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

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