Tag Archives: Net Neutrality

End of the Open Internet? End of the Creative Economy.

Tele Operator

I’m pushing Wednesday Collective by a day to talk about something more important: the creative economy.

Specifically in regards to an open internet. Let’s not pretend I don’t have a horse in the race. I’m pursuing making a career out of being a writer on film. That requires readers be able to access my site at the same speed they could access Comcast’s in-house critics (whose love for anything associated with Comcast is, I’m sure, totally objective).

I know independent filmmakers whose core audience is based in online communities, DIY-ers who sell fashion on Etsy, models and actors who find their contracts through low-overhead sites online, thrifters whose entire life is based in refurbishing and online re-sale, painters who rely on internet commissions, bands who sell their songs through BandCamp and other community sites, and game developers whose independent sites are their lives. Each of these people has worked to build a community and a following, and has put years of research and effort into fostering their networks and connections. You don’t just hop on the internet and suddenly thousands of people are following and buying from you. You work at it.

The sprouting of these online DIY communities is based in two things – a downright awful economy that’s refused many the kind of middle class careers that were once available; and the accessibility of connecting with like-minded individuals online.

In a cable-styled, pay-for-package internet, creatives will be forced to make themselves subsidiary to specific hosts. That means painters and costume designers and developers who see 90% of their revenue back will suddenly have to pay overhead for an “online housing.”

What that usually means on today’s fairly open internet is a 30-to-70% cut of revenue is taken by the platform that hosts you. To pretend it won’t be more when people have no other choice is naive. Creatives could be seeing less than 30% of their revenue back. Compare that with the costs many put into their work, and that’s the bankrupting of the very DIY economy that has, essentially, created the livelihoods of countless of my closest friends.

It’s even worse if you run an independent website that’s crucial to your business. Think about Cable TV for a second. Could you pay to have your own channel as part of a Comcast or DirectTV package? If you can, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you can’t, proceed to freak out.

Writers may be facing the worst drop off a cliff. If independent voices are squeezed out, who will we work for? Huffington Post? You get paid with exposure, not money. IndieWire? Paid with exposure. SlashFilm? Paid with exposure.

Look, the end of net neutrality and the open internet will effect the political voices and breadth of reporting to which we’re exposed, yes – that’s a whole other argument. But it will annihilate the creative industry that has essentially saved a large portion of my generation.

I like my generation. I think we work our asses off to introduce art into the world in a way no other American generation has. That’s our point of pride. We didn’t have to go through the Great Depression. We’re just going through a fairly sizable one. We didn’t have to sacrifice everything for a World War. We just had to sacrifice a lot of things for two ill-advised ones. Yet we’re the generation that’s introduced specialized, self-sustained, niche economies of mutual interest and artistic expression into the world at a time of increasing globalism and decreasing means to create. I will not see that taken away from us. No one should see that taken away from them.

The FCC has already ruled against the open internet, despite the objections of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix, and every other major and minor player out there. The only ones in favor of it are the service providers who are already paid for that service, and who will now get paid doubly – Comcast, Sprint and the like.

To think that’s the end of the fight, instead of the very beginning, doesn’t reflect the reality of this generation. We’re a stubborn bunch of jackasses when we need to be. When you call the FCC, they have an automatic recording telling you that – if you’re calling about the open internet – you should send them an e-mail instead. What a bunch of ironic dipshits.

And I’ll bet on a bunch of jackasses before a bunch of dipshits any day of the week. When’s the last time you did what an automated recording told you to do? For instance, I like to punch numbers through to the operator for any other branch of the FCC and complain there. They’ll tell me I’m in the wrong department and should send an e-mail. I’ll tell them that, before I do, let me tell them what I really think. Can I speak to a manager? Can I speak to a manager’s manager?

Call the FCC, call your congressman, call Comcast. If someone doesn’t want to call, borrow their phone, pretend to be a southern, upset, elderly Republican who’s thinking of voting Democrat for the first time in his 80-year life (I do this to John McCain’s legislative office at least twice a year, usually after a stressful day. Pairs lovely with a Chianti.) Be a newly immigrated Irish youth who imagined America as the land of opportunity but is now rethinking that image. Be an amateur-circuit racecar driver with a contract on the table for Comcast to put their name on his car – what an opportunity, but how will my moral inhibitions about the open internet effect my racing? Open internet is how my ma and pa sell their homemade jam! Call Comcast and decline the management position they offered you. What? I’m in the wrong department? Let me tell you why I can’t work for such a company anyway. Mention it to your manager.

Believe me, there’s no better way to pass the time while waiting for a train or bus or walking home. (And there’s absolutely no better way to practice for auditions or try a character out in different situations.) Be yourself and then be a dozen other people, and bother the shit out of them and tell your friends to bother the shit out of them, because I know hundreds of people whose livelihoods rely on an open internet, and I’m sure you know hundreds of people whose livelihoods rely on an open internet. It’s the secret to the sustainability of our generation through a time when our country can’t get its ass up off the ground. More importantly, I know for many of you, it is your future success at what you love that’s at stake.

Call the FCC: 1-888-225-5322 (or 1-888-CALL-FCC)
Call your Congressman
Call Comcast: 1-800-934-6489

Wednesday Collective — Net Neutrality, There Will Be Clothes, & the Laziest Way to Write Strong Women

Net Neutrality

Corporate Feudalism

Let me preface this by saying I’ve worked as a campaign manager, a PAC fundraiser, a legislative aide, and for a state Democratic party. One phone call to an aide is more effective than 50 signatures on a petition. If you care about any of this, yes – sign petitions. But the biggest difference you can make, the biggest way you can interrupt someone’s day and get stuck in their head and make them bring an issue up to the politician for whom they work – is by calling. Your Senators. Your Representatives. Your Governors.

Petitions take a minute to look at. Form letters can be recognized and filed into a folder you know you’re never going to look at again. A phone call has to be taken by someone, because they never know what the topic’s going to be until they’ve already committed themselves to listen. A petition or form letter may make you feel better, but it has little real effect today. It gives the power to the clicking finger on somebody’s mouse hand. Aides are required to pick up the phone, answer politely, and listen. It puts the power in your voice.

The biggest reason you should be worried about net neutrality is that the Internet isn’t really an owned thing. Anyone can hop on and, with a minimum of trouble and investment, start a website – it’s the ultimate realization of free speech. The net neutrality cases the Supreme Court is sleeping through and legislation Congress is drawing up threaten that.

Essentially, service companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon will be able to double-dip. They’ll charge you for your internet connection, and then turn around and charge websites for their ability to get material to you. What this means to you is that the Internet will start to become prepackaged, like cable TV is. You will be forced into deciding which websites you’d like to pay to access, which plan you’d like to subscribe to, and the open access you have now to every single site on the web will disappear. Small websites and independent ones that can’t pay the service companies will lose their voice.

Service companies will also be able to dictate through bandwidth the political opinions they’d like to support, and will be able to relegate the kinds of independent news sources we most rely upon online to the far corners of accessibility.

I’m not the expert on this. If you haven’t already, learn about net neutrality online. The Washington Post published an infographic that shows how easily Comcast extorted Netflix into paying for a service we (and they) already pay for.

Here’s the ACLU’s rundown of information on net neutrality.

Don’t mistake this with the government’s ill-timed pilot program roll-out of the “Internet Driver’s License,” which would be managed by the government but store your information with subcontracted third parties. I mean, that’s scary, too, the government collecting every log-in and piece of information on you and selling it to third parties, who could then bundle it with other users’ data and sell that to third parties. Nothing like that’s ever gone wrong, has it? But that’s a completely different issue that’s just as scary and threatening, and would only take an extra five seconds to bring up to your Congressperson.

There Will Be Clothes
Maria Bruder

There Will Be Clothes

One reason I push our Bits & Pieces series is to write about the overlooked technical aspects we often gloss over as viewers. Even though we may not select out a piece of set design here or a bit of fight or dance choreography there as conveying a message, these details still burrow into our subconscious.

Clothes on Film is a specialty website that talks about, well, clothes on film. It’s an invaluable resource for costume designers and make-up artists. This There Will Be Blood article is just one of several phenomenal pieces they’ve hosted. Not only can you crash through their archives willy-nilly, you can also peruse their articles by a film’s time period, allowing you to get multiple perspectives on how costume designers find ways to burrow their messages into our subconscious.

The Laziest, Most Offensive Way to Write a Strong Woman
A.E. Larsen

300r Eva Green.tiff

300: 300 Harder is in a tight race with Jack Ryan: Kenneth Branagh Takes a Nap and Brick Mansions (no pun here, I feel bad enough for that movie as is) for worst movie of the year so far. Yes, we’re only four months in, but when the fifth entry in the Paranormal Activity canon can’t even make that list, it means you’ve really had some half-assed films.

300: Shameless Play on Star Wars Titling wasn’t actually a terrible movie. I mean, it was, but it had some neat technical things going for it. Its biggest problem, and its strongest claim to win (lose?) that award at the end of the year, is Artemisia. The Persian general is played by Eva Green, who is the only actor in the whole damn thing who realizes how much camp a movie like 300: Leonidas and Xerxes Escape from Guantanamo Bay really needs. Green (and Lena Headey for all of 2.5 seconds) are the only watchable actors in this.

But the character Green plays is offensive. She’s a strong woman. Well that’s a good start, but why is she strong? Because she was raped as a preteen. Welcome to genre fiction, where men can be strong because they swing Freudian swords around all day, but women can only be strong if they’re sexually taken advantage of. It’s like a trade-off. You can be a weak and virginal female character, but if you want to be strong, you’d better get chained up in the bottom of a Greek ship for years on end while sailors have their way with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Arnold Schwarzenegger being strong in Conan or John McClane being badass in Die Hard because either got raped for years on end as a kid.

A.E. Larsen writes about Artemisia’s historical accuracy, as well as giving his own take on the strong-woman-as-raped-woman issue in a fantastic article that bridges history and social responsibility in filmmaking.

So even though Brick Mansions is the worst-told story of the year, and Jack Ryan: Keira Knightley Can’t Play Every Character in This Scene, Can She? She Can, I Guess is the most boring movie of the year, 300: Screenwriters Please Go F*ck Yourselves is really leading the pack toward the bottom.

The Best Movie You’ll Never See
Sam Adams


At The Dissolve, Sam Adams (he really gets around Wednesday Collective, doesn’t he) interviews director William Friedkin about the best movie you’ve never seen. In fact, catch me in the right mood and I’ll admit that Sorceror, William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Wages of Fear, may be the best movie, period. It has one of the finest endings in cinema. Hell, the whole movie is just one great, big ending. Coming off his success with The Exorcist and The French Connection, Friedkin risked life and limb to shoot an existential, Conradian action movie in the jungle.

Despite being a critical success, it was killed by the release of Star Wars, and Sorceror barely survived. I remember watching a poor VHS copy as a kid, not knowing that most prints had been lost or destroyed over a few short decades. Sorceror was finally remastered and released last month. Watch it, you won’t regret it. And read the interview, though it does contain spoilers.

Adam Sandler as Transgressional Hero
Bilge Ebiri

Adam Sandler test

I don’t know that I agree with this article, but I don’t know that I disagree with it. This is rare. Try it on for size.

The Wily Beast and the Desperate Woman
Hadley Freeman

George Clooney

Freeman tips the double standard in celebrity reporting on its head by comparing media reactions to the engagement of George Clooney to the reactions on the engagement of Jennifer Aniston. He was ‘tamed,’ the wily beast, by one of the world’s most pre-eminent humanitarian lawyers (even though she turned him down twice) while Jennifer Aniston suckered in some poor B-lister I’ve never heard of ‘in the nick of time,’ and he can’t wait to get out of it. You know, all allegedly, because otherwise, writers would get sued. Really, I couldn’t care who’s getting married to whom – I was always rooting for Clooney and Pitt to get it together so they could have an excuse to remake old Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn courtroom comedies – but if you’re going to report on people’s private lives, you may as well be equal opportunity about it.

As Freeman says, “In the world of media, women are tragic and desperate and said, and men are caddish and free. Because the media, apparently, believes that people are like characters in a crap romcom you wouldn’t watch on a 14-hour flight.”