John Oliver misses the mark in Edward Snowden interview | What's Left

Last week television host and comedian John Oliver sat down with Edward Snowden to discuss surveillance and the media's coverage of Snowden's revelations that the US, UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand governments have been collecting and analyzing pretty much every single piece of electronic text, audio, and video communication. While Oliver was right to point out the need for an educated debate on the merits and dangers of comprehensive state surveillance, his criticisms of Snowden's actions missed the mark on several fronts.

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First, he failed to acknowledge that an educated debate requires an educated public, and that this would not have been possible before Snowden’s leaks since no one understood what these governments were up to.

Second, Oliver’s attempt to highlight the futility of Snowden’s actions by interviewing people and asking them if they know who “Edward Snowden” is misses the point that this isn’t and shouldn’t be about Snowden.

Third, Oliver’s attempts to blame Snowden for the way in which the leaked documents are being presented by the media is a red herring. Snowden provided the documents to trusted media outlets specifically so that they could decide how to present them. Oliver should be aiming his criticism at the media’s coverage of the unfolding story, not Snowden. Perhaps Oliver is right and there hasn’t been enough “dick pic” reporting – but there certainly has been now.

More: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance

More: Why John Oliver can’t find Americans who know Edward Snowden’s name (it’s not about Snowden)