Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First-person shooter

It has been reported that Anders Breivik spent many hours on social websites and playing video games. The discussion has focused on whether all the hateful propaganda spewed online and the violent games he loved helped turn him into an extremist and cold-blooded killer. I have a slightly different theory based on Marshal McLuhan’s famous dictum: “The media is the message.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Each man is an island

I watched the other day – with much delay – Terrence Mallick’s magnificently shot Thin Red Line. In it, Malick asks his usual sweeping questions, this time related to the carnage and destruction of war: “'How did we lose the good that was given us? Let it slip away. Scattered. Careless. What's keeping us from reaching out, touching the glory?” In word, how has humanity become so flawed and destructive? And how does Malick answer these momentous questions? By presenting war, in this case one of the most vicious battles in the Pacific, as the private experience of a few bewildered soldiers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recreational rioting

Pundits have scratched their heads to try to find a sensible explanation for the senseless violence in the streets of London and a few other English cities. Was it race, or poverty, or some other form of social exclusion that provoked the rioters? Was all that burning and looting a coded protest against something? Nothing seems to quite explain the nature and the extent of the brutality that was unleashed. Some commentators and bloggers have proposed a more plausible theory saying that the mayhem included a lot of “recreational rioting” – rioting mostly for the kick of it, plus some opportunistic looting.