science bastards

4 December, 2011

The Insider

Filed under: Journalistic Decline, Unqualified Film Reviews, Whatever — sciencebastards @ 7:08 pm

First off, I just have to declare that watching a movie in sixteen parts on two websites is kind of a drag.  My Netflix money should be going toward steaming more stuff.  I am spoiled.  I also have seen the film before, years ago though.  I also remember when it was a big deal in the news so I have some familiarity with the story.  I am also completely unsurprised by the implications of what goes on in the film.  To put it simply, media outlets like CBS are corporations, and corporations are about their bottom line first and foremost.  The most startling thing about the whole movie’s story is that it took place before the media deregulation of the late 90s.  If anything, larger and more powerful entities are in control of the different levers of media now.  In all likelihood, CBS would be loath to even entertain the notion of investigating a story like that of Jeffrey Wigand today.

It speaks really poorly of the concept of media conglomeration though.  Irrespective of the issues surrounding a nexus of corporations and news organizations is just the corporatization of news in general.  The news has become a monetized commodity, this has cheapened the business almost as much as any other factor.  In fact, I would argue that monetization has all but destroyed the music industry, television, radio, books, etc, etc.  When the lowest common denominator is what is aimed at, you end up getting reality tv, cheap human interest news, Justin Bieber and almost any other ill of modern media you could devise.

When you figure this into the cozy relationship enjoyed by media outlets the terrible situation we’re now in seems to have been an inevitability rather than an accident of time and circumstance.  I don’t know the connections that CBS has but I do know that NBC is owned by GE which is pretty deep into defense contracting.  It seems a little doubtful that NBC would have too many stories that criticize war or militarism.  This is just an example.  The connections run deeper and deeper as media slides toward conglomeration and corporate ownership.

In a way, The Insider is a lot like All the President’s Men.  Both films start with a seemingly innocuous event that eventually unravels into a pretty big deal.  That is just a similarity of plot structure though.  The deeper connection, as I see it, are that these are both instances where journalists scored a coup of sorts.  However, instead of real change happening, it seems as if the powerful vested interests that were affected probably just got better at hiding things rather than cleaning up their acts.  I am not an optimist here.

The other things I noticed in the film were stylistic touches, they were sort of glaring actually.  Russell Crowe pulls a lighter out to demonstrate in class, they pass a cemetery with tons of graves on the way to the deposition, the fog that looks like smoke after he gives his deposition and the mural in his hotel room of someone running away when he was at his lowest were all interesting touches.  It was a pretty decent watch, even the second time, this is high praise from a person who generally hates almost everything.

31 October, 2011

Shrug and Sigh

Filed under: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid, Oh Well, Whatever — sciencebastards @ 7:59 pm

It would be naïve in the extreme to think that clicking on everything in sight or allowing all manner of applications access to your personal Facebook account would not open up your details to marketers.  However, it seems like if some people had any idea of the scope of information that was being collected on them, they would lock themselves in a sealed chamber.  The concept of privacy seems to be fast morphing itself out of existence.  The young people I work with seem entirely comfortable with this fact and it seems the level of alarm people feel is in direct proportion to their age.  The trouble is that we all just shrug at the futility of our situation, and who could blame us?  Our absolute inability to do anything about it only makes the younger look much smarter than their older, wiser counterparts.

I believe one should always think twice about clicking on ads or liking things on Facebook.  Not that you’re going make a huge dent in the data compiled in your name, but the thought that every single thing I do online is being fed into some behemoth spreadsheet somewhere is just depressing.  I rarely search for bomb-making materials online so I’m not too worried about law enforcement getting wind of my habits.  On the flip side of that, I never give info to places that say they just want some responses for “marketing purposes”.  If they want that, they can pay me for it.  Likewise, if I ever take an online survey I make sure to lie as much as possible. Anyone who speaks of “double loyalties” is completely misguided.  The loyalties of those who mine data for a living never lie anywhere except for where the money is flowing from, and that is rarely from those being mined.  I have no illusions whatsoever that I am winning the war on the extraction of my own data but it’s always better to let yourself think you have a say in the matter.

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