Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Andrew Callaghan's content matches his accusations

Like many I was a fan of Channel 5 (All Gas No Brakes) during its initial viral rise for its "man on the street" style interviews. It reminded me of previous, relatively minor e-celebs who have done similar work, or Dave Attell's Insomniac show in the early 2000s. It's a simple enough format. You point the camera at people who are a little fringe or absurd, listen objectively, and the content creates itself. If the interviewee is particularly nasty the camera provides enough rope for the person to hang themself, but generally these videos work because they're funny and humanize people despite their misguided beliefs or odd personality quirks. Part of the allure is the camp and cringe but with a balanced and empathic editing and editorializing this becomes forgivable.

Something seemed off around early June of last year with Channel 5's "NRA Conference" video, it started a pattern seldom-seen in the videos until around this time of excessive editorializing and ideological slant, with clips from both sides built to fit a narrative. It also includes Andrew Callaghan adding just himself to the screen and interjecting. The word "journalism" began being paraded around the community which was bizarre, then a Hot Ones interview on the Youtube recommend algorithm made me question if he is in large part a media-whore.

A lot of this contradicts the golden rule of journalism to not become the story. You could defend this under the phrase "gonzo journalism" but this doesn't sit well with me. If gonzo is meant to forgo objectivity and add fiction, most media organizations do that by accident, and op-eds on purpose. VICE, Louis Theroux etc. regularly embraced subjectivity and engaged in drug use or in rituals to tell a better story. Werner Herzog fabricated scenes in certain documentaries to get to a deeper truth. Andrew's "journalism" by comparison is simplistic, shallow, and often with an insistence of having himself front-and-center. As a witness to an adult film award ceremony he played a perfect host.

Around this time I noticed, and put in my notes:

"Channel 5 went one-sided and preachy and fame-chasing with a quickness. Instead of an ironic witness to absurdity, it seems cynical and mean-spirited to its subjects, typically born of unfortunate circumstance."
I also wrote having finally understood that, Andrew's the type of person who, were he not holding a microphone, would be one of his subjects. Before that he was a tall, lanky man with bushy hair and bad posture in an ill-fitted suit and acne, and not without a sense of comic timing. It was contrived to a degree but not cynical and that's what made it compelling and digestible. This re-calibrated that dynamic to "a show making fun of the mentally ill," and the show's profile from there began to grow exponentially. Even that in itself isn't the biggest problem, it's being that while posturing as part of the fight for social justice. Nothing arouses distaste in me like holding two completely disparate values and cynically forcing them together for profit.

Only days ago Robin Young, a perfectly respectable radio personality and interviewer, asked Andrew a basic boomer question about his willingness to speak with Alex Jones. The glib response and laughter made the rounds, as if lifting weights and drinking alcohol with Alex was an act of courage required to expose him as mentally unhinged. I began then writing this article with a quote as a placeholder. Then, before I could fail to ever launch it, his rising star exploded. Through unfortunate circumstance he killed his career in spectacular fashion coinciding with the release of an HBO documentary titled This Place Rules.

Andrew's documentary is already a non-starter because also on HBO is Q: Into the Storm, which provides a rigorous look at Qanon and the events of Jan. 6 from a much more objective standpoint. This Place Rules seems more like a forced hodgepodge of footage from events strung together into a narrative. Instead of tackling any real psychology of belief it focuses the visceral reaction you get from witnessing the mentally ill behave. It reminds me of Borat where some people considered it brilliant social commentary as opposed to just hilarious depictions of stereotypical behavior encouraged by its stereotypical protagonist. In Andrew's attempt to take a sober look at America all the humor is removed.

The trajectory of of This Place Rules and Channel 5 toward mean-spirited and more simplistic interpretations of political events seemed like they would eventually have to coincide with a backlash or a crash and burn. This happened with multiple sexual assault allegations against Andrew Callaghan days ago. If he took a step back from the limelight perhaps his work could've survived but he's facing a big problem summed perfectly by a Redditor:

"His audience are the cancelers."
By delving into the world of simplistic answers he's garnered a simple fan base who won't look into the nuance of his actions, and there's now a vacancy for the relatively basic content he provides for someone with a clean slate to fill. There's a market for people who believe Alex Jones alone instigated Jan. 6 despite that he spoke several times on the day to protest peacefully--a point ignored in the documentary--but not if you yourself are a controversial figure. I hope he makes right by his accusers, and he has enough talent that I hope for his redemption. Because of the audience his work cultivated it seems unlikely and the ending to his documentary ominously counterpoints his predicament: "There is no end. This is only the beginning," Andrew says in a darkened sound stage before exiting the building.

No comments:

Post a Comment