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 <a href=”” target=_blank”>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.

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

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out_of_the_blue says:

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?

“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.”

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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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