All your gods have feet of clay: even at 53, some people don’t know that

In a recent interview with Newsweek after the release of her film, Risk, the Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras asks “What is the motivation of the source?” as part of a reply to a question about a decision on what is newsworthy.

That should tell an observant reader one thing: Poitras may be 53, but she it still very naive. Every leak that ends up on the front or other pages of a publication, or on the TV screen, emanates from someone with an axe to grind. Perhaps one is looking for a business advantage and leaks some details about a rival. Or else, one may be from one political faction and looking to gain an advantage over a rival faction.

Or indeed it could be someone inside one political faction leaking against one’s own, in order to challenge for the leadership. Or it could be a person who has been jilted who is looking to gain revenge. But this is of no concern to a real journalist; the only point of debate for one in the journalism profession is whether it is newsworthy or not.

Poitras’ comment tells one that she is not really versed in the art of journalism, though her byline has appeared on some pretty big stories. She is uncertain about what makes up news.

It is this naivety that leads her to believe that people who are fighting for a cause have to be perfect. Which, in the main, accounts for the split that has arisen between her and WikiLeaks, after she violated the terms of an understanding under which she was allowed carte blanche to film Julian Assange and others who are part of WikiLeaks for the purpose of making a documentary.

(Poitras was involved with Jacob Appelbaum, a developer for the Tor project, and someone who has had a high profile in the security community. Appelbaum has been accused by multiple people of sexual harassment; whether Poitras was also harassed is unknown.)

But for someone who has any worldliness about them, it should be apparent that one cannot run an organisation like WikiLeaks and make it what has become, a thorn in the flesh of world powers, by being nice to all and sundry. One has to be mean, nasty, vicious and able to give as good as one gets. One has to be cunning, crafty, learned and willing to take risks. And one cannot be nice to everyone and still achieve as much as Assange has.

Poitras chose to release her final cut of Risk, the one that went to theatres in the US, as something that focuses on what she deems to be sexism in multiple communities: “It was important to me to look at not just allegations of abuse but the culture of sexism that exists not only within the hacker community but in other communities.”

She says, “I don’t see any incentive for any woman to make claims around abuse if they didn’t experience that”, without being aware that the two women who were pushed to make allegations about rape against Assange were not doing it of their own volition. It is a naive and emotional reaction to a situation where politics was the decisive factor.

There are some similarities to the situation that developed around Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel. Some women felt that he was too aggressive and abusive and tried to bring him down. They used similar arguments to that which Poitras has raised. Torvalds manages the kernel development team and is known for not beating around the bush when people screw up.

Poitras’ film has been released at a time when WikiLeaks is under great pressure. Now that the probe into Assange in Sweden has been dropped, he will be targeted by the US which is desperate to extradite him and try him for releasing footage of the Iraq war that showed exactly how barbaric US troops have been in Iraq.

Thus it is unlikely that Poitras will ever be allowed to film anything to do with Assange or WikiLeaks again. It also casts a shadow on her reputation as an unbiased observer.

They do things differently in China – and it seems to work

Towards the latter stages of his life, Charles Darwin noted that he could not read serious texts any more; the only thing that grabbed his attention was a book on romance. One of the greatest scientific minds we have known could only enjoy a book about the mating game.

One would not liken oneself to the great man, but over the last nine months one has been similarly drawn away from serious work to become a regular viewer of a Chinese dating show that goes by the name If You Are The One.

The show is a record-breaker; it has about 60 million tuning in for every episode and has been running for seven years. The presenter, Meng Fei, is a national celebrity.

There are many things about the show that grab the attention. First, it is based on an Australian show that flopped after just four episodes.

If this show had been running in any developed country, then the emphasis would have been on sex. All shows that bring men and women together with romance as the aim, always focus on that primeval force.

But the Chinese show could not be more different; while a successful outcome means that a male candidate would get a date with one of the 24 girls on the show, the focus is more on society’s need for such liaisons.

Four or five men appear on each episode and the women can indicate their interest or lack of it. Three videos are shown about the man in question and at any time the girls can indicate their lack of interest by turning off the light that is on the podium in front of them.

In what is considered a male-dominated society, the girls get the first chance to reject a man.

In recent years, a girl has been allowed to indicate her interest in a man by “blowing up her light”; this means she is there at the time when the man makes his choice.

Finally, after the three videos are screened, if two or more girls have their lights still on, the man gets to choose. He initially picks a favourite girl and she is also called up if her light is not on. Then he makes a choice – at times it could be to walk away with nobody.

There is a lot of social commentary that is woven in by the presenter and two guest commentators, both celebrities in different fields. It is entertaining and for one reason: it keep things simple.

The presenter is 40+ and that in itself is a peculiarity in a show that is matching up mostly 20-somethings with each other. The format is the same week after week, with the variety coming in catering to expatriate Chinese on some occasions.

But its success is remarkable. It must be raking in the money, else it would not be going on so long. It is one indication that they do things differently in China and that it works for them.