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Watch: Spin

August 22, 2011
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I recently re-discovered this little gem of a documentary whilst rooting through some old films on my hard-disc. Released in 1995 by director Brian Springer, and billed as a surreal expose of media-constructed reality, it consists of unauthorised footage sourced from unencrypted satellite broadcasts across the United States during the early 1990’s.

These satellite streams – the raw video feed used in the production of live television broadcasts – were recorded by Stringer using a series of home satellite dishes and reveal some fascinating unseen political moments, recorded mostly prior to broadcast and during commercial breaks.

Taking the 1992 US election campaigns as a starting point, Springer combed through hundred of hours of footage to present us with some astonishing clips which doubtless the participants assumed would never appear to the general public.

We witness George Bush and Larry King discussing various prescription medications, we see the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson discussing the ‘homos’ who call in to question him on air and we catch Al Gore being coached how to avoid questions on abortion by his media advisers.

The film also documents the struggles of aspiring Democratic candidate Larry Agran, who found himself almost entirely ignored during the nomination campaign. Spin demonstrates how the mainstream media failed to report his polling numbers, even as he began to gain ground on the favourite candidates. Springer also shows how Agran was excluded from the Democratic Party debates, including a surreal scene where we can hear Agran being arrested whilst attempting to force his way into a session.

Spin also turns its attention to the 1992 LA Riots, including some enlightening footage of former vice-president Dan Quayle, where he blames the outbreak of violence on a poverty of values combined with an increase in single parent households, in a stark parallel to the right-wing commentary on the recent UK riots. Quayle then goes on to suggest that a fictional television character may have negatively influenced the youth of America, providing an incentive to riot, in a similar way to which David Starkey recently chastised music videos and black culture.

Sadly, the unencrypted streams which Stringer took full advantage of back in 1992 have long since been eliminated as satellite technology has moved on, yet the film nevertheless provides us with a fascinating insight into the surreal world of television’s interaction with politics during the media whirlwind of a US presidential election.

 

[Watch above, or on Google Video / YouTube.]

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