The Power of the People!

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by D_Martin van Burden, Feb 13, 2004.

  1. D_Martin van Burden

    D_Martin van Burden Account Disabled

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2002
    Messages:
    3,365
    Likes Received:
    6
    In other related grassroots-friendly local news, the effort of many Lexingtonians who protested the commemoration of D. W. Griffith, producer of the racist propaganda piece entitled "Birth of a Nation," had finally experienced relief after the Downtown Lexington Corporation decided to revoke his plaque at the last minute.

    Griffith's film initially received honors for being one of the first ventures into motion picture filmmaking. "Birth" received critical attention for its captivating use of pictorialized motion, featured many scenes of running, continuous action spread across several scenes. However, the content of this film -- a KKK uprising against insubordinate "darkies" that ends in their successive triumph -- became contested as a representation of the progressive stance Lexington and its citizenship take toward race relations. Griffith's film referenced several other troublesome pieces of racist and race-divisive literature including Dixon's "The Leopard Spots" and "The Clansmen," both virulent works of its own age.

    Letters streamed in since word of Griffith's nomination spread through social service e-networks including Kathy Riley's Lexington Human Rights Commission listserv -- mine included. The revocation news arrived a few moments ago.

    So, to that I say, it feels pretty damn good to know that the DLC finally listened to something that was highly controversial and worthy of reaction. Go, Lexington!
     
  2. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2002
    Messages:
    83,922
    Likes Received:
    34
    According to my VideoHound's GOLDEN MOVIE RETRIEVER Mr. Griffith made four commercial movies prior to 1915's The Birth of a Nation that still remain in print, and since 1915 he made eighteen more.

    Some of these include

    Intolerance
    The Idol Dancer
    America
    Abraham Lincoln.

    I can look at his films these 80 years later and enjoy them or hate them. Whether or not I agree with what he said or encouraged in one film is not important. The important thing is, he was able to present it for the viewers' interpretation. The same goes for current directors like Eastwood, Gibson or even Penny Marshall.

    The world fell in love with Charles Lindberg, yet he hated democracy as he was a socialist and said some pretty bitter things about America. We chose to ignore that.

    The world worshipped at the feet of the funniest man in movies, Charlie Chaplin, yet he was also politically outspoken and had questionable sexual tastes.

    When a man like D. W. Griffith has his brilliant, pioneering career besmirched by the way a certain, overly sensitive group interprets ONE of his works, all I can say to Mr. Griffith (and others) is, welcome to the homogenized, bland, insane 21st century.
     
  3. D_Martin van Burden

    D_Martin van Burden Account Disabled

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2002
    Messages:
    3,365
    Likes Received:
    6
    I'm surprised at you, Pecker. No, wait, no I'm not surprised at all... and I'll grant you the right to disagree with my proud moment.

    I haven't seen Griffith's other works, but I can't help but wonder if they advocate the same themes and thematics that appeared in "Birth." Since they preceded "Birth," I presume that they featured some intensely powerful cinematography of their own, too. But the DLC didn't bother looking at these other obscure works to make them worthy of commendation. No. "Birth" was the most familiar one to them for that era, and initially they thought it was worthy of a plaque.

    But Pecker, I'm sure people would read your post, especially that oh so lovely line, "...by the way a certain, overly sensitive group interprets ONE of his works, all I can say...is, welcome to the homogenized, bland, insane 21st century," [emphasis added] wondering how you can say such things. Your reaction may be, well, because you can see the art in his work, who gives two shits about the content of his work?

    I mean, c'mon, you can say the same thing about the Bell Curve, right? Who knew that some researchers would get their methodologies questioned just because they were trying to make a stronger argument for innate differences in intelligence? They were just trying to prove a hypothesis, right? Never mind that the researchers never considered cultural bias or the political environment that supported such statements, but hey, it's just science, isn't it? And art is art.

    I don't know a damn thing about your cultural or ethnic background, Pecker, but I imagine that if someone out there made a propagandist piece that reflected a piece of who you are (not simply some convenient racial label you slap on a form) in an unabashedly negatively light, that it might just get a piece of reaction out of you. If Black folks were of the majority group back then and Whites were being ridiculed, the protest would still work the same.

    Oh, on a related note: Are any of you familiar with [link=http://www.godhatesfags.com]Godhatesfags.com[/link]?

    Now, let's put a "Pecker" analysis on this stuff. Ok, so we have some serious right-wing people out there who might have taken some bits of the Bible a little too seriously (and out of context?). Even though some of their stunts are in incredibly poor taste (re: Matthew Shepard, for starters), hey, their views are protected by the Constitution. They have a fundamental right to say whatever they want, so they picket and protest as they please.

    So, let's assume that the good majority of people who see this stuff are pretty appalled or ashamed. We clearly don't like what the GHFers are saying about gays. But why? Are we just overhomogenized, bland fuckers who are thinking in PC terms? That maybe, just maybe, we really don't like gay people all that much, but we're too afraid to say so, much less support the GHFers secretively? Are we all reading the same Bible here?

    The point is, messages like these -- that the KKK has to beat down the civilly disobedient, savage darkies into submission (Griffith) or that AIDS is really God's salvation to all gay people (GHF) -- have some unquestionable "wrongness" to them. As a former roommate of mine put it, we have a fundamental right to do many things, but when those "rights" trounce upon others (e.g. when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, when I stab Pecker in the kidney, etc.), those rights are invalidated.

    Either way, it wasn't just Black folks who got mad, Pecker... White people (and other colors I'm sure) did too. People were mad because the line between art and denigration was so incredibly thin. Imagine, though I doubt you can, if an anti-White work were publicized and honored for its "cinema verité," how would that go over? Oh, that's right. It's our fault if we take things a little seriously; I mean, it's just racism.

    In Griffith's case, I'm sure he can be honored for his innovations featured in other works, but it is incredibly difficult to uphold propaganda that is so heavily laden in derogatory messages. It's like supporting a gang bang film for its intensity and artistic beauty, and even though the woman died in the film from the onslaught of all those men... never mind... we'll just forget that even happened.

    Wake up.
     
  4. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2002
    Messages:
    83,922
    Likes Received:
    34
    Don't assume that because I don't agree with trashing a man's career because of an ancient work that, like it or not, reflected the mores and feelings of his time, that I would support the subject matter in today's context.

    Some American textbooks are deleting any mention of certain of our Founding Fathers because they owned slaves, or leaders of the CSA in our Civil War because they supported the South, which supported slavery. My goodness, our local Boy Scouts of America District just voted to change its name from The Robert E. Lee Council to The Heart of Virginia Council because somebody might get his feelings hurt and refuse to join.

    All I'm saying, Dee, is that since many of us have chosen to embrace political correctness in lieu of common sense, we're often guilty of amputating a leg when a bandage on a toe would do.

    His positive attitude towards the KKK notwithstanding, Griffith was a damned good director in what was at that time a new medium, and a he was a fantastic story teller who deserves recognition for his work, even if it's in the form of a simple plaque.
     
  5. jonb

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2002
    Messages:
    8,308
    Likes Received:
    2
    Well, TBC is very bad science. LOL I loved Herrnstein and Murray's citations:
    • Arthur Jensen, who once said 'eugenics isn't a crime'. His name became synonymous with racism in the 70s, when he blamed poor black performance on low IQs.
    • Thomas Brouchard's study of monozygotic twins raised apart (but in the same neighborhood, which he doesn't mention). Of course, Brouchard has never alowed anyone to view his methodology.
    • Richard Lynn, who has done studies along the lines of 'positive correlations between head size and intelligence'.
    • And then there's J Phillippe Rushton, who has throughout his career been obsessed with alleged negative correlations between IQ and various sexual organs. "It's a trade-off: More brain or more penis. You can't have everything."
    Of course, Newsweek argued that these were 'overwhelmingly mainstream'. *snicker*

    If that's not enough, Herrnstein and Murray didn't even use an IQ test: They used an armed forces qualifying test measuring things like vocabulary and verbal reasoning. Basically, it shows how much you benefitted from school: To use it as a proxy for IQ is a lie. Then they used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to show that IQ, not socioeconomic status, is the main predictor of succes. Of course, they didn't factor in things like number of siblings, presence of two parents in the home, farm residence, etc. Not surprisingly, all of their errors were in one direction.

    Another problem is a worldwide phenomenon known as the 'Flynn effect'. Basically, somone who scores 100 today would've scored 103 ten years ago. Clearly another secular trend, not a genetic one.

    Yet another problem was TBC's claim that smart classes were getting smarter and dull classes getting duller. Specifically, the IQ gap at the top and bottom rungs of the social heirarchy has gone from 12.5 points in the 1930s to 8.5 points in the 1990s, with people testing higher on average than they used to.

    Even more, they misrepresented heredity. First, they argue that intelligence is genetic; many geneticists have noted the difficulty in separating genetic from environmental factors, especially in a species such as man where you can't just raise them in a zoo. Second, height and weight are hereditary, but also depend on nutrition. Ditto for diabetes, heart disease, and alcoholism. Disabilities associated with single-gene inheritance, such as phenylketonuria, can be prevented with medical treatment. Third, the more scientists learn about human genetics the more complexity is revealed. If anything, a lack of predictability from genetic information has been proven the rule and not the exception. Simplistic claims about the inheritance of a complex trait are not only disingenuous; such claims are, as the history of eugenics illustrates, dangerous.
     
  6. jay_too

    jay_too New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2002
    Messages:
    821
    Likes Received:
    0
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    CA
    Today at lunch [11 people with various backgrounds], I asked if anyone had seen "Birth of a Nation." No one had but a few mentioned seeing a 5-second clip of a mob scene. Then I asked, "What do you think it was about?" The answers were the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Battle of Lexington, Valley Forge, and the victory at Yorktown.

    "Would you believe a homage to the KKK?" I asked. "huh?" was the response. Everyone was as incredulous as I was when I first read Dee's post. We agreed that it should be consigned to the dustbin of history. No wonder no one has ever seen more than a clip on tv.

    jay
     
  7. Imported

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2000
    Messages:
    56,713
    Likes Received:
    55
    mindseye: [quote author=Pecker link=board=99;num=1076731978;start=0#3 date=02/14/04 at 15:55:03]His positive attitude towards the KKK notwithstanding, Griffith was a damned good director in what was at that time a new medium, and a he was a fantastic story teller who deserves recognition for his work, even if it's in the form of a simple plaque.[/quote]

    His positive attitude towards racial extermination notwithstanding, Hitler designed a damned affordable car at a time when cars were new, and he deserves recognition for his work, even if it's in the form of a simple plaque.

    I suspect you clearly see how offensive and divisive it would be to propose we erect a plaque to Hitler honoring his contributions to automotive history. It saddens me, then, that you don't seem to appreciate the divisiveness that a plaque for Griffith would have caused.
     
  8. jonb

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2002
    Messages:
    8,308
    Likes Received:
    2
    Or how about

    Despite his desire to limit the births of the poor and nonwhites, and his work with the atom bomb, William Shockley deserves recognition for inventing the transistor and thus creating the economy as we see it today.
     
  9. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2002
    Messages:
    83,922
    Likes Received:
    34
    Okay, I'm leaving this topic.

    You've unfortunately gone to the extreme end and equated my example of an errant artist with a megalomaniacal murderer and a with a mad scientist.

    This kind of arguement becomes less a sensible discussion and more of a juvenile "I can top that" contest.

    A pie in the face might have sufficed.
     
  10. D_Martin van Burden

    D_Martin van Burden Account Disabled

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2002
    Messages:
    3,365
    Likes Received:
    6
    Maybe it's good you do that, Pecker. Of course, we were only offering arguments in the same form as your original one -- and even then, I only questioned why we couldn't honor Griffith for some other work than "Birth." Hey, if he gets thumbs up for the "The Idol Dancer" even though I never heard of it until you mentioned, that's just peachy keen.

    I just didn't want you to think that you could feel validated in attacking people who really feel pulled and divided on this controversial issue.
     
  11. jonb

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2002
    Messages:
    8,308
    Likes Received:
    2
    What? Shockley won the Nobel Prize for Physics. (I was trying to avoid the Hitler comparison.)
     
  12. Imported

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2000
    Messages:
    56,713
    Likes Received:
    55
    norseman: Boys, Boys, Boys,
    Now play nice.
    If you can't play nice we're going to have to send you back to your, er, nevermind.

    If I can venture into these dangerous waters for a moment. Perhaps we're forgetting context here, particularly in timeline.

    I had the embarassing experience a few decades ago of sitting in a restaurant with an elderly grandmother when a family of color entered. (Is that the correct wording nowadays ?) She looked up and said to no one in particular in a voice loud enough to make me want to duck under the table, "You know, they want to be called 'colored' nowadays, not 'niggers' ". The woman was born in the 19th century. What can I say ?

    Many of our "heros" are found to have "feet of clay" a little further along in the timeline. The fact that "Birth of a Nation" was considered a cinematic achievement that probably advanced the making of motion pictures is probably indicative that at the time it was made, its content was not generally considered offensive. So we're offended now. OK. Do we honor that achievement today ? Dunno, that's a tough call. It was what it was, and it did what it did. Perhaps we need to "recognize" it (what's the point of denying it ?) without "glorifying" it.

    Just some thoughts without all the references to look up. The references seldom alter our emotional responses.

    Norse
     
  13. BobLeeSwagger

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2003
    Messages:
    1,481
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    The fact is that Birth of A Nation (1915) is one of the great milestones in motion picture history. It's impossible to overstate its impact at the time.

    It was the first film to really utilize the close-up. The first to use reversal shots for reactions between characters. The first to have a chase scene. The first to have a battle scene, and considering the technology and techniques available at the time, still one of the best battle scenes ever filmed. The first to switch back and forth between two parallel plotlines within the same film. The first to shoot a scene at night. Every contemporary filmmaker and layman who saw it in a theater at the time was just stunned by its scope and power and innovation. Birth of A Nation was the first modern feature film as we know it. I don't think there's a recent work to compare it to.

    Having said this, it's also one of the most racist tracts in the history of mass media. Watching it today, you're almost guaranteed to squirm at much of it because what it portrays is so unacceptable and immoral. Birth Of A Nation was a major factor in the resurgence of the KKK in the early 20th century. And the fact is, this country was a lot more racist back then than it is now. A LOT more. The racism is, shamefully, part of the reason the film was so powerful. And the innovation just blew audiences away to the point that a lot of people believed it. It is one of the great films of all time partially because it convinced people of these racist truths. By "great," I don't mean that it's morally just or acceptable entertainment for us today. Without knowing the context in which the film was made at the time, it seems to have no redeeming qualities to modern audiences. The best analogy I can think of is the way Huckleberry Finn is still banned from many schools today, but even that doesn't quite cover it because that book was intended to confront racism and this film embraced it.

    A final note: D.W. Griffith realized after the fact how bigoted and distorted the film was. As a native Southerner, he thought he was faithfully adapting the play "The Clansmen." He even tried to release an edited version that removed all of the Klansmen scenes, but by then the cat was out of the bag. He attempted to atone with the film Intolerance about a year later, which was a sweeping epic about prejudice in several historical eras. It too is considered one of the greatest films of the silent era, but it hasn't received as much attention as Birth Of A Nation since then.

    Certainly Birth Of A Nation did such irreparable harm to civil rights progress that Griffith deserves no more accolades. But the production of the film at the time was a work of cinematic genius that influenced every other film we've ever seen. Historians have been debating these contradictions ever since then. If anyone is interested in seeing it, research some of the background about the film first so you can put it in context, and then try to find it if you can. The power and revulsion make it serious food for thought.
     
Draft saved Draft deleted