Friday, July 28, 2006

Good or evil? It's all in the edit.

Beth at Blue Star Chronicles has a video post up that is a must see. Someone took clips from the movie The Shining, the original one with Jack Nicholson, and edited them into a trailer for a movie called, Shining.

Shining is a happy upbeat movie about a down on his luck author suffering from writer's block whose fortunes change when he meets a single mom and her little boy. As the three find love and become a family Nicholson's creative energies are released and he begins to write again.

Now anyone who has seen The Shining, or read the Stephen King novel from which it was made, knows that the story is very dark and tragic. An author takes a job as caretaker for a hotel located in the Rocky Mountains. The deep cold and deeper snows force the establishment to close for winter, leaving only a caretaker to maintain the building.

As Nicholson and his wife and son settle in to the routine of isolation in the snowbound hotel Nicholson begins to fall under the control of the malevolent supernatural force which infests the building. The force which feeds on the psychic or spiritual energies unleashed by those who have died violent deaths, by murder or suicide, on the premises desires Nicholson's young son, who is a powerful psychic (although he does not yet suspect how powerful he is, or will become as he grows).

As Nicholson is drawn into an elaborate fantasy world constructed by the evil intelligence in the hotel he slowly gives way to hatred and madness until he seeks to murder his own son.

As I watched the trailer for Shining I laughed at how easy it was to use creative editing to generate an impression which is 180 degrees away from reality.

Throughout the morning in into the afternoon my thoughts kept coming back to the film and I realized that, whatever its creator's intentions, it was a brilliantly constructed commentary on today's media.

Think about it. We cannot be everywhere in the world. When events happen which are important to us we can almost never be right there where they are happening, when they are happening. To tell us what is going on in the world we depend on various media. For most of us for most of our lives television has been the primary way in which we learn about the world, with newspapers and magazines coming in a distant second.

This gives the news media enormous power to shape public perceptions of world events. All they have to do is select the images which they show, narrate the images with whatever script they chose to write and add their choice of "background music", by which I mean the exact mix of stories which they chose to present.

For example in the current fighting between Hezbollah and the IDF we are introduced, by name, to Lebanese children who have been injured and lost their fathers in Israeli attacks. In pathos ridden newspaper articles we are invited into their lives and asked to share their terror and grief. Civilian casualties among the Israelis are reported as statistics. This is done to create sympathy for the Lebanese while subtly dehumanizing the Jews.

Ignored is the fact that the IDF goes out of its way to minimize collateral damage. Also ignored is the fact that Hezbollah operates in such a way as to maximize civilian death and injury. We are not told that Hezbollah locates arms caches in residential neighborhoods. That It sets up rocket launchers in the backyards of civilian’s houses. And that it uses clearly marked ambulances to transport its fighters out of areas being attacked by the IDF. Then when the Israelis are forced to begin targeting those ambulances they are filled with wounded civilians and the news media is invited to film the carnage in order to show the world what barbarians the Jews are.

If you don’t get your news from talk radio or the internet you don’t know this. The real life events in the Middle East are edited to create an image which is the opposite of the truth in the same manner in which scenes from The Shining are arranged and narrated to create Shining.

Half the battle in finding the truth consists of knowing that you are being lied to. Next time you watch a network news broadcast think about that warm feel-good story about a hard luck novelist finding redemption and renewal in the arms of a new family.