Sunday, August 12, 2007

Paranoid Critique

Salvador Dali described his work as making use of a paranoid-critical method. Like a paranoiac, he attempted to find meaning in the associations of entirely unrelated images, an analogue to Freudian free association. Tate Modern currently has an exhibition on Dali's influence from and work for the cinema; perhaps as well as the Looney Tunes and Chaplin movies he indulged in, he also picked up the American taste for conspiracy theories.

I didn't know, however, that one of his earliest Surrealist works was entitled Departure: Homage to Fox News.

What could have more contemporary meaning? There's always something weird about rolling news, a form of television that's positively designed to be viewed with the sound off. Sound has a special role in film and television; it's the bridge between the world of images and the world of text. Almost all film post-sound relies on words for plot unity, to avoid becoming a surrealist collection of imagery. Rolling news feels like news, although no doubt there's a reason why Sky News insists on flashing huge red BREAKING NEWS graphics every time they update the latest missing white girl story.

But especially if you can't hear the narration, it's merely an associative volley of random visuals with text labels that may, or may not, be accurate. Now consider this LGM post about CNN's Glenn Beck and his "method"..
Remember that scene [in A Beautiful Mind] where Russell Crowe has pasted up a number of newspaper stories and is making associations and drawing connections between them by running strings from one story to the next, and then that story to another, and so on? You could easily do the same with the stories here. It’s not a great leap to see a certain synchronicity between them..
It's a radical revision to the Foreign Intelligence Supervision Act! It's a flock of hairy telephones! It's...a naked Condoleeza Rice circus-riding two fiery giraffes through the gates of the Natanz enrichment plant!

It is, of course, also true that running strings from one story in the newspaper to the next in the hope of discovering esoteric truths is a pretty good description of blogging. As always, it's a question of filtration; stare at your navel closely enough and eventually it stares back into you.

Which brings me to some substance. Looks like the British government IT monster escaped, heading west to eat some more creamy brain tissue. Like the infovore in Charlie Stross's Atrocity Archive. The NSA apparently wants to do something so astonishingly stupid that its stupidity almost goes around the bend and looks like it might be intelligence. Details; Bruce Schneier points us to this essay by Sun Microsystems security diva Susan Landau on the infrastructure requirements of what the NSA apparently wants. To be quite clear, they want to build in an interception backdoor to every backbone router in the US.

And this after the Great Greek Green Greasy GSM Grokker Gremlin Gripe. Wait; I think I see the pattern. Yes! The hairy telephones...slash open the eye. Their engineers are secretly trying to capsize the whole project of telecoms surveillance...right?

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