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Why John Oliver Can’t Find Americans Who Know Edward Snowden’s Name (It’s Not About Snowden)


Why John Oliver Can’t Find Americans Who Know Edward Snowden’s Name (It’s Not About Snowden)

Glenn Greenwald

On his HBO program Sunday night, John Oliver devoted 30 minutes to a discussion of U.S. surveillance programs, advocating a much more substantive debate as the June 1 deadline for renewing the Patriot Act approaches (the full segment can be seen here).


Anti-intellectualism has a strong root in American “culture”. Having the “strength” to not know is perversely cherished. The whole “in God we trust” meme seems to grease the skids to evermore willful ignorance. It is also why do much of the dog whistle politics revolves around religious or quasi-religious issues. It is much easier to get the masses to emote than to think. Probably always will be.


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With the electoral college determining election outcomes, only 20% of those who actually vote live in the swing states whose electoral votes swing elections. Although I have voted for 50 years, I have never lived in a swing state so it has never mattered if I voted for president or not.

It is most ironic that young Americans vote in lower numbers in non presidential election years when their votes for local offices and initiatives might actually make their voting worthwhile.


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I watched the interview and found it appalling. For every statement Oliver made that seemed to question the utility of a mass surveillance program, the subtext of much of it was deferential to state power. A good deal of emphasis was placed on Snowden allegedly making dangerous classified material available. My reaction to the debate was that Snowden holds amazing grace under fire, in Oliver’s case, a fire that at times descended into pure mockery. Second, that while on a surface level Oliver questioned the surveillance program, he (like Mr. Greenwald) turned the assault around and made it into the problem of citizens’ ignorance.

When I began reading Mr. Greenwald’s assessment, his own Libertarian side showed in (like so many on C.D.) turning his commentary into an indictment of the estimated 50% of citizens who are disengaged. I think a far better explanation is that of how far into deception the U.S. military-industrial media complex has gone and how hypnotically persuasive its half-stories and lock step repetition of lies.

How many think 911 happened by 19 hijackers?
How many still wonder if global warming is taking place or if it’s related to human industrialization and industrial pollution?
How many think Putin was the aggressor in Ukraine?
How many think Saddam was responsible for 911 and that the Iraqi war had viable cause?
How many think inappropriate homeowners (rather than deregulation, particularly the decimation of the Glass-Steagall Act) sunk the economy in 2007-2008?
How many think that the poor take more welfare than deep pocket corporations?
How many know how much unpaid tax money is sitting in offshore accounts?

The FACT that Snowden, if he’s known at all to viewers of the MSM is not known in any accurate way is due to massive campaigns of dis-information added to smoke & mirrors, False Narratives buoyed up as Official News Stories, and People Magazine style celebrity depictions of persons in power.

Given the FACT that U.S. salaries are in a sewer, that Middle Class jobs are under siege and many skilled workers forced into benefit-deficient temp work, with so many others swallowed up in college debt, medical debt, or some other usurious tentacle of the Corporate System… vast sums of human energy, vision, and vitality are lost.

It’s one thing for people with leisure time (and that would be most who OCCUPY these threads), or people who are by nature, intellectual, enamored with reading, and enthusiastically engaged by current events to KNOW the truth–having taken the time & effort to ferret it out. However, to make that same demand of people who are exhausted by work that never enables them to catch up, or lack intellectual skills or time… the presumption itself is arrogant and elitist. A better case can and should be made for media malfeasance and how dangerous it is for a handful of self-interested, amoral corporations to DETERMINE what average people take for (accurate) news.

I love Glenn Greenwald but this idea that 50% of U.S. citizens don’t know or care that they don’t know plays into the elitist paternalistic, authoritarian view that they are children; and as children, must be spoon fed WHAT elites want them to know and believe.

I don’t blame the rat who’s caught in a trap. I hold those who have set the trap and continue to operate it as far more culpable.

Anyone who sincerely wants to get at the root of this lack of direct political engagement has to look at the ways that patriarchal religion has turned many people into faith-based believers of whatever Father tells them; and also at the lives of quiet desperation lived from repetitive work that is devoid of meaning or internal satisfaction. Both shut off soul sentience.

It’s too easy to make it about people being ignorant as a choice!!!


Mit god! Where is Suzie Rose when you want her. I told her people were stupid…ahem…I mean …ill informed and she told me they are just scared to speak up. How can you speak up if you do not know anything?


It’s tied to might makes right. When guns can establish what no amount of education can convey, then to the make-war, Mars-ruled bully state, the identification with force replaces anything else.

Unlike the posters who push a singular norm onto ALL Americans (and it’s patently false), there are many people who do not subscribe to the bully ethos or think war is the answer to any human problem, nor are we fans of the military-industrial complex that’s now morphed into a vast Homeland Security-uber-Stasi Surveillance infrastructure.

When opinion shapers take what’s being done UNTO the public through martial tactics and other might makes right protocols, and then attribute “responsibility” for that enslavement onto The People BEING enslaved, it is a slick way of wiping gout dissent and putting in its place a false witness of consent. Covertly it lends its imprimatur to the rule of force.

Only 1 or 2 people with loaded weapons can hold a whole room or bank lobby hostage. To say that the people held at gunpoint AGREE with the gunman is anything but accurate. In my view, those who identify with the entities wielding Dominant Force are either IN uniform and working covertly to protect the Authoritarian State, or their consciousness is so infused with a similar ideology as to grant them loyalties that see fellow citizens essentially as bug-splat deserving of their fate! “They are too weak to FIGHT back! Imprison, condition, or kill them all!” THAT is the mentality of this form of inverted judgment call.


Wow. Your post has recycled very specific things that I routinely pointed out. And as is to typical in this forum, you act as if these are your ideas and offer no attribution.

I talked about the conditioning from media, the COMMUTE to work with all the stop lights and the sea change that occurred as a direct result of TV’s pervasive programming. I also mentioned, often, that these lifeless aspects of life led to high usage patterns of legal and illegal drugs.

I wonder if this forum’s paid message shapers study others’ posts with a deliberate interest in using the material in ways that often oppose the conclusions made by their ORIGINAL AUTHORS!


This post is highly intelligent and on-target. Good insights.


“According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.”

The above is a GIFT from Ellen Brown… and should apply to the paid opinion-shapers who are the forum’s one-trick–blame voters (for what Power’s abuses) ponies.


I didn’t read Glenn’s analysis as blaming the American populace for their ignorance and in some cases apathy, rather just a description of what is true.

It is true that a lot of Americans are unaware and don’t really care.

But who can blame them?

As my adult son pointed out when we saw a clip of Oliver interviewing people on Chris Hayes that Oliver’s arrogance is disgusting. Those people are trying to stay alive and keep afloat. They are busying getting to work, working and getting home, by which time they are physically and mentally exhausted. They don’t have the luxury to sit around all day reading and thinking about politics and they know that what matters to them is when the L Train goes by on a Saturday morning when they got to get to work, not who the Vice President is.

In many ways they are right. A lot of posters here say that our system is so rigged that voting is a way of supporting it and we ought to opt out. Well these so-called ignorant and apathetic people are just already there. They know politics is totally irrelevant to their lives because it is all a sham.

Why do they know who Randy Jackson is but not John Roberts? Because watching the news and getting information on the Supreme Court doesn’t help them and it ADDS to their stress. While watching American Idol helps them FORGET about their stress and get through another evening with some semblance of relaxation instead of anxiety about their dull jobs.

It’s not their fault that they are like this. That’s like saying that it was slaves fault they were slaves or serfs fault they were serfs. It’s the fault of the oppressive elite who has put them in these chains.


I struggle with the issue Siouxrose brings up about who is to blame for the public’s seeming apathy/ignorance. I’m not that smart, nor that educated. I work 50 hours a week on average. Yet how come I’m able to see through the bullshit, while many of “my fellow Americans” can’t? When 9/11 happened I remember telling my co-workers that “they” knew this was going to happen. I didn’t know Osama from shinola, knew nothing about Bush and the Saudis, never heard of the Presidential Daily Briefing. I just had a gut instinct that this couldn’t have happened without knowledge of those at the top of the Military Industrial Governmental Complex. I also watch sports and American Idol and all that other garbage from time to time. Yet, thanks to sites like Common Dreams, I also know who Edward Snowden and Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Ray McGovern and Tim Dechristopher are. Again, what makes me so effin’ special? Absolutely nothing. So how come there aren’t more like me? Or are there? Maybe I’m part of the real silent majority.