Robert McChesney visits for a screening of this documentary about the internet's un-democratic tendencies. Info
Director Jeremy Earp's 2018 documentary about recent tragedies surrounding the internet and democracy, Digital Disconnect, featuring media critic and University of Illinois professor Robert W. McChesney, is at the very least cheaper and shorter than a journalism major. McChesney, author of a 2013 book of the same title and many articles with bleak headlines like "Farewell To Journalism," narrates initial prophecies of the web's liberating powers and its fall into the hands of a few monopolies and cartels like Google and AT&T, who now effectively write legislation through intense lobbying. It's like if Werner Herzog's somewhat similar 2016 internet documentary Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World had no pseudoscience about Web 2.0 as an expression of Satan and included up-to-date data. McChesney's crash course through the military's development of computers, and that plucky group of San Francisco gentrifiers, catches us up to where we are today, with net neutrality destroyed and internet advertisers making life objectively worse for literally everyone. That is, everyone except the portion of the population left behind in the rush to digital literacy, who are, in a fundamentally online society, effectively illiterate. Also, fair warning: The documentary includes footage of New York City police killing Eric Garner and other violent incidents.
This is the kind of documentary that might be shown in public schools once we've learned our lesson and somehow escaped or mitigated the stultifying powers of a capitalistic internet, but here we are, more vulnerable to hacking and under broader surveillance than ever before. The documentary offers little hope besides an invocation of the democratic muse through the Occupy Movement, and the popular backlash to the FCC's anti-egalitarian media stance. Hopefully this showing, followed by an in-person discussion with McChesney, reignites these conversations in Madison, a city whose local press is lucky in that some small publishers scrape by in the wake of digital news. I don't know. Maybe reader-supported and cooperatively-minded local media outlets are the answer ;) —Reid Kurkerewicz