Media

Mad Men was a depraved and decadent show that gave us an incredible portrayal of humanity

The AMC television series “Mad Men” came to a close this past Sunday. After eight years, the critically-acclaimed show culminated in a dreamy reairing of Coca-Cola’s famous “Buy the World a Coke” ad from 1971. Critics panned it, but I saw the scene as a fitting end for a show about America’s cultural declivity into the hell of moral relativism. In its prime, the sentiment of the sing-songy Coke ad was nice, but the idealism of the post-1960s was too infantile to work, as we now know four decades later.

Within the show’s context, the ad didn’t represent world peace. Rather, it was one of the resolutions sought by the show’s main characters. It was the end product of protagonist Don Draper’s journey to the pits of sorrow and back. To use the cliché phrase, it also represented the End of an Era (the show’s timeline spanned from 1960 to 1970). Though the series finale was ambiguous and not entirely conclusive, “Mad Men” as a show contained some of the hardest lessons learned in life. In between the drinking, impropriety, womanizing, scams, backstabbing, and licentiousness, there were acute moments of actual humanity.

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Pete Davis on the Soul of Facebook Venting

Over at the porch:

“Perhaps we see in those upsetting anecdotes a post-Protestant demon — social sin peeking out from behind the social order. Perhaps the tension that must be vented is our uncertainty in the presence of such sin: Am I going to be tricked by this evil or am I going to be aware enough to see it at work? Am I going to become part of it or am I going to reject it? Am I on its side of the great divide or am I on the side of the redeemed?

Facebook venting resolves this uncertainty. By pasting a link to a news story and properly identifying the social evil at work – “This is racism!” “This is bigotry!” “This is evil!” – you stand at the digital altar and testify to your awareness of social sin. By ranting against the news story, you validate that you have rejected this sin, broadcasting that you belong among the redeemed. When you click submit, your uncertainty about your moral goodness is temporarily washed away: you can proceed with confidence that you are one of the elect. …

Of course, the reality is that we cannot be deeply involved in addressing every social ill that bothers us and we are still going to be tempted to rant on Facebook when we see upsetting news. For such moments, here’s an idea for an alternative form of Facebook venting: the next time we want to release the tension from an upsetting news story, we should (1) take time to find and research a person or organization actively working to heal the underlying social ill about which we are upset, (2) donate $5-10 to them and then (3) post about their work and our donation to them.”

Of course Buzzfeed is pro-shaming culture, they make piles of money from it

I haven’t read Jon Ronson’s new book about shaming culture. But I suspect this Buzzfeed reviewer is giving it short shrift, since she thinks political correctness is such a risible concept that it belongs in scare quotes. Here’s the crux of Jacqui Shine’s review:

What makes this book an uncomfortable, if distant, cousin of GamerGate and men’s rights activist logic is that it, too, relies on a series of false equivalencies and muddy distinctions in order to elevate being shamed on social media to epic proportions. These sorts of distortions are dangerous because they minimize — and even threaten to erase — far more systematic and serious problems that have taken years to even reach the public consciousness. Based on the premise that everyone shares Ronson’s worst nightmare — an undeserved public flogging on Twitter — So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed shows a total disinterest, even disdain, for social and interpersonal power dynamics. Ronson seems to see every kind of public shaming as equivalent, no matter the audience (a handful or hundreds of thousands), platform (a courtroom, Twitter, a prison, a hotel conference room, newspapers and media websites), the identity of the shamer (a judge, a freelance journalist, an entire publication, a bunch of strangers), or even the cause (racist jokes, off-color photos, plagiarism, kinky sex, abuse of political office, sundry felonies).

She criticizes him for comparing the cases of Justine Sacco and Adria Richards, the donglegate shamer, for showing too much equanimity and failing to say, unequivocally, that one is bad and the other is good. That equanimity is, of course, “a major strategy of aggrieved white dudes, like men’s rights activists.” The last line is similar:

In a world where people who have historically been powerless have a new means with which to fight back — or at least make their voices heard — it’s important to notice when this empowerment is made out to be dangerous.

Perhaps shaming culture would be worth defending if it really was the social media equivalent of shooting kulaks. That seems to be what she’s saying. But when that sentiment is expressed on a site that makes piles of money by stoking these online mobs, it seems rather self-serving and unreflective.

When not teaching its readers how to perform anilingus via cartoon, a major source of content on the serious news outlet known as Buzzfeed is offensive stuff people are saying on social media. It’s one of those standbys that can be adapted for any media event people are tweeting racist stuff about. The reviewer says Ronson’s book “shows a total disinterest, even disdain, for social and interpersonal power dynamics.” Is a company seeking to profit from these shame-mobs part of those power dynamics?

For the sake of argument, I’ll grant that some people have it coming. Perhaps we could even come up with a set of agreed-upon rules, a celestial privilege abacus, by which we could decide the amount of shaming a person deserves given their social position. That’s not realistic, though, and in practice it falls to people like Shine to improvise them. When those people are writing for websites that make lots of money from the encouragement of public shaming, do you think we can expect them to do that in a fair way?

Vince Gilligan’s critique of rationalism

The following guest post is by Jon Bishop, who writes from Massachusetts. His essays, fiction, and reviews have appeared in such publications as Boston Literary Magazine, Ethika Politika, PJ Media, Millennial, FreightTrain Magazine, and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

I’m just going to come right out with it: Vince Gilligan is the most thoughtful person working in television today — and his two companion shows, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, demonstrate a willingness to challenge not only genre conventions but also the culture at large.

But let’s skip the quality of the storytelling and the acting and the directing for now, because many people have talked about them, and so there’s not too much to add to the discussion. And this is not a review.

What I want to focus on here is what Gilligan has to say on rationalism, which can, in this sense, be taken as a synonym for freethinking or even secularism. It is the rationalism that rejects everything but reason.

For the longest time I wondered why Gilligan chose Saul Goodman as the Breaking Bad character to get his own show. Sure, I thought, he’s appealing and funny, but he’s comic relief. Why not select instead the rugged Mike Ehrmantraut or the quiet but monstrous Gus Fring? Learning more about them would make for great television. Then I realized it: Saul is a lawyer, a profession that pairs nicely with the scientist. Why? Both are symbols of the rationalist.

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I’ve been made an editor at TechRaptor – check them out!

TechRaptor has taken me on as an editor! The site is is a newcomer to the technology and gaming journalism scene, born in the wake of ethics scandals that you’ve probably heard about. That means their schtick is being consumer-centric rather than journalist-centric, and pro-ethics rather than pro-agenda. This should be the industry norm, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Follow TechRaptor on Twitter, add them to your RSS feed, and spread the word!