Here's that wizard.
Here’s that wizard.

Of all the things that the NSA has done — the recording of calls, the ominous disclosures — I think nothing has cemented their image as a Deeply Sinister Organization quite as much as the fact that we get all of these revelations in the form of PowerPoint. This becomes clearer and clearer every time another document leaks.

When it comes to downright creepy PowerPoints, the NSA knows no limits. Look, if your content is “We have recorded 100 percent of a country’s calls for the past month and can go back and listen to them whenever we see fit,” that’s bad enough, even if you present it in the least threatening way possible, say writing it in icing on the top of a cake (nope, creepy), baking it into a muffin (still creepy), blasting it from a boombox beneath someone’s window (never mind, it’s creepy no matter how you deliver it, like certain babies).  But PowerPoint compounds it. Especially the PowerPoint above, with that lovely clip-art wizard with a clip-art cellphone. Or consider this Batman PowerPoint from the British GCHQ.

No good news comes in the form of a PowerPoint.

Of all the pieces of bad or creepy news, I can think of none that would not be made worse it had been in the form of a slideshow with ZOOM/HONEYCOMB/WIPE transitions and clip-art sprinkled in like unexpected cookie-raisins.

“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to sit through this PowerPoint.”

“The Persians have us”/SWOOOOOOOOOOSH/big picture of a football/”cut off at the ‘PASS’!”

It:

  • puts the lotion

(BIG PICTURE OF A LOTION BOTTLE)

On:

  • its skin

OR ELSE

  • the hose!!
  • again!

(honeycomb fade)

My point is, everything is worse this way.  Things that were good to begin with are ruined. Things that are already bad become HORRIBLE. 

Recently, I had to help someone make a PowerPoint. I can attest that the only thing worse than watching a PowerPoint is watching someone try to make a PowerPoint who does not know how. You try to instruct them. You fail. If teaching a man to fish is anything like this, forget it. Give a man a fish, and he’s out of your hair for the day. Try to teach a man to fish, and the man telephones you at home in the evening to ask why the fish isn’t working and if he is supposed to double-click on the fish and why the fish doesn’t seem to want to do the thing that it did when you were there. (Invariably these are also the people most impressed by the ZOOM/HONEYCOMB/WIPES.)

They say that books exist so that where one man has lived greatly, thousands of others may afterwards live greatly. A PowerPoint exists so that, where one man was boring to himself for a few minutes, he can now bore hundreds of people for hours. It does for dull lecture material what the miracle of Hanukkah did for lamp oil — extends a meager supply so it lasts for seven days. But at least the oil offered illumination. The powerpoint just offers bullet points that come in v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y s-o y-o-u c-a-n r-e-a-d t-h-e-m l-i-k-e t-h-i-s.

Sure, I believe that good PowerPoints exist, in theory, just as I believe that some Bronies are just chill, normal dudes. In theory.

But no good news comes as a PowerPoint. Especially no good news about the NSA.

First, don’t be creepy. But if you are, at least stay off the clip-art. It’s not much to ask.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.