The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
14.1 (Winter 2014)
Nothing has been influential in a more disturbing way about our high-tech boom than the growth of communications technology. This explosion of media could be questioned from any number of directions, including the disruption of conversation at the dinner table by smart phones and the addiction to pornography bred by the Internet. But to take only one tentacle of the Octopus from Hell… most responsible adults would agree that Hollywood has gone too far in marketing antisocial behaviors as amusement. Even the highly selective “freedom of speech” leftists who want a tasteless joke punished with a fine but graphic sex acts rewarded with an Oscar would probably agree that violence on TV and at the movies is needlessly frequent and graphic. Yet what options do people have who seek a little diversion at the end of a hard day or week?
Surprisingly, the poison may be its own cure. YouTube videos are among the most tasteless public communications ever launched in the history of the planet. They show people—almost always teenagers—defecating, urinating, and vomiting in places and at times so incongruous that other teenagers give hundreds or thousands of “likes” to the displays. Yet on YouTube one may also find, for instance, reruns of old black-and-white TV classics like Route 66, Checkmate, and Sugarfoot (the last of which—a really enjoyable late-fifties Western—is not available on DVD). Old newsreels are also to be found by those who search persistently. YouTube can be a treasure trove as well as a cesspool.
My own modest experience of uploaded videos is that anything lying along the border between “Spring Break in Miami” and “Spring Equinox on the Equator”—anything, that is, that might draw younger viewers as well as serious seekers (say, “Equinox in Rio”)—will get about as many thumbs-down as thumbs-up. When the vomit-and-crap crowd find out that they’ve been cheated of their favorite humor, they go away sullen. But we shouldn’t ignore the equal number of visitors who find just what they came for and have the maturity to appreciate it. The possibility exists of transforming the Internet into a home for tasteful, creative, informative, and NEW video footage.
YouTube, granted, would not likely be the tent under which such an exotic bazaar would spread. It is already too compromised by the traffic of its typical clientele. Yet one would not want to give away views absolutely for free, anyway, if one were to attempt making a going concern of—in effect—an alternative TV station or movie outlet. Charges could be extremely light, probably mere pennies per view (I would call my site, in fact, Pennyview), because the volume of possible traffic on the Internet is so staggering. Unless a government that excels at killing off new opportunities for economic growth manages to tax Internet store fronts into the e-ground ban initiative currently under consideration, and bound to come up again as our debt weighs heavier and heavier upon us), entertainment viewing sites (EVS’s) are inevitable. Though I used to argue myself that taste cannot keep pace with corruption once we have the freedom to show anything and everything, I now believe that my position was too cynical. TV channels like AMC and Inspiration that do little more than repeat old favorites manage to do quite well.
The truly exciting thing about this subject is that extremely low-budget means of production of good quality are already available. One can film fairly high-quality footage even using an iPad, and programs like iMovie allow for several varieties of editing that are at least the equal of what major studies were doing half a century ago. As for writers and actors, the popularity of the “reality show” indicates little more to me than that the viewing public somehow appreciates awkward delivery and rambling conversations as more authentic than the heavily engineered packages from Hollywood (for there is nothing particularly real about the shows except their aura of actual, “live” clumsiness). A stammer might seem very realistic in a certain situation; and as for writing, that excites me more than anything else about this new horizon. The stale, cliché hogwash that has come to us from “professional” studios for decades now would not be at all hard to surpass. I have seen even a bright trio of high school seniors put together a little documentary that follows a certain theme or investigation to places that one would never have anticipated—and do so honestly, as the matter demanded, rather than for the sake of effect.
The economic opportunities of this untapped resource are, as I say, immense. But perhaps the most important benefits will be to our moral and cultural life. Not only will people be able to vote with their fingers about the kind of visions and values that they let into their homes; young people, most promising of all, will be deeply and actively involved in wrenching our cultural myths and dreams away from the jaundiced, unprincipled panders of Tinseltown. I don’t suggest that the social deviants and moral perverts who video themselves defecating from a skateboard will be in this vanguard—but I most certainly do not believe, either, that all of our young fall into that category. It is a chance for their generation, using their technology, to rediscover our forefathers’ values and to broadcast these to the entire planet. ~ J.B.W.
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