I had the same reaction to this as Christian Toto of Breitbart: The most striking thing about it is how relatively low-wattage the star power is. Under President Romney, there’d be multiple A-listers in the shuffle — Brad, Matt, Sean, Scarlett, Tom, maybe the other Tom. As it is, the best they can do are lesser lights like Donahue, John Cusack, and good ol’ Oliver Stone, all of whom are sufficiently far left (and have comparatively less to lose) that they’re comfortable attacking a Democratic administration’s policies in a way the Hollywood fundraiser circuit simply isn’t. Which is not to say they’re entirely comfortable. As Toto notes, Obama himself isn’t mentioned in the clip; the villainous Big Brother figure shown is Richard Nixon. Maybe they’re just playing off the Ellsberg cameo in doing that, but it’s more likely the producers decided they’d get further in building resistance to the NSA among young liberals online if they decoupled the movement from criticism of Bambi. If you believe the polls, that’s a smart choice.

Speaking of which, here’s the agency-by-agency breakdown in Pew’s recent poll showing trust in government near a record low. Note the NSA relative to the rest. Hmmm:


I’m not sure what lesson to draw from that. On the one hand, the NSA is viewed less favorably than every other arm of the government except the perennial punching bags of the IRS and the Department of Education. On the other hand, no agency’s taken more of a beating in the news over the past two months than the NSA has. Every week brings something new from Snowden generating global headlines about the mammoth scale of their spying on American allies and Americans themselves — and yet the agency’s still seen favorably by 54 percent of the public versus just 35 percent who see it unfavorably. Eventually the Snowden revelations will dry up and its popularity will start to climb again; if there’s a big counterterror success with which the agency is credited, it’ll rebound even faster. Point being, if you can’t turn the public against massive NSA surveillance after a hurricane of damning news, how likely is it that they’ll ever be turned? Decades later, we’ve still got the IRS and DOE, don’t we?

Exit question: If you’re trying to convince mainstream voters that opposing NSA policies is a perfectly sensible, mainstream thing to do, why would you put Oliver Stone in your PSA?