Malcolm Gladwell on Social Networks

October 23, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell – one of my favourite authors – is in the news again with his October 4, 2010 New Yorker article entitled “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted”.  The article is worth reading in full (and is freely available online, at least for a while), but here is a good summary of Gladwell’s important conclusions (from his final two paragraphs):

[Clay] Shirky considers this model of activism an upgrade. But it is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.

Shirky ends the story of the lost Sidekick by asking, portentously, “What happens next?”—no doubt imagining future waves of digital protesters. But he has already answered the question. What happens next is more of the same. A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls. Viva la revolución.

There has been, as they say, lots of “conversation” about Gladwell’s article, including a New York Times discussion section entitled “Can Twitter Lead People to the Streets?”, a New Yorker on-line chat with Gladwell (one of the most interesting parts of this is Gladwell’s admission that he does not follow Twitter – too much else to read, he says), and articles in the Atlantic Monthly, among others.  Gladwell also makes reference to the (just published book) The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change, by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith (Jossey Bass).  (Note this link is to the Australian publisher page for the book.)  The blog from these authors (whose book, is criticised, in part in Gladwell’s article) has followed the discussion.

Useful reading.

Separate note: The Social Network film opens in Australia next Thursday, October 28th, so more on that later.

Wall Street 2 delivers

October 10, 2010

Olvier Stone’s new film Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps delivers. This is not a great film, and from an emotional delivery standpoint, it provides significantly less than Wall Street 1.  There’s much to do made about “fusion” energy and somehow that $100million has to go to some California professor to help his research keep going.  Really, as we really care about that. There’s a love story between the main “protege” character Jake Moore (played by Shia LeBeouf) and his girlfriend/fiance Winnie (played by the delightful English actress Carey Mulligan), who is the daughter of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, again, captivating as always).

The narrative doesn’t really hold up, but there are two aspects of this film which are truly special:  Stone’s production values – albeit frequently “over the top” are a total delight to behold (making this film eminently worth viewing on the big screen, instead of waiting for the DVD version), filled with split screens, fades and even wipes, along with rioting colourful streams of numbers running down New York City streets during the night.  All of this is meant to give us some visual feeling for the frenenticism associated with Wall Street trading and the 2008 financial meltdown – when most of the film is set.  New York City has rarely looked finer, more brilliant and more impressive on screen.  Thankfully there are no acheing references to September 11th (the film’s themes are already a bit too much weight).

And the second great part about Wall Street 2 was about the character of Jake (LeBeouf) and his relationships with four older men: Gordon Gekko, Louis Zabel (an obviously Jewish head trader in his company, played by Frank Langella), Bretton James (Josh Brolin, in a great performance – here playing the bad guy competitor of Zabel and – it turns out – Gekko before him) and “Dr Masters” (Austin Pendleton), the California alternative energy guru who Jake tries so hard to finance.  Jake, we discover, lost his father at a young age (and his relationship with his mother, wanna-be real estate agent played by Susan Sarandon, is also nicely done) and his attempts to find older male mentors and father figures is touching, and is the real emotional core of this film – not the often-confusing financial shenanigans or even the Winnie-Gordon relationship.  Stone, I think, really loves the man’s world more than anything and it is those male relationships that carry this film.

Stone, like other Hollywood personalities (Mel Gibson, anyone?) has had a hard time staying out of controversy.  Click here for my summary of his July 26, 2010 antisemitic rave and response.

Oliver Stone’s anti-Jewish rave

October 9, 2010

I am a bit late in reporting this, but it is worth noting that on July 26th of this year, another chapter in Hollywood personalities and Jewish controversies unfolded, with director Oliver Stone being quoted in an interview with The Sunday Times of London in which he stated:

Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support …. Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than [to] the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed]…. Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? The Jewish domination of the media…. There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy   for years. (see Haaretz 2010, West 2010, Barnes 2010)

Stone’s comment on July 26, 2010 was immediately followed by condemnations from the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League and a number of other commentators, almost all of whom compared the outburst to Mel Gibson’s 2006 antisemitic comments. Stone to issued a retraction statement the next day. There were a number of differences from Gibson’s 2006 outburst, including Stone’s background and political persuasion: he is Jewish on his father’s side (the family name originally was Silverstein) and he is avowedly left-wing. The fact that both the “Jewish domination” theme and the skirting close to Holocaust denial seem to cut across the political spectrum worries a number of observers.

Los Angeles Times
Danielle Berrin in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
Ed West in UK Telegraph
Soraya Roberts in New York Daily News
Alana Goodman in NewsBusters
Brian Levin in The Huffington Post
Haaretz online (Israel, in English)
John Nolte in Big Hollywood
David Bernstein in the Volokh Conspiracy
Brooks Barnes in The New York Times