BBC’s “The Trap”, and internet video tagging

I have spent my dinner-time for the past three nights watching the three episodes of the BBC’s ‘documentary’ (a.k.a. media confection of historical tidbits) called “The Trap” in succession on YouTube. It certainly has my brain going.

First, why did the BBC make this manipulative tripe?  What a complete disaster of public media ethics this piece is, an overtly cynical play on its own content. I imagine every thoughtful producer of public programming must deal with the tension between wanting to inform a large number of people of a particular set of facts and wanting to encourage in those same people a critical attitude towards the facts and their delivery (i.e. the media channel itself). “The Trap” takes this on by using a style of mixing/editing that riffs ironically on TV shows like “Unsolved Mysteries” and other ultra-manipulative,  facts-into-fiction programming through repetitive cuts (especially of close-ups on human faces), jilted playback speeds, sudden shifts in musical timbre, and powerful voice-over. For a certain audience, no doubt the sense of irony somehow enlivens the devastatingly depressing content, the way a fine glass of wine might go with watching your dog be put down for liver cancer. But seriously, why on earth must the BBC bother with this ludicrously knowing over-production of what should be a straightforward litany against an incredibly powerful and entrenched way of thinking?
Perhaps what’s really angering me is the frustration of not knowing where most of the footage is coming from. I propose that public broadcasters, especially ones with the luxury of producing footage for the internet audience, should source absolutely all footage. Every clip on Youtube should be accompanied by a constant stream of source-notes.

But then of course “The Trap” does take you on a provocative journey through a recent history of insurrections and overt impositions of market economics. I certainly recommend it as a blood-stirrer and connection-maker. It dovetails nicely with two other recent media feeds from which I’ve been sampling: Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia (which is heavily influenced by Isiah Berlin’s Russian Thinkers), and the most recent BBC Reith Lectures by Jeffrey Sachs — specifically because “The Trap” lays some interesting blame on both Isiah Berlin (“Positive and Negative Freedom”) and Jeffrey Sachs (imposing economic hardship on post-communist Russia). Let me just add that these Reith lectures are quite inspiring stuff, upon which I might write more if I ever get through them all.

Finally, another thought about YouTube. How long until the media on YouTube become indexible by time to produce new, seamless video sequences? Surely this has already happened? All one needs is a way to link to a specific point in time in a piece of footage, plus a specific duration, and then to define a new ‘movie’ as just a list of those links, to be cut between, perhaps with new sound (also sourced by a link), etc. Take After-Effects or some similar program as a front-end to all the footage of YouTube. Net result: the end of storytelling? Or just a tool for creating fun mash-ups? As I watched this BBC program, itself a reckless mish-mash of god-knows-what footage, tunes, opinions, etc., I couldn’t help but wonder what crazy faith in humanity was leading me to believe that I was actually watching what the original producers of the show intended me to watch. How easy would it be to post false versions of shows on YouTube? (okay, taking my foot off the adrenaline pedal for a second here I have to admit I think it would be hard, because of community policing by those who had seen the show on TV or some other ‘more reliable’ source — though certain subtle moves, like inserting just one or two twisted clips from your own basement where the producers had intended random exercise video footage, would probably pass muster for long enough to do some harm…).

1 comment to BBC’s “The Trap”, and internet video tagging

  • inboulder

    ‘BBC’s the Trap’ was one of the most bizarre concoctions ever to be green lighted by their studios. I understand that despite the drastic global increase in government spending over the last 100 years, ‘the Trap’ wants to make the ‘market’ out to be the bad guy. Ok fine, have at it. The problem is not that the assertions in The Trap weren’t right, it’s that they weren’t even wrong. Words like ‘freedom’ and ‘economics’ and ‘the market’ have to be completely redefined for the sersies to even be coherent.

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