I showed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room to my mass media class last night. They spoke vigorously among themselves in pairs, but were hesitant to speak to us all – shyness or were they overwhelmed? The emotions named were mad, sad, and scared.
We spent the most time discussing the link between Enron and the (manufactured) California energy “crisis”. How deliberate was coordinated planning between Bush’s political allies and Enron’s economic motivations? Speculation also arose about the timing of September 11. Were the attacks coordinated on purpose to distract the public from the upcoming scandal? I don’t personally think so but certainly the media’s agenda-setting function kicked right into gear (not to mention the dialectical response of Bush et al which has escalated more tensions than it resolved).

I asked students about the actual presentation of the documentary – is there a “liberal” or “conservative” bias? A few speculated liberal, but I wonder if that is simply because the obvious thrust of the film is overtly critical of a political and economic process that permitted such extreme abuse. I do not know the ideological leanings of this film’s producers to be able to make such a claim, however a kneejerk labeling of them as “liberal” would seem to me to discredit all the conservatives who are also appalled.
I found an (incomplete?) review by VariaGallery (whoever that is) that ends with an intriguing comment about Martha Stewart. I kept thinking product placement.
Anyway, I’ve been pondering the collective response of the class since I was very jazzed up thinking that the timing of showing this was perfect as we’ve just been really getting a handle on the interplay of social/cultural, economic, and political dimensions of national and global human organization. But it could be that my anticipation was “ahead” of where they could be, since they needed a cushion of time to integrate all the information.

One thought on “stunned?”

  1. Chris, you’re right about the implication of inaction, but the notion of a “stun” is that it’s temporary, right? The question is, what does one do after the shock wears off? Here we face the potential problem of the narcotizing dysfunction of information overload. The conspiracy theories you mention are one way of coping…I can’t remember the source for this, but one function of gossip is that it defuses anxiety. Not that gossip makes the anxiety “go away” or actually resolves the issues that spark uncertainty, but the act of talking about – of speculating – serves to “move” anxiety from the individual level to a shared, social level. Of course, what is shared socially can also be internalized, making the anxiety worse. One could think of this as a feedback loop, or as an example of a dialectic.
    [Note: reposted after I erased another 20 comments by accident. Third time ­čÖü I’m done now, right? Apologies to Chris and Annmarie whose posts are gone forever….wah!]

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