Arthur Rambo: an author is sank by his earlier hateful Twitter persona (Fr: Lesdeuxmagots)
I am not able to get to FilmfestDC in person this year because of conflicts, but some of the Streaming opened up early this morning, and I watched a particularly relevant (to me) film 'Arthur Rambo' (I'll blogger maledetto), a French language film by Laurent Cantet about the dangers of social media when posts stay out there forever. (Note: FilmfestDV will remember your logon from previous years but probably make you change your password.)
Karim F. (Rabah Nait Oufella) is a young Muslim author who has just gotten published with a big new book on immigration to Europe. The film had been completed before the Ukraine war started, but the latter would only make the setup even more relevant. Karim and his family apparently come from Algeria. It is noteworthy that Karim 'looks white'.
As book publicity starts, Karim's past online behavior comes to light, as his social or political enemies unearth the myriad of tweets he had written as a teenager under the handle 'Arthur Rambo'. The tweets attacked everyone, with homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and sometimes even 'Islamophobia'. As the film develops, Karim eventually claims that this was an experiment being a persona just to attract followers, not intended to be taken literally. But especially on the anti-Semitic front the outrage continues (mention of 'Je Suis Charlie').
In time Karim must deal with both his publisher and then his own family and girl friend.
The problem in social media now is the way algorithms raise the visibility of tribally provocative content exponentially, whereas my own style (depending on search engines, in the late 1900s and early 2000s) encouraged 'passive' fame and influence, which creates its own panoply of ethical problems but which grows more linearly and quietly, often unnoticed. Karim's problems definitely come from the former.
In the specific film, however, it seems that these tweets would have broken the 'Twitter Rules' and his account would have been suspended. They (many examples are quoted in the film with screenshots) would have been seen as 'hate speech' attacking marginalized groups. Maybe these tweets came from the very early days of Twitter and those were not removed. By the way, it is looking like Elon Musk is indeed making his move to acquire Twitter (NY Times). Some prominent users have said they will remove their accounts if he takes over. I personally doubt Musk will remove all rules, but he probably would let Donald Trump back on!
I've added a video where Jonathan Haidt discusses the problems of modern social media, especially in 2009 when modern algorithms (likes, follows) started to develop. He says that by 2014 there were enough 'fragile' college freshmen (and women and 'they') on campuses that professors were afraid of them (think about Evergreen in 2017 and Bret Weinstein).
Name: 'Arthur Rambo'
Director, writer: Laurent Cantet
Format: 2.35:1 (in French, subtitles)
When and how viewed: FilmfestDC, 2022/4/25, streaming. $13
(Originally posted: Monday, April 25, 2022 at 10:45 AN EDT)