The Tinder Swindler, a Netflix documentary about a douchbag who cheats young girls out of money (after they have been primed with glamorous dates, including private jets and succulent sushi buffets) kicked off a new genre of digital Scamdocs that reveal the joys of 21st digital social interaction. It was fairly riveting.
Similarly a BBC Three documentary, Jobfished frames itself as a serious piece of ‘investigative journalism’ as it follows an equally glamorous brand communications company called Madbird, that has recruited a team of new employees under false pretences – think Fyre Fraud but with nauseating thought leaders. Even though the company’s website is replete with a prestigious client list and profiles of its experienced ‘leadership team’, the company turns out to be, wait for it…NOT REAL!!!!! WOW!!! Amazing!!!! Hashtag, digital ejaculation!!! OMG!!!
The tarantula tapped his front leg to the rhythmic scraping of Jimmy Cobb’s brushes. All Blues was his favourite tune on the album. It made his hairs stand on end – all 1,234,569 of them. Combining the elegant swing of a 3/4 rhythm with the tight beat of the new modal style, it was minimal, hypnotic, easy. Bill Evans’ constant piano rolls reminded him of his mother’s web, shivering and flexing across the branches of the tree in the garden where they used to live.
In the novella Headcase – A Post-truth ghost story, a medieval Czech myth collides with a 21st Century political fake news campaign. You never quite know where you are in the book. Is it a ghost story? Is it a political satire?This feeling of uncertainty is made more perplexing by the introduction of a Nick Cage lookalike, in the form of one of the central characters, Inspector Tomáš Novák. Does the character think he looks like the actor or is Mr. Cage actually the character in the story? Throughout the novel’s twists and turns the reader is never sure what will happen next or who or what to believe. The series The Fear Index, on general release this month in the UK, deals with similar themes.
The original book by Robert Harris that the series is based on centres around a high-end brokerage firm based in Switzerland that has developed an algorythm that can detect – and therefore make money from – fear itself. But the kingmakers (Josh Hartnett and Arsher Ali) who created this digital money tree are far from in control; what we have here is an assemblage of Frankestein meets Gordon Gekko (with echoes of the 2008 financial crisis thrown in for good measure). The book – and the series – also investigates how our digital lives have come to define one’s whole sense of reality, and this element of The Fear Index, is its most most interesting one. Headcasepicks up this theme and runs with it around the Prague streets like a headless corpse stuck in a digital echo chamber (in a good way).
In the same way that Don’t Look Uphighlights how the trivial – or worse – fake media cycle has hijacked important news reporting, Headcaseand The Fear Index present us with the horror of a Post-truth world, in which information is being manipulated to such a degree that human agency is becoming irrelevant. The dog is being wagged by the digital tale – or is that tail?
The Fear Index is out on Now TV and Sky. Headcase – A Post-truth ghost story by Seb Duncan is available on Amazon KDP.
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