Stop Swimming With Sharks

In the annual Hollywood Reporter director round table, one of the points of conversation touched upon what everyone did before they got their industry break. The answers ranged from factory worker to landscaper and right up to their industry positions before being launched to fame. The one answer I really latched onto was Barry Jenkins response:

‘Oh, I want to be a filmmaker and this is my way,’ but I wasn’t really trying to be a filmmaker, you know? I was trying to be a development assistant. Realizing that about myself, I felt terrible.”

Barry Jenkins’ directed this years sensational drama MOONLIGHT. His rise to stardom couldn’t be any more atypical; he was raised in poverty in an overcrowded apartment in Miami. His real father died when he was 12. His mother was addicted to crack cocaine. In spite of this adversity, he went on to Florida State and became interested in film. Finally, he had an epiphany realizing that the road he was on – development assistant – wasn’t for him. He was more ambitious than that, he wanted to direct. He had an innate ability to tell harrowing stories and it dawned on him that in order to showcase his abilities he needed to move beyond the industry desk job.

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I titled this post stop swimming with sharks because I think it’s time someone challenge the notion that in order to achieve our industry goals we must settle for the traditional Hollywood route (agency to production company to whatever beyond). It’s time to challenge the notion that to get anyone to consider you or take you seriously you must have CAA or WME on your resume. It’s time to stop being a lemming for this lie.

You want respect in this industry? Here’s a start, how about you stop responding to job posts noting “must have thick skin or do not apply.” Why? Why should anyone who respects themselves apply to a position where they’re guaranteed to be treated with all the respect of a frat pledge? Why endure verbal abuse and a complete lack of respect for you, your work and your time? If you truly have thick skin you won’t take shit from anybody where it is not warranted. If you let people walk on you they’ll never stop walking all over you. Stand up for yourself. When you’re wrong, own it. But damn it, stand up for yourself. Don’t ever kiss someone’s ass who doesn’t deserve it.

What’s worse is so many of these positions are either unpaid or poorly paid with ridiculous hours and no overtime (illegal). This includes positions at the major agencies. Yet in order to get into the frat of Hollywood you must first pledge this abuse.

Uh wrong. Just so wrong.

Look up one of the directors or writers you’ve admired. Chances are none of them took this route. Why? Because they had too much self respect to devalue themselves before people who would ridicule them and treat them like shit – and who were likely half as smart. They knew they were intelligent and took any job they could in order to invest in their creative passions. You enter the cesspit aforementioned and you’ll be so mentally drained you’ll be lucky you ever write or direct something again. That is until you move on – like Jenkins.

Now that’s not to say all bosses or companies are like that but many are. Many, many, many are. That’s because they once endured that abuse so now they think they can give it. This is a toxic cycle that will never end until people stop accepting this behavior as normal. Literally just quit or find a better placement. I have almost entirely avoided working with Sharks and jerks because I am selective in where I will work and have thus far avoided the agency grind.

You are in my opinion ten times better off finding a group of filmmakers who want to go out and make things. Make something and get it into a festival. Put yourself out there. Finance your passion any way you can. That’s something I’m doing now and I’ve found I have expanded my network considerably versus fetching coffee and making copies.

Another alternative of the agency route, production. Granted you’ll endure some abuse here too, but you’ll transcend it faster and move up quicker if you work hard and are reliable. There’s more camaraderie and appreciation for what you do on set. It’s also easier to meet people higher up. Of those I know who are assistants now, many started as PAs, became office PAs and are now producer and director assistants. I include myself in this; I worked Production and events at Tribeca and then went on to be a development assistant and an academy award nominated producers’ assistant in New York. I’d still be there now if I could afford to live on independent film wages, but there’s a lot of famine to the feast in this industry so it’s understandable it doesn’t always work out.

Point is there are so many paths to what you want in this business. Stop settling for abuse. Stop fearing what you say on Twitter will cost you opportunities- definitely don’t be an asshole or act nuts – but don’t censor yourself too much either. I didn’t get attention from those in the business by being a bland as fuck writer who does nothing but talk the business and play diplomat by complementing people. I call bull shit when I see it. And I’m calling bull shit right now. Go be you and stop accepting abuse as normal – it’s not.

Temptation Waits

When working in the entertainment industry it’s pretty certain that you will become attracted to someone you’re working with – or someone you aspire to work with. With that said, it’s also important that you not cross certain lines.

Earlier today on twitter, I remarked that a professional influence of mine is a “silver fox.” For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a sort of play on words referring to an attractive older man with salt and pepper hair. When used, it is a term that is meant playfully and even jokingly. Examples include Anderson Cooper, George Clooney and yes, my former mentor who in my opinion is more attractive than both those men aforementioned.

Assuming he even reads that tweet, it might risk coming across as inappropriate. In hindsight, it may have been. Up for hours now, there’s no sense in deleting it or taking it back. Besides he’s already known for a while that I find him attractive.

So what to do if you find yourself in such a situation? Your feelings become known to the person, and now you’re wondering if you’ve put yourself in a compromised position.

The key is really professionalism and respecting boundaries.

For instance, I value my professional influence as a mentor first and foremost. Beyond anything, I would want to work for him and learn from him. I would never do anything to compromise that – including flirting with him or making him feel uncomfortable. Secondly, I respect that he is likely in a relationship and I would always strive to respect that with the delicacy it deserves. If he were single, I wouldn’t treat that as an opportunity to insert myself as a candidate for his affections. In summation, I think it’s really important to remind them if necessary that what you value above all is a professional relationship. Remind them if need be and apologize for any misunderstanding. Being open and clear about your intentions is very important. If anything, you hope that they are flattered that you find them attractive.

In an alternate instance it is also possible that the attraction is mutual – I know I’d be hard pressed to turn my professional influence down if he wanted it. This is especially possible on a film set in which crews work long hours together for many months. On set romances happen all the time – and so too does the ensuing gossip. This is why if you’re going to go that route discretion is essential or else your reputation may be put on the line. Avoid sleeping together on set, this is almost always obvious. If you do hookup on set, be discrete. Don’t be seen leaving together or going in together etc. Do not tell a soul about your relationship. Guard any such relationship as if it was the nuclear codes. If you reach a certain point where it is appropriate to reveal, do so, but only if it is a sincere relationship. Hookups best be kept secret. Nobody wants the reputation of sleeping their way up the ladder – especially so if you’re a woman!

So in summation, the key to being attracted to someone on set or in the entertainment industry is professionalism – as is the case with other industries as well. Don’t be a shameless flirt, or make people feel uncomfortable. If it gets out that you’re attracted to someone, reassert your desire for professionalism. If it’s mutual, be very discrete. Just act like an adult and you’ll be fine.

Twitter Trash

Our president is baited into petty argument by an actress, sitting on a gold toilet bowl shouting accusations of elitism on Twitter. He is mass-producing Twitter trash.

He’s addicted to the adulation it provides him; the instantaneous gratification of likes and re-tweets. He has tanked stock prices and even triggered talks of a pending trade war using the medium to blast his opponents and anyone who doesn’t share his world view, or simply praise him as a god.

While Trump remains the best example of infantile word vomit on Twitter, the trash on Twitter doesn’t stop with him. In fact, most of us are guilty of saying things on the medium we would certainly never say in person.

Twitter is all real-time. There is no edit button. It is a live-wire, where what you blast out in 140 characters or less is what stays in its original form unless deleted. As things move quickly, as your feelings build, the urge to just spit something out is all too tempting. Twitter is often our subconscious made conscious, and that can be a dangerous thing.

“What is wrong with you, calling people assholes?” I could practically hear him shouting at me from thousands of miles away across the Atlantic.

I was upset that after months, I still hadn’t heard from him regarding my latest spec effort. It was a second chance from him, to try again with another script. It was a script he explicitly told me to write, and told me to send to him. After months had gone by, he started to drop hints that I wasn’t going to hear anything. Most notably this hint was conveyed via a New York Times article about Louis C.K.  discussing the dreaded “no by way of silence.” I tweeted a generic remark about the way people in the industry play games, including the word asshole. It wasn’t directly aimed at him, but he and I both know what the catalyst for the tweet was: him.

What followed was a difficult and painful DM conversation that lasted over an hour. I like to think that it ended on a good note. But if there is one thing I could point to as reason for him to never hire me in any capacity, it is that tweet. He is a very patient man who has given me a lot of opportunity, and has even read my posts as recently as last Fall. He is most certainly NOT an asshole. When I re-read that DM encounter, I know I cannot ever expect to hear from him ever again.

Impulsivity. That’s what it really comes down to. It is all too easy to just blast something into cyber space without thinking about the way people will react to it. I’d never call him an asshole to his face, or even complain to him in any way –  I was then and remain today nothing but grateful to him and his time.

Yet on Twitter, it is too easy to complain. It’s too easy to let your emotions be worn on your sleeve. It is cathartic to just get whatever is bothering you off your chest, but some things are better left unsaid. I was hurt and unfamiliar with the industry etiquette of rejection at the time and made a stupid mistake I will probably regret the rest of my life.

Trump I imagine, in all his narcissism, is almost certainly not thinking about the way he comes across. That is not only a danger to him personally, it is a national security threat as well — a danger to us all.

The difference is whether you choose to admit your mistakes. Trump has never once apologized for his remarks on Twitter. I don’t think I have ever stopped apologizing to Paris in hopes of being forgiven. I am so so so eternally sorry.

With several years industry experience under my belt since that conversation, as well as personal growth and maturity with age – I look back on my trash tweets at 23, 24 with great embarrassment. I’m not sure Trump has any such remorse.

There are no do-overs. There is no edit button. Instead of tweeting it out, save it as draft and review it in a few hours, or even days. Outside your emotional state at the time of writing, is it still appropriate to post? Probably not. Delete it as a draft, not as a public tweet.

Twitter trash is toxic. Don’t be an asshole. Pass it along.

 

 

The Regressive Left

Progressives hate Trump so much, many are willing to believe almost anything negative written or said about him. As these unsubstantiated rumors wind up in the mainstream press, it does the anti-Trump movement and progressive movement beyond it serious lasting damage.

Case in point a popular rumor grasped on to just these past few days: Blackstone Group is wholly owned by Russian billionaires, and Trump owes them a significant sum of money. Ergo, because Trump owes Russians money via the Blackstone Group, Russia had a vested interest in hacking Trump’s rivals.

Except, Blackstone Group isn’t owned by Russian billionaires, nor are there any Russians in ownership positions. In fact, Blackstone Group doesn’t even have a major Russian portfolio due to risks associated with the country. The firm pulled out of all Russian investments in September 2014, a full year before Trump even announced his candidacy. While Trump does have a relationship with Blackstone, so do most New Yorkers in the real estate sector. Blackstone has the largest portfolio of New York real estate on record.

So how did such an obviously false rumor wind up in Mediaite and other major left-leaning blogs and opinion commentator appearances? It seems to have been spammed all over the Internet first.

A quick google search of the exact phrase “Blackstone wholly owned by Russian billionaires” reveals approximately three pages of results! Possibly more, but I figured three pages of the exact same 500+ word comment were enough evidence to prove my theory of comment spam. In fact, the same comment appears on numerous media sites’ comment sections – from Variety to MSNBC. Most notably, a top comment on Donald Trump’s official Facebook page.

You can see the Facebook comment here: img_6085

It is so long and rambling a comment, a single screen shot could not capture it all. I am not sure who started this comment, as all are posted within a short time frame of one another. It could be human, or bot. It’s possible that it is the same person behind the spam, or just guilable people passing along the rumor. What is clear is that it is a completely unsubstantiated rumor not supported by any facts.

Since the fallout of Russian meddling in our election process, progressives have lost their ability to reason. Many trusted media outlets’ opinion sections (and even beyond editorials) are beginning to read like a rant from Alex Jones. Jones, a notable conservative conspiracy theorist, is well known for his emotional tirades and nonsensical rants on his website and numerous documentaries. He is so passionate about his beliefs that he will print and say almost anything with little to no peer reviewed research or legitimate sources provided. Progressives have long criticized him and eventually sought to ignore him altogether since he clearly lacked any credibility.

Now progressives are engaging in the same behavior. They will print or say almost anything that is negative about Trump. Progressives are so worried about Donald Trump, they will stop at nothing to undermine him. They have lost all reasoning ability – reposting Facebook comments as political theory. There is a sense of hysteria on the Left right now and much like the hysteria of Alex Jones, it has the ability to seriously undermine credibility.

Donald Trump is a very flawed man and an even more seriously flawed politician. It is not hard to act within the bounds of professionalism and journalistic integrity when criticizing this man and his dangerous incoming administration. Lets not stoop to the level of Alex Jones and the numerous opinionated fake news propaganda pieces that helped to elect Trump. Someone has to be the adult in the room, and right now there doesn’t appear to be one.

Film Twitter Credits

 

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Ever watch a movie or read the credits and notice no less than a dozen producers credited on the film? It happens all the time, and more often than not those reading the credits have no idea who was the “producing producer,” you know the guy or gal who made the project happen from development to the moment you watch the movie on screen. This upset a lot of folks who put in hard work only to wind up squeezed into a credits roll with a bunch of people who may have done as little as write a check. In 2012 the PGA sought to remedy this with a special designation – the producers mark. The guild set a list of requirements so that the “producing producers” would have a PGA designation after their name in the credits, like “PRODUCERS NAME, pga.” So now with the producers mark, suddenly everyone would know which folks are the real players and who just cut the check etc.

On Twitter there are no such designations. In fact there may not even be a credit list. Yet young filmmakers put in their bio “producer” “screenwriter” or any number of above the line titles with no accountability all the time. This post is about why you need to stop this or just never do it in the first place.

Saying you’re a producer on twitter with a single small indie under your belt and no theatrical release is in my and many other’s eyes extremely unprofessional. Unlike those folks dog-piling behind those with a producers mark, you’re likely not making any money as a “producer” nor do you likely have a distribution deal or any viable way of making money on your film.

But you produced a film, you may say. That’s a very low bar to set. Literally thousands of films are made every year, but few ever see a theatrical release. Making a small film released direct to video does not qualify you as a producer. Merely having done something – the task of a producer – does not make you a producer. It does not qualify you as a producer any more than drawing a doodle in a note book qualifies someone as an artist.

Ok but you still might introduce yourself as such. So why is this unprofessional? Simply because relatively speaking, it looks like bullshit. You’re probably a small timer – like me. You not only lack PGA affiliation, you lack a list of **theatrical** credits to call yourself a producer. So when someone browses your twitter – maybe even a producer looking to hire you as an assistant – you look like an idiot. You throw up red flags because you look like the person who will exaggerate their station in life, and frankly Hollywood has enough of these people.

What distinguishes a producer, writer or any other above line title is theatrical credits — not dubious IMDb credits — a film that was actually released, aka produced credits. Something people could go and see in theaters – no matter how small the release.

So when is it acceptable to put above the line titles in your bio? Apart from produced credits, there are a few acceptable instances:

1. Promoting your work. Perhaps you want to draw attention to something you recently did, “director of FILM NAME” is fine. I think this only works when you’re actively promoting a film in release or are trying to raise awareness. Also, I would never put “producer of FILM NAME” unless it was a financial or festival success. After it’s been out and failed to gain traction, I would just leave it off the bio altogether in all cases. Nobody cares that you made a film no one heard of.

2. Writer v working writer v screenwriter. What’s the difference? Working writer is a good way to differentiate yourself from the legion of folks in the film twitter community who call themselves writers. It implies your day job is writing. Screenwriter in my opinion is also a professional designation and unless you have produced credits, optioned properties, i.e you write for the screen in a professional sense, I would not include that in a bio. I personally see the value of having writer in my bio, because I do write. For networking purposes it is important to introduce myself as such but I would never introduce myself as a screenwriter even though my primary medium is script writing. That’s because once you do so the next logical question is “what have you written” and unless you can reply with produced credits or optioned scripts, it doesn’t look good. Writer allows you to discuss your medium, genre and what your goals are in a professional sense without giving the impression you already made it.

3. Finally, actor or comedian. Actors/comedians need to put themselves out there in a different way. From headshots to reels, I think it’s fine to include these titles in your bio because you’re actively recruiting interest in yourself for networking purposes. I would still be cautious of adding dubious credits or unknown projects to your bio. Personally I’d rather see a cleverly written bio than “actor in PROJECT” every time. It also helps if you have reels or things to link to, otherwise you too may look like little more than an aspirant.

I think the key in all this is that perception is reality. You can really cost yourself reputation points trying to make yourself look more professional than you are. In an industry full of bullshiters, it’s quite easy to spot bullshit. Don’t look like the person who takes themselves too seriously, adding unearned credits to their bio. Be the person people want to work with. Tell a joke, let your personality shine in your bio. Don’t be another kid with “director/screenwriter” and a link to their Vimeo, they’re a dime a dozen and the key to this business is sticking out.

Blue Zones

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Concept Image of Google Dome via Google

Blue Zone is defined as an area of the world where sociologists have concluded that people have a statistically higher chance to lead a longer life. When applied to discussions of future society, it means those with means and those without it. When automation leads to masse unemployment and historic wealth inequality, living in a blue zone could literally mean the difference between life and death.

A few months back, I discussed the pitfalls of various futurist visions, namely their inability to foresee problems — or more likely that they just don’t care. The post was titled Trickle Down Tech, a play on words inspired by trickle down economics.  In both cases, wealthy folks promise average working people that if they wait a little longer the profits, or technological innovation will increase their quality of life.

This promise of better quality of life is a faulty promise. Research continues to show warning signs about AI, and predicts that by 2025, a third of our jobs will be automated. By 2050, some researchers theorize the majority of our current workforce could be out of work. While many in Silicon Valley, like Google’s Ray Kurzweil, assure us AI will also create new jobs — this time is different than the rest of history.

It is smart for Silicon Valley elites to not ring the alarm bell. It would lead to revolt, and the potential to have their VC cut off, or have their inventions be subject to preventative regulations. These people are in it to make a profit and to test the limits of technology because they can.

Meanwhile within their circles, the Technorati have already begun to talk about future blue zones and how to prepare now for the coming societal unrest.

“They already know millions will suffer…the population of earth which is overpopulated will have to decline…it is a matter of resources, even if we can 3d print them, there is only so much space on earth.” This is what a friend of mine currently studying advanced artificial intelligence at a major west coast research institution told me. He had attended  a retreat with his peers, the term “blue zones” actually came up. All theorized that because of their jobs within the tech community, they would have the requisite skills to live within one of the planned blue zone communities — perhaps like the concept of Google Dome as pictured above.

In fact, while it isn’t revealed to the public as a blue zone, those familiar with the project have confessed to me that Google Dome is an early concept of a blue zone, similar to Peter Thiel’s proposed Sea Steading colony. Many tech companies know that history will repeat itself — when they say “let them eat cake,” people will be ready with pitchforks to storm the Bastille!

Only this isn’t a castle prison in 18th Century France, it is far more secure than that. These mini-Elysiums will have all the technology, resources and clean energy residents could possibly need. The dome would be entirely self sufficient. Most importantly it would be impervious to attack by the commoners.

Silicon Valley has given us a lot of great things — but what stuck out to me during the conversation with my Technorati friend was that in his industry, all know eventually many will suffer. A lot of folks in the tech community have grown almost aloof to this fact. They see it merely as a necessary moment in history for human evolution. They have developed almost a callousness to it. Eventually the course will correct itself, but not at their expense — but at the expense of the masses — so who gives a fuck?

It is time to take the threat of automation very seriously. Amazon just launched Amazon Go, a grocery store with no human employees. It won’t stop at retail, it will eventually bleed into technical and white collar jobs like law, finance and accounting too! It’s time to get government and labor unions involved. It is time to take the threat of mass unemployment seriously. Universal Basic Income isn’t the answer, because whatever money you get the Techonorati will have much, much more. The answer is fighting this before it is too late. Otherwise, it will be up to whether you can save enough to get into a blue zone. Most of us won’t get there, we’ll be stuck in the desert with no water like Mad Max.

What is Next for Gareth Edwards?

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Why has nobody been asking Gareth Edwards about his ‘Robot Star Wars’ original Sci-Fi film?

From recent Rogue One press conferences to a Twitter Q&A, the “what’s next for Gareth Edwards” is a question that hasn’t gotten much if any play in the press.

Gareth Edwards rose to prominence with his original science fiction thriller, Monsters in 2010. It was widely reported at the time to carry a $500,000 budget, and Edwards, a former VFX artist, was reported to have done all the special effects on his laptop.

That effort got the attention of Wanted producing-team Timur Bekmambetov and Jim Lemley. In 2010, it was revealed during the promotion of the producing team’s film 9 that they would be producing Edward’s next directorial/writing effort then titled Forever.

The film was described as “a robot Star Wars,” a galactic adventure in which a young human child sought the origins of humanity in a world devoid of it. Producer Timur Bekmembetov in a recent interview this year described the project as “a warm story” and expressed his desire to still make it. At the time, Gareth was still attached to direct the sequel to Godzilla 2.

In May 2016, Gareth dropped out of Godzilla 2, citing his desire to take a break from Blockbuster cinema and focus on smaller projects. Many journalists at the time speculated he might return to Forever, which is reported to carry a budget in the $35 million range. It was also alleged that Venom scribe Dante Harper had written a draft with Edwards and that the two also shot test footage for the film.

Since then, there has been almost no word on the project. The title is only available on IMDbPro, the paid subscription version of IMDb and is not visible on the free site. A quick glance at the page reveals the project was again updated to script status on October 17, 2016. Of course the site is notorious for misinformation and it is unknown without verification from the filmmakers if that is even the case.

What is clear is that despite it being the only other project in development on Edward’s page, nobody has seemed to ask him during the Rogue One promo “what’s next?” It is a question I and many others would like to see answered.

 

 

 

 

 

Bekmambetov and Lemley are represented by Mike Simpson (WME)
Edwards is represented by the Curtis Brown Agency (London)

I Don’t Care

I don’t care. Repeat after me, I promise it will feel good. I don’t care. Now breath.

This past week I took a brief break from Twitter and social media to clear my head. Even in a short 24-30 hour period the impact was clear: I no longer cared about all the negative things I cannot control. I no longer sought answers to questions that don’t have a clear answer.

Not everything is in black and white. There are a lot of negative things we cannot control.

This is not to suggest that you don’t care as in a profession of ignorance. No, just that you don’t care — you shrug it off so it doesn’t weigh on you. Don’t let negative thoughts consume you to the point of leading you to despair.

So I don’t care that my former mentor and his intentions are hard to read. I don’t care that he may not ever hire me in any role. I don’t care that Donald Trump is our president. I don’t care that I have a non-industry day job right now. I don’t care that I had to move back to Long Island (suburbs). I don’t care that my sports teams loose.

What do I care about? His intentions are irrelevant to my career. If he doesn’t hire me, when I move to LA given my experience and tenacity, someone else will. I will earn a great mentor, even if it’s not him. I care about the 2018 elections and the 2020 beyond that, and specifically what I can do to help turn out the vote against Republicans. I care that this day job is what will finally get me to LA because I am saving a lot of money. In fact so much so that I’m producing my first feature film with a portion of what I’ve raised and saved. I don’t care that I live in the suburbs because in less than a year I will be in LA with an appropriate amount of savings and great work experience. Sports? It’s just a game.

So I don’t care about negative things. I care about what I have control over. If you’re like me and catch yourself wandering back into those negative thoughts shout I DON’T CARE. Don’t care about it, move on. I know it sounds really simple but I don’t care, or I don’t give a fuck is such a helpful mindset when applied to things we cannot control that make us upset. Fuck it. Who cares! Try it and pass it along.

Be well and have a great weekend. If you don’t get that deal you wanted on Black Friday just remember  – I DONT CARE 🙂

Turn Off Autopilot

Our cultures intellectual laziness is just as responsible for the top-40, remake, rip off culture as is the election of Donald Trump.

People don’t care that you voted for Trump as an anti-establishment message. Nor does the Republican Party. You still voted for a racist in spite of that. Hollywood doesn’t care that you just wanted to check their crappy superhero films like SUICIDE SQUAD out. You still voted with your dollars for them to continue to put in little effort for maximum reward.

We can no longer just expect to find good candidates, films or music simply by what the big corporate political and cultural entities push. We must now resort to doing our homework. It’s true that we must be the change we want to see. We must build a progressive movement locally from the ground up to get a seat at the DC table. We must financially support & promote independent films and films of cultural and aesthetic import (especially films by underrepresented creators). We must support local music and buy their products.

CNN, Warner Brothers and their various record labels aren’t going to do their part unless you do yours. Nor are their rivals. Even then the corporate 1% will continue with the status quo. Why? Because the model of late stage capitalism punishes risk. It rewards consolidation, vertical integration and monopoly. It rewards laziness and cookie cutter formulas. It is not interested in saying anything other than “buy our product in every category and then buy more.”

If you don’t like this then it is up to you to stop financially supporting it. It is up to you to research the products you buy. It is up to you to recognize native advertisements that aren’t actually sincere recommendations. It is up to you to rebuke corporate takeovers and mergers by calling your congressperson. It is up to you to be informed as a consumer but also in life.

Our institutions are crumbling to greed and late stage capitalist urges. I have no hope for them, but I do have hope that we can build anew from the ground up but only if we first exercise good judgment and sound thinking. It’s time to turn off autopilot.

For Profit ‘Facts’

Former president Jimmy Carter once said “the government is only as good as its people.” A government can also be as bad as its people — or only as dumb as the idiots who elect it to power.

Regardless of your opinion on Donald Trump, one thing is clear: independent fact checkers noted that what he said on record is either a flat out lie or half truth 71% of the time. Politifact also noted in its analysis that almost 50% of what he says are considered to be outright lies. On top of that, there are numerous instances of Trump denying having said something in spite of video evidence to the contrary. The man bold-face lies so often and so frequently that holding him accountable has proven impossible; to his supporters even irrelevant.

The problem with America is that in an endless pursuit of profit, we have outsourced facts to those who sought to make them subjective. Instead of hiring and patronizing experts to inform us on various matters, we have flocked to echo chambers and fake news purveyors who have a vested interest in lying to achieve a certain outcome.

Facebook played a huge role in misinformation this past election cycle. As it sought to get into the news business, it never employed a filter to root out fake stories or misleading information. A site like The Converative Tribune held just as much weight as The New York Times. Whereas the Timea employs vigorous standards in terms of its story research and editing practices, politically biased sites like the Tribune and its numerous Leftist equivalents do not. Everything is editorialized on those sites in order to achieve virality. Even the facts come second to virality in order to maximize profit in ad revenue. The more outrageous and ridiculous the more likely the story would trend; and also more likely that it would be false.

Just this past week on his show, John Oliver noted this trend of misinformation on Facebook and found that 38% of stories on conservative leaning Facebook pages are outright false, along with 19% of stories on left-leaning pages. Just today the BBC interviewed an editor at a fake news site that used Facebook to make its stories go viral. He told the BBC “people read a headline and then don’t even bother to check the content before they share it.” That’s alarming when studies also suggest that just under half of all Americans get their news from Facebook!

While Facebook and Google now tell the mainstream press they plan to crack down on biased and fake news sites that don’t employ good practices, it’s too late. We already elected a man who lies 71% of the time. Your conservative aunt and uncles, like mine, have already been radicalized by lies on Facebook. The sites may shut down, but they already made their millions in ad revenue.

What’s worse is that legitimate news sites have tried to compete with them using similar headline tactics, like entertainment trade Variety with the headline “John Oliver Encourages Violence Against Trump.” It doesn’t matter that it simply isn’t true, and is a very unethical play on words, millions reading it who are partial to Trump will believe he did because as the fake-news editor above noted “people read a headline and don’t even bother to check the content…” The Hill today employed a similar tactic, suggesting that “Half of Trump Protestors in Oregon Didn’t Vote.” Despite the low sample size and poor research methodology, millions will read this as truth. The source shows that less than 25% of a 112-person sample size actually didn’t vote. People don’t check the source! The Hill got its clicks and Trump supporters to share – job done, facts be damned!

America has become a fact-free society. It’s perfectly fine for us to disagree on what direction to take our country in, but we still need to accept the facts. How do you begin to discuss solutions to climate change when 50% of our population refuses to even believe climate change is real? How do you debunk fake stories and inaccurate Facebook memes when conservative relatives and friends say “Snopes, ProPublica & Politifact have a liberal bias”?

Basically anything which contradicts their worldview is a liberal bias. They would rather hold conservative pundits like the abhorrent White Nationalist from Breitbart, Steven Bannon (now a White House advisor), in higher regard than 99% of climate scientists and trained journalists. It’s time to support good journalism, subscribe to the NY Times or Washington Post. Donate to Pro Publica (a non-profit fact checker of the press). Report bad news pages on Facebook and don’t interact with garbage posts on the site. Their algorithm mainly pushes things interacted with — don’t help trash to trend.

We may be a fact-free society right now, but it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s up to us to make sure our government, our press and our entertainment is as good as its people. Right now, the people are failing in their responsibility.