I Have A Media Problem

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I like writing about cinema. It’s a hobby of mine, something I’d like to do more often. And up to this point, it’s all that I’ve done on this blog—on its WordPress incarnation, at least. That’s all this blog should be—a space for me to display my thoughts on film, and for you, whoever you may be, to read and consider them. It should not be a haven for ads. I do not try to gain your attention with shallow, misleading clickbait. If I link to anything outside the blog, I do so because I find it relevant and intriguing and am confident it will not lead my readers down an Internet rabbit hole. There is nothing frilly in the formatting; I picked this WordPress template (“Minnow”, it’s called) for its simplicity, and because it’s free of charge. My blog is in a sense my ideal for the Internet—absent of distraction, with a single, focused purpose. If there’s anything you’ve ever seen here that’s out of focus, it’s because most of my film reviews are quick, instinctive, stream-of-consciousness first drafts. There’s nothing contrived here, but I understand if it can get tricky to follow. Part of it is my natural writing style. But I’ll work on it. I might just make it one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

All this is more than I can say for the Internet as a whole. When scrolling down my Facebook news feed, for one, I often encounter a vast deluge of clickbait, much of which has a theme—political pessimism. Doomsday prophesying. People griping about the way things are and the direction they’re going in. Money runs the world, and there’s nothing we can do about it, and it’s only going to get worse. We are slaves to the wealthy, and whoever tries to fight against that status quo will be completely defeated, so we should probably just grin and bear it. That sort of thing. All talk about problems, with nothing about potential solutions, and thus nothing useful. What I find especially fascinating is anything written in the tone of voice that says, “You didn’t know this was going on?! You thought the world was hunky-dory?! How naïve of you! This whole time, you’ve been hoodwinked by the political elite and their media monopoly!” There are few things in this world I despise more than the concept of open secrets—of taboo dealings that everyone knows about but no one discusses because of some ludicrous impulse to sustain a fragile veneer of respectability and decorum, if not to protect the innocent. I hold just as much chagrin at the people who pride themselves on the knowledge of such secrets, and who look down upon and exclude the innocents who are unaware of them. As a result, none of the injuries stemming from these secrets are ever remedied, and none of the problems they present are ever particularly solved. You can see why I try to limit my time on Facebook; looking at my news feed can often be a fatiguing, numbing ordeal.

I don’t blame this all on Facebook. Rather, I speak of Facebook as a microcosm for the Internet as a whole—and when I say I’ve been trying to gauge my time on the Web, I mean it. What am I saying when I say I have a media problem? you may wonder. I’m essentially saying I have a trust problem. For an example, I’ll use an issue that I’d like to get to the bottom of, but that I likely never will because of the state of the Internet [trigger warning here]: the case of Juanita Broaddrick, who—at the height of Bill Clinton’s impeachment brouhaha—accused the ex-President of raping her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1978. Whether she is credible has been eagerly debated. Yet, I can’t find anything in the media (besides perhaps the late Christopher Hitchens) that I can rely on to objectively walk me through the case because everything about it has been obfuscated through the narrow lens of competitive partisan politics. Most conservative media seem to meld Broaddrick’s and other women’s accounts into their traditional Clinton-bashing, laden with conspiracies and designed more to get Republicans voted into office than to advance any genuine feminist cause. Most liberal media, in deferral to the Clintons, treat Broaddrick with what we in Japanese might call mokosatsu—which translates roughly into “indifference” or “contemptuous ignorance”—“murder by silence,” more literally. Google “Juanita Broaddrick,” and you’ll see what I mean. Most of what pops up is right-wing sensationalism and commentary from scrappy little blogs such as mine. Why is this? Why do women’s rights only matter to elites when they are convenient to their political outlook? Is it because of the perfect storm of institutionalized misogyny and hypocrisy that we call rape culture? Is the media negligent on this matter because we have consigned this case to a brand of pre-Internet ‘90s politics that the jaded American public is sick of hearing about? Frankly, that’d be pathetic.

For me, the case of Broaddrick and Clinton’s myriad other accusers lies at the very foundation—not so much the visible, above-water tip of the iceberg as its unseen, underwater bottom tip—of whether Hillary Clinton, who has stood by Bill despite his outrageous philandering (to say the least), can be trusted with the U.S. Presidency. I don’t think she can. I’m not going to go into the Broaddrick case blow-by-blow at this moment—though perhaps one day, I will, to provide the Internet with some of the objectivity that I’d like to see on it—but for the time being, let me say that right now, I think Broaddrick is credible. That feeling alone is enough to prompt me to display some serious mokosatsu towards all the polls, headlines and punditry trying to proclaim that Hillary’s already sewn up this whole election. She most certainly has not, no more than she had the ’08 election, when she was leading in all polls right up until Obama began showing his muster in the primaries. The media right now is not the American people talking; it’s the money talking. It’s the political and media elite struggling to convince the naïve to vote for Clinton, and to discourage the supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders from believing that their guy has a chance. The way I see it, on the left, the media’s gunning for Clinton, and everyone else is gunning for Sanders; just look at how Sanders has trounced Clinton in some of those online post-debate polls. Let me tell you: the most important issues to me are youth rights and education, feminism, LGBTQIA rights, racial equality, mental health, gun control, social mobility and the wealth gap, Mexico’s drug cartels (the essence of the border and immigration crises), campaign finance, accountability, climate change, and the U.S.’ responsibility for the calamity in the Middle East. I do not agree with Sanders on all issues, but my beliefs do line up with his on most issues—and I consider his commitment to the Nordic model, in particular, exemplary. Come Super Tuesday, he has my vote. (Don’t get me started on the GOP. In that party’s current state, they are against virtually everything I stand for.)

The great films are the ones you keep coming back to in your head. Network is one of those films. If you’ve never seen it, see it. It’s timeless. It has countless great scenes, and one of them is Howard Beale’s maximally ironic on-air rant on the power of television to brainwash, which ends with him pleading, “Turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I’m speaking to you now! Turn them off!” Reader, when you reach the end of this essay, I beseech you to close this window, turn off your Internet connection, and turn off your computer. Do something else. It’s okay. Take a break from this. Take a break from the aimless pessimism, the exploitation of trauma for attention, the insults to the intelligence, and the relentless fear mongering in which the Web at large revels. The man who directed Network, the late Sidney Lumet, has a book called Making Movies, which is a great primer on the technical aspects of cinema for literary folks such as me. Lumet here says time and again that if a filmmaker is losing concentration during a rush, a take, or a scene, it means it’s not grabbing his/her attention, thus the audience will check out, too, and it should be cut. What I take from this is that maybe I ought to trust my instincts. If I’m losing focus while reading an online article, either don’t trust it or close the laptop. Or both. I should make that a golden rule. After all, I don’t feel excitement reading all the media extoling Clinton; I feel numbness, fatigue, nausea, disgust. I feel lies fighting to win at my expense. I want to escape from it all. I don’t want to wallow in thoughts of “inevitability”. None of us should. We should fight for change. We start by voting.

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I Have A Media Problem

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