TagMediapunk

On GOTHAM and Always Being Batman

A good deal of our remit, over here, is to talk about many of the themes of the fringes of things through the lens of pop culture. To that end, I’ve been having some thoughts about what they’re doing with the idea of the Joker in the show GOTHAM. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this, already, or maybe sometimes your eyes just glaze over when I go on the long rants, but anyway… Spoilers. Also, one image of violence and blood.

Throughout all of season one of GOTHAM, they teased over and over again that this or that villain of the week was going to end up becoming the entity that we know as The Joker. They did this all the way until the end of the first season, when we were introduced to Jerome Valeska, who worked with the circus and killed his mother and had just the most Infectious laugh.

They brought this character into season 2, as well, and in every ep we saw more and more of the Joker’s trademarks: constant killing for no reason, jokes and storytelling while putting himself in potentially deadly situations, desire for the spotlight, and the laughs and laughs and laughs. His father, the circus psychic, even prophesies to Jerome that his legacy will be madness and chaos and death and blood and laughter, and that children will wake screaming at the very thought of him. Jerome dies at the end of episode 3 of season two, at the culmination of a televised hostage situation, during which the whole city sees that face and hears that laugh.

Jerome is stabbed in the neck and he dies with a rictus grin on his face, and his own bright red blood around his lips and pooling in the corners. In the wake of the hostage situation and Jerome’s death, the TV news predictably plays the footage over and over. Showing that smile, that face, and letting everybody hear that laugh. A laugh that spreads through the city, to men in bars and children in wealthy homes and homeless people on the streets and two thugs who kill a homeless guy, laughing the whole time, one of whom then turns on and kills the other. Who dies laughing. All while Jerome’s father’s prophecy plays, again, as voice over.

In this way, The Joker is not a person. It’s not even People. The Joker is a demon, a virus, a possessing spirit and a disease that looks for the optimal structure, the precise right moment to enter you and make you into one of its limbs.

So I’ve gotta say, unless GOTHAM‘s long-term plan is that there will never be a singular Batman, never any Individual Rogues, i am really divided on the Jerome thing. I love the literal take on Grant Morrison’s ‘The Joker Is A Virus of Super Sanity, and thus is any- and everyone who is able to be that “free,”‘ but that idea really only works if the show also goes Batman, Inc., from the BEGINNING.

That is, if the animating spirit of justice/vengeance rests on or emanates from Bruce Wayne, first (though its origins, if any, would have to go back to at least Thomas Wayne, as things stand in the show), but ultimately is such that Everyone With A Mind To Becomes some form of Batman. In this, Bruce doesn’t “train” Dick, Jason, Tim, Barbara, Stephanie, Cassandra, Terry, he resonates with them and simply shows them what they are. What they all always have been, together.

I say that  this has to be the way of things because, now, anyone other than Jerome Valeska being possessed by that spirit of Jokerness and becoming the nemesis of a Bruce Wayne Batman, in the GOTHAM universe, will just ring far less mythic than it could. It would be a single human fighting an idea, a spirit, a legend, a myth, an evil god whose source that human has SEEN and TOUCHED. When what we could have is two Archetypes battling each other, forever.

In fact, my thesis is that, in Gotham’s universe, Wayne CANNOT be the only Batman. Ultimately, he can’t even be the first one in a line of Succession. Wayne has to be Gotham’s Shaman. He has to be its instructor and instrument of combat magick, its Medicine Man (which also gives greater mythic weight to the role Dr Thompkins plays and will play). He’s a guide to this realm where we are all caught between these miasmas of despair and longings for justice and the constant desperate madness underneath it all.

Unused Rian Hughes Batman, Inc. Logo

In this shamanic take there’d be no “order” or “chaos” to battle. At least not as we usually define them. There’s a Batman who recognizes a dark kind of balance and harmony and knowing that the struggle is eternal because the struggle is all of reality pulling against and defining itself. In this version, Batman’s purpose is rendered not as dichotomy of Good Vs Evil, Law Vs Crime, Justice Vs Injustice, but as a dialectic where all these things, all of these elements of Gotham, generate each other. Wayne’s purpose is to strive for the better, but always knowing that there will be forces that seek utter imbalance and destruction. THAT’S Jerome’s Legacy. That is what the essence of the Joker IS.

So, if they can still surprise everyone and pull THAT off—Bruce-Wayne-As-Shamanic-Guide, initiating Tim, Dick, Babs, &c into Batman’s/Gotham’s Mysteries—then I’ll be satisfied.

Just some thoughts, now that I’m caught up with GOTHAM.

On the State of “Careers”

Is digital journalism a viable career? Financial journalist and media pundit Felix Salmon says no.

His lengthy and dismal assessment of the future of journalism as a career path — ie, a job where your salary increases over time and you make enough money to support a family — was, shall we say, widely panned by other journalists who think he’s being a negative nancy and discouraging young people from entering the field. Personally, I think things are even worse than Salmon says.

Now, Salmon and I are in pretty good posiitons. Him more so than I, but neither of us is cranking out Examiner.com articles for $0 a pop just to build a portfolio in hopes of landing a staff writer job at a community newspaper that pays less than an entry level job at Home Depot. Neither of us is cranking out 10+ “stories” a day for a clickbait site just to make rent. Neither one of us just got laid off from a major urban daily after 20 years. We’re part of the lucky few that get paid a living wage, or better, to produce journalism.

But it’s not just journalism. The entire economy is now geared towards turning humans into fungible commodities. And it’s hard to build a career in an environment where there’s no point in asking for a raise because there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who would do your job for even less than you do.

This is nothing new to billions of manual laborers who are used to being treated like cogs in a machine. But once upon a time unions were able to help workers actually band together to demand things like predictable hours and livable working conditions. That has changed. but the do what you love mantra managed to turn those few jobs that robots can’t yet do into sub-minimum wage gigs that require graduate degrees.

You might think you can escape this fate by becoming a programmer. But code bootcamps are cranking out hundreds of people who can crank out CRUD apps all day. And when you start to go grey, the tech industry will toss you out like an 8-track tape.

I don’t mean to imply that all precariat — from the middle class white guy with a PhD to Rwandan woman who came to the U.S. with nothing — are equally affected by this mechanization of humanity. But we are all affected.

The answer isn’t in picking the right career for the machine age. It’s changing the system.

Mindful Cyborgs: Meme Culture, Writing, Contemplation, and Parenting with Paul Ford

Writer and programmer Paul Ford joins us again to talk about Buzzfeed, biking as contemplation and future-proofing his kids.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Meme Culture, Writing, Contemplation, and Parenting with Paul Ford, Part 2

Mindful Cyborgs: Part Two of our Conversation with Zeynep Tufekci About Algorithms

This time around I also talk a bit about the 15th anniversary of Technoccult and my struggle to find relevancy in blogging in the 2015.

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Algorithmic Reverberations on the Feed PART 2

10 Years of Nathan Fucking Barley

Nathan Barley geek pie hairdo

Andrew Harrison channels Dan Ashcroft on the 10 year anniversary of the debut of Charlie Booker’s Nathan Barley:

From cereal cafes to breakfast raves to adult ball pools, from TV shows like Sex Box to newspaper features about the “meaning” of the Man Bun hairdo to inexplicable online phenomena like Ello, our world has been Barleyed. It is uncanny. Created as a comic figure, Nathan has become an insult and a signifier and maybe even – here’s the frightening part – a role model. At 10 years’ remove the show seems less a comedy and more a documentary about the future.

“Back when we were shooting it,” says the actor Nicholas Burns, who played Nathan, “I remember one producer saying, ‘This show will date terribly. In three or four years it’ll look awful.’ But watching it again, you see how prescient it was. It really is the world we live in now. A friend who lives in Dalston told me they saw someone riding a penny farthing the other day. It’s unbelievable really.”

Full Story: The Guardian: Totally Mexico! How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true

Great piece, though I think the hipster hate angle is overplayed. However tiresome I find artisan mustache wax, I’m much more suspicious of the Banana Republic clad 30 and 40 somethings with inexplicably huge bar tab budgets now overrunning inner Portland than I am of the bearded hipster scene these days.

Mutation Vectors 6/21/2014

Jason Leopold

Mutation Vectors is a weekly rundown of my media diet, and occasionally other other random thoughts.

Journalism

This week’s must read: There is nothing you must read this week. Feel free to take the weekend off. But if you must read something, I liked Matter’s profile of journalist Jason Leopold. I also like Rusty Foster’s thoughts on the New York Times, the Washington Post and Mozilla trying to to fix online comments in this Daily Dot story:

What they want is “community ownership”—a large group of people with a sense of investment in the community, around the NYT or the Post or whatever. But the only way to do that is to give up a lot of control to the community, and I don’t think what has to be done to really build community ownership is compatible with the mission of a news organization. Essentially the NYT should not be Reddit. The NYT, just by being what it is, already is a million times more valuable to humanity than Reddit—becoming Reddit is not the way forward. […]

Social media ate all of that up, which in my opinion is a good thing. Social media tools turn out to be far better at conversation around media than anything any web site ever built. Social media works because people organize their conversations around people, not media properties. I have my group of friends, and we talk about NYT articles, and Vox articles, and whatever. I don’t want to have separate communities at each of those places.

Of my own stuff this week, I have to say I had fun profiling Metasploit.

Music

Books

I recently finished two books I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t read before: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. I’m reading Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim right now.

Mutation Vectors 5/31/2014

Laurie Penny is at it again with another must-read this week the European Parliment and creeping fascism. Key line: “Perhaps the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world that he was really boring.”

Penny wrote that for Vice, which Gawker says is a really shit place to work. In response to the accusations, Vice says “fuck you,” but doesn’t exactly say the article wrong about how much the company pays, only that the salaries are “competitive.” Which doesn’t really mean much in a market where Gawker itself only pays new writers $1,500 a month and is being sued by unpaid interns.

But really, pretty much every media company these days is using tabloid clickbait garbage to subsidize its “real journalism.” But that’s a cold comfort to the people forced to survive by grinding out listicles for subsistence wages, as Paul Ford reminds us in a piece on Medium about the absurdity of viral content farms. You know, like Medium.

And over at renowned content farm The Atlantic Choire Sicha — who founded The Awl, where you can watch bear videos and read about the life and times of ¯\_(?)_/¯ — says the internet basically sucks now but is also amazing.

Oh well, at least Buzzfeed is run by some weird Deleuzian dude. Maybe the whole thing is some Accelerationist plot to make capitalism eat itself faster?

Aaaaannnnyyyyway, my favorite thing I read this week was David Forbes’ piece on the history of Grinding. My favorite thing of my own was my story on Transgress, a tool for routing around the online censorship of information about transgender issues.

Film

THELMA AND LOUISE

I watched Thelma and Louise for the first time this week. I can’t imagine this movie being made today. Which reminds me, you should also read Jacqueline Valencia’s essay on on the need for more lonely women in film. Not that Thelma and Louise is exactly the type of movie she’s talking about, but it reminded me of Falling Down which reminded me of her article.

Music

This week I saw Cult of Zir (above), Alien Parkinsons Project and Sister Mamie Foreskin play at the Lovecraft. The rest of Zir’s show is here.

I’d never heard Sister Mamie Foreskin before but I really dug them. They’re sort of in the same vein as The Soft Moon or maybe Comets on Fire. Their new album is here.

The Rise and Rise of Television Torture

Hansel at Interpet This writes:

But this prevalence of torture that you see in otherwise very comparable shows is not limited to Fringe. It is everywhere in American entertainment now.

Everywhere you see it it promotes the lie that torture works. It does this very effectively. Because usually we, the audience, already know that the person being tortured has the information. They just will not give it up. In real life of course torture is not like that. In the hundreds of torture scenes that have been acted out in popular media only a handful show the victim making things up, and saying whatever they think the torturer wants to hear in order that they stop torturing them. Which is the reason why torture is not a useful tool. The process would be: Torture someone, they tell you something, you double check that story, maybe torture the people they implicate, then you find it out that there story was incorrect, go back to torturing them. Just one round of that might take days or a weeks. Which would make for boring TV.

Full Story: Interpret This: The Rise and Rise of Television Torture

(via Metafilter)

See also:

The politics of the man behind “24.”

Scalia: Fictional TV show justifies legal torture

Columbia Journalism Review Profile of Evgeny Morozov

The Columbia Journalism Review has a good profile of Evgeny Morozov. I had no idea that he was so young, or that he’d undergone a conversion a few years back:

He began writing about the political situation in Belarus for Transitions, a Prague-based NGO that encouraged the adoption of new media by independent journalists in the former Soviet bloc. In 2006, Transitions hired Morozov as its first director of new media, a job that had him traveling widely—at age 22—to train journalists and bloggers throughout Eastern Europe.

“Thinking that you are living through a revolution and hold the key to how it will unfold is, I confess, rather intoxicating,” Morozov would later write. Much of his work from this period is preserved, and it’s fascinating to watch a YouTube video from 2007 that shows a chubby kid holding forth in a thick accent about how digital media might transform the sclerotic and indecent politics of his region. Asked by a peppy interviewer what he sees as the “most innovative” development of recent years, the young Evgeny rattles off a list of possibilities that makes him sound a lot like the “cyber-utopians” he would soon make a career out of skewering. “Definitely crowdsourcing,” he says. “Definitely applying the logic of the open-source software movement to broader ideas, to broader processes.” Another video from the same conference shows him giving a buzzword-filled presentation called “Putting Community at the Core of Innovation in New Media.”

Here’s Morozov today, talking about the guy in that video: “I was 23 and in a room with people in their 40s and 50s, all of them editors and journalists, and I was talking some nonsense and they were all buying it. The degree to which both sides were unaware of just how stupid the entire setup was just makes you very scared.”

Full Story: The Columbia Journalism Review: Evgeny vs. the internet

I find Morozov really difficult for reasons I can’t quite explain. I think the big issue is that he’s so hyperbolic. It’s not enough to pick apart someone’s ideas, they need to be potrayed as not just wrong but as a dangerously stupid and/or fraudelent. But I think Morozov does this because, generally, the people and ideas he criticizes receive hyperbolic praise. He’s trying to counteract some of that. Still, the fire and brimstone routine doesn’t come off well in my opinion — especially given how moderate his opinions actually are as he reveals in his more sober moments.

See also:

My own confessions of a recovering solutionist

Evgeny Morozov: How the Net aids dictatorships

Compassionate Takedown of Pickup Artististry

A Hard Look At the Non-Profit Behind Glenn Greenwald’s New Publication

Unfortunately this will go behind a paywall in about 15 hours, read it while you can (It now seems to be permanently accessible):

Mark Ames and Yasha Levine Yasha Levine write:

The world knows very little about the political motivations of Pierre Omidyar, the eBay billionaire who is founding (and funding) a quarter-billion-dollar journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. What we do know is this: Pierre Omidyar is a very special kind of technology billionaire.

We know this because America’s sharpest journalism critics have told us.

In a piece headlined “The Extraordinary Promise of the New Greenwald-Omidyar Venture”, The Columbia Journalism Review gushed over the announcement of Omidyar’s project. And just in case their point wasn’t clear, they added the amazing subhead, “Adversarial muckrakers + civic-minded billionaire = a whole new world.

The authors then launch into an examination of what the Omidyar Network has funded, which includes:

-SKS Microfinance, the microlending company that terrorized its debtors into committing suicide in India
-DonorsChoose, a fundraising site for public schools that was aligned with the makers of the anti-teacher union propaganda film Waiting for Superman
-Hernando de Soto, the “Hayek of Latin America” who was once drug czar for Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru now in prison for crimes against humanity.

Not mentioned is Change.org, the fake non-profit accused of exploiting people’s anger under the guise of being a non-profit.

They conclude:

And the reason that matters, of course, is because Pierre Omidyar’s dystopian vision is merging with Glenn Greenwald’s and Laura Poitras’ monopoly on the crown jewels of the National Security Agency — the world’s secrets, our secrets — and using the value of those secrets as the capital for what’s being billed as an entirely new, idealistic media project, an idealism that the CJR and others promise will not shy away from taking on power.

The question, however, is what defines power to a neoliberal mind? We’re going to take a wild guess here and say: The State.

So brace yourself, you’re about to get something you’ve never seen before: billionaire-backed journalism taking on the power of the state. How radical is that?

Full Story: NSFW: The Extraordinary Pierre Omidyar (Don’t worry, this site actually is safe for work)

It reminds me of this bit from Mark Fisher:

The autonomist critique of authoritarianism and Stalinist bureaucracy is something that we shouldn’t forget. Any credible leftist politics now has to take the problem of anti-authoritarianism very seriously. At the same time, however, we have to recognise that the situation is very different from the context in which autonomist ideas first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Then, the Communist Party and the trade unions were very powerful; Stalinism was still an oppressive presence.

None of these things are true today. Whatever the merits of autonomist anti-statism, it has to be acknowledged that anti-statism is now hegemonic. There’s a congruence between the language of neo-anarchism and David Cameron’s Big Society, which is not to say that the discourses are identical. But one problem with anti-statism — particularly when coupled with localism, as it often is — is that it makes any defence of institutions like the NHS very difficult. The drive of the original autonomists was to escape existing institutions, whereas I think our aim today should be to produce new institutions.

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