Activism V Slacktivism

Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno is a forthcoming cannibal film which pays a massive homage to one of his, and one of my favourite films, Cannibal Holocaust. I’ve not seen The Green Inferno yet but I don’t have this low opinion of Roth that most people have as I liked the first Hostel and the second one may veer all over the place script wise, but it’s a very well directed film which looks lovely. Roth also did one of the fake trailers for Grindhouse which is still hilariously brilliant no matter how often one watches it, so here again is the Thanksgiving trailer.

One of the things I like about Roth is that he tries to insert politics into his work, ok, it’s often simplistic but I’m hard pushed to think of any other mainstream American director who makes the point that America, and Americans don’t know the world they live in, or do they especially care about seeing the world through anything but their own eyes. Like I said, Roth does it in a simplistic way, but it’s there, especially in the first Hostel film.

The plot of The Green Inferno as quoted from it’s IMDB page is….

A group of student activists travel from New York City to the Amazon to save a dying tribe but crash in the jungle and are taken hostage by the very natives they protected.

 

The idea is that a group of ‘slacktivists‘ actually try to do something but face the reality of the people they tried to protect. Having not seen it, I can’t comment on the film but Roth makes an interesting point in this interview with the Toronto Sun.

“People see something on Twitter, they look at the hashtag, and retweet it and think that’s enough. I really started to notice this around the Kony 2012 campaign.”

 

Roth makes a good point. There’s far too many people who think that retweeting a hashtag is actually going to save the world, or that a Twitter campaign, or even a boycott will change attitudes, or even change the world. Kony 2012 was the best example of a huge campaign which changed utterly nothing, and ended up with the organiser making a bit of a wanker of himself as Roth points out.

“Absolutely nothing got changed by Kony 2012,” Roth continues. “Everyone suddenly caring about this warlord that the government knew about for years because it was on Facebook. And then a few weeks later the leader of Invisible Children was on the street masturbating in broad daylight. That was one big masturbatory exercise that led to absolutely nothing.

“So I wanted to make a movie where kids like that get their asses handed to them … literally.”

 

In the case of Kony the organisers, Invisible Children, made $20 million from the campaign which has resulted in Joseph Kony still carrying on, with the situation being as bad as ever.

The argument could be that these sort of campaigns raise awareness, which is true, but often this is filtered through a very Western, very middle class viewpoint which strips complex situations into basic and simple good and bad, black and white rather than the complicated geopolitical socioeconomics that really drives events around the world. It’s easier to understand a hashtag and retweet it than actually take the time and effort to understand the background of something. The vision is that that people, not to mention the media try to create a narrative to fit their own view of the world. The brilliant documentary maker Adam Curtis made a short film about this, and called it Oh Dearism. It’s an essential bit of viewing.

As Curtis says, we watch news programmes and feel helpless and depressed, so we try to act so we can help, which means in 2013 Tweeting a hashtag or liking a post on Facebook,which makes people think they’re somehow caring enough to carry on without making any serious effort to help a particular situation.

This isn’t to say that spreading information or raising awareness isn’t a good thing, it is, but in the context of many of the campaigns it’s often a bad thing which can have depressing side effects, or as Roth says, it sometimes ends up being this huge masturbatory exercise, not to mention it can make the organisers an awful lot of money, not to mention there’s the other side effect that it makes the leaders of these campaigns celebrities which moves the focus from the campaign itself, to the celebrity.

Actually getting up and doing something to help is hard. Campaigning is hard. I’ve done it in the past for CND, and for the Anti Nazi League, and frankly it’s a chore. It’s often not rewarding, not to mention sometimes it’s painful.You won’t really change the world by sitting on your arse being more aware of things thanks to a Twitter campaign, though you might win small victories, the bigger picture isn’t going to change when you get enough likes from people who only know the most superficial picture in regards a cause, though the superficial ‘liberal hippy’ cliche is more than a myth but I’ll expand on this another time.

Social media is a great way to disseminate information so people can understand more about the world, but the effects has led people to becoming lazy which doesn’t deny the good work that say, the likes of UK Uncut do, but essentially it’s about ensuring that activism doesn’t slide into something which isn’t going to help the cause it’s supposed to help.

As for The Green Inferno, I look forward to it’s gut-ripping antics immensely and hope it lives up to the likes of Cannibal Holocaust. It does have to have a wonderfully exploitative poster too!

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