In writing about fakeness itself as a foundational element of YouTube in 2009, I bemoaned the chilling effects of Barack Obama being heralded as the “YouTube President.”

Obama’s YouTube jam goes like this: the serious usually marks the funny, but in his version, get this: the serious is… the serious. Really. YouTube is all irony, all the time, and our YouTube President wittily plays it against itself. Sincerely folks, on YouTube, who came first, Tina Fey or Sarah Palin? I think you know the answer. On YouTube, what gets watched more: Obama’s fire-side chats, Obama GirlObama on Ellen, or Obama via Will.i.am? Yes, we can. Irony-free? “No, you can’t.”

https://youtu.be/-gU09bWifFo

President Obama, speaking recently about Facebook’s fake news problem, continued along this perhaps too-open vein: “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”

In 2009, as if in direct conversation with today’s tired President, and the dilemma that I had regretfully anticipated, I suggested:

that there are real perils for a visual culture (and the real it is or will be) where irony becomes so dominant as to be invisible. Irony, and the fake documentary that often packages it, has served long and well as a modernist distancing device, sometimes productively enabling a structure for radical critique. As YouTube makes this style omnipresent, however, its function changes, its edges soften, the firm ground of the resolute double deconstructs beneath our feet. We are in ironic free-fall. We plunge into a viewing posture of disbelief, uncertainty, and cynicism about everything on YouTube, about watching it, about believing.

Only seven years later, it appears that the ironic free-fall I claimed might result from over-enjoying our first YouTube/Google+ President has indeed contributed to the making of our even newer internet president, who recently broadcast his own executive remarks on YouTube. According to The New York Times:The video underscored the extent to which Mr. Trump intends to try to navigate around the traditional newspaper and television media outlets as he seeks to communicate his message to the public.”

For More of my Fakery:

 

Take a look at Millenium Film Journal’s special issue, No. 51, Experiments in Documentary, edited by Lucas Hildebrand. A strong introductory essay is followed by artist statements/interviews about making work that sits “at the intersections of documentary and experimental practices [where] the duality of actuality and creativity energizes artists to make work that is radically beautiful and fantastically true.”

Artists featured: Michelle Citron, Donigan Cumming, Jeanne Finley and John Muse and Tommy Becker, Sasha Waters Freyer, Su Freidrich, Richard Fung, Barbara Hammer, Adele Horne, myself, Leandro Katz, Ernie Larsen and Sherry Millner, Jesse Lerner, Frederic Moffet, Lynne Sachs, MM Serra, Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, Tran T. Kim-Trang, Liza Johnson and Jonathan Kahana, Tess Takahashi and Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, Peggy Ahwesh, Caroline Koebel, Chie Yamayoshi.

Hildebrand suggests the term “essay film” as a more “elegant term” to describe a “making transparent [of] the maker’s processes of thought and discovery.” I’ll return to this soon, but I’ve been carefully looking at the “essays on film” introduced by Film Studies for Free in a recent post.