Pioneer Filmmaker Jamie King on Disinformation and “Reality Wars”Jan 19, 2021
Jamie King's filmmaking career crosses the arc from his pioneering distribution of the documentary "Steal This Film" to his latest project that analyzes mass manipulation around false memes such as "Stop the Steal."
In the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast, which aired in the aftermath of rioters storming the U.S. Capitol in protest at what they wrongly believed was a stolen presidential election, Jamie said we are living the consequences of "reality wars'. But, he said, these wars are nothing new and cannot be blamed on the Internet.
"I want to situate this moment of manipulation in all the other moments that have happened before. Maybe we don't need to go back, maybe what we need to do is to go forward. One of the things I am interested in is re-decentralization," Jamie said of his film project "Schism."
Jamie worries that society may fail to find the fundamental causes of disinformation if people dismiss the current crisis as the fault of social media. He cited a real war that was fought when the administration of then-President George W. Bush misled the public, invading Iraq on the pretext of destroying weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found and the mainstream media at the time was roundly criticized for its role in effectively facilitating the manipulation of public opinion.
Schism explores "a breaking apart of the reality we know. You and your friend, or people and their family suddenly find themselves sharing so little of their world that they may as well be in different worlds," Jamie said. "This project tries to track why it happened and the consequences."
Those consequences can be deadly.
"There are out-of-control meme engines that are producing crazy versions of reality," Jamie said. The result is that even in a pandemic public opinion is divided over such a basic decision as wearing a mask to reduce the virus spread.
"If you can't reach a consensus (on wearing a mask), it shows you how seriously this information problem is affecting our lived environment. It's a mortally serious problem," he said. "If we don't fix our capacity to get on the same page about fundamental issues, we are unlikely to be able to move forward and solve some of the pressing problems that are in front of us."
Jamie's instinct is to see solutions in decentralization. He learned the value of the concept when he used BitTorrent to distribute worldwide to millions of people his first movie, "Stop This Film," which is about the movement against intellectual property.
Jamie is also the founder of Totemic, a platform for blockchain-based, digital collectables, designed to help creators fund and sustain creative work and VODO which aims to connect independent content producers with large online audiences.
To hear more of Jamie's ideas on disinformation, manipulation, and even non-fungible tokens, follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.