Those of you who listen to the Bob & Chez Show After Party podcast are aware that I announced I was rooting for the Snowden documentary Citizenfour to win an Academy Award. I also fully disclosed that it was partly due to the fact that I’m friends with someone who worked on the film, and partly because I watched a good portion of it and thought it was genuinely a well-made documentary.
No, this doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly aboard the Edward Snowden bandwagon. Yes, I still believe the journalism surrounding the National Security Agency and Snowden has been atrocious, and will continue to sporadically cover it for The Daily Banter. Along those lines I believe a great many otherwise smart people have been duped by clever click-bait headlines, repackaged old news, buried evidence and hyperbolic ledes. Questioning the motives and actions of the characters in a movie doesn’t necessarily make the movie bad. It’s not difficult to like movies featuring characters we dislike as long as the movie isn’t bad.
And Citizenfour wasn’t a bad movie.
In fact, the extended sequence in Snowden’s Hong Kong hotel room was riveting and reminded me of the scene in JFK in which Joe Pesci as David Ferry met with Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison in a New Orleans hotel room, fearing that he, Ferry, was about to be murdered. Snowden wasn’t quite as hypertensive and jittery, but the whole thing was eerily similar — except this all went down for real, which amplified the tension. Frankly, I would’ve had far less to say about the Snowden affair had it been reported solely in the form of this documentary and not the endless drip-drip-drip of serially misleading bombshells.
I might post a full review of the movie next week. But for now, let’s talk about the reaction to Laura Poitras’ well-deserved Oscar win.
For the sake of background, I’ve written and pitched several screenplays, as well as produced, wrote and directed an indie feature film which won the Audience Award and Golden Orb at a Sundance sister-festival in Park City back in 2003. So, I’m relatively familiar with the process and how unheard-of it is to actually get a movie made.
I’m unfamiliar with the statistical odds, but I’d wager you’d have a better chance at winning the lottery or dating a supermodel than to actually get to see your movie greenlit, produced and released to audiences. Then, for your movie to get decent reviews is nothing short of miraculous. For your movie to make its money back is yet another Herculean obstacle. For your movie to become a box office success is astronomically impossible. For your movie to actually get nominated for an award, any award, is a fantasy. For your movie to get nominated for an Academy Award is, well, just forget about it. To win an Oscar is truly amazing, especially when it’s a relatively small film like Citizenfour.
Knowing this, I can’t begrudge Poitras or her film for making it to the ultimate boss battle and coming out on top, especially against a tragic masterpiece like Virunga. So, I congratulated her on Twitter. She probably doesn’t know who I am, if she read my tweet at all, but rather than rehashing the same old snark about Snowden’s documents and Greenwald’s reporting, I thought I’d be a big boy and give credit where credit was due. She accomplished an impossible task, and I felt compelled to acknowledge it. I later posted a slightly lengthier two-part congratulatory tweet after the Oscars had concluded. Monday morning, I even sent Glenn Greenwald a personal congratulatory email as well (believe it or not, we used to regularly correspond via email).
Stupid me, because Snowden’s superfans made it really difficult to be gracious. Immediately following the documentary category was announced, Balloon Juice‘s John Cole tweeted:
The twitter feed for @bobcesca_go is going to be fucking awesome tonight.
— Woop Ditty Scoop Poop (@Johngcole) February 23, 2015
Other tweets followed from a gaggle of sore winners who automatically assumed that I’d be stewing over the Oscar win, as if I would be personally crushed by it. I wasn’t, of course, but I was quickly reminded that civility is mostly dead, especially on Twitter, and nuance is absolutely dead. The usual eggs, sock-puppets and cranks with two followers who pop up solely whenever there’s a new Snowden document published, and who don’t bother to read any of my other work on a variety of topics, made their appearances on Sunday to register a token fart in my general direction, clearly not realizing that I had already extended my congratulations to the film.
Then there was the reaction to Neil Patrick Harris’s “treason” joke. After Poitras and Greenwald shuffled off the stage, NPH said, “Edward Snowden couldn’t be here for some treason.” Har-har. As Chez Pazienza wrote yesterday, it could be interpreted as a joke at the expense of those who think Snowden is a traitor. Personally, I don’t care whether he is or isn’t, and it was a throwaway joke. But right on cue, Twitter erupted:
Profoundly disappointed in the “for some treason” joke from NPH.
Edward Snowden is a patriot, who stood up for all Americans.
— Wil 'this account mocks fascists' Wheaton (@wilw) February 23, 2015
Profoundly! See, normal people are “profoundly disappointed” when their children become hooked on meth, or when they’re turned down for a mortgage to buy their dream house. Wil Wheaton needs to prioritize a little better.
And then there was this:
— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) February 23, 2015
That’s right, a perceived racial joke is a hundred times worse than a zinger directed at Saint Snowden. Again, not even realizing that it was probably a joke aimed at Snowden’s critics. Jesus, these people are a cult. Speaking of which, here’s Greenwald’s reaction to the joke:
“I’m just gonna go ahead and treat it as a joke. I thought it was pretty pitiful, given Hollywood’s fondness for congratulating itself for doing things like standing up for McCarthyism and blacklists. So to just casually spew that sort of accusation against someone who’s not even charged with it, let alone convicted of it, I think is, you know, stupid and irresponsible.”
“But I’m trying not to make too much out of it. Although I’m not succeeding.”
I’m shocked Greenwald didn’t fire off a 3,000-word post for The Intercept about Hollywood’s vast and pernicious blacklists while standing on the stage holding Poitras’ Oscar statue. Such a move would’ve ripped opened a Greenwald Singularity in the space-time continuum — its inescapable gravitational force absorbing all smugness from the room.
It all cuts to the heart of what’s wrong with the progressive far-left: zero sense of humor. Everything is super-serious and everything is one step closer to The End Of The World. Snowden, by the way and to his credit, thought the joke was funny.
All-in-all, it’s humorless crap like this that magnetically draws me to my computer keyboard like a Death Star tractor beam every time I read it. Even in victory, it’s as impossible for these people to be humble or gregarious. Everything is a personal affront, everything deserves a scolding, everything is outrageous. Their collective focus is simply too nearsighted to grasp the following: as with anyone who’s somewhere on the conspiracy theory spectrum, they’d have an easier time getting people like me to take them seriously if they spent less time taking themselves so seriously.
UPDATE: Perhaps civility isn’t dead after all. Greenwald’s response to my email was both friendly and appreciative.