tail-end of the media frenzy can be seen. After Greenwald politely deflects their irrelevant and inflammatory questions by explaining what he is there to talk about and why, the media continue to yell questions unrelated to Snowden at the panel, prompting Dotcom to call them out on their relentless bias, to their faces, and end the press conference.

Apparently Russell Brown from the often-friendly sometimes-fence-sitting NZ blog PublicAddress was apparently not at the same press conference. For he wrote of the incident, “no one else could be such a dumbass as to undermine the event in the way Kim Dotcom did”.

That the entire mainstream media had Glenn Greenwald sitting in front of them, waiting to answer any question they had about mass surveillance, New Zealand’s role in it and Snowden’s revelations, and instead chose to attempt to saddle him with baggage from the ongoing Dirty Politics anti-Dotcom vendetta, is a travesty.

In contrast and no doubt to Russell’s chagrin, the over 500 reader comments on his article are by-in-large from wide-awake citizens openly discussing the media’s position with a deep level of understanding and no shortage of very-Kiwi sardonic humour.

(The following three images are screengrabs from the comments section of the PublicAddress article)

PublicAddress Comment

PublicAddress Comments 2

PublicAddress Comments 3

Damn good question.

The Activist

There was nothing more torturous (other than initial confusion over whether I could get a media pass to cover the event?!!) than having a thousand questions to ask Glenn Greenwald and not getting to ask any of them. Which is why I was overwhelmed with joy to see Russell Brown soon redeem himself with this interview with Greenwald.

While still dragging Kim Dotcom into it, Brown actually does manage some good questions and this is reflected in the comments section, which is far less vitriolic and even congratulatory of him.

“At the end of the day” (inside joke for Kiwis) people recognise truth when they see and hear it. They understand the difference between the real and the manufactured. While they can be lulled into sloth they are not so easily lulled into disbelief when confronted with experiences and conversations that they inherently understand are rooted in fact. Whether or not they can grasp the intricacies or know how to place themselves in the picture yet.

Having living legends like Snowden, Assange and Greenwald appearing in Auckland will have begun that process of change for many people, as the issues become more real to them and less whimsical figures of their imagination. The scale of the awakening is now such that there is no longer any single person, even Kim Dotcom, on whom the future of this country is reliant or can be swayed. The people want and are demanding answers. All of us will equally carry the responsibility for the security of our future generations on our shoulders and it is only a spirit of unity that will overcome any challenge.


Update: Post-Election Result

Last night the General Election results were posted and updated live at the official New Zealand Government Elections website.

Defying statistical probability, the standard of deviation in the party votes was ~1% for the vast majority of the count, after a fall of a few percentage points at the very beginning.

A lack of exit polls deprives us of any meaningful way to measure the veracity of the result.

While the mainstream media made much of the efficacy and safety of using “paper ballots” in the lead up to election night, the data being updated on the Government website clearly had a point of entry and left some Kiwis wondering what we have really just witnessed.


Kim Dotcom, however, has been gracious in defeat; extending a gentlemanly congratulations to Prime Minister John Key and taking responsibility for the loss.

While admirable of him to do so, the #DirtyPolitics script was very clear about who was responsible for the anti-Dotcom smear campaigns and which members of the mainstream media participated in them.

All of the mainstream journalists implicated in the scandal closed ranks and remain employed and operational to this day, and indeed are bragging and victim-blaming on social media as I write this.

Let New Zealand never again be called the least corrupt country in the world. For we are not. Our government is an international embarrassment, newly empowered to run amock for another three years.

Written by Suzie Dawson

Twitter: @Suzi3D

Official Website: Suzi3d.com

Journalists who write truth pay a high price to do so. If you respect and value this work, please consider supporting Suzie’s efforts via credit card or Bitcoin donation at this link. Thank you!