New Left Media and the Networked Documentary

Short-form networked documentaries aren’t an entirely new idea.  Activist filmmakers have been using tools such as camcorders and other cheap video tools to document under-reported stories.  Add to that the use of YouTube as a rapid distribution model and a vibrant political and documentary blogosphere, and we have seen a number of attempts at analyzing political activity on the fly.  More often than not, this format has lent itself to forms of gotcha journalism that may be a temporary distraction along the lines of Max Blumenthal’s visit to the CPAC conference a couple of years ago when Ann Coulter made homophobic remarks about John Edwards.  Such events often risk falling into the category of what Bill Wasik describes as nanostories, short lived news items that disappear quickly.

But in the best cases, I think these networked documentaries can provide thoughtful analysis of a political movement or set of practices, using observational techniques and careful editing to reveal some aspect of a political mindset.  Thanks to A.J. Schnack, I came across New Left Media’s compelling documentary short about the 9/12 Tea Party event in Washington, D.C.   Posted just two days after the Tea Party protest, the video short depicts an interviewer, Chase Whiteside, talking to several protestors about their views.  Although the editing often emphasizes how uninformed the participants are–a long segment is devoted to their concern that Obama has appointed several “czars,” a practice that dates back to at least the Reagan era–a consistent subtext is the fear that many of the Tea Party protesters feel.  One woman cries about (imagined?) grandchildren who would confront her in the future if she did nothing to stem the socialist tidal wave threatening her country.  Others display a fear that is clearly rooted in racial difference.

In general, the 9/12 Tea Party video displays a maturity and thoughtfulness often lost in purely partisan videos, especially ones produced for viral distribution and consumption, and although the interview style may recall the work of Michael Moore (the observational style–reinforced by Eric Stoll and Chase Whiteside’s careful editing–offers a clear thesis about political literacy and knowledge), it doesn’t feel overly forced and it seems to capture some version of the tea party culture, however incomplete.  Like A.J., I want to se more work by Whiteside and Stoll, perhaps something like what A.J. calls “the immediate feature film,” but this shorter, more immediate and linkable format seems to serve them well.

Update: Edited to correctly credit Chase Whiteside as the interviewer and to list both Whitside and Stoll as editors.


  1. Barbara Norris Said,

    September 27, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

    Well, I personally do NOT feel that this young man did a great job of reporting. Why??? Giving gave out HALF TRUTHS to the people he was interviewing was deceitful. I wish that young man stopped me. I would have been able to state the facts right back to him CORRECTLY!!!! Here’s just one issue where he was not fully honest about: The CZARS, Here’s the real truth behind the Czars. Yes, Obama did not create them, he merely expanded tremendously on the concept: there are 32 czars in the Obama administration, based on media reports from reputable sources
    In addition, President Obama has said that he will create the position of cyber czar, and there have been media reports that there could be a health insurance czar and a copyright czar. When and if those positions are filled, that would bring the total to 35. No one had Czars like he does. How much they are getting paid is not known, & why have Czars when the President typically relies on his cabinet for advice already?? . He has created a shadow cabinet answerable only to him. Senator Robert C., Byrd (D-W.Va) has raised the issues that so many czars “can threaten the constitutional system of checks and balances.” There IS much to be concerned about here. This is a perfect example of a President expanding government and there are many Americans out there who oppose big government. I believe in government BY THE PEOPLE, OF THE PEOPLE & FOR THE PEOPLE & this is an example of sheer bloat and corruption. I hope Chase gets to read this. You are only a good reporter when you stick to the facts. Trying to “fool” people and make them look like idiots by mistating things is someone pushing their own agenda. You dont have my respect Chase. You need to find some ethics first. A good reporter is one who covers the stories and reports the news without his own bias. A big problem with the media today it seems. One final point: there is nothing in the constitution about “CZARS” and is unconstitutional in concept. I am an independent. I think this whole government is out of control, democrat republican, what have you!!!! Time to go back to the simplicity of our foundation, The Constitution….

  2. Taylor Said,

    December 20, 2009 @ 4:40 am

    Hey Barbra, two brief points. One, shut off ol’ Glen Beck: I know he’s good fun to watch, and internet sources fed by his news (“news”) is fun, but to call his information credible cannot be rationalized through decent lucid thought. Two: Obama has appointed 8 Czars, during a time of international turmoil; a time where extensive, specific councils are needed. Bush, however, appointed a somewhat staggering 47 Czars. ( if you want a look) However, the information being passed to you, through whatever media streams, has been rather twisted to bring you and your friends to fear anything left-wing. I say this as a democratic citizen of another country: don’t let information come from one place; don’t let people invoke fear in you without YOU decided it’s worth being feared; don’t allow your opinion to be swayed by sheer volume of one attack, when I can, instead, be lead by careful thought and objective consideration.

    To be brief, though, don’t watch Beck. He’s a douche.

  3. Taylor Said,

    December 20, 2009 @ 4:42 am

    Also, excuse the grammar/spelling fail. If you want to, call my points mute because of two typo’s. I implore that you do not.

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