Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Death of Things Past

The internet is not the same place it was ten years ago.

Methodically, there are voices stepping forward everywhere that are building up a positive wave, such as this youtube channel that I found this morning.  I found it remarkably refreshing to read someone with good things to say about movies that have made billions of dollars by putting tens of millions of butts in theater seats, when what we used to hear on the net was "Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad . . ."

It all stands to reason: some twenty years ago, the development of the public net was dependent upon a small cadre of those who understood what computers were and what they could do - persons who were naturally resentful of a society that steadfastly refused to given any credence to this and who treated anyone with 'knowledge' like crap scraped off the bottom of a shoe.  In 1996, the most celebrated people in the world were sports figures.  Back then, it wasn't necessary to pay any attention to sports to know who Ken Griffey, Andre Agassi or John Elway were.  I've never sat and watched more than five minutes of a basketball game in my life, yet I knew perfectly well who Michael Jordan was before he became a movie actor.

Who is the equivalent today - an athlete that's huge, right now, who got his start no earlier than 2010?  There isn't one.  The sportos will rush forward and name off a bunch of people for me, but I promise: I won't recognize a single name.  Because today we live in a world where if you don't watch sports, you don't give a shit.  Back in the '90s, television still mattered, it had the power to push people down on throats that we didn't care about.  Today, it doesn't.  Nothing that happens on television matters.  Because the internet has replaced it.  Today, if you don't go LOOK for it, it doesn't exist.

In the 1990s, television ignored computers (it still does - but then, computers are the enemy, competing for all that advertising).  This is why a ridiculously innaccurate computer-based movie like Hackers made such a splash: because, among computer geeks, this is all they had.  They had to love it.  After two decades of personal computer use being utterly ignored by the media (I'm counting from the mid '70s), FINALLY someone made a movie.  It is horrifically, hilariously stupid and counterfactual.  Just try to imagine a group of modern day doctors expressing their fandom love of a movie that depicted medicine with this level of accuracy.  But talk to any 'hacker' who was alive and conscious in 1995 and they will gush endlessly about the immortal love they have for this film.

Those computer savvy guys were naturally misanthropic: the media hated them and they hated the media.  It was only natural that, with this perspective, when Dalnet and ICQ got off the ground, it would be filled with a bile of epic proportions.  With only 20 years behind us, this is a generation that is still with us - and will be with us for a long time.  Yet it is also a generation that has lost its grip on the throttle.  No wonder: that generation has systematically set out to destroy every platform that has been made available, from Yahoo, Friends United and Friendster up through Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.  The only sites that have survived their predations have been those that took an excessively draconian attitude towards outside influence: that is, anything owned by Google, Apple or Amazon.

The war was on almost immediately: and the loudest voices in any chat room has fought that war by claiming "free speech" and "freedom" as their watchwords: that is, the freedom to destroy things, to ruin things, to make things vulnerable enough that a troll can do whatever a troll wants.  Trolls hate comment moderation.  They hate youtube's policy of removing videos.  They hate blocking.  Guess why.

I read comments sections when I want to don my sociologist's lab coat.  There has been a change.  Once upon a time a troll would start something and - in the ensuing flame war - a dozen other trolls would come to a troll's rescue.  More and more, I am seeing one troll and a dozen other reasonable people piling up on him.  Overall, there are less trolls . . . at least in places where there's little or no payback for their efforts.

Television, of course, hasn't understood anything about trolls or the internet.  The news channels gamely put up a twitter feed and delight in having every troll in the universe hammer away in favour of Donald Trump in real time.  I said before that the internet is television's competitor.  There are absolutely less viewers of sports, news, virtually everything today (except porn) than there were 20 years ago:

Not that anyone wants to talk about this.

In light of such numbers, I have my - very reserved - notions that perhaps television executives have an agenda to make the internet look bad.  How else does one explain this incomprehensibly irrational scene?

This would be my vote for the worst depiction of a computer on any media, ever.

Unquestionably, it is in the old school media's interest for the internet to continue to look bad - and promoting trolls, giving them unrestrained access to television feeds and otherwise promoting the fear agenda where it comes to computers is 100% in the television media's interest.  They would like it if we could all just stop this silliness of wasting all our time with this nonsense internet thing and go back to sitting still in front of a box patiently waiting for commercials to finish - something I did casually for the first thirty years of my life.

Hard to believe.

I have enormous faith in the future.  Oh, eventually the governments of the world will use some pretext for shutting this internet thing down - but every year they fail to do so brings us closer to the tech that will enable us to establish this internet thing without any actual need for a "net" - computers will simply piggyback on a general wifi-interlock system in some Tesla air-transfer arrangement that will mean I'll only need to buy a computer in order to get on board the completely free system that replaces the present model.

Okay, I don't know how it will work - but trust me, it will work and the government won't be able to do a thing about it - not even if we have to buy our computers from "pushers" on the street corner.

By then, the internet culture will have washed the bad-blood generation out of its system and, while trolls will never be a thing of the past, the unwanted will be no more a problem for the internet than the asshole who's had too many beers and now must be shown the door.

Hm.  Bars will probably have a lot less of those when national-level broadcast sports finally lays down and dies.


Fuzzy Skinner said...

I notice that even websites originally intended as detailed recaps of terrible movies - even a number of the B-Masters - moving more and more toward examining why certain movies are so good. As much as I talk to my friends about why certain movies make no sense or contain creepy undertones, I love explaining why I love this or that movie much more. Would that I could watch only good movies, but this is one case where focusing on the positive is actually more productive.

Speaking of Hackers, I also include Tron in the category of movies that focus entirely on computers, but don't understand them at all. To some extent, this can lead to good storytelling if the story is well written (from what I hear, even William Gibson wasn't familiar with computers when he wrote Neuromancer), but in the case of Tron and Hackers, it makes the movies seem incredibly silly and wrong... which they certainly are. I can't help but think of them like one might think about a cute and friendly, but not very smart dog.

Stuart Lloyd said...

Many thanks for pointing out Cinema Wins. I loved to hear him analyse the movies in a positive sense. What was most interesting was his take on After Earth especially since it makes in a completely different movie to the how Cineam Sins seems to make it out to be. I think After Earth (and M. Night's films in general) are more about the Pathos and logic and consistency are sacrificed for that. However, the internet people of the past have basically picked lots of holes in the logical inconsistencies in stories and whilst some of them don't state that this makes it bad, they imply it. I actually am the kind of person who likes logical consistency, but saying that, I find the TV show Skins (UK version) absolutely compelling watching. It is also the TV show that is as much Pathos as possible and completely flies in the face of any kind of consistency. Events of the last episode are sometimes completely ignored. In one episode, one of the main character's parents pull him out of school, but in the next episode, he's performing in the school play. Explanation? No, they don't care. He couldn't contribute to the story if he wasn't in school. This would normally annoy me, but the show seems to just speak to me on an emotional level, so it completely overrides any joy I would get from analysing it.
This is the sort of thing Cinema Wins is going for. Stories don't need to have perfect logical consistency to be good. In fact, that makes them more like life, which will probably make the story more boring.
The Force Awakens also seems to demonstrate the new attitude. As soon as it came out, people picked holes in it - massive contrived coincidences all over the palce, its similarity to another film, but it was nowhere near enough to get any hate for it. People still loved it because it entertained them and fulfilled them on a more primal level than on logic.
So thanks for sharing and reminding us that you can analyse things AND be positive about them.