By MICHAEL IGNATIEFF A version of the article appeared in print on February 7, 2010, on page 9 of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
. . .
The Olympics have done their part in replacing war with sport as the way nations earn respect. Modern nations compete by branding their identities, and hosting the Olympic Games is the biggest branding opportunity a nation ever gets. . . .
. . .
The Olympics are branding Canada to the world, but they are also branding Canada to Canadians. At first we grumbled about the cost and did not take ownership of the whole expensive spectacle. But as soon as the Olympic torch relays began this fall, Canadians started lining the route by the thousands to see Olympians and other local heroes carrying the torch aloft through their communities. From Alert, the northernmost community on earth, to the American border and from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, the torch relay has brought the country alive and brought it together.
. . .
# # #
An article on the Olympics and national branding with no mention of Leni Riefenstahl? And – with the exception of Maestra Riefenstahl’s rule-proving exception of Berlin – has any Olympics projected anything except a small, small world Disney mish-mash of diversity?
To navigate more by instruments, Sapir-Whorf provides the theoretical mechanism: http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/language/whorf.html
. . .
The argument that language defines the way a person behaves and thinks has existed since the early 1900’s when Edward Sapir first identified the concept. He believed that language and the thoughts that we have are somehow interwoven, and that all people are equally being affected by the confines of their language. In short, he made all people out to be mental prisoners; unable to think freely because of the restrictions of their vocabularies.
An example of this idea is given in George Orwell’s book 1984, in which he discusses the use of a language entitled “newspeak” which was created to change the way people thought about the government. The new vocabulary they were given was created to control their minds. Since they could not think of things not included in the vocabulary, they were to be zombies imprisoned by the trance of their language. Soon, Sapir had a student, Benjamin Whorf, who picked up on the idea of linguistic determinism and really made it his own. Whorf coined what was once called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which is more properly referred to as the Whorf hypothesis. This states that language is not simply a way of voicing ideas, but is the very thing which shapes those ideas. One cannot think outside the confines of their language. The result of this process is many different world views by speakers of different languages.
Some fifteen years ago, Esther Dyson said that with the rise of the Internet the price of information will tend to zero. Profit is to be drawn from events and products. Ms. Dyson did hold the New York Times up as a possible rule-proving exception. This appears not to be so.
With the New York Times promoting its Store and Events, the paper indeed is — as Esther Dyson predicted — following the example of the Grateful Dead.
# # #
This article appeared in Wired, Issue 3.07, July 1995.
– by Esther Dyson
What happens to intellectual property when it gets on the Internet?
. . .
Much chargeable value will be in certification of authenticity and reliability, not in the content. Brand name, identity, and other marks of value will be important; so will security of supply. Customers will pay for a stream of information and content from a trusted source. For example, the umbrella of The New York Times sanctifies the words of its reporters. The content churned out by Times reporters is valuable because the reporters undergo quality-control, and because others believe them – context, again. The New York Times can almost make the truth – for better or worse.
. . .
An all ’round great commercial (great concept, great images, great soundtrack, great script, great delivery, . . . and please do COMMENT whatever I left out) is this Nike Air spot featuring William Burroughs as electronic UberShaman. Striding past his avant-garde disciples — and still possessing the energy and insight of Kerouac’s Bull Lee — Burroughs ascends a video pulpit to address the world — and through the ether-amber of the Internet — for all time.
In a 1965 Paris Review Interview William Burroughs said, “And I see no reason why the artistic world can’t absolutely merge with Madison Avenue. Pop art is a move in that direction. Why can’t we have advertisements with beautiful words and beautiful images?” Thirty years later, he self-fulfilled this prophesy.
If you control perspective, you control perception.
While watching a documentary covering the life of Leni Riefenstahl, I was amazed by the mountain climbing prowess of the young actress. She showed no fear of falling as she clambered up — sometimes barefoot — very steep inclines. I wondered about the seeming sharp demarcation between her two careers: Leni, starlet of the action flick and Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film director.
As luck would have it, a few days later I happened upon a digital video magazine that contained an article describing special effects on the cheap. One of the simplest is to turn the camera sideways and have the subjects crawl on the ground. The resulting video shows someone climbing — as long as the footage does not reveal a tree or some other point of reference testifying to the camera’s lie.
Suddenly, I realized the essential continuity of Leni Riefenstahl’s career: if you control perspective, you control perception.