Movie Review: CitizenFour (2014)

Posted: March 1, 2015 in Documentary


Reporter Glenn Greenwald interviews NSA leaker Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.

I had heard that this movie is compelling filmmaking, that director Laura Poitras really brought the story of Edward Snowden to life.  Trust me, it is not compelling viewing, it is run of the mill interviewing, and Snowden gets into a lot of technical jargon that the average viewer wouldn’t understand or care about.  The film is quite boring most of the time, and unintentionally funny at other times with Glenn Greenwald speaking horrible Portuguese with a thick American accent.  The subject is compelling, but the movie is not. Laura Poitras has been detained, before ever making this movie, so she is hardly objective.  As to why this movie received an Academy Award, I bet half the academy voters didn’t even see the movie.  They read a synopsis, and voted.

The movie did remind me that Snowden wasn’t even the original NSA leaker.  The original leaker was William Binney, who resigned from the NSA in 2001, and leaked documents to the New York Times.   The resulting Times story in 2005 was met with a collective yawn and people went on with their lives.  This time, the perpetual  Obama haters were joined by the handwringing liberals, who never liked the idea of government spying, and that gave the story legs for a while, but in the end nothing changed.  If people give government vast power in the times of a national crisis, it’s very hard to take that power away, and as long as people want to be constantly connected, texting and tweeting and facebooking, and blogging, the NSA will be listening.  Get used to it.  I object to the NSA listening programs for two fundamental reasons, it’s a violation of privacy, and if the NSA is listening to my phone calls and reading my emails, they are wasting the country’s time and money.  But I have resigned myself to the fact that there is nothing I can do to change it. Enjoy my blog, NSA.

My objections to the NSA program notwithstanding, I don’t like Edward Snowden.  He is no hero.  He is a smug, sanctimonious megalomaniac.  But instead of namecalling, let me tell you what would have made him a hero in my eyes.  If Edward Snowden had released all that material to Greenwald and not run away, first to Hong Kong, and then to Russia, and went to jail in the US, he would have been a hero, but instead, he is a coward.  Snowden said many times in the film that he left clues to get caught, so what happens when he lets his identity be known, he runs away. Martín Luther King went to jail for his beliefs, Civil Rights laws were eventually passed, Gandhi went to jail for fighting British colonialism, the British ultimately left India.  But Snowden, going to Russia, and feeding Putin our sources and methods, and being Putin’s ‘useful idiot’ does not help the cause of ending the NSA spying on its own citizens, in fact it hurts it.  Snowden should ask Boris Nemstov how tolerant Putin is of opposing views.  I guess he can’t do that now. Civil disobedience requires bravery, and Snowden has none.  I’m sure the irony of living in a police state like Russia, with no freedom of speech or press, hasn’t been lost on Snowden. He deserves his fate.

Citizen Four:  A Snow job.


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