Tag Archives: david carr

SYNDICATED COLUMN: “Selma” and Hollywood’s Sleazy Perversion of History

Movies are the historical record.

Americans experience the Vietnam War by watching “Apocalypse Now,” slavery in “12 Years a Slave,” and D-Day through “Saving Private Ryan.” A lot more Americans watch historical movies than read history books. Which, when done well, is not a bad thing. I’ve read countless books about the collapse of Nazi Germany, but the brilliantly-acted and directed reenactment of Hitler’s last days in his Berlin bunker depicted in the masterful 2004 German film “Downfall” can’t be beat.

When a film purports to depict a historical event, it becomes the only version of what most people believe really happened. So, as we move further into a post-literate society, misleading historical filmmaking isn’t just a waste of 2-1/2 hours.

It’s a crime against the truth.

The Ava DuVernay-directed film “Selma” is at the center of controversy, both due to its semi-snubbing by the Oscars – viewed as backtracking from last year’s relatively racially diverse choice of nominees – and accusations that it plays loose with history.

Former LBJ aide and Democratic Party stalwart Joe Califano fired the first shot with a Washington Post op-ed. “Selma,” wrote Califano, “falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.”

He’s right.

Robert Caro’s magisterial four-volume biography of Johnson portrays him as a deeply flawed man, but one whose passion to push for desegregation and an end to discrimination against blacks informed his political career throughout his life, though it wasn’t always obvious to his detractors.

It was only after JFK’s assassination brought him to power – actually, a movie portraying Kennedy as reluctant to support civil rights would have been accurate – that he had the chance to push through both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which he did aggressively and quickly, despite what he famously predicted would be the loss of the South to the Democratic Party for a generation or more.

Johnson gave J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI too much latitude, which Hoover used to harass King, but there’s no evidence that, as the movie depicts, it was LBJ who ordered Hoover to send audiotapes of King having sex with other women to his wife. And let’s be clear: every important conversation in the Oval Office was being taped. We have the transcripts. We would know if that had happened.

Califano takes his defense of his former boss too far when he says “[the march on] Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Otherwise, the facts are on his side: the LBJ in “Selma” is not the LBJ King knew.

Fans of the film argue that it doesn’t matter.

“Did ‘Selma’ cut some corners and perhaps tilt characters to suit the needs of the story? Why yes — just like almost every other Hollywood biopic and historical film that has been made,” the media writer David Carr writes in The New York Times.

Yes, in a movie the story is the thing. It’s hard to imagine “The Queen” — about the inner workings of the British monarchy and its relationship to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana — working without a lot of made-up dialogue between the principals. However, the great detail of these obviously private conversations signals to the audience that they don’t come out of a transcript, and that we must be witnessing a fictionalized account.

There comes a point, on the other hand, where so many corners get cut and so many characters get tilted that a film ceases to resemble history and enters the territory of complete fabulism and, in the case of “Selma” and LBJ, retroactive character assassination.

The clash between MLK and LBJ – King pushing, Johnson resisting – isn’t merely some extraneous detail of the script in “Selma.” It’s the main plot of the film.

It didn’t go down like that, yet thanks to this BS film, a generation of Americans will grow up thinking that it did.

Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post repeatedly calls “Selma” “fiction.” As in: “film and other fiction.” To her, apparently, film is always fiction. But it’s not.

Like books, film is a medium.

Film can be nonfiction.

Film can be fiction.

“Califano’s approach,” she writes, “besides setting a [sic] odd standard for how fiction ought to work…suggests that we should check fiction for inaccuracies.”

As usual, the crux of the debate boils down to an inability to agree on definitions of terms. For those like Rosenberg who believe that everyone knows movies are just for fun, it doesn’t matter that “Schindler’s List” depicts showers at Auschwitz spraying water rather than Zyklon B — even though that never happened, and thus serves to understate one of the horrors of the Holocaust. To the all-movies-are-fiction crowd, “Zero Dark Forty” is cool despite its completely false claim that torture led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“This is art; this is a movie; this is a film,” director DuVernay told PBS. “I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.”

That’s sleazy. Truth is, her film is being marketed as fact, as she knew it would be. And it’s doing better because of it.

Audiences need a ratings system to separate films that purport to recount actual historical events from those like “Selma,” which are fictional tales using historical figures as hand puppets.

I suggest that the MPAA institute the following ratings:

Rated H for Historical: a film that makes a good faith effort to recount history accurately.

Rated S-H for Semi-Historical: a film that relies on devices like made-up dialogue and encounters, but whose basic plot line reflects history to the best of our knowledge.

Rated H-F for Historical Fiction: a film in which anything, including the basic plot line, can be made up out of whole cloth.

If the movies are going to lie to me, I deserve to know before shelling out my $12.50.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

Fake It Until You Make It

Studies prove that employers discriminate against the unemployed, viewing them as incompetent and undesirable. What should someone who got laid off a couple of years ago do? Hire a company to hire them, and leverage their fake credentials to get the job of their dreams.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Satire – The Revolution Will Be Digitized

This Time: Three Douches To Watch Out For

It sounds like the lede of another breathless Dot-Com Bubble 3.0 puff piece by David Carr.

Three douchebags hook up at a café-cum-gallery-cum-hacketeria in a section of Brooklyn so hip that hipsters can’t find it on an app. Eight minutes later, they’ve banged out a business plan. What for, they can’t say. All they know is, it’ll be wicked awesome sweet. They send out a few emails; before you can type 140 characters they’ve lined up $28 million in seed capital. (There’s also out-of-school chatter about off-the-book rubles. Whatever.)

Now everyone’s talking about Douchenet.

Not you. You’re not talking about Douchenet. No one you know is talking about Douchenet.

By “everybody,” we don’t mean “everybody.” We don’t even mean “a large number of people.” We mean “everyone who matters.” Which most assuredly doesn’t include you. Or, really, hardly anyone at all.

So.

What exactly is Douchenet? Who knows? Who cares? The point of a piece like this one isn’t to tell you what’s going on. The point is to blow some free publicity the way of well-connected 26-year-old friends of people who matter to people who matter. (Not. You.) Twenty-six-year-olds whose business ideas are obviously utter horsecrap, are clearly doomed to failure, but not before they walk away with even more cash, raised from unwashed small-time rube wannabe playas. That’s the point of a piece like this.

That, and to make you feel miserable.

You poor, stupid, underemployed schmuck. A schmuck who will never, ever come anywhere near millions and millions of dollars. No matter how hard or long you toil.

Id.

iot.

At first (and OK, 17th) glance, last week’s Facebook IPO looks like a fiasco. Federal investigators are looking into charges that Morgan Stanley knowingly set the share price too high in order to inflate its underwriting fees, leaving unsophisticated stock buyers holding the bag for an 18 percent plunge of a $16 billion offering. But that’s only half the picture.

Sure, millions of people lost their hard-earned savings. But three douchebags are rocking out.

Which is what matters.

Mark Miron, 26, got paid in Facebook shares for watching Mark Zuckerberg’s cat one summer. As of last week, he was worth $200 million. But he’s more than just another smug, Silicon Valley wanker with rich parents, who likes to wear blue shirts with white collars, and is smart enough not to let his friend’s friend’s cat die. I mean, he is that. But there’s other stuff too. Like, he made a name for himself at Google when he agreed with some other entitled kids-of-Boomers that having illustrators design the search engine’s front page for free (i.e. “exposure”) was a cool idea. (By “cool,” we mean cheap, cynical and exploitative.) Can you say moxie?

Marc Parker, 26, started out at Facebook.co.uk, where he came up with the idea to model the British version of the site after its American parent, down to using the same language. “I love the blue hyperlinks. The white background. So American. And yet so British.” Eager to be promoted from a prat or a git to a full-fledged douchebag, Parker moved to Palo Alto, California in order to relinquish first his British, then his American citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes on the £200 million he earned from the IPO.

Jeff Mark, 26, drifted from PayPal to Facebook to MySpace to Compuserve to Netscape back to Compuserve. (Though closed, he somehow managed to collect €200 million from the latter.)

The three men became inseparable—and insufferable—after a chance encounter at Bi-Nary, a macrobiotic air bar that caters to sexually indiscriminate coders on the edge of the foothills near the section of the Google campus where they test attack drones for corporations.

It was during a sex tour of the Bushwick section of Brooklyn that the three douches conceived Douchenet. “We were talking about how, even though douches run just about everything in multimedia, until recently there weren’t the authoring tools and the bandwidth and/or the tablet platform for douches to hook up to do douchey things,” said Miron.

“Yeah,” agreed Parker and Mark.

I reached out to (that’s e-talk for “called”) Margot Jefferson, an analyst at D-Freak, a firm that tracks douchebaggery. “Douches account for 33 percent of start-ups, which account for 82 percent of investor fleecing, which amounts to 126 percent of economic activity in the United States,” points out Jefferson. “So the ability to connect douches across digital platforms using digital things is a game changer,” she confirms.

Given the power and the track record of these remarkable entrepreneurs, Douchenet is a story about power, wealth, journalism—and yes, wealth and power—worth watching. Marc Miron, for example, wrote that article that appeared in Wired that time. And Parker’s dad is just ridiculously rich, so we know he’s smart. Douchenet brings to mind Wingnutnet, a website you’ve never heard of because it doesn’t exist, yet which I’ve been writing about forever, by which I mean 2011.

Sometime this summer, Android will release a free version of Douchenet, so people who sign up can begin registering their personal financial information for distribution to trusted sites in Belarus. Using the so-called “freemium” model, Douchenet will charge fees for actual features, like the ability to create an “avatar” that could be sold by Farmville, which would pay a fraction of a fractile of a percent back to the original user, i.e. Douchenet.

In a live Tweetathon, Mark said he was drawn to Douchenet less by the idea than by the people who came up with it. “When you make an investment, you are betting on the team more than the idea,” he said. “If the idea is wrong, but the team is right, they will figure it out.”

“Who knows where this will end up?” he added between tokes on a clove bong.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 29. His website is tedrall.com.)