Big Brother is watching you

So might as well wade into the extremely sensitive debate about racism in the Sleb Big Brother house. Although being the leftie pinko liberal that I am, I want to talk about the issues surrounding the subject rather than throwing accusations at certain members of the house (although I must admit I am pretty disgusted and ashamed at the actions of the English contestants, regardless of the semantics).

Whether you believe this is racism or not, covert or overt, direct or non-direct, several of the affected parties are not going to do too well out of this. Channel 4 can continue to pretend there isn’t a problem and act as if 30,000 complaints to Ofcom and the suspension of 3 million pounds worth of advertising revenue, it seems as though C4 think its all far too difficult (or sensitive) a situation to get involved in. I think at it’s core the reason this has arisen is due to people not wanting to open a discussion about racism in case they realise that they may have racist tendencies themselves, much easier to hope it’s all just bullying because that’s easier to pigeon-hole and blame on other factors (difficult childhood etc). But racism is a different matter; it can’t be tolerated so no amount of excusing is going to placate the situation. Yet if Channel 4 had been a little more honest with themselves and others then this could have been dealt with in a much more open manner. Take the Big Brother homepage, hmmm, don’t seem to see much about the ‘r’ word that has coasted 3 million, been commented on by the two Prime Ministers of this country as well as the foreign secretary and the Indian Government. As Jeff Jarvis has said, you must host the conversation, not try and control it as it will just be taken somewhere else where you can’t respond.


I think the only good thing that can come out of this is the instigation of a proper discussion on racism in this country, we have all got a little complacent with Britain being a tolerant society, which in the most part it is. Although it seems that dark elements are behind this facade of tolerance just waiting to come out whenever someone (of a different culture) annoys us.

So what should C4 do? I think it’s a little late now, the point of no return was probably after airing last nights program in which was arguably the episode which cemented people’s perception that racism surely exists in the house (the perception that I also share). You know it’s far too late when the Ofcom site crashes due to heavy traffic.


Oh and maybe when you publically embarrass the Prime Minister in waiting at the same time as asking the government for more cash. Also not very clever.

Oh and how about this for a robust defense:

When the Daily Mirror approached the Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan, yesterday, he scowled and stuck his finger up at the photographer and refused to comment.

Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson avoided commenting on the issue this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Johnson was repeatedly asked about Celebrity Big Brother, but said only that Channel 4’s views had already been made known in a written statement.

No-one from Channel 4 defended the programme on the network’s 7pm news last night.


Oh dear, textbook example of how to handle accusations of racism very very badly. Ofcourse as some have suggested this may all be intentional anyway, which really makes you feel sick.

The journalists are restless

A couple of articles caught my eye on digg recently. It was those sort of articles that have really interesting title/summaries such as ‘The “Snakes on a Plane” Problem‘ and ‘The Mystery of the Online Community‘, yet that is sometimes where the interest stops and boiling antagonism starts. Sure, some really excellent points made by both writers, yet I couldn’t help thinking that the ideas were, well, a little under-developed.

First from Chuck Klosterman on The “Snakes on a Plane” Problem

When it comes to mass media, it’s useless to ask people what they want; nobody knows what they want until they have it. If studios start to view the blogosphere as some kind of massive focus group, two things will happen: The first is that the movies will become idiotic and impersonal

I agree that in the most part that is true, indeed if studios simply ask people to respond without aggregating those comments (ala Wisdom of Crowds – aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group) will ofcourse lead to utter crap. Yet by harnessing the community’s power studios now have the opportunity to define exactly what people what and deliver it to them. And I really don’t agree that I don’t know what I want until I have it, sure I don’t exactly have an image in my mind of what I want when I go out for food, clothes, movies etc. but I do go to certain places that I know will offer a certain type of service that is analogous with my mood/taste/state of being.

As I said in the most part I do agree with Chuck Klosterman, yet I feel that he misses an important part. He assumes that…

participatory, choose-your-own-adventure filmmaking is going to become a model. And that model will be terrible for at least two reasons.

Yet why is there this feeling that if you turn the asylum over to the inmates then everything will go very very wrong. Exactly how much worse could things get? We are bombarded each day by hundreds of marketing messages offering us life choices we either can’t, don’t or won’t have. Our populist media actively destroys people because apparently we want it and that’s what sells. Film offerings from mainstream movie studios are so turgid as to be almost non-existent in scope, message and diversity. Newspapers follow political agendas driven by small groups of men in suits. Obliviously there is lots of good as well, but its far from a perfect model. So how about it, let us nutters have a go?

Also why is there this pervasive idea in (mostly) mainstream media that we are about to enter Dante’s seventh ring of hell if the end users have some form of say in what they pay for and consume. Now let me think????? Could it be that the roll of journalists, editors, film companies, tv channels is diminished (note, diminished not obsolete, as aggregators of information they have a massive role to play)? As Jeff Jarvis notes in his article ‘The bloggers and journalists are comrades-at-keyboards

The war is over. No, not that war. Or that one. I mean the supposed battle between mainstream media and bloggers. The last shot, a dud, was fired by Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, when he issued an encyclical in the New Yorker this month defending professionalism and decreeing that citizens’ media is just “journalism without journalists”. It was met online with an exasperated yawn from bloggers and (in Roy Greenslade’s term) hackademics, who said there never really was a fight. Bloggers don’t think they’ll replace reporters, they want to work in symbiotic bliss, amateur alongside professional, complementing each other’s skills to expand the reach of the news. I call this networked journalism and I am seeing more examples of the two tribes coming together not to clash but to conspire.

I guess that’s the point it is still seen by many as a war, between two groups, us (the amateur consumers) and them (the ‘proffessional’ creators) and that god forbid the great un-washed having a say in what is put out to, er, the great un-washed. So even if Jeff Jarvis believes the war is over, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a few people metaphorically fighting on pacific islands.

One such fighter appears to be John C. Dvorak in his article on ‘The Mystery of the Online Community

At best, what you have are loose associations that are tenuous, fickle, and probably self-destructive. These sorts of artificial communities are houses of cards in most instances. They are fake.

Because it was online, numerous people fictionalised themselves because they could do it so easily.

So within any online community, a certain percentage of the participants are out-and-out fakes. I would argue that within some communities the number is higher than 50 percent. The interpersonal dishonesty and fantasizing do not make for any sort of real community. Most of the destructive force within any online community comes from this large group of fakes who see the community as something of a video-arcade adventure game where the user can go in and stir up trouble, then leave.

I’m leaving readers with an open question: Is there any way to establish and maintain an online community with no fakes and vandals ruining it for everyone? Or is the problem just a reflection of society that we must live with?

Incase you wasn’t sure, he was taking about online communities, although the first thing that struck me was that this kind of resembles many offline communities. I am not sure what circles John moves in but the idea that all offline social interaction is non-fake, honest, concise and solid is somewhat hard to believe. I live in London and getting a smile out of my neighbours (or fellow community member) is rather akin to asking for a cup of shit.

Further I feel this is viewing the online experience in isolation from its offline counterpart. One needs to study what community and social networks mean.

For example, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s take on society:

Society’s negative influence on otherwise virtuous men centres, in Rousseau’s philosophy, on its transformation of amour de soi, a positive self-love, into amour-propre, or pride. Amour de soi represents the instinctive human desire for self preservation, combined with the human power of reason. In contrast, amour-propre is not natural but artificial and forces man to compare himself to others, thus creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others. Rousseau was not the first to make this distinction; it had been invoked by, among others, Vauvenargues.

Not a ringing endorsement to start with. One could even say that fictionalisation of one-self protects to a certain extent this issue over comparison?

Or how about this from Conceptualising Community (Palgrave Macmillan 2005)

For community is never a fixed state, rightly it should be considered a verb not a noun, and it is always the outcome of sociality as an action – be that action or speech – and it is therefore impossible to perform
without the presence of other people. As such the intersections of our multiple histories occur in a space which we can never entirely control. And because it is an outcome of a series of actions community is never an abstraction like ‘history’ or ‘mankind’. Without action and sociality, community cannot exist – it has no ‘laws’ or buildings as the state does, it relies on action and speech. So when I sit at my desk and think about community, I am not actually a member of a community. I am only a member of a community when I am engaging in social action – sociality.

Disillusioned we have come increasingly to confine our emotions, our human and social being-ness to our private lives, to our friends, to the apparent honesty and integrity of our own psyches. As a result the private prism of our own personalities, our own fragmented concerns and our own subjective ‘truths’, has become everything, for it is all we have left to judge anything. As Arendt said in 1958, without an agreed public reality there is only perspectivism, and a fragmented, individualized reality. Now in 2005 our public life at every level is increasingly distinguished by an alienating, empty, legalised formality, while our sociality is contained within the narrow, fragmented dictates of our own desires and the contrived sociality of the market and consumer choice. Relationships of any sort are increasingly mediated, defined and expressed solely through the instrumental reasoning of rewards and personal satisfactions. As a result our relations with others, especially strangers, have become defined by fear and anxiety. Raucous laughter at night makes us uneasy, for even our most immediate world has become an unknown place, and while crime in most categories remains stable or declines, fear of crime escalates in a never-ending spiral.

Seems to me as if we have never needed online communities more, indeed they are ‘fragmented, individualized reality’ yet maybe they are the best we have (for now). As with most arguments over offline vs online, and as Jeff Jarvis notes in his article, they can both exist at once. Online as a companion to offline, online communities enhancing offline ones, blogging enhancing print journalism. Studio audiences getting involved with the making of a film, readers getting involved with the writing of a book……etc…..

Reviewing the reviewers

Good article in the Guardian by Mark Lawson today on ‘critic proof products’ such as The Da Vinci Code. Indeed it does seem that no matter how much critics pan certain films, they are destined to do well.

In an age of $200 million movies its no wonder that studios want to ensure that their products do well, and more than likely are prepared to take less risks in making a movie and thus tend to create semi-watch able, entertaining eye candy that don’t really inspire beyond the same old plot formulas, for example:

1. Man meets woman or vice versa. Usually through a chance meeting, but sometimes through a blind date or whatever.

2. Man and woman either have rocky start before they fall in love or they just experience one of those “love at first sight” things.

3. After a whirlwind romance, one of two things happens. The man either does something stupid to tick off the woman and she leaves him. This usually involves either him cheating on her or them just having a general misunderstanding. The other option at this point is that he’s either lied about something in his past or just lied to her about something in general, and when she found out, she left him.

4. Turmoil ensues leaving both the man and the woman completely miserable.

5. The man does something spectacular and romantic to either apologize to the woman or to make it up to her.

6. She forgives him and they live happily ever after…at least until the sequel.

From: B movie central

Or how about:

Every story has a protagonist (hero) and an antagonist (villain). The hero is placed in seemingly insurmountable circumstances with the villain being the cause of those circumstances. The plot then thickens. The audience empathizes or sympathizes with the hero. The climax involves the protagonist almost giving into the antagonist, but at the last moment their unfaltering moralistic attitude wins through and the antagonist is defeated.

Indeed it always makes me smirk when people, especially critics, seem to expect more from Hollywood.

Since its inception during the 1910s, Hollywood has been one thing: a business. Driven first by European immigrants and then by Wall Street investors, film has never been an artefact but instead, primarily a commodity. However, unlike most commodities, all films are unique and so producers have attempted to reduce risk through a number of techniques including the remake.

From: Lacey: Introduction to Film

It’s no wonder that critics, who have to sit through much more of this crap than we do, get a little tired of the same movies parading before their eyes. In addition when most of the output is indeed Hollywood branded, it must be hard to come to terms with the fact that there is little point of even debating the artistic relevance of a movie when they know that at every point the studios have been trying to exorcise that particular ghost in place of bankable certainty . The result seems to often manifest in melancholy.
Lawson suggests other reasons why critics seem to not get through, proliferation of internet reviews, being out of step with the public, different tastes etc.

But I would like to suggest another more obvious reason why no-one listens to the film critics, ITS BECAUSE THEY ALWAYS TELL YOU WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FILM!

Now I appreciate that its difficult to review a film without giving a little away of the story. But damn-it do you have to tell us what’s going to happen at the end?

A random review on the Guardian’s website for The King starts the last paragraph with

The movie comes to a crunch as….

I don’t want to know what friggin’ happens when the movie comes to the crunch! Its bad enough that most Hollywood creations are somewhat transparent, I at least want to kid myself that there might be a twist in the tail or an unexpected plot. What I do not want is a critic that not only rips the movie to shreds, but then tells me exactly what is going to happen anyway. No wonder people ignore critics, they figure, well I may as well make up my own mind.

The apprentice

The new series has just started on the beeb. And it seems like its continuing in the same fashion as the first series, good telly, annoying pricks.
Why oh why do these people irritate me that much. It maybe due to statements such as

“£100,000 salary is not enough but it’s a good place to start.”

“Everything I have ever done in life I have succeeded at. That’s why, if I make it through to the final round, I will win. I know I’m going to be the best.”

“I want to be The Apprentice because I think it’s the ultimate business opportunity. Working with Sir Alan and seeing how he operates would be great. I think I could learn an awful lot from him.”

Sorry, but sycophantic, self-obsessed bullshit.

I hate everything about that entire biz-talk thang that goes on, I had enough of all that crap when studying for an Art degree before I even started in the world of business. It’s just the complete lack of actual content and focus that I despise, a sort of crap, half-baked postmodernist process where references to the system of business/art is all that is necessary, where actual focus of the references is besides the point as long as everyone plays the same game.

Good quote from Presentation Zen

I don’t hate politicians and I don’t hate marketers…but I hate the way they talk. “Mission-critical, forward-looking value propositions….” People do not talk that way! Many corporate speakers have a special gift for the “blah-blah-blah.” Is anyone listening? Speeches and presentation do not have to be be stuffy and dull, but neither do they need to be hyped-up and shallow — your audience is praying you’ll be different.

Maybe I am just a stupid idealist, maybe I am naive, doesn’t mean they speak any less crap though.
I believe in this post so much that I have donated my fee to Great Ormond Street.


Barbelith is the red light seen by Black Tom O’Bedlam and Jack Frost as they smoke mold in the Grant Morrison comic book series “The Invisibles“. It recurs throughout the story as a supernatural moon seeming both intelligent and benign. It plays the deity to Jack Frost’s messiah (whom it forces to feel the pain of all humanity until he agrees to help make a better world and fulfill his destiny) and takes on the mission of sustaining humanity (much like a placenta does for an infant) until the time for them evolve past 3-D space arrives.

2022 2021 2020 2019 2017 2016 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004