January 23rd, 2008
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2008
Here’s a report of 20th Century Fox having unfavorable movie reviews yanked from YouTube.
Is anyone surprised? The net makes truth & opinion so much easier to access, so ubiquitous, it’s inevitable that it be corrupted and stymied by those with the will and force to do so.
The net, welcomed with so much teary-eyed idealism in its early years, and now in its accelerated, endlessly-fractalled adolescence presenting all sorts of pains and frustrations to those with something to suppress or revise — be it corporation that can’t handle criticism or individual who is embarrassed or alarmed to find traces, ghosts, echoes of him/herself on the net (I think of coworkers of mine who get contorted in endless knots of conscience over harmless pictures added to their profiles and which they now realize can be viewed by a mistakenly-added manager or boss).
The net makes you accountable. The net holds a mirror right up to you. It’s going to intensify as info about people and entities/companies/corporations continues to burgeon; data mining/exchanging in the medical and marketing and social networking sectors is astonishingly widespread. And if you’re not ready to own up, the net doesn’t give a fuck. You’re either going to have to accept yourself as individual or entity or do what Fox is doing here, and scrub very hard with the biggest steel-wool brush you can find until the spots are out. In vain of course, since in the time it took you to scratch out one blemish, ten thousand more appeared. Whack-a-mole in an endless prairie with a billion new squinty critic-bloggers for every fifty you bash. Pointless cyber-crusades against armies of deathless data.
In a way, Fox is only doing what most of us do in the small sphere of our own lives — redact until the story’s right, photoshop away until that Facebook shot looks perfect. They just looks even more villainous because, well, they’re 20th century Fox.
Obviously the stakes are higher when a corporation with more power and resources than an individual uses its clout and dollars to suppress truth. This is more momentous and damaging than when an individual tries to bowdlerize their wikipedia entry.
Still, the underlying assumptions tie both acts together: truth is mutable, is a function of what can be spun, shown, suppressed; surface-truth (what we present to be the case) trumps actual truth (what is actually the case).
How often have you, in your own life, tried to edit your story? How many sentences restructured, whole passages struck? How subtle the tweak, how skillful the erasure, or how crude the demolition? If there was a Wikipedia entry about you full of everything you’ve done, would you do your level best to edit until the reportage turned into fable? Until all events which could provoke criticism were excised? Or would you look at yourself full in the mirror, flaws and all, and own yourself, take responsibility for all you are?
Let’s rail & rail often against 20th century Fox and any other corporation or company that seeks to silence opposition through cowardly suppressive measures. But let’s also consider our own complicity in this culture of selective presentation, of endless redaction, of failure to own up to and accept ourselves with integrity. We may find that even in the age of deathless data we, like Fox, still imagine we can and should run from ourselves, scramble in futility like people trying to dodge raindrops in a thunderstorm.