DVision: Contraband

[8 September 2004]

By Michael David Sims

I am not a very political person. In fact, until last year, I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on around me. Local, national and global issues were background noise as far as I was concerned. Then a funny little thing happened. The United States invaded Iraq. Suddenly, I found myself angered by Bush’s politics, and outraged by the blind faith most American were placing in him.

That’s not to say I picked up a placard and marched down Michigan Avenue here in Chicago. Nor did I make NPR (National Public Radio) my radio station of choice (not yet anyway), tuning-in even as I slumbered. It just means that I finally opened my eyes, and started to actually care about the country that affords me the right to have these thoughts and express them in a venue such as this. And damn was I pissed when I saw what the majority of the world saw: jingoists lead by a corrupt system, tarnishing the glimmering beacon we once were.

But if all of the news outlets are as homogenized as they say, where’s one supposed to turn for information and, better yet, another point of view that isn’t controlled by sponsors and corporate greed? That’s (sort of) where DVision comes in.

While DVision isn’t exactly an alternative news source, it’s surely enlightening and brings many political issues to the table. Even better, most items on the disk are downright hilarious.

Okay, it isn’t funny to learn that prison-workers are learning unmarketable skills while shrink wrapping Microsoft products and attaching fraudulent Made in the USA tags to Nike shoes—all for the same wages as “hard-to-get jobs in Mexico and Southeast Asia”—but it’s in the way the video is presented. Unlike CNN, Fox News, CNBC and all the other cable news networks (and their local affiliates), which present short and oh-so-dry clips—resulting in no one really paying attention—“Little Brother Gets Busted” nears seven minutes and is acted out with toys.

One might think the length alone, on top of the absurdity of the presentation, would turn viewers away. But quite the contrary, really. Despite it simple nature, “Brother” covers everything from how to protect yourself when stopped/questioned by police, where/how to properly hide your contraband (should you choose to carry contraband in the first place), mandatory prison sentences (due to the weight, not quantity of drugs), and (as previously mentioned) unregulated prison-labor.

As someone who was blind to many of those issues, it was disturbing to watch them unfold in rather matter-of-fact terms—made even more disturbing by the absurdity of the presentation. There’s something about watching a naïve little robot go to jail that’s heart wrenching. Maybe it’s that he could be any legally naïve person. Then again, maybe it’s just heart wrenching to learn that the United States prison population makes up for one-quarter of the world’s prison population. I don’t know.

And while nowhere near as funny but just as bothersome (in the I didn’t realize how bad it was sense), “Commercial/I’m Not Stealing… Don’t Put Me in Jail” and “Eye of the Storm” will awaken you to how the media vilifies those their sponsors would have prosecuted and whitewashes any wrongdoing by the government—even when it’s painfully obvious.

As it is with all alternative media/viewpoints, the problem with DVision is twofold.

First, it’s aimed at/preaching to the choir. The people who need to be listening-up (which is everybody) aren’t because they know nothing of Independent Media Center or NPR or DVision. Instead, they’re content to watch the afore mentioned cable news networks because they’re filtered into their houses 24-hours a day and are easy to find.

Secondly, alternative media carries the stigma that it cannot be trusted because 01. it’s online, 02. it isn’t from a so-called reputable news source, and 03. it tends to challenge/expose the government. (And possibly, 04. presents an angle people would rather not think about, frightening them back to the safety of controlled media.)

In the end, what it boils down to is our willingness to open our collective eyes and seek out these other opinions and angles and stories. I opened my eyes, will you open yours?

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/dvision-contraband/