Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Square (movie review)

Movie Madness had this on the recent acquisitions shelf, although it's now 2016 and the film takes us from roughly 2011 to 2013, through the eyes of street protestors alternately depressed and despondent and exhilarated about their apparent victories, usually short-lived, and so on (a roller coaster).  Call me late to the game if you like.

What seems remarkable about Egypt as portrayed in this film is the lack of talk radio or talk show TV, comedic and / or polemical.  I'm not saying these programs don't exist, just they're not mentioned in the documentary, which adds to the sense of low bandwidth, factions fighting without much intelligent dialog.  We see Kent State happening over and over.

Talk radio / TV is maybe not all that intelligent when one considers just a single program or channel, however when a broad spectrum is considered, along with the freedom to lurk and not talk, the ability to work through the issues, find more consensus, becomes more real.  More people get heard, even if asynchronously.  Podcasts...

Given cell phones, more call in shows would not be impossible.  Khalid's dad actually recommends the television station option, but would it have invited sincere debate from all sides?  This documentary, though overtly opinionated, does a pretty good job of that.

True, authoritarian governments by definition tend to be nervous around anything that smacks of "free speech" as that just means more content they don't control, and what's a control freak if not someone who freaks out about about perceived "out of control" situations?

Those with training in cybernetics, including economics, tend to put more faith in what we might call the planchette, or "invisible hand" -- not unrelated to a Holy Spirit or Zeitgeist, I'm sure Islam has something similar.

Feedback loops help smooth the awkward jerkiness, the spazzing out.  Ham-handed intervention by those with an overblown sense of entitlement too often simply backfires.  Angry mobs cornering a police headquarters or TV station:  what do they expect from trapped animals with weapons?  Such feigned surprise in some cases.

Jump-starting a more civil society always seems an uphill battle when those sensing some erosion in privilege are able to demonize a foreign threat.  Protestors become puppets of some alien ideology in the next round of psywar.  Keeping the battle psychological is actually half the battle (lost in this case), as physical violence only retards working with root causes and healing old wounds.

Lets remember an army of twisted Dexter types who quite enjoy their jobs as torturers, and eagerly wait in shadows, of the Egyptian Museum or wherever, for their truck- and/or train loads of human subjects.  Feeding their appetites keeps the torture taxis in business at least.  Egyptians join the rest of the world in decrying the lack of safeguards against Abu Ghraib style prisons cropping up in nations everywhere.

The protestors are pretty honest with themselves in more reflective moments, acknowledging they were poorly organized and over-limited in their access to information.  In the scramble to have national elections, no opposition party was able to self organize, a fact many blamed on the better organized Muslim Brotherhood, which had also been targeted and imprisoned under President Mubarak's brittle, zero tolerance, martial law government.

The Egyptian military gets a few voices in the mix: a security-minded general; a jovial army driver; a spokesperson for his guys.  Indeed the film itself, in giving voice to the several factions, is filling the void talk radio and/or TV shows might fill, albeit slowly, over a process of years.

I'm not discounting the Internet in harping on these older technologies as TCP / IP streams over broadcast frequencies just fine (encrypted or in the clear) i.e. the media form a networked cloud.  This movie is likely on Youtube given its content, let me go check... just the trailers.  Better for sales.

Note that I'm not saying the world is all that different outside of Misr (Egypt), a family headquarters for many years (a ninth floor apartment in Cairo).  We had our similar Occupy Portland in 2011, which led to physical violence for some, whereas most of the leadership had decided to end the experiment with the big victory party the night before.  By morning, the biggest tents were all gone.  Then the dump trucks moved in, after the arrests.

The thing about mobs is they can't often turn on a dime, much as freight trains can't stop faster than the laws of physics permit, either (no, I'm not referring to a specific legal case).  Wars are often a case of mob violence.  Once critical mass is achieved, the avalanche inevitably goes down the mountain.  There's no reasoning with it, or treating it as a subject that might in some way stop itself.

Not even the president of a superpower can stop a moving freight train single-handedly.  That's Marvel comics territory.  Warmongers know this and count on inciting mob psychology as their principal incendiary.  Spin doctors, provocateurs, false flag operators, swing in to high gear, looking for tipping points to assist their agenda.  Firefighters work to cool and extinguish the flames.

The extra "Unseen Footage" feature in special features is a retelling of the whole tale, with a lot of the same footage mixed with additional material.  I see this documentary as a valuable puzzle piece worth including in many a college-level syllabus (which doesn't mean you have to be in a college to get value from work-study programs such as I enjoy and help design in some cases).