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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Musing Pictures: Split: A Deeper Divide

Twice today, I encountered the media blaming itself for divisiveness in American politics.  First, on the radio, an NPR show (possibly "On the Media", but I'm not certain), the anchor wrapped up a presentation on misinformation in campaign advertisements with a hesitant conclusion: "I blame the media!"  I heard this on the way to a screening of the documentary, "Split: A Deeper Divide," produced by my friend, Jeff Beard.

"Split" explores the rancorous and divisive tone taken by American politics in recent years.  It suggests numerous reasons for this polarization, including the media's need to play to increasingly specific and narrowly defined target audiences.  Basically, with so many media options, it's more cost effective for news providers to tailor their news to a narrowly defined audience, rather than trying to provide a more broad-based message.

It's intriguing to me to encounter media that challenges The Media in this regard.  I heard it in the anchor's voice on the NPR radio show: an awareness of the irony, and perhaps of the mild hypocrisy of stating "I blame the media" on the air.  The statement is itself a blanket accusation, leveled flatly, without nuance, at an entire, enormous, diverse industry.  Isn't that the kind of new communication style that the media thrives on these days, that feeds audience's hunger for tension, for a good fight?

One of the things I appreciate about "Split" is that it takes a very even, non-judgmental look at the factors that contribute to American political divisiveness.  It blames the media without needing to resort to the blanket statement "I blame the media!"  Of course, in an atmosphere informed by stand-offish argumentativeness, this gives the film a bit of a dated feel, as if it's a '70s schoolroom film-strip, rather than a twenty-first century documentary.  But in a way, that's the best part about it.  It's not cynical about its own message (even if it is The Media, and as such, part of the problem.)

"Split" is making its way to various cities this election year.  If you're looking to understand what's making this country suffocate on its own hot air, I'd encourage you to check the film out.  The screening schedule is available on the film's website.

And for a snapshot, here's the trailer:

-AzS

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