James Baldwin revisited

Peter Keough recently interviewed Raoul Peck in the Boston Globe regarding Peck’s new documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro.” The film is based on notes that the great African-American writer James Baldwin had made for a book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.

In the context of the social upheaval and burnout many of us are experiencing, I found the end of Peck’s interview particularly compelling

Q. (Peter Keough): What impact do you think the film might have?

A. (Raoul Peck): It’s not easy to get an audience’s attention these days becuase you are bombarded with what I call “stuff” that you basically don’t have time anymore to hear your own voice because of the Internet and all the screens you have all day, all night. We have reached the point where even a spokesperson for the president can claim “alternative facts.”

It’s done in a way to prevent you from real thinking and real criticism. It annihilates all critical minds and makes you lazy because you become the total consumer. Baldwin saw that 40 or 50 years ago. Back then he said the entertainment industry is a narcotic. And back then we only had three networks.

Q. Do you think if Baldwin were alive today he would tweet?

A. I think he would see Twitter as a narcotic also. A simulation of reality that accelerates everything and gives you no space for thoughts. People don’t think in 140 characters.

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