Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After Dark, November 19, 2013

The F*** Effect
When news gets in the way
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Last week a strange thing happened. 

Despite a mountain of reviews and truly great features, our traffic plummeted. Normally, when we run a lot of reviews - especially reviews for shows in Toronto - we see an explosion in traffic. 

I hit the numbers - especially Google Analytics (an in-depth analysis of traffic sources, numbers, etc.) and saw that - indeed - compared to the same week in years past - when the theatre season is in full swing and before the Christmas break - our numbers have been superior. In raw numbers the only figures that were growing were those of the fucking hackers. Worse, the variety was growing,

We were not getting the usual suspects from China, Brazil and Russia, suddenly hackers were pouring in from the Ukraine, Bangladesh, India, and even - and this was new for us! - a few from Moldova! (Which, until now, I thought was an imaginary country in a Marx Brothers movie!) So I thought about it and thought about it and started to worry that all these hackers were choking real traffic to the site. But there was absolutely no proof of that at Google. 

Then it hit me. 

What is sad is that within this sordid saga there is a real story of almost Shakespearian proportions.

I was doing Twitter and Facebook which normally takes me about an hour a day - more if there is a lot of good stuff (I am a nut for links to good articles or twisted videos). But there I was - that day - whipping through - and past - hundreds of Tweets and dozens of Facebook posts. What normally takes me an hour took me a few minutes.

And then our weak numbers suddenly made sense. The national dialogue - on Twitter, Facebook, print and TV - and even our international profile - on CNN, BBC and The Guardian - had been about one subject: Rob Ford. And if you're in the arts and trying to peddle a product, this is neither interesting nor helpful.

I subsequently slowed down my Twitter and Facebook perusal for a bit and conservatively estimated that 80% of the people I usually count on for hard information about theatre across the country were participating - sometimes obsessively - in the circus that was Toronto City Hall. I clearly saw - perhaps for the first time - how noise can drown out everything.

And let's face it - it is noise. Nothing is being done, or it can't be done - in short, it's a freak show with all the rubber-necking and tsk-tsk-ing that goes with it. 

What is sad is that within this sordid saga there is a real story of almost Shakespearian proportions. Making it a comedy won't work as nothing satirical could surpass reality. But at the core of this is a drama - family, political, dark, tragi-comic, power, violence, sex - everything that makes up great theatre. But besides uni-dimensional jokes about eating out, no one seems to be discussing this story in artistic terms. What is happening to a person, family, friends, city, province, country, world. What has become of that?

Indeed, what has become of us?

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