Social networking isn't just for the warm and fuzzy any more. (Never was.) The web is a sharing and neutral place -- maybe that's what all those perspiring newspaper publishers mean by the cliche "platform agnostic" -- where new-agers and neo-Nazis share the same bandwidth.
A Reuters story this week cites a report that "militant and hate groups increasingly use social networking sitessuch as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube as propaganda tools to recruit new members," up 25 percent in the last year. The report says examples of "digital terrorism and hate" include a Facebook group named "Death to Gays" in Croatian to a You Tube video of the Koran being burned, according to the story.
In today's SF Chronicle there's a bit about a guy charged by police in Australia with violating a law that disallows inciting racism, in this case a You Tube video that allegedly targeted Jews.
All this free expression, of course, is only a reflection of what goes on in people's non-digital heads. There's also a story in the Chronicle about Arkansas state senator Kim Hendren, who's running for US Senate, referring to New York senator Charles Schumer as "that Jew" at a recent public appearance. That might not work in Manhattan but it'll get him some votes in a few places. A little more down home than John McCain's "that one" comment about Barack Obama, but, unlike Mr. McCain's remark, completely unambiguous in its intent.
How far we've clearly come these days, net or not, in the big tent of brotherly love.
At the same time, you have the frenzied flashbulb start of the extravagance of Cannes,where a lot of Jews from the film world spend time sunning, schmoozing, and being seen at the former wartime Nazi occupation headquarters of the Gestapo, the fabulous Hotel Du Cap.
Even as studio execs, producers and celebrities try to beat each other down in the industry snake pit, hidden behind the radiance of perfect smiles and tantalizing checkbooks, the Du Cap becomes, for a at least a week or two, an expensive azure and bleached white repudiation of all those murderous anti-Semites and racial purists who set up shop there 60 years ago.
Mean and amoral really is different than mass murder despite the reality of the unpleasant experiences of people crushed by Hollywood, one of the most desperate and creative of professional environments.
But the remnants of history can hide in corners. Residuals are a bitch. And I don't mean the checks that still show up for that cult slasher movie you acted in 25 years ago.
By accident of association I was at Cannes and staying at the Du Cap one year. The time was filled pleasantly enough watching guys in Speedos at the pool talking on two cell phones at once, press availability mosh pits and private diners at Elton John's place (with a friendly tour of his fabulous closets). I sat in between Sigourney Weaver, who seemed remarkably sedate for an alien ass-kicker, and Ringo Starr, who talked about the wonders of health food.
Back at the Du Cap, mysterious Middle East caliphs sent private speedboats hoping to ferry female starlets out to their yacht in the days before beheading was a risk but sexual slavery was not out of the question.
When we arrived at the hotel, late at night, as I recall, the officious and elegant maitre d' opened the kitchen for us and served a luxurious dinner to our party despite the hour. But the very next day, I showed up for lunch with two friends, the husband of a big publicist and the husband of a friend of a big star. We were just three schlemiels looking for something to eat. The same maitre d', so obsequious, solicitous, and sycophantic the night before, gave us a cold stare and said they were not yet serving lunch.
Hmm. I looked over his well-tailored shoulder and there was Christopher Walken at one table, clearly having lunch with someone. I pointed that out to this guy, who just sniffed, looked down his nose at me and stuck to his story. It's not that I didn't well understand the caste system at these places, but how about a little subtlety? Or even something honest: Sorry, sir. No fame, no fortune, no fillet for you.
Voices rose and I found myself referring to the Nazi history of the place. My friends escorted me away before the maitre d' had a chance to click his heels together. Small pommes frites, to be sure, but a faint reminder nonetheless of the lingering prejudices of the world.
Causes Phil Bronstein Supports
Good Ones; anything involving the possibility of redemption.