Most Americans have stopped paying attention to Glenn Greenwald’s ongoing NSA reporting. When he careened wildly off the rails following the detention of his husband at Heathrow Airport and then when he turned his attention toward exposing NSA surveillance operations that have zero impact on the constitutional rights of American citizens, he didn’t necessarily lose supporters, but he allowed the public’s attention to dissipate.
Wednesday night’s season premiere of South Park probably didn’t help either.
In it, Trey Parker and Matt Stone satirized both Greenwald and Edward Snowden using the singular form of the (hilariously) loathsome nutbag Eric Cartman who became simultaneously obsessed with uploading all of his thoughts directly to the internet via a social media platform called Shitter, while contrarily lashing out at NSA for “not respecting his privacehh.” Later in the episode, Cartman applies for a job at NSA as an analyst, Snowden-style, solely to blow the whistle on the agency’s surveillance programs (an NSA official foolishly hires him on the spot, echoes of a flawed vetting process). After literally blowing a whistle on NSA’s unexpected surveillance methods, Cartman ends up at home reading the internet and sobbing because “nobody cares” and he’ll have to hide out in Russia.
In today’s TV landscape, I’m not sure there’s a funnier or more salient platform for beclowning a public figure than South Park, and Parker & Stone absolutely nailed the two primary characters in the Summer of 2013′s NSA saga. And if South Park is any indication of the broader public view of Greenwald/Snowden, the duo might be suffering from a very serious optics problem. Being shoved into the copious, cheesy-poofed body of Cartman is perhaps the ultimate endcap on America’s acknowledgement of these crusaders while other issues such as Syria, healthcare and federal spending have taken center stage.
But then there’s David Sirota.