Reviews: Rob Ager

Why does Rob Ager get so much attention?

Rob Ager has drawn heaps of attention from the internet and respected news media outlets, but I’m baffled in respect of how. On the press page of his site he lists links to news media content that featured his work and with positivity. Shock - these include New York Times, Time Entertainment, Indiewire, AV Club, Cracked, iO9, Irish Times, Digital Spy, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, Jakarta Globe .... some promoting his work more than once! Miramax was duped into using one of Mr Ager’s “film analysis” postings to promote the Reservoir Dogs Blu-ray. The New York Film Academy saw fit to post two Ager articles containing his supposed expertize. And now he’s in an upcoming French documentary about the Mad Max series; billed next to respected interviewees George Miller, Guillermo Del Toro, Hideo Kojima and Noam Chomsky … WHY !!

Ager has publicly opposed the EU for years, he’s written entire articles about his theories on banking corruption, US “imperialism”, and the “dangers” of political correctness. He’s a conspiracy theorist if ever there was one, but at Entertainment Weekly Ager was interviewed by Jeff Jensen alongside the great director Christopher Nolan, but what does Mr Jensen have to say about Ager? The quote is beyond comprehension, “Immersion Critics need not be conspiracy theorists (scary or jokey) compromised by confirmation bias, who see the Illuminati written all over Eyes Wide Shut, which, like The Shining, has yielded a surplus of specious academia. They can be people like Rob Ager. Part film scholar, part Robert Langdon, Ager has produced a number of written and video deconstructions ...” What – the – f___K ???????

Small conciliation can be found in a handful of articles that gave Ager the negative coverage he deserves. Wired issued two public roastings about his early conspiracy tinged “film analysis” videos, but that was 2007 and the caped film expert has flown a long way since. The only academic countering came from Dan Leberg of Gerorgetown University, but nobody read it. Leberg conceded that film students under his wing were enthralled with one of Ager’s videos. A point by point debunk by Leberg would have been welcomed, but to his discredit Leberg opted to write a long denunciation of Ager’s academic non-status (something only his colleagues would take note of). In 2010 Mr Ager was roundly attacked for his past membership of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), but the attack failed because the perpetrators went overboard by peppering their story with transparent falsehoods. When one of the key outlets published an apology and retraction it served to provide Ager with a shield against any future attacks. This might be the basis of the lack of hard criticism of Ager’s work since 2007.

My concern is that Rob Ager’s influence and popularity is growing. To have his conservative / Eurosceptic politics and half-genius / half-delusional views on the arts invade thousands or God forbid millions of minds is a terrifying thought.

Collative Paranoia

Ager's videos and essays often bring attention to interesting details in films and are sometimes fascinating thought experiments. It's unfortunate that his work often has a very arrogant, sometimes even paranoid tone. He denies being a conspiracist, yet his work often holds the opinion that disbelievers "ought to wake up". He literally rallies people to let "his message" be spread. And his essays are usually brimful with paranoid theories against political correctness, the European Union, artificial intelligence,... It can never be "just" a theory. It's always presented as a "truth" that is being suppressed by the mainstream. While I disagree with his politics I don't mind him making videos about it, as long as he makes clear he is voicing his own opinion. It's when he tries to shoehorn his viewpoints into his regular film analysis that I start to object. For instance, Ager is/was a member of the UKIP, a party opposing Britain's membership in the European Union. He keeps hammering his distrust for the E.U. into several of his videos and essays with paranoid and often unfunded assumptions about their "secret agenda", while advocating protection of the British "identity". He even made a video about A Clockwork Orange being a warning against Fascism in the European Union. First of all, yes, Kubrick had a huge distrust of institutions, as his work often shows. But that doesn't automatically mean that his fears were correct, nor that he was hinting at one specific institution. Since he seldom gave interviews and died in 1999 we're never going to know what he meant with some scenes in his films. You could very well wonder if "Clockwork" isn't an allegory about the British government? After all: the story takes place in England. For Ager to blatantly misuse Kubrick's prestige - a man no longer able to defend himself - only to justify and promote his own hidden agenda is very low. It's basically slander.

And that's the achilles heel of his entire work. Ager clearly fancies himself an all-knowing oracle who dug up the truth that others didn't (wish to) see. Still, throwing a bunch of stuff together that supports your preconceived viewpoint doesn't automatically "prove" anything. He seems to be aware of this, but only when confronted with other people's analysis he just so happens to disagree with. For all his crusades against media censorship it's also sad that he clearly can't take criticism himself or people debunking some of his claims . While he tells others they have the freedom to "disbelieve him" it's always done in this condescending, mean spirited tone. Ager has even blocked out critical comments or made waspish videos against them. ("Let's Overanalyze "Alien", f.i.) Ager also claims he often plays "mind games" with his audience by taking up viewpoints he doesn't necessarily agree with personally. A cheap way to avoid ever being exposed as a fraud.