Snowden Q&A overshadowed at SXSW by … Girls

posted at 12:41 pm on March 10, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Edward Snowden appeared today at the SXSW conference, live from Russia … kind of. His livestream connection was running through seven proxies, which meant that the video and audio was less than optimal, but they did manage to get the speech broadcast and livestreamed. NPR framed this as a conflict of authorities, reporting that the event had the South by Southwest Interactive conference “buzzing”:

Snowden will be speaking from Russia, which is still offering him asylum as he faces felony charges of espionage here in the U.S. The man behind leaks that revealed U.S. surveillance tactics and scope is expected to talk about the impact of that surveillance on the technology community. He’s also expected to call for technologists to build better tools with user privacy in mind.

Not everyone thinks Snowden has the authority to speak on this topic. U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., wrote an open letter to conference organizers on Friday calling Snowden a traitor and demanding that they rescind their invitation to the former contractor. Pompeo wrote that Snowden’s “only apparent qualification … is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin.” SXSW hasn’t responded.

Despite the objections of some U.S. leaders, the long lines Saturday for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s videoconference on similar topics indicate Snowden’s appearance will draw monster crowds. Conference organizers will have a handful of spillover rooms set up for viewing the talk from outside the main venue, and the nonprofit news organization The Texas Tribune will be livestreaming the Q & A session for anyone with an Internet connection.

Monster crowds? Er … not exactly. Business Insider took pictures of two competing events, and discovered that the line for the Snowden presentation was minimal, while one for Girls producer Lena Dunham literally wrapped around the block:

This morning, the SXSW coordinators sent out an email warning attendees of long lines for the Snowden event, which will take place in a hall at the Austin Convention Center that seats approximately 5,000 people. There are several spillover rooms where the talk will be streamed too. (Snowden will be video conferencing in.)

But the coordinators didn’t anticipate the crowds for Dunham’s talk, which takes place in just one hall. Both events begin at 11 a.m. local time, but there’s almost no line for the Snowden talk.

The room for Snowden’s presentation was “mostly full,” BI reports, but there wasn’t much competition for seats, either.

The talk itself was a bit of a bore. Snowden’s arguments have been aired constantly for months now, so there wasn’t much more to discuss. The two other panelists, ACLU’s Ben Wizner (also Snowden’s legal advisor) and Christopher Sogholian, live didn’t bother to challenge Snowden on his actions, nor on his choice to flee to Russia — not exactly known for its reputation for supporting free expression. Pompeo argued to SXSW that Snowden would have been freer in the US, which Wizner acknowledged for everyone else but his client. “If there’s one person for whom that’s not true,” Wizner said in his introduction, “it’s Edward Snowden.” Instead of debating Snowden’s choices with that opening, though, they talked tech for the first part of the interview … including the fact that they’re using Google Hangouts for Snowden’s connection even though they’re unhappy with Google’s cooperation with NSA.

“Who’s the audience for this call to arms?” Wizner asked. From the discussion and the reaction, which was muted at best, it seems that the audience was very, very narrow indeed. Even when Wizner finally got around to asking for applause for Snowden’s actions — at the halfway point — it generated a warm but hardly overwhelming reaction. At that point, they finally got around to dealing with the legal and liberty implications of surveillance instead of technical minutiae of hardening communications. That’s not to say that it’s without any interest at all, but it suggests that the Snowden revelations have played themselves out.

It’s still in progress, so click over to see the rest of the presentation, which ends at 1 pm ET. On the other hand, it looks like Dunham has a very large audience for, er, whatever it is that she does.

Update: The last five minutes of the talk was actually the best, and where it should have started. Snowden argued that he took an oath to defend the Constitution and watched the official interpretation of the 4th Amendment “changed in secret” and had no choice but to go public. The crowd reaction at the end dwarfed any during the rest of the program.


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Pompeo wrote that Snowden’s “only apparent qualification … is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin.”

Tough to present as heroic when your first — and only — introduction to the public is that.

Lourdes on March 10, 2014 at 12:48 PM

So we finally found something Girls can beat in ratings.

NotCoach on March 10, 2014 at 12:50 PM

With that backdrop… shouldn’t “BETTER CALL SAUL” be flashing at the bottom? Holy cow.

Red Cloud on March 10, 2014 at 12:51 PM

This country is doomed. Enjoy tyranny, fools.

DisneyFan on March 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Lena Dunham’s SNL debut was a disaster. Mainly because she’s not funny and can’t act. And because this was broadcast TV, she couldn’t do the one thing that draws 6 desperate lesbians and betas to watch her horrid show “Girls”: Drop her clothes.

ConstantineXI on March 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

The talk itself was a bit of a bore. Snowden’s arguments have been aired constantly for months now, so there wasn’t much more to discuss.

His 15 minutes are about up. The Russians and Chinese have the information he stole. He will soon be irrelevant.

Happy Nomad on March 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Can we send Lena Dunham to Russia?

22044 on March 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

22044 on March 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

Lena Dunham’s SNL debut was a disaster.

ConstantineXI on March 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

So her first time wasn’t special?

Happy Nomad on March 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

Can we send Lena Dunham to Russia?

22044 on March 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

No, Putin likes his women less chunky and not tatted up.

ConstantineXI on March 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

Nice knowin’ ya, America.

brentspolemics on March 10, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Despite the objections of some U.S. leaders, the long lines Saturday for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s videoconference …

Yeah, I still want a shot at this guy.

M240H on March 10, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Being a Freelance Anarchist Spy is dangerous business.

Ask “Annabella Smith“.

Sowing “idealistic” international chaos gets everyone pissed, eventually.

And the sowers get bitten in the ass …ange.

Or trapped in a Soviet snow den.

profitsbeard on March 10, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Lena Dunham’s SNL debut was a disaster. Mainly because she’s not funny and can’t act. And because this was broadcast TV, she couldn’t do the one thing that draws 6 desperate lesbians and betas Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, FLOTUS, that chick from Georgetown who pretended she couldn’t afford The Pill, and Pajama Boy to watch her horrid show “Girls”: Drop her clothes.
ConstantineXI on March 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

FIFW

brentspolemics on March 10, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Ack…typo: *FIFY

brentspolemics on March 10, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Decisions, decisions – whether to watch some nerd who’s hiding out in Russia talk about stealing classified information, or some ugly, fat, tattooed woman take her clothes off. What a country!

Ward Cleaver on March 10, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Decisions, decisions – whether to watch some nerd who’s hiding out in Russia talk about stealing classified information, or some ugly, fat, tattooed woman take her clothes off. What a country!

Ward Cleaver on March 10, 2014 at 1:12 PM

ISWYDT

22044 on March 10, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Decisions, decisions – whether to watch some nerd who’s hiding out in Russia talk about stealing classified information, or some ugly, fat, tattooed woman take her clothes off. What a country!

Ward Cleaver on March 10, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Wow! You don’t have a lot of love for Hillary do you WC?

Happy Nomad on March 10, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Did he have anything to say about his new landlord?

verbaluce on March 10, 2014 at 1:28 PM

This country is doomed. Enjoy tyranny, fools.

DisneyFan on March 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Nice knowin’ ya, America.

brentspolemics on March 10, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Heh, the fact that hipsters are more interested in Dunham than Snowden is proof that America is ovah? Hardly.

thebrokenrattle on March 10, 2014 at 1:29 PM

And I used to wonder why we seemed to be producing so many narcissistic personality disordered fools in our country now.

rlwo2008 on March 10, 2014 at 1:38 PM

His livestream connection was running through seven proxies,

Pretty sure that was meant to be a joke – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/good-luck-im-behind-7-proxies

clearbluesky on March 10, 2014 at 1:49 PM

Who’s Lena Dunham and whut does she have to do with the price of freedom, anywhere? Huh? I’m confused, but, of course, that’s my natural state..

vnvet on March 10, 2014 at 2:38 PM

Lena looks like she has been a guest, much to often,at Obama’s 2,500 calorie a plate “praise me” dinners.

Obamatrix on March 10, 2014 at 2:42 PM

…we’re screwed

KOOLAID2 on March 10, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Snowden had the guts to expose illegal activity by the crony government bureaucrats and their abuse of power.

He’s a hero.

Another Libertarian on March 10, 2014 at 4:26 PM

America = Police State

Snowden = Hero

Funny how so called conservatives get so twisted about the exposure of the former USA’s destruction of the fourth amendment. Onward to Amnesty, RINOS!!

Exninja on March 10, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Snowden had the guts to expose illegal activity by the crony government bureaucrats and their abuse of power.

He’s a hero.

Another Libertarian on March 10, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Snowy had the guts to scurry off with a useful amount of data collection he illegally took from those HE said gotten illegally..yeah, give HIM the Medal of Freedom.

/s

America = Police State

Snowden = Hero

Funny how so called conservatives get so twisted about the exposure of the former USA’s destruction of the fourth amendment. Onward to Amnesty, RINOS!!

Exninja on March 10, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Gee, the horrible police state that America is, then why would Snowy want to save it?

And seriously, he sought asylum in CHINA, then in the USSR… where they just invaded another country, btw… a country that has a proven track record of downright EVIL in the last 75 years?

In huh…sign me up for that bandwagon.

Btw, to the “libertarians” that support this …… how come no one mention that he social engineered access codes and passwords from co-workers to get the data?

BlaxPac on March 10, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Snowden’s a liar. Contractors don’t take an oath to protect the Constitution.

flipflop on March 10, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Gee, the horrible police state that America is, then why would Snowy want to save it?

And seriously, he sought asylum in CHINA, then in the USSR… where they just invaded another country, btw… a country that has a proven track record of downright EVIL in the last 75 years?

In huh…sign me up for that bandwagon.

Btw, to the “libertarians” that support this …… how come no one mention that he social engineered access codes and passwords from co-workers to get the data?

Amen.

rlwo2008 on March 10, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Heh, the fact that hipsters are more interested in Dunham than Snowden is proof that America is ovah? Hardly.

thebrokenrattle on March 10, 2014 at 1:29 PM

I wish you were right. But SXSW is hardly a gathering of hipsters: It’s a huge business conference. I’m sure you know that. So, we’re talking here about serious businesspeople showing more interest in some silly, bossy little hipster girl than in Snowden. Or, I suppose it is possible that the hipster mentality, psychological pathogen that it is, has finally managed to infect a majority of businesspeople. Oh. My. Gawd.

(Yes, I included the hat-tip to that other story today, about bossy girls, on purpose.)

brentspolemics on March 10, 2014 at 6:58 PM