Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Black Mirror Waldo Reflection

The Brits started a very well done anthology series several years back called Black Mirror. Done so well, in fact, that NetFlix has picked it up now. You can think of it as a kind of Outer Limits but a good deal more dark. I've been watching it, off and on, for more than a year now. Mostly because it's not something I've ever been able to binge with, needing to take the reflections in measured doses.

I mention this now because of a particular episode that aired originally back in 2013 called "The Waldo Moment." An episode some of you have already made note of as it strikes a particular prescient chord as relates to one Mr. Donald Trump.

To summarize, the premise here is that an animated segment on a political satire show is done with a human operator via realtime facial translation, and movement controls. The human operator is a one time comic that had to turn to this gig because the former wasn't working out so well. The producers started it out as a supposed children's segment to trick politicians into interviews with the animated character. Once on the mark was then subjected to every kind of humiliation that bad language, and grossly rude behavior could conjure up. In spit-balling on where to take the character next, if it had it's own show, they come up with the grand idea of having it run for a local minister's seat in Parliament; not in hopes of actually winning of course, but as a means to insert themselves into the election process so as to provide a grand avenue of further opportunities of ridiculing not only particular politicians, but the entire process as well. Unfortunately, this works so successfully, and the animated character becomes so popular (almost actually winning the contested seat), that the temptation to push the idea out even further becomes irresistible. A development made far worse as an American political operative arrives on the scene to suggest that this "identity brand" was ideal for selling any kind of political interests goals; whereupon it becomes quite clear just how scary such a possibility can become.

As becomes obvious now you can see how a connection might be made to Mr. Trump; mostly with the proposition that Trump is Waldo, and I think that is a bit wide of the mark. In my mind what we have here is more of a reflection than we might want to allow for. Something that starts with the idea that a distinction has to be made.

Is Trump Waldo? Perhaps the more correct way to think of it is see it as a kind of mirror reversal; as in Waldo was a caricature with a man running it, while Trump is a man with a caricature running him. If that is the case, however, what does that say about us, and what we've allowed social discourse in general, as well as political discourse, to become? If you think about this at all you might well come to the conclusion that "caricature running people" and not "people running caricature" has become a way of life for us (another episode of Black Mirror entitled "NoseDive," where the scoring of social media becomes a way of life suggests another aspect of this).

The question then is why?

For me it involves how selling and entertainment have become so fused in modern society. A fact that is all the more damning precisely because "The Hard Sell" (a thing I see as immoral in my philosophy) is now the bottom line in getting your identity, or your agenda, or your market superiority, to carry the day.

So, with this being a quite probable case, how could our political process not be not only caught up in it, but also so thoroughly saturated and corrupted as well. A kind of corruption a bit different than that of money's influence, but one which certainly goes hand in hand with it.

This, of course, is bad enough, but when you then add in what has become of entertainment, ever more high fidelity, ever more all pervasive, as it mixes with the wish fulfilment, and needs creation of marketing, we begin to see why, or ought to begin to see why, the borders between nominal reality and fantasy become ever more blurred. As a result then we have "Reality TV," as well as government as "Reality TV."

Is there any wonder then about "who" might actually be talking, let alone what they're "talking" about? Andy wonder why every message is suspect precisely for that reason?

One of the takeaways from discerning Trump's popularity is that there were actual aspects of some of his talking points that formed the foundation of why people would begin to listen to him in the first place. Whether he believed in them or not is irrelevant. And also quite apart from all of his lies. Things that spoke to the power imbalance in the nation. The fact that trade deals have taken jobs away from here. And the idea that anything out of our nation's capital is not to be believed.

Part of the problem, certainly, is that so few of us take the time, or are able to take the time, to be truly informed about issues, but as already stated, that's becoming an ever more difficult proposition if more of everything you can be informed with is made suspect. We also have to recognize here that, if you are caught up on the usual economic treadmill of life today, just keeping your feet under you is a full time job; the uncertainties, the dislocations and turmoil of both natural, and manmade disasters. All inside a storm environment of information that roils with all of the cross currents already discussed. It is madness pure and simple and it is growing.

For my part it seems difficult in the extreme to begin trying to establish meaningful dialogue if we don't also recognize that a fundamental part of the problem is the economic operating system that has brought us to this juncture in the first place. An operating system where the "hard sell" is fused inseparably from everyday life. And where, because of electrification, that aspect has been mutated beyond all imagination. In this it is not only that human skill as a commodity is no longer viable, but where, if we are to regain control of the process that negotiates the social narrative, where what is real, and fact, can be found as a true consensus, then we must also recognize that everything as commodity, and everything as a sales transaction, must also be seen as no longer viable. This means finding a completely new way of conducting how a society not only formulates the means of production, but how it goes about distributing it equitably; all while balancing individual liberty with the concerns for the greater good.

It seems to me that the mirror we reflect in is going to become a great deal more dark if we do not come to terms with this new understanding.

Black Mirror: Donald Trump is Waldo

See Also:

Hacked Memo Reinforces Worst Perception of the Clintons