(Sept 3 – 9)
It’s been a slightly depressing week in social media land.
The early part of the week had me preoccupied with Wil Wheaton (not, some of you may note, for the first time) and his experience of the internet. Without going into too much detail (you can get that here), he decided to try out Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter (something I’ve been considering myself), only to find it just as much as of an abusive, festering cesspit as twitter. The depressing part of this is that while many of the people attacking him are undoubtedly manbabygate-adjacent, there were also plenty of others piling in who really should have been on the same side—and entirely, it seems, because of a simple misunderstanding.
It’s another case of something that is increasingly bothering me about social media and modern discourse in general. People seem to be largely intent on looking at how something impacts them, and them alone. There’s little consideration for either intent or context any more. It’s partly to do with the media we now use—we’ve all had instances where an email has been misinterpreted; well that capacity is amplified even more on social media—but people are also fanatically staking out their own corner of the culture war and attacking anyone who, in their view, transgresses.
I’m starting to think that one of the by-products of social media being such an amorphous, distributed thing is that people have a greater need than ever for something to focus on. It can be something relatively wholesome, like a new meme; it could be some event for people to get collectively outraged over (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad); or it can be a person. I wonder if Wil Wheaton, simply because he has poured so much of himself into social media over the years, has become one of those focal points with a critical mass of people using him as a handy target for their various frustrations.
The other major social media event of the week was the outcry over Steve Bannon’s various media appearances, which have included interviews on TV over here, and a [swiftly cancelled] invitation to headline the New Yorker Festival.
Let’s be clear for a moment. The views that someone like Steve Bannon holds absolutely need to be discussed, dissected and (ideally) dismissed. However, this does not mean that Bannon needs to be given a platform to present those views himself. Doing so only serves to legitimise him in the same way that the media, in striving for drama and the audience it delivers, has helped convince the world that there’s a debate to be had on climate change.
It’s depressing enough that various media outlets don’t see any problem with giving Steve Bannon a platform. But what’s truly gotten to me this week is seeing them respond to the justified outcry over Bannon headlining a major Festival with accusations of “outrage culture” and “what about free speech”. And this wasn’t just the usual right-wing suspects, this came from the left as well. It’s made me realise that outlets as supposedly distinct as The Guardian and The Australian are, in fact, closer to representing each other’s views than either are to representing whatever the voice of the people is. It’s shocking, in fact, to realise that there is now a general assumption among the media that they dictate the voice of the people, rather than reporting on it. And this at at time when traditional news is dying a slow, inevitable death.
Bring it on, I say.
This week we wrapped up Ready Player One—which, you’ll remember, we conveniently abandoned last week at the end of the second act. I’ve come out a pretty big fan of this movie, but it’s mostly because it works as the ultimate Steven Spielberg blockbuster. He was the perfect director to make this film, and he made it perfectly. Not to say that it’s a perfect film: I’m somewhat aggrieved that the otherwise strong female lead is mostly shunted aside in the final act (I haven’t read the source novel so I don’t know if this is the typical hero’s journey weakness endemic to Hollywood blockbusters, or if it’s right there from the start).
However, that aside, the film is worth watching for The Shining sequence alone.
For Fridate Horror we watched Dressed To Kill, which is a film I discovered and fell in love with during my Film Studies course at University. It’s a challenging film in some ways, but it’s a masterful work of cinema. I continued the Brian de Palma theme with a rewatch of Mission: Impossible on Saturday night (I’m aiming to rewatch the entire series, except for the second one, before I catch up with Fallout). I’m delighted to say that I managed, at last, to follow the plot this time around. It’s only taken me the last several decades to get there.
The choice of our Sunday night movie, after last week’s minor debacle of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, was given to the Elderbeast and he picked Doctor Strange. Typically I prefer smaller movies, ideally ones I haven’t seen before, on a Sunday night, but Doctor Strange really fit the bill this week. It’s building its way towards becoming one of my favourite Marvel movies. It’s not only great to look at, but has a compelling journey for its hero. It struck me after this viewing that one of its strengths—ironically, given the premise—is that it tells a very human story of a flawed man who starts out putting himself above everyone else, but ends up putting the rest of the world first.
Not much to report on The Haunting Of Hill House. I am enjoying the experience of reading it, but not enough to want to return to it every night. I will need to make a concerted effort to get into a reading rhythm otherwise it will end up on the pile of abandoned books.
Dune has also reached a bit of a lull. I’m at what I would call the start of Act 2 (when it’s all gone horribly wrong with House Atreides) and am finding that there’s much padding. This seems to be the point when Frank Herbert has grown overly fascinated with his own creation and has forgotten to keep the plot moving forward in any significant way. It’s interesting to compare to the film version which retained Act 1 in almost every detail, but skipped past huge chunks of this section without any obvious impact on the plot.
Make no mistake, it’s all great writing and perfectly enjoyable to listen to—it’s just a bit of a comedown from the pace and intrigue of the first section of the book.