Friday, March 20, 2009

Susan Greenfield, Kerry O'Brien,"Screen Culture", The 7.30 Report, and the end of western civilization as we know it

(Above: Susan Greenfield, or at least the image of Susan Greenfield, in a moment of illusory time, on a screen decrying the world of the screen on The 7.30 Report, which it can now be confirmed is the cause of autism in this blogger).

It's not often we stray into the area of television, though it's infested by loons - you could spend a lifetime in free to air wilderness and do enormous damage to your brains just counting the loons, let alone try to keep track of what they're saying.

You can do the same by watching the ABC, and contemplating The 7.30 Report, which is supposed to be a serious and insightful review of newsworthy events, a corporate brand leader, but which over time has become staid, boring, and exceedingly dull. And it turns out, occasional home to loons. 

That's right, the carrot top Kerry O'Brien did one of his subservient star fucker type interviews with Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, who presents as a neuroscientist, but comes across as a British Clive Hamilton, bemoaning all that's wrong with "screen culture", which of course includes video games and a life wasted on the intertubes.

Never has so much tosh been compressed into the short thirteen minutes plus of an interview in which yet again Greenfield explains why the younger generation is fucked. Or shortly will be fucked. By "screen culture". And where's the science to back up this fear mongering? Well nothing conclusive, just yet, but it's a real worry. We should all be really worried.

Let's take a typical Greenfield line :

 ... when you play a game, the reason you are playing the game is for the experience of playing the game, not for the long-term consequences. So when you rescue the princess, you don't really care about the princess, you don't care what she feels or what she thinks.

Let's just re-word that a little and apply it to sport:

... when you play a game, the reason you are playing the game is for the experience of playing the game, not for the long-term consequences. So when you score a goal, you don't really care about the goal, you don't care what the goal feels or what the goal thinks.

So instead of playing video games or ordinary meaningless, vacuous sporting games, what should we be doing? Well reading a book of course:

When you read a book, you read the book because you care very much about what the princess is feeling and thinking; how she relates to other people, and what happens to her.

Funny that, it explains why I've never much liked films about princesses (royal or jewish or Julia Roberts style) because, as it's part of the ruinous world of meaningless screen culture, I don't have a clue as to what the princess is feeling or thinking. (And of course books are also so much better at conveying the real world phereonomes that Greenfield values so highly. No, Mr Darcy isn't just printer's ink on a page, he exudes the scent of sex in a way completely beyond poor old Colin Firth).

But wait, there's more.

I'm just pointing to two clear facts - one is that over the last 10 years, the screen culture has become more pervasive in our society than ever before; and over the last 10 years in the UK, and I'm sure it's a similar situation in Australia, there's been an alarming increase in prescriptions for Ritalin or methylphenidate, a drug used to give so-called treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Well that's a relief. The increase in useless drug intake amongst kids has got nothing to do with mad shrinks, or ratbag drug companies, or the strange compulsion, now exported world wide, of Americans addicted to a little pill relief as a solution to a tough Darwinian world of competition. 

No, it's clear that the clear cause of this drug abuse might possibly be an unexplored, unproven, but quite likely all encompassing link to the arrival of the totalitarian evil of "screen culture" in our midst.

There's still more, much more. The good neuroscientist, concerned with art, asks some profound existential questions:

So, how for example, how would you put on a screen, "... we are the hollow men, we are the dead men leaning together, headpiece filled with straw." You know, I sat wondering about this, until it dawned on me that I was typing using a screen, putting up the words on a screen to be read on other screens, " ... we are the hollow men etc etc". Sheesh.

How would you put, "tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace, from day to day," on a screen?"

And then I remembered that I'd been playing that great game "Macbeth versus the Banquo ghost Ninja mall warrior vampires", and they'd used that line on the start up screen. (Not to mention the dozens of screen adaptations from Welles to Polanski I'd actually seen that willfully put this line up on a screen? How on earth did they do it?)

But wait there's even more, with steak knife loonacy as a bonus, because it all comes down to the artificial, delusional world of Face Book, and its fake friends, versus the honest truth of the real world.

If you hadn't had the experience of someone saying something to you directly, to you as a person, and it upsetting you, or you haven't had of experience (sic) of actually saying something to someone's face an seeing them burst into tears, or go red and be upset, clearly, palpably upset, and that changing your relationship - if you haven't had those experiences, you'll live in a world, a rather sanitised world where no-one is hurt, where everything is just a game, where everything is irreversible, a bit like cartoon characters.

At this point, my partner, who had been heavily bullied as a child, and whose tears just egged the bullies on to more cruelty, started to shout at the screen, and at that moment I think Susan Greenfield might have appreciated being just a phantom figure on an illusory screen in the corner of the room. There's an advantage to being a cartoon  character when you talk in cartoon stereotypes, and seem incapable of understanding that from a very early age we quickly learn to discriminate between the physically tangible and the images and sounds to be found in the world of "screen culture". Try falling over as a two year old and copping a bloody knee.

Greenfield is awfully clever, and terribly nice, and wonderfully energetic, and she always dresses her observations with nice sounding excuses - these are just observations, or thoughts or suggestions, just suggestions or evocations, and not intended to sound luddite - but in the end she didn't make any more sense than Miranda Devine getting worried at the way googles on the intertubes was stealing our memories.

There's even more in the transcript of the program, available here, and thanks to the marvels of the ABC's new interactivity, you can also view the interview at the same source. But beware you will have to view the interview on a screen, which is likely to irreversibly alter your brain, affect its plasticity, induce autism, and involve you in sanitising relationships in a way that makes one profoundly despair of the "it's all about me culture".

Golly, and I thought it was comics that'd ruined my life. So little did I know. 

Each generation there will be a new legion of "experts" coming along to raise saucy doubts and fears about how we live, and how it was much better in the past, and how it will be much more dangerous in the future. Ah yes, it was so much better living in London during the blitz. By golly, we knew what reality was all about then, and it wasn't just a video game ... and thank the lord for that. You never feel more alive than a real bomb is about to descend on your real home and you really get blown to smithereens ... as opposed to the illusions cultivated by that terrible "screen culture".

Gee that Bobby Dylan was prescient:

Come mothers and fathers
And neuroscientists
And TV interviewers

Throughout the land

And don't criticize

What you can't understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin'.

Please get out of the new one

If you can't lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin'.

(Below: Kerry O'Brien, of The 7.30 Report, on  a screen, or at least a moment taken from his time on the screen, denigrating "screen culture" and failing to land a blow or ask a half way sensible question as he listens to Susan Greenfield blame him and his colleagues and their role in "screen culture" for the decline of western civilization as we know it).

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