This post is meant to serve as a companion piece to some of the ideas presented by Gene Youngblood in my previous entry on Expanded Cinema.
[Another post related to the Monoform can he found HERE.]
"I think that the historical resistance by many activists to actually challenging the mass audiovisual media is a very serious problem. My personal belief is that until this subject is pulled up level with the other subjects being protested, I genuinely do not believe that the anti-globalization protest will ever reach its true fruition. If we leave the cinema and television and the radio in the present position they're in, we will never get there."
Above: Two excerpts I uploaded from the documentary The Universal Clock: The Resistance of Peter Watkins (2001) - directed by Geoff Bowie.
Below: Excerpts from Peter Watkins' incredible essay The Media Crisis. The essay goes into much greater detail concerning the Monoform, the hegemony of the mass audiovisual media (MAVM), and why all of this is crucially important to our lives. (Watkins is also one of the world's great filmmakers. For a good introduction to his work, see Punishment Park).
"This latest information from the media on the global environmental crisis does not, however, mention another crucial question mark - one which is also related to human activity, but which is never discussed publicly: the role of the mass audiovisual media in the current state of affairs.
Society at large still refuses to acknowledge the role of form and process in the delivery and reception of the mass audiovisual (MAVM) output. By this I mean that the language forms structuring the message contained in any film or TV programme, and the entire process (hierarchical or otherwise) of delivery to the public are completely overlooked, and are certainly not debated. In turn, this lack of critical public debate means that over 95% of all MAVM messages delivered to the public are now structured by the Monoform.
- the Monoform is the one single language form now used to edit and structure cinema films, TV programmes - newsbroadcasts, detective series, soap operas, comedy and ‘reality shows’, etc. - and most documentaries, almost all of which are encoded in the standardised and rigid form which had its nascence in the Hollywood cinema. The result is a language form wherein spatial fragmentation, repetitive time rhythms, constantly moving camera, rapid staccato editing, dense bombardment of sound, and lack of silence or reflective space, play a dominant and aggressive role.
George Orwell said that if we cannot command the way we speak, we cannot command the way we think. We are now rapidly losing that capability, for we are losing the essence of the very language we use; and since language is an essential part of how we describe (and thus perceive) the world, the corruption within the MAVM is grave indeed.
At the most fundamental level, what MAVM professionals have accomplished over the past 20-30 years, is to effectively imbed into contemporary society a psychological ‘climate’ underpinning the consumer ideology. A climate wherein the subversion of language, and the relentless standardisation of how we perceive space, time, rhythm and process in human communications (both audiovisual and personal) are perceived as ‘normal’. In other words, the agenda of consumerism which saturates the MAVM’s output is reinforced at many subconscious levels by a hidden, hierarchical process - with its own subterranean social discourse which we appear unable (or unwilling) to identify or acknowledge.
This carefully inculcated climate - injected into our very psyches by the restless and fragmented language forms of the MAVM, and by the whole apparatus of the world commercial cinema - has led to seriously reduced attention spans; to a lack of tolerance for sustained process or for any form of communication that takes longer than ten seconds; to a growing loss of history (especially among young people); to an increased need for constant change. All of which has helped to shape a society visibly ever more privatised, insecure, and restless. A society where competitive thinking, egotism, personal gain, and an indifference to violence and suffering are increasingly the ‘norm’ - where genuine plurality and community interaction are vanishing into the past.
In an attempt to differentiate their work, a number of filmmakers are even elevating their own assault on the audience. A study of recent documentaries (The Corporation, Supersize Me, Michael Moore's films, others critical of George Bush and the Iraq War, etc.) reveals a style and pattern wherein the personality of the filmmaker is often as important as the subject of the film itself. And once again, the audience encounters a tornado of rapid editing; fragmented talking heads; twisting and cork-screwing camera work; clever digitized animation; and a theatrical in-your-face disrespect for the nearest corporate figures. All of which is heralded as cutting edge, radical and relevant - but which in fact barely masks a disingenuous and authoritarian relationship to the audience. Some of these films even claim to be critical of the media - but not only is their own language form centralised and hierarchical (a double-irony in the case of Manufacturing Consent, which features Naom Chomsky), they also never actually critique the form and process of the MAVM (including in their own films).
: This reminds me: Godard famously criticized Moore for unwittingly supporting Bush through his use of form. "Moore doesn't distinguish between text and image. He doesn't know what he's doing."
Professionals within the MAVM might challenge my apparent intolerance for the Monoform, claiming that I lack an understanding of the ‘nuances’ of the role of the MAVM in our society. As I write in the book, I am perfectly aware that the MAVM has - on occasion - produced interesting and significant films using the Monoform. But the problem is not only within the structure of the Monoform itself (at least when used in moderation), since it is just one filmic language-form amongst many other possibilities; the crisis arises when this language-form is applied in a repressive, all-consuming, undebated and mandatory manner, and when we centralise the production and reception of nearly all audiovisual media around this one closed and rigid form.
In 1993, Mexican media tycoon Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, who publicly supported the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and who referred to himself as a "soldier of the president", openly stated that a television company's responsibility is to "entertain the poor and distract them from their sad reality and their difficult future." Referring with gratitude to the tranquilizing effect of Azcarraga's soap-operas, a ruling member of the PRI stated: "It's better to use tear-jerkers than tear-gas."