White Noise is ironically a little too quiet on its stance on the political issues it raises, but it’s an effective examination of extremist values nonetheless.
White nationalism has always been present in America, but it’s never been quite as dangerous or threatening as it has proven to be in the past five years. With White Noise, debut filmmaker Daniel Lombroso takes a uniquely first-hand look into the recently developed ‘alt-right’ political landscape through the careful examination of three of its loudest contributors. Each of them as problematic as the rest, Lombroso uses their stories and policies to expose the truth behind the politics – and unmask exactly what brought them to be this way. However, as the film often neglects to actually condemn and disapprove of their behaviour and ideologies, it often feels uncomfortably sympathetic towards these dangerously racist figures and the nationalist policies they embody.
At the heart of White Noise are Richard Spencer, Lauren Southern and Mike Cernovich, a trio of influential journalists and activists whose racist, superpatriot voices within America’s politics have skyrocketed them to fame and, in a lot of cases, nation-wide hatred. The film documents both their rise to power and their preservation of it, often bringing them into conflict with one another in an amusingly futile pursuit of supremacy. It explores their influence on the newly evolving ‘alt-right’ climate, examining how this sort of self-centered political ideology has developed and been allowed to exist in a society that allegedly values inclusivity and progression. It’s extremely telling about the world we live in, and its presentation of these figures is very effective in opening the audience’s eyes to some of the truly incomprehensible beliefs that lie at the center of our social system.
White Noise also makes a lot of important points about the rise of social networking, and the role that it plays in how our politics and media are distributed and received. The internet has had a huge effect on our consumption of news, and the film manages to dissect this in an engaging way whilst opening our eyes to the blatant dangers of unrestricted access to an audience. These individuals have been granted the ability to preach to innumerably large audiences at all times, thanks to social media’s omnipresence in our society. White Noise questions the effect of this by constantly highlighting the digital influence that these people have over a huge portion of the population. Would the world be different if our voices weren’t so easily audible and accessible? Would it be better?
There is a very important message within White Noise, but it’s sometimes illegible over the sounds of these self-indulgent ‘activists’ preaching to the audience. It’s a message of unity, hope and rebellion, though the film often fails to make its own voice heard and instead just acts as a platform for these dangerous individuals to reach an even wider audience. There is no open condemnation of the rhetoric they produce, no clear disapproval of their actions, and most importantly, the film offers no judgment for the irreparable damage to thousands of lives as a result of their behaviour. Films like this have a duty to raise important questions and provide insightful commentary – but White Noise often treats the whole thing with an infuriating ambivalence that makes you question exactly what the point is.
But, setting that issue aside, White Noise is an extremely well-made documentary that features some truly impressive filmmaking ability on display. Lombroso’s debut is one of the most skillfully made documentaries on the topic, and the way that the scenes are edited together with focus on the different individuals is extremely effective in conveying exactly what we should be feeling as viewers. There’s plenty of information to digest, but it never takes away from the film’s shining focus – the examination and understanding of our three central figures. It’s effectively constructed, wonderfully shot and precisely directed – one of the more engaging political documentaries out there.
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