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.