The Best Comments From The Worst Video: The Internet Vs. The NSA's Charm Offensive

from the patented-internet-'Preparation-H8'-does-nothing-for-agency-asshurt dept

The NSA continues to battle for hearts and minds, mostly aiming for those that matter (elected officials), but occasionally stepping down to street level to tell everyday Americans how they've got the spy agency all wrong.

To that end, the Dept. of Defense produced an incredibly awkward video featuring Captain James Tiberius Kirk General Keith Alexander answering a series of questions from a supposed interviewer (although her voice is never actually heard). It's all shot in a "look how open we are!" sort of way, which means seeing glimpses of the recording crew, extension cords, the back of the "interviewer's" head and, most surprisingly, Alexander without a tie.

In a thirty-minute version of the Official Talking Points, Alexander talks about how spy people are the best people and compares the Section 215 program to being forced to take a bath. He invites a discussion on how to better surveil the world while also recommending journalists publishing leaked documents be "stopped." Sadly, he doesn't invite too much discussion on this topic, although he does use the royal "we" when detailing who should be preventing journalists from performing journalism.

"We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don't know how to do that. That's more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it's wrong to allow this to go on."
The strained informality of the video isn't fooling anyone. Currently, it sports a gaudy "dislike" ratio of 57:1 (280 "likes," 15,381 "dislikes").


There are also more than 4,000 comments on the video, almost every single one of them disparaging. The comments range to-the-point "screw the NSA" variations to longer, unhinged spiels tying the NSA leaks to the commenter's pet conspiracy theory. One commenter was moved to give the NSA frontman both barrels of his (presumably British) derision.


Between the expected flow of vitriol (mostly deserved), all-caps screeds/Illuminati rantings (because this is the internet) and ways to earn money at home, there are a few hidden gems.


That faux-openness? Fooling nobody. But it's amazing what a single unbuttoned button does for someone's public persona. Sure, you might feel you could have a drink with the Chief Spook, but I imagine you'd take your wallet, phone or purse to the restroom with you when nature called.

Another commenter feels the removal of the necktie doesn't go quite far enough towards making General Alexander a man of the people.


And the music (ffs!). Motherboard calls the video out for its pseudo-NOVA episode feel, asking simply "Why?" in its one word critique of the soundtrack. Alphaville refers to the music as "narco-ambient." A (misspelled?) Alex Vance gives credit where credit is due, however.


But maybe there's more to the music than simply being the first track off the first library music album grabbed by the DoD's producers.


Beyond critiquing the video's look and soundtrack, some commenters offered their impressions of Alexander himself...


as well as Alexander's preferred nickname…


and the sort of reaction the queasy music and queasier talking points recitation has on the average viewer.


I, for one, am looking forward to more awkward openness from intelligence officials in the coming months. The power of social media should be harnessed by the NSA and others (but from the outside, like the rest of us), if for no other reason than it provides immediate feedback on the credibility of the talking points. Sure, the NSA may learn nothing from this experience, but if it thought the country was fairly evenly split on the merits of intrusive surveillance, it can look to its 57:1 dislike ratio for further guidance. Even Texas Governor Rick Perry's atrocious presidential campaign video only sports a dislike ratio of 29:1, and that video criticizes gays in the military and complains about the separation of church and state.

Perhaps the next video could be Clapper, Comey, Alexander, Michael Hayden and Stewart Baker "casually" discussing the merits of broad surveillance programs while playing poker, sitting on lawn furniture, taking a nature hike or closing a field office. Maybe some "citizens" could be on tap to ask "natural-sounding" softballs about how 9/11 was caused by civil liberties groups or how basement-dwelling losers shouldn't expect to be allowed into "adult" discussions on intelligence policies -- you know, whatever it takes to turn public opinion around.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    But NSA is only a part of the surveillance state.

    In my estimation, was planned all along for NSA to take the heat. -- In strictly PR sense: actually, it's not a bit weakened, and none of the known criminals are the least worried about being indicted.


    Where Does Facebook Stop and the NSA Begin?

    http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/10/facebook-personal-data-online-privacy-social-norm

    "But what about the pervasive claim the private sector has staked to our digital lives, from where we (and our phones) spend the night to how often we text our spouse or swipe our Visa at the liquor store? It's not a stretch to say that there's a corporate spy operation equal to the NSA—indeed, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference."

     

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  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:09am

    Re: But NSA is only a part of the surveillance state.

    Late thought: so while you're laughing at NSA here, remember Zuckerberg is laughing at all his users.

     

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  3.  
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    Babs, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:18am

    "spy people are the best people"

    Cue Streisand (effect):

    "People, spy people are the luckiest people..."

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Remember that in none of this do you hear any murmur of contriteness nor any claim of having gone over the line. NOTHING AT ALL.

    What we hear instead is the police state claiming it should be ok to violate everything the US is supposed to stand for. I can't hear their words anymore because I've come to realize that beyond lying, deceit, and misdirection, the NSA is hopelessly wrapped in it's own self denial. There is no hope for saving the NSA as it is. The whole system needs closed down, gone over from end to end by a truely (not a mockup of one) independent investigation team, and maybe from the ashes something can be build that resembles what a democracy would have instead of what a police state would have.

     

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  5.  
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    Michael, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    NSA

    According to Sen. Dianne "Its just a little one" Feinstein on Snowden:"He's done this enormous disservice to our country. I think the answer is 'no clemency',"
    The same is true for Clapper, Alexander, Rogers, and Feinstein. Therefore, they should also face a court.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Great quote...now if he'd only have made it in response to the NSA's out-of-control spy programs we'd have something here.

    "We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don't know how to do that. That's more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it's wrong to allow this to go on."

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Thumbs up and thumbs down is inadequate...

    This particular one requires an alternative choice to click. The middle finger button.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    the positive side

    On the more positive side: Engaging people on the internet. As much as it is emberrassing, obviously manipulative and a fools errand they are at least not using censorship to force obedience. It is a huge step up from what they usually deal in when it comes to "openness".

     

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  9.  
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    S. T. Stone, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: But NSA is only a part of the surveillance state.

    Door’s to your left. Mind your tinfoil hat.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    Finally!

    He had to start the run-up for his official campaign for the office of president at some point. Hmmm... "President Alexander"... I like the sound of that!

     

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  11.  
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    Namel3ss (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    Well put, AC. Well put.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 12:57pm

    Kirk?

    It's pretty mean to James T. Kirk to compare this guy to him. Maybe Locutus of Borg would be more appropriate.

     

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  13.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 12:58pm

    Re: the positive side

    Well since the NSA loves redefining words, I will redefine every finger I have to be a thumb. And then they will get one central thumb up on each hand.

    How's that sound?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    And once again, a ruling-class sociopath releases a public statement, completely confident that this time everyone's fears will surely be assuaged, and they'll all beg forgiveness for doubting him.
    And once again, the statement contains no apology, no facts, and no common sense, and convinces no one. (Most of those 280 likes probably came from NSA employees.)

    When are we going to get psychiatrists for these guys? The sooner they start therapy for their obvious mental illnesses, the sooner we can get back to good government, and businesses that focus on long-term sustainability over short-term profit. I'm sick of this country having a shattered economy and stunted technological growth.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: But NSA is only a part of the surveillance state.

    The comment was out of place in this post and was duly flagged by the community. However, it doesn't deserve derogatory tinfoil hat status, unless of course, you aren't paying attention.

    I'd choose a tinfoil hat over (the transparent) saran wrap the government and corporations are selling us any day.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Kirk?

    Is that the James T. Kirk of the 60s (then yeah, I'd agree), but if you're talking that war porn wonder boy James Tiberius Kirk of the 21st century, then you ARE the Borg....

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    " get back to good government, and businesses that focus on long-term sustainability over short-term profit. I'm sick of this country having a shattered economy and stunted technological growth."

    Really? Are you for real? IN what fantastical political ideology does this rhetoric exist as an acceptable response to anything?

    Wait, 1980s, Ronald Regan, right?

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 1:41pm

    Video is auto-playing

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    The power of social media should be harnessed by the NSA and others (but from the outside, like the rest of us)

    Creepy sleeper image, Tim. Kudos.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 3:25pm

    Tim, after a lifetime spent reading dystopian fiction about future humans being cattle controlled by anodyne propaganda --

    Might we be saved by satire? Vicious, cutting stuff, that just makes you laugh, but never believe?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 7:03pm

    Can I fix his code?

    General Alexander says (paraphrased):

    If anyone has a better idea put it on the table

    I think his code needs fixing:

    if (democratic_way > my_way)
    Can_do_democracy();
    else
    My_way();


    Needs to be fixed as follows:

    if (democracy==true)
    Can_do_democracy();
    else
    My_way();

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 7:41pm

    They could only get 280 agents to give it thumbs up? WTF?! I thought they had far more agents more than that?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 9:26pm

    Re:

    Clearly, the process of doing so is too complicated for the rest of those dim (or blackmailed) enough to go along with it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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