Five years on from Edward Snowden’s disclosure that governments collect huge amounts of data from “regular” citizens, it’s kind of perplexing to hear so many people caught up by the Alexa/Echo bug. Suspicious of many “smart” innovations, it is easy to turn down such things as “smart” light bulbs, kettles, electricity/gas meters, and so on. I mean, why would you want such things?
And then there is the latest trend for voice collecting devices to be fitted around the home (bad enough that we have to carry mobile phones with us, but at least you can leave it in a drawer and exit the room). The Alexa/Echo thing means that wherever you are in the house it’s listening. And so, this begs the question, posed nicely in today’s The Guardian article commemorating the day that people got to know how interested their governments are in their everyday activities: “Why, just a few years after a global scandal involving government surveillance, would people willingly install always-on microphones in their homes?”
Now that is a very good question, and if one requires a reason not to do such an idiotic thing, just spend a couple of hours watching Citizen Four, the documentary on Snowden and the actions he took on behalf of fellow citizens (here’s a free version– curious that the official site doesn’t let you watch it for free).
It seems like yet another disappointing blow for counter cultural forces, if that’s even a term that applies here, when we learn that a feature film is coming out of Hollywood to fill us in on the “truth” behind the Edward Snowden whistle-blowing episode of recent times. What, and this really is a pressing question, is so wrong with Citizen Four that a Snowden even has to be made? Depending on how you like your conspiracy theory kind of stuff, it’s easy to imagine that O. Stone has done all manner of freaky stuff to ramp up the tension between the NSA and Snowden himself, and then presumably also the Kremlin, given Russia’s role in housing Snowden.
But what is the overall effect of such profiteering meddling? Will we learn anything more from Stone’s film? Citizen Four seemed a pretty good effort at uncovering, potentially, a whole hornet’s nest of deception and lies and darn right Machiavellian plotting on the part of the NSA and GCHQ, so where does Snowden come in in all of this? If, yet again, we end up with a dumbed-down approach to something that, if true (Snowden’s accusations that the NSA (and GCHQ) has the ability to spy on ALL its citizens), should be investigated by all manner of responsible bodies (but not really sure who or what might fulfill such a role, given the state of governments these days). Perhaps the money that went into making and distributing Snowden may have been better spent spreading the word, and distribution, of Citizen Four. But then again, who’d have made serious money from that? Not Gordon-Levitt, nor Stone, nor Woodley, nor the countless studios involved in production, and on and on and on…