Some Thoughts on “Silenced”

I don’t normally talk about internet drama. I like to write about books I’ve read, communicate interesting ideas, and chime in on current events.

That’s not what I’m going to talk about today though, I’m going to talk about the documentary film, Silenced: Our War on Free Speech

Silenced is a documentary about free speech in America produced by Mike Cernovich and directed by Loren Feldman. While it was released some months ago, there has been some drama around it as the film disappointed producer Cernovich, causing the pair to part ways and it has started to cause some major friction. You can read Cernovich’s Twitter comments today to go along with Feldman’s released statement.

I followed and interacted positively with both Cernovich and Feldman before they began collaborating on the film, and I contributed to their Kickstarter to get the film off the ground. This probably colors my interpretation of events, but that’s where I stand.

In the theory of criticism, the three major questions that need to be asked in the examination of the work is: “What is the work trying to accomplish?”, “Does the work accomplish its goal?”, and “Was that goal worth accomplishing?”.

The underlying conflict is not just that producer and director differed on the first question, it is that their answer to the second question was different as well.

Cernovich wanted to make Silenced a big success that showed the world that the right could make compelling cultural artifacts on a small budget and the lack of inhibition would propel it to success.

Feldman wanted Silenced to be a film that documented the opinions of a diverse range of free speech activists and effectively presented them to the audience.

Neither of these goals was misguided, but only Feldman’s were accomplished with the film. Silenced was able to get interviews with influential figures who normally would never consent to being in an interview and document their thoughts and opinions on free speech. Of all the work of Feldman’s I’ve seen, it was his best work. From his perspective, it is hard to see how the film was anything but an artistic success.

From Cernovich’s angle though, Silenced didn’t influence culture the way he wanted it to. The movie doesn’t possess the narrative or the framework to become a culturally important entity. It felt more like an extended episode of a documentary series on American political thought than a standalone documentary film. Cernovich hoped that there was untapped genius in Feldman waiting for an opportunity to be set loose upon the world, and instead he got work in line with the rest of Feldman’s corpus.

As for the last question, were these goals worth attempting? On both fronts I say yes, which I why I have mixed feelings about Silenced. On the one hand, it is a time capsule of the people who were given increased stature by the Trump campaign, and it was a good thing that it was made. On the other hand, it didn’t inspire an army of guerrilla right wing film makers to buy cameras and start producing content.

I’m sad to see these two bitter over the experience. I have to say I was a little disappointed with Silenced myself, as the reasons I supported it were the same reasons that Cernovich set out to make it. My personal criticism is limited to hoping for a home run and getting a base hit. There will be other chances for a breakout hit that spawns a right wing cultural revolution, but Silenced isn’t it.

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