Freakout – The Bush Media Hangover
At the onset of the Bush-Cheney years, few would have imagined the slant that press would eventually redefine video and “film” journalism. In the bumbling days after September 11th, the country sat paralyzed through the continuous coverage offered on TV. National coverage was quick with the acquisitions and unverified actions. Our Vice President addressed the nation while our Commander in Chief reviewed his Thesaurus and hid from any potential bad guys – and the cameras. Dan “Anchorman” Rather was quick to point out that the terrorists used video games and off the shelf simulator programs which “immediately were pulled off the shelves in the name of national security.” (The Best Buy team below my house at the time must have been tuned into Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure as Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2000 never came off the shelves).
Of course the truth was out there – someone just had to find it. Pitchforks and patriotism ruled the streets across our great land. City halls were supposedly filled with citizens lining the civic steps demanding government protection and justice. And the video coverage mounted as “crowds” became worthy topics for our new bread of photojournalists.
A distortion followed, though, as citizens were frozen in front of the tube. Few ventured out and could only rely on what the video and film crews shared with us. Translations became skewed because of the lens. Audiences were unable to tell the magnitude of events due to the inherent distortion caused by a camera. This sole fact enabled the deeper reach of Bush-Cheney in our culture. The takeover of the airwaves – ‘free press’ – happened in the name of national security.
Bush-Cheney spinners wasted little time to shape our visions of the lurking threats beyond and within our borders. And they might have won if it weren’t for a unique breed of undercover camera operators called Independent Film Makers and a few inquiring minds found in the humor columns of cable land.
The regime found an effective tool at it’s public rallies too – “crowd sorting.” Only invited guests could listen to the President or some other elected official. Come without an invitation and you would be sure to be watching a monitor one building over. The day’s of joining the rally freely were lost in the name of “micromanaging” the White House message. Yet Patriotism flourished with our suits adorned with broaches and pins proudly displaying flags or party affiliations.
Today’s fight against the “freakout” factor in Television and the media in general is the permanence of Bill Maher, John Stewart, Youtube and films that reach beyond our fears. Dignitaries of cinema eventually pushed on audience fears and aspirations. Films like Syriana and The Good Shepard embodied the larger audience struggle to place Halliburton rules governing our foreign policy with a new kind of McCarthyism cloaked in TSA shoe checkers. Our outlet for the unknown remained the cinema. Our understanding of what might be real or just real funny remained in a theater near you – if you dared to brave the new laws of the land.
Had journalism kept a backbone the proliferation of indies might not have flourished. Technology enabled the masses to become citizen reporters. The price of fame though ensured that paid reporters were never to loose their grip on what you might have “just” seen. The TV continues to bark “who done it” on video submitted by some unassuming grandma watching from the corner while recording with her video sunglasses courtesy of Lorex.
Fortunately, prosumers are not skilled in the arcs and edits required of the filmmaker. Distributors are not going to make their nickles back by picking up grandma rough cuts panned at festivals as a final edit. The short and long format remain essential in the larger world of the digital message – to uncover and explore the topic thoroughly, convincingly and with more impact than just a tweet. And for those who succeed with their message – be prepared to party as you might be a colleague in the next establishment ruling entertainment culture. Camera, lights and action.