So, if you’ve noticed, things have slowed down at Films, Deconstructed in 2023. Incidentally, it’s not for lack of things to write about. It’s because this year, the internet has crossed a line that has forced me to do some serious soul-searching about this site and the future of online content.
If this sounds like a swan song, don’t worry–it isn’t. If anything, this might be the start of something big. To give readers an idea of what I mean, I’m going to list the major issues that started impacting websites like this one, and why 2023 became a major changing point in online media.
A.I. and Scraping
A major problem facing the internet right now is the massive trend in data hoarding, content scraping and A.I. that’s now making a mockery of intellectual property and copyright. For instance, you can now expect the Internet Archive to scrape and republish your current site for “archival” purposes without your permission, even though it’s being updated on a regular basis and there’s a copyright notice expressly forbidding mirroring of content.
The reason why this is bad for creatives is that archiving and A.I are just sneaky forms of reusing and in some cases stealing original content without compensation. This is especially true in the case of the Internet Archive. Don’t be fooled by all the highfalutin talk from its founder about it being a philanthropic organization preserving old material. It’s nothing more than another data scraping and piracy site.
A side issue to the aforementioned is the “data hoarder” phenomenon, in which people feel entitled to download and share content in case a creative decides to pull content. This isn’t fair, because there are many valid reasons why a person might want to take content off the internet, anywhere from personal to legal. Maybe they’ve grown as a creative and are embarrassed by their earlier work. Maybe their content is getting plagiarized to hell and back, or producing content online didn’t turn out as lucractive as they’d hoped. Maybe they just want to remove any traces of themselves off the internet.
In any event, data hoarders make it impossible for creatives to take complete control of what happens to their content and how it gets distributed once it’s posted online.
The Ad Blocker Situation
You may have noticed that many websites are beginning to rely on either paywalls or donations, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Well, there’s a reason. Everyone is using ad blockers or various other hacks to get around viewing advertising.
Initially, there was nothing wrong with ad blockers, because they were invented at a time when websites went completely bonkers with their advertising. You may have remembered the nightmare of opening a site and having a million pop ups appear, or being startled when an ad started playing loudly without warning. As a response, most websites learned their lessons, and began using more subtle means of advertising to keep from pissing people off and turning to ad bloclers.
So, if websites eventually toned down advertising, why are people using ad blockers today? We now have an entire generation of cyber users that rejects the idea of having to pay for content, either directly or indirectly. People now feel that it’s “evil” to not only pay for internet content but even view ads. As a consequence, websites are now having to put up tip jars or paywall everything. In the worst case scenario, people are just pulling content, because there’s no longer any real incentive to post anything on the internet anymore.
Plagiarism and the Pseudo Content Creator Economy
The internet was supposed to be an amazing boon for creatives. Instead, what’s happened is that it’s become a source for plagiarists, particularly because of the “content creator economy.” This phrase has been thrown around a lot lately and has a cachet of respectability, but just know that there’s no such thing. What keeps getting called the “content creator economy” is a cottage industry in which bottomfeeders trawl the internet looking for stuff to plagiarize or base derivative content off of.
For example, right now, as we speak, there are thousands of people on YouTube making money by simply taking articles they find on the web and reposting in video form as “original” content. The logic is that it’s not really plagiarism because the work is transformative and they put extra effort into the ripoff that the original creator didn’t.
Imagine how frustrating, if not angering, this is to someone who might’ve put their all into an informative website, only to have a YouTuber rip it off word for word, monetize it and feel entitled to reap the financial rewards and credit. Unfortunately, this is where we’re at in 2023 if you’re a
Film Criticism and Analysis Has Become Thoroughly Bankrupt
When I first started this blog, there were very few film and media criticism articles or sites on the internet. Now, there’s been an explosion. You’d think that this would be a great thing for the medium, but instead, it’s done the opposite. Film and media criticism isn’t exploding because people are interested in the craft, but because it’s now seen as another tool of division, discord and cultural warfare. As a result, there is more junk writing than there is actual analysis and criticism on the web; for every one piece trying to break down a movie or TV show, there will be ten of them writing spittle-flecked variations of “this is woke/forced feminism/forced diversity.”
There is No Future for Writers or Any Type of Creative on the Internet at This Time
I know this will sound defeatist, but I’m just being a realist when I say that there is no real future for writers, artists, musicians or any creative that produces content on the internet–not in the way of opportunities, exposure or anything else for that matter. That’s not to say that there’s no future at all. The future might, ironically, be in resurrecting traditional forms of media. As it stands, on the internet, there is no future for anybody that hopes to put out thoughtful content and have their authorship respected. The world wide web is a lawless, unethical, creatively bankrupt free-for-all.
Because of the issues I’ve mentioned in this entry, I really had to take a step back this year and decide what to do with this blog. One thing that I did was block international users from viewing this site (which has worked with some success). Another thing I did was send a request to the Internet Archive to remove archived versions of Films, Deconstructed.
But more, I feel, needs to be done, other than just griping on the internet. So, what I’m hoping to do is take things to the next level, which is to start some kind of grassroots campaign and PSA to spread awareness about these issues and also try to create some changes in the Real World.
The reason why is that things have reached such a critical point that it’s not enough to just bitch and whine on the internet about it. People have to start becoming more vocal and more proactive politically, as well as spread awareness. They have to lobby for laws to strengthen protections for creatives, as well as do something about the massive amount of weaponization of American culture, by way of divisive clickbait on the internet. That is what I’m hoping to do offline, and that’s contact various representatives to get something going.
Another thing I’m considering doing is perhaps launching an offshoot of this site that will be a counter to all the content farms that are exploiting and distorting American culture for various nefarious reasons. (I talked at length about content farms In Bad Faith: Variety’s Garbage 100 Best Movies List, and why this Marks the End of the Magazine’s Credibility.)
But something has to be done, and I’ve spent so much time brainstorming how to resolve these issues that a lot of the essays I had planned for this site began to get backburnered. Again, it’s not that I’ve stopped maintaining Films, Deconstructed but that things took such a dramatic turn in 2023 that I had to step back and start looking at the problems facing creatives–and Americans–on a much broader scale. Hopefully, if I and other like-minded people do something, things will start turning around eventually. However, as it stands, the so-called “internet” as a creative boon has become a mirage. Until some hard measures are put in place to dispell the illusion, there’s no real reason for any self-respecting individual to continue pouring their heart and soul into this medium.