Review: Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart take on NSA spying

Posted Dec 1, 2013 by Ken Hanly
Whatever faults the US government may have one of them is not suppressing their comedians. In Egypt and many other countries neither of the appended videos would probably reach the airwaves or if they did, Colbert and Stewart would probably be in Jail.
Stephen Colbert
As Wikipedia describes, Stephen Colbert is an American comedian, satirist, actor and writer, known for his ironic style (particularly in his portrayal of conservative political pundits), and for his deadpan comedic delivery.
Photo courtesy Comedy Central
If there were a Nobel Prize for humor both Colbert and Stewart should be nominated. However, their skits are not just entertaining — they often educate the public about the issues as well as revealing how ludicrous are the arguments of some politicians. Rep. Mike Rogers from Michigan who is chair of the House Intelligence Committee, takes a particular beating for his defense of NSA spying.
In "The Word" segment of Colbert's show Rogers sets out an astounding defense of NSA surveillance. Rogers points out that over 10 years no complaints have come forward that any person' specific privacy rights have been violated. He manages to reason that this implies that no one's privacy rights have been violated. Rogers concludes that “somebody must be doing something right." At the hearing Professor Vladeck asked who could be complaining. Rogers replied: "Somebody whose privacy was violated. You can't have your privacy violated if you don't know your privacy is violated, right?"
Colbert has a field day making up comical examples that fit this logic but I will leave you to enjoy the appended video clip on this. However, it is clear that the formula "you can't have x if you do not know x" is just false in many cases. For example you can't have cancer if you do not know you have cancer. You could fill in all sorts of things for "x" as Colbert does.
After several other bits of creative fun at Roger's expense, Colbert ends up with the Rogers Doctrine: When it comes to privacy vs security, we can have one of them, as long as we don't know which one it is. That way, we can maintain our constitutional rights, or if they do take away our rights, just don't let us find out. That way, we'll still have them..
Jon Stewart also makes fun of Rogers: “Of course you can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is being violated, Spying is like health care — if you never find that tumor in your ball sack, it can’t kill you. It’s like Benjamin Franklin once said: ‘Those who would trade liberty for security should never find out that the decision has already been made for them.’”
However, Stewart praises Rogers for not falling in with crowd who pretend to be surprised and shocked by the extensive spying of NSA even though they had been enabling the process through legislation back as far as 2001. Stewart notes: “The very legislature that is bewildered at the scope and reach of our spying apparatus granted them the scope and reach.” Stewart then takes on the tone of a frustrated parent: "‘I can’t believe you stayed out all night and got drunk, just because I left you with a keg of beer and a note that said, ‘Do whatever the f*ck you want for as long as you want.’”