Thursday, February 11, 2010

Unexpected Awful & Who?

I'm going to start this one off happy, because I don't want to do a complete 180 once I get ranting.

In the "trying something new" department, I finally watched an episode of Dr. Who all the way through! I'm pretty proud of myself, and a little embarassed that I've never got into it sooner. It's one of those things you'd think I'd be all over, but I was always intimidated by the fact that it's been so long-running and everything is so intricate and stuff. So I watched the episode "Blink" and it was absolutely wonderful...if not a little terrifying because of the creepy angel-statue things. Ew. I'm keeping my eye on statues from now on...

Okay. 180 degrees. Get ready for the GLS really, really pissed off. (If you want to avoid the ranting, skip to the slightly-more-optimistic very last paragraph. Don't let me stop you.)

So, truth be told, I was having a good day today. Math went homework due, mostly review, good class. Work went much better than yesterday, much smoother and less stress. Everything was going fantastically.

Until I hit Mass Media Class.

I have such a weird love/hate relationship with that class. I love the professor (she was the same one who taught the Journalism class I took long ago) and I love the discussions. I also love learning about the history of mass media, where we've come from and where we're going. Interesting stuff.

Yes, interesting stuff. So when she said we'd be talking today about journalism and what journalists do and how they do what they do, I thought COOL! Love history and the "whys" and "hows". Awesome.

We got through a few whys and hows (and the history of journalism, which is fascinating), and then she said she was going to show us a brief video clip that was made by a magazine regarding the current goings-on in Liberia (which, if you didn't know, border on the absolutely hellish). She didn't really preface it with anything, except to say that it was quite graphic and those who chose not to watch could do so. (However, may I point out that no one would necessarily leave unless they knew themselves to be so squeamish they'd vomit on the spot? Human curiosity and the peer pressure of everyone watching you leave is enough to keep anyone in their seats, I think. Especially since our class is very small. Like, a dozen people on a good day.)

She turns on the video, and right off the bat I know I've made a mistake staying in my seat, but I'm not going to leave now because I'm too stubborn.

I'm not even going to bother explaining the video, nor am I going to tell you where to find it, because when the thing ended I was so enraged I could hardly engage in the discussion afterward.

And here's where my outrage comes from, and why I would rather no one else watch it on account of me:

The video depicted an American film team going into Liberia to "expose" the atrocities happening there, as journalists often do. However, the atrocities aside, the depiction of the people was monstrous. It was pure sensationalism in the form of "exposition". No, no, it was the worst journalism I've ever seen. There was no view of the common citizen, no call to help or sympathy, no reason at all why we shouldn't let Liberia implode. Even the tamest part of the video--a trip inside a hellhole brothel, which tells you how awful the video was to begin with--ended with the prostitutes chasing "our heroes" (as in, the American film team) out of the brothel shouting for money. Back in the van, the film team laughed nervously and talked about the "fucked up shit" they just saw.

Hello? Who's the monster, here? The angry mob or the giggling twits in the van?

My teacher was--obviously--using this video as an attempt to explain sensationalism in journalists' methods, but you know what? There are some images in my head that may never go away, now. Some might say, "Good. That's good. You're learning about the world, and how horrible things can be. You should know about this stuff."

Here's my problem. It's all well and good to be informed--I relish being informed--but where am I supposed to fit into all of that information? The journalists never told me. They made me sit through ten minutes of their crap, and by the end I feel hopeless and privileged and sick.

And I got to thinking...videos like that are not meant to be seen. Do you know why? Because it's exploitation. It's people saying, "Hey! Look at this pit of a country! Pretty messed up, isn't it? Look away if you can, but you can't! You know why? Because you're human. And humans like to look at messed up things. And we're generating ad revenue every time you click the play button."

Tell me: is it sick that a general leading the revolution tortured and cannibalized the displaced president of Liberia and filmed the whole thing? Of course it is. Then tell me what's sicker: the man taping the torture, or THE FAT AMERICANS SITTING IN AN EDITING ROOM REBROADCASTING THE VIDEO FOR OTHER FAT AMERICANS TO WATCH IN THE NAME OF JOURNALISM????

Snuff film journalism. That's all it is. And I'm ashamed of it.

Yeah, I'm actually a little ticked at my professor, truth be told. Because no matter what anyone says...films like that are exploitation. At the end you're left with the most hopeless feeling imaginable, because there's NOTHING to do except pray, which I did. Fervently. But the film makers don't want your help. They want your reaction to their film to be disgust and morbid curiosity. It would have been nice to know a little more about what we'd be seeing BEFORE the images--and the sounds...oh my word, the sounds--assaulted the eyes and ears.

And in her own small way, my professor made us complicit in that unimaginable twistedness that causes cameras to capture the most horrible of human atrocities and let other human beings feed upon that darkness.


Obviously, this has been a long post. And obviously, it has been intense and angry. I know that. But I also know this: Tomorrow will be a better day. I have to believe that. Because if I don't, I'll become like one of those journalists. And that's a price I cannot afford to pay.

-The GLS

1 comment:

  1. Thats what Journalism is, its not about information, its about selling your attention to its advertisers. This is especially true in audio and video journalism. You know why guys like Rush Limbaugh are always in the news? its because they say fucked up shit on the air to bring attention to themselves. They have nothing to do with the actual politics in our country and in no way should it be considered news/journalism.

    The film you described seemed to be exactly that, something to sell to the american public. You learned nothing about the situation but saw shocking images. They had your attention. No matter how disgusted you were by it, they won. They did exactly what they set out to do. They stole your attention and in the end, 10 minutes of your life.

    This is actually one of the reasons I changed my major from journalism to business management. I would much rather use my talents at corporate bullshit than try and feed someone information they couldn't trust.

    Journalism is a filthy business that anymore has little to do with news and it primarily about selling your attention, it too makes me sick.

    On the other hand, some of the best journalism can be found at places like the BBC and PBS where the focus is less on selling your attention and more on the news.