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Comics

All Star Reviews #3

By May 30, 2017 No Comments

Unfollow
by Rob Williams and Michael Dowling
DC/Vertigo

DC/Vertigo’s decidedly seasonable psychodrama Unfollow – penned by British scribe Rob Williams  – takes a look beyond the omnipresence of the peer-to-peer communications frontier (and how it has aided and abetted the resolution of much of the inane and undocumented stuff we did prior to 2007’s advent of Apple’s iPhone into equally inane transactions of multimedia), and in doing so, fixes its sights upon the very bleak corollaries of online life’s laissez faire orthodoxy, seldom forgetting to remind the reader that, in spite of the half-sighted vogue to enthusiastically inventory the minutiae of all that is truly banal in the world, the acme of human iniquity is always yet to be publicised in your daily newsfeed. Lol.

Larry Ferrell is a reclusive entrepreneur who’s made a mint from a Twitter-like social networking app called 140. Larry Ferrell is also dying from a terminal case of cancer. And more importantly, Larry Ferrell doesn’t intend on giving up the ghost until he’s witnessed the aftermath of using all of his capital to prove — by way of a social experiment live-streamed to nothing less than an international audience — that the concept of civilisation ain’t absolute, and that we’re all still as venal and covetous and downright fucking nasty as we’ve always been.

How does he do this precisely? I ain’t telling. I will tell you, however, that Unfollow is more than just a straightforward parable cautioning us all against the ubiquity of smartphone tech and the ill-defined role it plays in our lives. Notwithstanding Williams’ astutely implied editorial on the subject of how the one quarter of the planet’s population that’s jacked into information-sharing is, by and large — even after already having institutionalised one particular multinational social networking service — unlikely to profit at a meaningful level from social media’s stated credo, Unfollow is, at a more subtextual level, a story about the deconstruction and simplification of language and communication — especially the complex language of personal freedom and human rights, and how our expectations of the kinds of things a state should reasonably provide for its citizens have been subordinated to the widely welcomed influence — and instrumentality — of private enterprise.

Here’s an example. If you visit the Australian Federal Government’s Department of the Attorney-General’s public website, you’ll learn that on the 15th of October 2015 Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II delivered an elevated nod of assent to Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC’s assimilation of the entirety of the country’s privately owned telecommunications/ISP infrastructure via a bill that was enthusiastically passed into law by landslide majorities in both houses of parliament, thus making each of its citizens’ meta-data accessible to cops and spooks through the intermediation of yet another Canberran fiefdom of (what will always be to an unreconstructed disestablishmentarian) doubtful statute. When news broke of a warrantless data breach from within the AFP itself, critics and privacy advocates raised their voices and rallied for the immediate audit of the office’s protocols by a Commonwealth ombudsman — and why not? A serious case of maladministration had occurred. And yet, with faith and/or trust in all three branches of government at an all-time nadir, a VPN doesn’t even begin to adequately address what’s problematic with a policy that one shouldn’t forget has bipartisan support — to say nothing of an independently conducted ‘official’ investigation that’d find no evidence which couldn’t be rationalised as being anything more than a simple case of a self-authorising police officer, an admittedly far-reaching law, and the police officer’s unfortunate ignorance of that law.

 

Unfollow‘s almost Fight Club redivivus in that there’s a kind of lemma to this loose-knit school of thought’s main angle on the historical cycle of decline, fall and rebirth that aims to find an equation between enlightenment and violence. I can’t help but think of the overture to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and how he and Clarke seemed to be saying that the dawn of higher cognition in lower primates was inaugurated with terror and death. And granted — it does sound utterly rhetorical and excessive prima facie; but what Williams, Palahniuk, et al. understand as dramatists is that the phraseology of ontological speculation needn’t be quite so fucking boring.

And what of the series’ title’s seeming adjuration? Could you? Can you? Would you? Put it this way. If fear of pulling the plug on the ostensible omniscience that interconnectedness empowers one with is enough to conveniently forget about the very real likelihood of the Internet’s historical role being remembered as an agency of systemic dysfunction, then I heartily recommend that you find Mr Williams’ books and consider the moral of his story. Disconnect. Deactivate. Unfollow. And stop fucking stalking me.

And what of the series’ title’s seeming adjuration? Could you? Can you? Would you? Put it this way. If fear of pulling the plug on the ostensible omniscience that interconnectedness empowers one with is enough to conveniently forget about the very real likelihood of the Internet’s historical role being remembered as an agency of systemic dysfunction, then I heartily recommend that you find Mr Williams’ books and consider the moral of his story. Disconnect. Deactivate. Unfollow. And stop fucking stalking me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Donald Starr

Author Donald Starr

Asked by the editor of Mysteria Maxima Media to write weekly comic book reviews, Donald agreed - and perceived the invitation to be the perfect opportunity for writing whatever the hell he wanted, and submitting it whenever the hell he wanted.

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