Last week, a trailer for the farcical anti-Islam film The Innocence of Muslims posted on YouTube triggered violent and deadly reactions from some in the Muslim world. Since then, many voices have weighed in on the role the Internet has played in the story:
Writing for Yahoo!'s movie blog The Wrap, Sharon Waxman says, "If The Innocence of Muslims started as an amateur film shot in California's inland empire, it ended as a subject of international violence, requiring the U.S. Secretary of State herself to denounce it. It's the flip side of the sea change that social media tools have brought to modern culture and politics—the dark side of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter."
Slate's William Saletan adds, "The spread of digital technology and Internet bandwidth makes it possible to reach every corner of the globe almost instantly with a homemade video defaming any faith tradition. It can become an incendiary weapon."
Michael Hogan, executive arts and entertainment editor for The Huffington Post, asks, "Would a pamphlet or a web posting have had the same effect? Or is there something about filmmaking that lends authority to an expression of stupidity that would otherwise be dismissed out of hand?" [movies.yahoo.com, 9/16/12; slate, 9/14/12; huffingtonpost.com, 9/14/12]
Two months ago, few Americans—or anyone outside of South Korea, for that matter—had heard of a pop singer from that country named PSY (real name: Park Jae-Sang). But a video of his song "Gangnam Style" has since gone viral, racking up nearly 200 million hits, about half of them in just the last week. It's also topped iTunes' singles chart, and PSY managed to land a spot in a skit spoofing his song on Saturday Night Live. But this is not "just" 2012's "Macarena." The video's mildly racy, often ridiculous vibe is being used to take a satirical bite out of the wealthy Gangnam neighborhood in Seoul.
In a making-of featurette about the video, PSY says, "Human society is so hollow, and even while filming I felt pathetic." Adrian Hong, a frequently quoted Korean-American consultant, adds, "Koreans have been kind of caught up in this spending to look wealthy, and Gangnam has really been the leading edge of that. I think a lot of what [PSY] is pointing out is how silly that is. The whole video is about him thinking he's a hotshot but then realizing he's just, you know, at a children's playground, or thinking he's playing polo or something and realizes he's on a merry-go-round." [theatlantic.com/international, 8/23/12; treehugger.com, 8/23/12]
"It's back to school time, and you know what that means: back to body shaming time. For all the insecure, body-conscious teenage girls out there, Seventeen magazine comes to the rescue by telling them what's truly important this school year: being 'pretty.'… [Seventeen's back-to-school issue features articles like] 'Shiny Hair, Perfect Skin by Your First Day of School' and 'Get Everything You Want This Year—Great Body, Tons of $$$, Amazing Clothes.' No wonder young women today have such body image issues. We (society) are telling them that that's what's most important! Instead of reading these headlines as the superficial messages that they are, girls are likely walking away with the notion that everything about them is wrong. Their hair is gross, their skin is a mess, their wardrobe is hideous and their body is too fat, too thin, too whatever. So they must fix all of that and buy this magazine which will surely make them perfect and pretty once they discover all 825 ways to do so. It's shameful, isn't it? … This crap is seriously messing with females today. Instead of feeling confident and secure, we are left questioning our looks and our bodies. It's offensive and damaging."
—blisstree.com contributor Deborah Dunham [blisstree.com, 8/22/12]
Cosmopolitan magazine is pornographic, harmful to its readers and shouldn't be sold to anyone under 18. So says Victoria Hearst, granddaughter and an heir of magazine tycoon William Randolf Hearst, whose company publishes Cosmo. Victoria Hearst, a Christian, recently told Fox News, "About 12 years ago, before the Lord told me to found Praise Him Ministries in 2001, I noticed how pornographic the content of Cosmopolitan magazine was. I telephoned Frank Bennack, head of the company, and told him Cosmopolitan should not be sold to minors, and that I would like to address the board about it. He refused to allow it and refused to admit that Cosmo is pornography. Sex sells and the company does not care that Cosmo gets into the hands of children."
Subsequently, Victoria Hearst has joined former model Nicole Weider's campaign to get the magazine put in an opaque plastic wrapper and to restrict sales to those under age 18. "It's important to understand that we are not trying to censor Cosmopolitan magazine or stop the Hearst Corporation from printing it," Hearst says. "We are simply asking Hearst to take responsibility for the magazine's pornographic content and voluntarily make sure that it is sold to adults only. Right now, Hearst is refusing to do that, so Nicole and I have been speaking to legislators and others in authority to have Cosmo fall under the guidelines of states' 'Material Harmful To Minors' laws. That would make it illegal to sell the magazine to minors." [foxnews.com, 9/6/12]
"I have no experience with incest … We had heard a few stories where brothers and sisters were completely, absolutely in love with one another. You know what? This whole movie is about judgment, and lack of it, and doing what you want. Who gives a s‑‑‑ if people judge you? I'm not saying this is an absolute, but in a way, if you're not having kids—who gives a d‑‑n? Love who you want. Isn't that what we say? Gay marriage—love who you want? If it's your brother or sister, it's super-weird, but if you look at it, you're not hurting anybody except every single person who freaks out because you're in love with one another."
—director Nick Cassavetes (well known for helming The Notebook) in an interview with The Wrap, talking about his new movie Yellow, which includes a love story between a brother and sister [ew.com, 9/10/12]
"I can't think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads. Some people might not agree with that. Fine! That's just my opinion. … I'm not speaking on behalf of the gay community. In fact, I don't feel like I'm part of any 'community.' The only community I belong to is humanity and we've got too many children on the planet, so it's good not to have more."
—openly gay actor Rupert Everett [telegraph.co.uk, 9/16/12]
More than half of all Americans now use a smartphone, with their use particularly popular among the young, according to Nielsen. About 74% of people ages 25 to 34 own a smartphone, up from 59% in July 2011. And 58% of teens ages 13 to 17 also own one—far more than the third of American teens who owned one last year. [pcmag.com, 9/11/12 stats]
"The Internet is the new street corner, and I tell everyone that going down to [the red light district] is nothing more than going to your browser now."
—Ken Penrod, a Maryland detective, after five football players from the state's DeMatha Catholic High School used their Web-connected smartphones to hire prostitutes while on a road trip [washingtonpost.com, 9/10/12]
An isolated guerilla campaign against singer Chris Brown in London has sought to dissuade potential purchases of the singer's latest album, Fortune, by slapping a warning sticker on the disc without retailers' knowledge. The sticker reads: "WARNING. DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM! THIS MAN BEATS WOMEN." The stickers have thus far shown up in just one store, and it's believed to be the work of anti-domestic violence campaigners. [nbcnews.com, 9/14/12]