Sunday, July 25, 2004

dystopia

there's a great interview with alan moore up on salon where he talks about war, police states, information, dystopia, and media (particularly television).

Moore clearly believes that the same mechanism has foisted a deadly, unwanted and unnecessary war upon the world. "Television and movies have short-circuited reality," he asserts. "I don't think a lot of people are entirely clear on what is real and what is on the screen."
[...]
The lesson there, as Moore explains it, is that to understand the world one lives in, one has to give "coherence to ... complexity, to say that it is possible to think about politics, history, mythology, architecture, murder and the rest of it all at the same time to see how it connects."
[...]
I find quite a few similarities between the fascist dystopia of your early work, "V for Vendetta," and our current political situation.

Well, the one thing with writing stories about the rise of fascism is that if you wait long enough, you'll almost certainly be proved right. Fascism is like a hydra -- you can cut off its head in the Germany of the '30s and '40s, but it'll still turn up on your back doorstep in a slightly altered guise.
[...]
...My general thought is that yes, it's depressing, but not unexpected, when this stuff happens. And I do tend to think that, given the upsurge of the religious right over the last couple of decades, these are the last spasms of those dinosaur organisms.

Why do you think that?

Because they are standing in the way of history, trying to turn everything, politically and spiritually, back to a medieval vision of the world. Whereas they're perfectly entitled to have whatever worldview they like, I would suggest that humanity is moving in a forward direction. And that any attempt to turn the clock back to a mythical, simpler, or better age would probably be about as effective as Britain's ancient King Canute, who famously sat on his throne along the tide line and ordered the waves to go back. To be fair, he was only doing this to demonstrate the futility of expecting leaders and rulers to be able to command the forces of history and the world. But yeah, I tend to think that this conservative backlash that has been going on since the '70s is the final spasms of a dying creature; history is not moving that way, and no matter how much people dig their heels in and assume this is the 1950s or the Middle Ages, that's not the truth of the situation. No matter how powerful our political and religious leaders think they are, they are as dust before the immense and implacable forces of history and progress. I just hope that they don't make too much of a mess or take too many more people down with them.

One of the other similarities between "V for Vendetta" and our current situation is that the populace is cowed by fear, to an extent, through the media, whether it's television propaganda or electronic surveillance.

Of course. One of the reasons we singled out media in "V for Vendetta" was because it is one of the most useful tools of tyranny. We invite it into our own home every night; I'm sure that some of us think of it as a friend. That might be a horrifying notion but I'm sure there are people who think of television as perhaps one of their most intimate friends. And if the TV tells them that things in the world are a certain way, even if the evidence of their senses asserts it is not true, they'll probably believe the television set in the end. It's an alarming thought but we brought it upon ourselves. I mean, I think that television is one of the most diabolical -- in the very best sense of the word -- inventions of the past century. It has probably done more to degrade the mind and intelligence of its audience, even if they happen to be drug addicts or alcoholics; I would think that watching television has done more to limit their horizons in the long run. And it has also distorted our culture.
[...]
I feel that we may be approaching a cultural boiling point. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing; I really don't know because I can't imagine it, quite frankly. But I think we may be approaching the point at which the amount of information we are taking becomes exponential, and I'm not entirely certain what kind of human culture will exist beyond that point. Except it will happen sooner than we expect, and the difference between us and the kind of people that will exist after such an event will be vastly different than the difference between us and the hunter-gatherer society we've evolved from.
[...]
Yeah, it could be a quantum leap, a sudden, massive and unprecedented leap. Boiling point is a good analogy, because what you have before that stage is water. What you have after it is something that does not behave at all like water; it's a completely different substance altogether. And that's what I see looming for society -- and it's probably necessary, probably inevitable, probably scary. That's my prognosis. I suppose, as an artist, one of the obligations upon my work is to try and prepare people for the more complex world, to try and make it more palatable and accessible to them and not quite so frightening. That would seem to be a worthy goal, illuminating reality.


i haven't seen so much paranoia since gravity's rainbow, but i think he makes a lot of valid points. i found the discussion of "image" and "reality" especially interesting, especially in today's mediascape that features news as entertainment (e.g., fox news) and entertainment as news (e.g., daily show, michael moore, &c)....or should those examples be reversed? does it mean anything that we contextualize real-life events through the lens of media ("it was like something out of a movie")?

on a related note, check out the description of the free-speech zone at the dnc in boston:

The maze of overhead netting, chain link fencing and razor wire couldn't be further in comfort from the high-tech confines of the arena stage where John Kerry is to accept the Democratic nomination for president during the four-day convention that kicks off Monday.

Abandoned, elevated rail lines and green girders loom over most of the official demonstration zone that slopes down to a subway station closed for the duration. To avoid hitting girders, tall protesters will have to duck at one end of the 28,000-square-foot zone. Train tracks obscure the line of sight to much of the FleetCenter. Concrete blocks were set around streets in the area, a transportation hub on the north side of downtown.
[...]
U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock this past week called the conditions "an affront to free expression" and a "festering boil." He refused to order changes, but is letting protesters march past the site Sunday. A coalition of protesters appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

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