Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lady Gaga's 'Telephone', the year 2010, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, and the collision of literally everything that's ever happened into one postmodern pop cultural singularity





Oh, THE GLUT

Wikileaks is too much. It's all too much. Since the world started leaking, it's become impossible to judge anything, to take it all in, to comprehend. Where do you start with this much information? The alleged Wikileaks source, a 23-year-old American soldier called Bradley Manning, leaked the info by burning it onto CDs marked 'Lady Gaga', listening and lip-synching along to her mega-hit 'Telephone' as he did so, in the way that a 1950s cartoon character might whistle tunelessly to give an impression of benign innocence. This is from the alleged transcript in which he explained how he leaked the data.
(1:54:42 pm) bradass87: i would come in with music on a CD-RW

(1:55:21 pm) bradass87: labelled with something like "Lady Gaga"… erase the music… then write a compressed split file

(1:55:46 pm) bradass87: no-one suspected a thing

(2:00:12 pm) bradass87: everyone just sat at their workstations… watching music videos / car chases / buildings exploding... and writing more stuff to CD/DVD... the culture fed opportunities

(2:12:23 pm) bradass87: so... it was a massive data spillage... facilitated by numerous factors... both physically, technically, and culturally

(2:14:21 pm) bradass87: listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltratrating [sic] possibly the largest data spillage in american history



Manning's instant messager chats - if they are real - reveal a deeply troubled young man. Troubled by what he's done, but troubled by everything he's seen - by its quantity, by its breadth, by the fact it encompasses the whole world. With unimaginable data, comes unimaginable isolation. And now, not just emotionally, but literally: Manning is in solitary confinement, where, friends say, his physical and mental health are rapidly deteriorating. If he's responsible, he's guilty of 2010's phenomenal information overload, but he's its victim too...
(12:21:24 pm) bradass87: say... a database of half a million events during the iraq war... from 2004 to 2009... with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures... ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?

(1:00:57 pm) bradass87: theres so much... it affects everybody on earth...
I AM SICK AND TIRED OF MY PHONE R-RINGING

(1:14:11 pm) bradass87: i've totally lost my mind... i make no sense... the CPU is not made for this motherboard...
I LEFT MY HEAD AND MY HEART ON THE DANCEFLOOR

(1:39:03 pm) bradass87: i cant believe what im confessing to you :'(

(1:40:20 pm) bradass87: ive been so isolated so long... i just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life... but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive... smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything... no-one took any notice of me
YOU CAN CALL ALL YOU WANT / BUT THERE'S NO-ONE HOME / AND YOU'RE NOT GONNA REACH MY TELEPHONE




"It was a massive data spillage"

MTV News: What is Telephone about?

Lady Gaga
: Fear of suffocation... the phone's ringing, and my head's ringing. Whether it's the telephone, or the thoughts in my own head...
The video for 'Telephone', an exquisitely overblown exercise in pop cultural elephantiasis – a 3:41 second song stretched over NINE MINUTES – riffing on Tarantino, on Pulp Fiction and Thelma and Louise, riffing on arch-kitsch takes on 1950s Americana, that twist post-war pop culture into hedonism-through-amorality. Brightly coloured diners and brightly coloured costumes: America's long history of violence rendered through a mass media lens. Hacking off Marvin's ear in Reservoir Dogs while a pop song plays; taking pictures on digital cameras of torture victims at Abu Ghraib.



(2:26:01 pm) bradass87: i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore... only a plethora of states acting in self interest... with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless


Don't Ask Don’t Tell




I don't even know where to start with the 'Afghanistan remake' of the 'Telephone' video I posted above: its breathtaking campness, and its hectic, zealous, jaw-dropping DIY reconstruction of a multi-million dollar pop cultural product. The soldiers' remake has 6 million views itself (the Gaga video an astonishing 97 million). But for now, let's just say it is strikingly camp; meanwhile, Manning himself has become the subject of great attention in terms of his sexuality. Was there "a don't ask don't tell issue" for Bradley Manning, as BoingBoing put it - was he trans, even, as is mooted here?

I'm not sure I buy the trans stuff, it seems to be reaching a little, searching for deep meaning in surface conversation - much as we struggle to find deep meaning in a video like Gaga's 'Telephone'; when actually, for all the racket, here may be very little being said. Either way, there is a quite evident inner pain in those transcripts, a young man struggling to gain a sense of self.. whether it's being in the closet, or just the less specific existential insecurities of a young man in a very strange world.

The crazy, final, inevitable meme-collision here, of course, is that Don't Ask Don't Tell was historically, heroically, finally repealed by the US Senate four days ago. And who was the passionate, clear-voiced, uber-public public figure who has been repeatedly banging the drum to "end this most serious prejudice", and "be a voice for my generation"? Take a guess.


"It's funny that in this day and age, a soldier singing aloud to Lady Gaga while fiddling around on an army computer chock full classified government data is not considered to be suspicious at all"
No it's not, Mediaite. It really isn't. It makes absolute blindingly perfect sense. It's the story of our age. It's all too much.

SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE I LIVE IN GRAND CENTRAL STATION

***

(out to Jen Paton for the constant conversation on this - and spotting the link in the first place)

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