The Search For Truth In Wartime investigates the changing face of war reporting and the role of the media during wartime, in context with the Crimea through the two World Wars, to Vietnam and the Falklands. “What is the role of the media in wartime? Is it simply to record, or is it to explain? And from whose point of view—the military, the politicians or the victims?”
The Secret Rulers of the World details journalist Jon Ronson’s encounters with key conspiracy theory figures throughout the United States during the early 2000s. The 5 part series is an accompaniment to Ronson’s book Them: Adventures with Extremists which profiles ideologues on the fringe of the political, religious, and sociological spectrum. The series is a rare look at figures who have since gone on to become renowned figures in conspiracy theory circles, before their bigger rises to fame after the September 11th attacks, expanding on their already well-espoused occult theories from throughout the 1990s. The series also provides background on some of the theories that have since entered pop culture and how they originated from connections to neo-nazis, right-wing militia groups, and fundamentalist Christians. Examples being the theory of the New World Order, and various other apocalyptic millenarian scenarios which are influencing escalating lone-wolf terrorism, and the rise to power of authoritarian ultra-nationalist demagogues. The series provides this insight, examining some of the key figures and how they come to believe their theories and perceive the world.
The Society of the Spectacle is a film based on the 1967 book of the same name by French political theorist and philosopher, Guy Debord. The work traces the development of modern society, in which Debord argues that authentic social life has been replaced with representations, and that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.” This emerges from and gives rise to a pervasive and all encompassing spectacle in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity.” The film weaves the text of the original book with modern-day imagery, illustrating many elements of the spectacle, including that “the spectacle is not a collection of images, rather, it is a social relation among people, mediated by images.” This makes the material hard to decipher at times, especially with conflicting subtitles between languages: but this is part of Debord’s goal, to “problematise reception” and force the viewer to be active rather than passive. In addition, the words of some of the authors are “détourned” (hijacked) through deliberate misquoting. The result is a foundational work on the concept of the spectacle and its characteristics, to encourage critical thinking, to build and extrapolate critiques to apply to the wider social scale.
If one steps back and looks at what freedom actually means in the West today, it’s a strange and limited kind of freedom. The United States and its empire self-describe fighting the Cold War for “individual freedom,” yet it is still something that the leaders of our so-called democracies continually promise to give us. Abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to force “freedom” on to other people has led to more than just bloody mayhem, and this, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain and elsewhere. In response, the government has dismantled long-standing laws that were designed to protect individual freedom and civil liberties.
The War You Don’t See traces the history of ‘embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’ in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?
The Yes Men are a culture-jamming activist-duo from the United States that are known for their impersonations of entities that they dislike as a form of protest. Using spoofed personas, they spread awareness of problematic social issues through the mainstream media. The two have also created and maintained fake websites, which have even led to numerous interviews, conferences, and TV invitations for their spoofed personas to espouse the truth about just how corporations and governmental organisations often act in dehumanising ways toward the unwitting public. In this film, we see how the two Yes Men take on the World Trade Organisation and confront the brutal realities of globalisation using satire and tactical media to get their message across, culture-jamming the corporate interest.
While advertising is clearly a visible component of the corporate system, perhaps even more important and pervasive is the often-invisible partner—the public relations industry. Toxic Sludge Is Good For You illuminates this hidden sphere of the corporatocracy, examining the way in which the management of public discourse has become central to how society has been usurped and is controlled by political and economic elites. The film tracks the development of the PR industry from its early efforts to win popular support for World War I, to the role of crisis management in controlling damage to the corporate image, while analysing the tools PR people use to manipulate public perceptions.
In 1960, NBC aired what is widely considered to be the first reality television show in American broadcast history. Billing itself as a new kind of visual reporting, the show was called Story of a Family, and it purported to document the day-to-day lives of the 10-member Robertson family of Amarillo, Texas. While the show has long since faded from public memory, media scholars and television historians have long recognised its significance as a precursor to the “unscripted programming” that dominates television today. TV Family draws on this history by interviewing several of the children featured in Story of a Family, to offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of how the show was made, and what it means to shape culture. Weaving personal anecdotes with commentary from historians and scholars, TV Family reveals the story of how the show’s producers carefully choreographed the way they wanted the family to appear to the American public—all in the name of “authenticity.” The result is an eye-opening look at one of television’s earliest successes in shaping the reality of family life in commercially viable ways.
US Foreign Policy — The War Against The Third World is a video compilation series of 10 segments about CIA covert operations and military interventions since World War II.
Reaching into the Orwellian memory hole, War Made Easy exposes the some 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Using archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George Bush, this film reveals how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive governments — paying special attention to the parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq…
At the turn of the millennium, a group of eleven girls aged 8 to 16 from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds were interviewed about their views on media culture and its impact on their lives. Their insightful and provocative responses reveal how the attitudes and expectations of young girls are influenced by a saturated media culture. Using excerpts culled from a typical week of television broadcasting alongside the interviews, What a Girl Wants aims to provoke debate about the effects of media culture and, ideally, act as a catalyst for change in media content.
YouTube, owned by Google, has become one of the most powerful online media platforms in the world, fast to be replacing the viewership of television with over 30 billion hours watched per month in 2017. Young people flock to the platform in the hopes of fame and fortune, which comes for a select few, but not all, hence the allure to ‘make it.’ YouTube celebrities are now mainstream celebrities. The result is troves competing to live their lives as monetised open-wounds for the corporate platform, constantly pleading for subscribers, attention and engagement, all at the hands of Google, its secret algorithms, and the screen culture of spectacle, pornography, and targeted advertising. On both sides of the screen, the treadmill is all about keeping the ad dollars constantly rolling. YouTube, YouTubers and You offers a glimpse into this new media and advertising world, pondering how this culture may continue to undermine our future media and informational landscape. What sort of people and world is this culture creating and perpetuating?