Jimmy Kimmel’s Flaming Yoga Pants or Syria: What Climbs Your Firewall?

Thanks to my teenage son and a gaming site, I spent five hours last Saturday removing a virus from our computer.  “Conduit,” was a crazy search-engine device that refused to leave, breezing past my security software.  The kid had let the intruder in disguised as an update of Adobe Flash that was “required” on my computer.

A good friend was startled to see a scary warning of a virus on his computer–so he clicked the large red “Remove Virus” button and thus began infecting his hard drive.

With “tears in my eyes” and begging for money from a US Embassy in London,  a modern Odysseus, disguised as me, wrote to hundreds of my contacts.  Most didn’t fall for the scam but a few did write back asking for more details where to send the cashier’s check.  It started two weeks earlier as a fake Yahoo informed me that I needed to upgrade.  So I dutifully entered my password and allowed the British bad guy access to all my folders and contacts.  {I didn’t notice that the message had come from a “yah00” address–with zeroes instead of O’s).

THorse

The techie who penned the  name “Trojan Horse” had a bit of literary flair.  What a perfect metaphor honoring the tricky Odysseus sneaking past the impenetrable walls of Troy–posing as a gift from the gods.

“Exhibit A, Your Honor”

On March 13th, arguing against the NRA’s lobbying, Michael Moore describes photography as the vital  trojan horse to infiltrate our own walls of denial. (link) He points to key moments in recent history when powerful images have changed minds and therefore policy.  (And, ironically, the firewall-strengthening words “Michael” and “Moore” may refuse to allow some readers past this point.)

Till

Emmett Till’s body was found and returned to Chicago. To the shock of many, his mother insisted on an open casket at his funeral so that the public could see what happens to a little boy’s body when bigots decide he is less than human. She wanted photographers to take pictures of her mutilated son and freely publish them. More than 10,000 mourners came to the funeral home, and the photo of Emmett Till appeared in newspapers and magazines across the nation.

“I just wanted the world to see,” she said. “I just wanted the world to see.”

The world did see, and nothing was ever the same again for the white supremacists of the United States of America. Because of Emmett Till, because of that shocking photograph of this little dead boy, just a few months later, “the revolt officially began on December 1, 1955” (from Eyes on the Prize) when Rosa Parks decided not to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The historic bus boycott began and, with the images of Emmett Till still fresh in the minds of many Americans, there was no turning back.

nbc

In March, 1968, U.S. soldiers massacred 500 civilians at My Lai in Vietnam. A year and a half later, the world finally saw the photographs – of mounds of dead peasants covered in blood, a terrified toddler seconds before he was gunned down, and a woman with her brains literally blown out of her head. (These photos would join other Vietnam War photos, including a naked girl burned by napalm running down the road, and a South Vietnamese general walking up to a handcuffed suspect, taking out his handgun, and blowing the guy’s brains out on the NBC Nightly News.)

Moore argues that our culture will continue to push out of our minds the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary last December:

Because if we were to seriously look at the 20 slaughtered children – I mean really look at them, with their bodies blown apart, many of them so unrecognizable the only way their parents could identify them was by the clothes they were wearing – what would be our excuse not to act?

SandyHook

And he predicts that the crime-scene photos will eventually make their way to the public eye:

You will have to look at who and what we are, and what we’ve allowed to happen. At the end of World War II, General Eisenhower ordered that thousands of German civilians be forced to march through the concentration camps so they could witness what was happening just down the road from them during the years that they turned their gaze away, or didn’t ask, or didn’t do anything to stop the murder of millions.

Like Doubting Thomas, we have a need to actually put our fingers in the wounds to admit what’s right in front of us.

The End of Twerking and the Beginning of Fact-Checking?

Jimmy Kimmel, this past Monday, revealed a hoax his team pulled on the American public and, more specifically, its news media.  They staged a teenage girl “twerking,” and accidentally setting herself on fire.  They didn’t promote the video on YouTube, they just let it become viral on its own.  In one week, nine million people had seen the sequence.  In a clever fake Skype interview with the girl in Missouri, who was actually a stunt woman curtained onstage beside him, they then ran a montage of news and talk shows from around the country falling for the gag, warning of the dangers of twerking–in the post-Miley Cyrus VMA fiasco.

Kimmel finished the piece noting:  “Good thing nothing’s happening in Syria right now.”

Just two days later, the above YouTube site has 12 million hits and a few sidebar links of news folks crying ethics-violations against Kimmel.

The Power of Fluff

BNews

1987’s Broadcast News began with Holly Hunter’s character presenting at a conference of “journalists,” pointing out that a giant display of falling dominoes eclipsed two important news stories that day.  She meant to offer it as an example to her fellow professionals of fluff-over-substance.  Instead, the bored audience burst into applause at the wrong moment–cheering as the last domino fell with an explosion of fireworks.

amadeus mozart conducting

Salieri advised Mozart in Amadeus that the emperor was lukewarm to his latest piece because there wasn’t a big bang at the end of the music, letting the audience know when it’s time to clap.  Like Yogi Bera observed about the opera, without a fat lady singing, how are we supposed to know the thing is over?

War-Weariness vs. Evidence

As media becomes quicker our memory grows shorter–and like a callous, our skin grows thicker. Even a story as disturbing as Sandy Hook, after one week, begins to fade–no longer appearing on our cell phone’s front page.

The visual evidence in Syria came out immediately (link) but Americans, while believing the photographs and accounts, are reticent to make the jump to military action.  The public is skeptical, remembering too clearly other “evidence” that led us to war–as World War I kept us out of World War II from 1939 until a Sunday morning in Hawaii.

colin-powell-un

Jimmy Kimmel began his confession admitting that the doubters were indeed right, the flaming yoga pants disaster was a fake.  He just couldn’t resist twisting the knife a little, observing that none of the doubters seemed to be producers of our news.

Sometimes it takes a careful bit of surveying to figure out what our own firewalls are keeping out–or in.

About Kevin Walsh

Before creating MyMediaDiary.com, Kevin taught high school video productions and language arts for 25 years. He is the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at www.mmdphotovideo.com which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His text, "Video Direct," is used in 40 states. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two teenagers. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kwteacher
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