The PJ Tatler

Occupy Wall Street Comes to Series Television

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(Alert: Some spoilers. But you’re not going to watch this piece of crap anyway, right?)

(Trigger Alert: Stop if you’re liable to throw up if you read about Occupy Wall Street’s rancid worldview and agenda.)

USA Network’s original series Mr. Robot, which premieres on June 24, may be the most objectionable series on TV. The pilot episode, available for viewing here, could have been written by an Occupy Wall Street activist. Perhaps it was. The plot involves a conspiracy by the “top 1% of the top 1%” — the people that the protagonist, a cyber security expert named Elliot who is a “vigilante hacker” by night, says control the world and everybody in it.

But Elliot suffers from a debilitating anti-social disorder that makes him extremely shy and withdrawn from people. Is the conspiracy a figment of his imagination?

Enter Mr. Robot, who wants to bring down the banking system — “The single biggest instance of wealth redistribution in history.” In one of the more ludicrous plots ever to be broadcast on TV, Mr. Robot and his hacker minions want to attack the servers of a huge conglomerate called E Corp. The company happens to hold 70% of consumer debt in the world and Mr. Robot thinks that he can destroy all digital traces of ordinary people’s debt, including student loans.

Could someone really do that? If you believe they could, go join Occupy Wall Street. All large companies back up customer records, usually to disk, storing them elsewhere. What they are suggesting is not only impossible, but insults the intelligence of the viewer.

And not mentioned, at least in the pilot, is what would happen to those hundreds of millions of people when their credit goes up in smoke. The resulting economic catastrophe would cause massive job losses and lead to societal chaos. Yes, but at least the rich would get what’s coming to them.

Another objectionable element in this series is the immorality of making a hacker into the hero. Elliott hacks the financials, emails, and personal information of his childhood friend (who is dating a womanizer), and his psychologist (who is dating a married man). He also hacks the accounts of the man who owns the cyber cafe he visits regularly. The fact that the owner also runs a child porn site is beside the point. Elliot had no idea of the illegal actions of the owner before he hacked into the man’s private, proprietary information. Looking for dirt on someone and exposing it are not the actions of a hero, no matter how awful the crimes being hidden are.

Why make someone like this a hero? Hackers are rapists. What else do you call someone who hacks your personal email and becomes privy to your most personal and private information? They are not modern-day Robin Hoods, nor are they knights doing battle with evil. They are evil for making the concept of privacy online a joke. Gangs of criminal hackers is one thing. Individuals who take pleasure in exposing the private lives of their targets is quite another.

Series creator Sam Esmail will probably be speaking at an Elizabeth Warren rally near you:

Esmail himself is no stranger to computer criminality. He was once fired from his student job at a computer lab at NYU for hacking into another school’s server and sending out a campus-wide email blast decrying the “conformist bull—-” of college culture.

He may be a little more mature now, and smart enough not to do illegal things from his work computer, but the same disgust with conformist bull—- is still very much at work in Mr. Robot.

“It’s an indictment of the current capitalist system,” he explained. “I don’t think capitalism is a bad idea, but we’ve perverted it so that it’s actually not even capitalism anymore … it’s heavily regulated in a corrupt way that benefits the wrong people.”

Esmail is aware of the irony in a show that attacks corporate power but is on a network owned by Comcast, one of the largest media corporations on the planet. In fact he’s “shocked” that the company hasn’t asked him to tone down any of the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric in the show.

“But,” he asks, “if you have an opportunity to do a TV show like this, why not try to talk about some of these issues?”

Because these “issues” are idiotic fantasies. If you’re paranoid enough, stupid enough, to believe you are being controlled by rich people, you deserve Elizabeth Warren as president.

There’s an edginess to the series that young people will find attractive and engaging.  No doubt, it will be a huge success. But the fantasy world portrayed on the series, as well as the hero worship of people who hack citizens’ private lives and look to cause massive economic dislocation, is as troubling  as it is entertaining to some.