Long uninterrupted tracking shots cover interactions between students, hoodlums, vagrants, new-agers, and conspiracy theorists in the Texas college town of Austin, subject of the 1990 film "Slacker". A little under an hour in, University of Texas philosophy professor and Kierkegaard scholar Louis H. Mackey makes an appearance, coming home to find a burglar reading his books. After defusing the situation, Mackey takes the would-be-robber on a walk, musing on anarchism and his experience in World War II. Their stroll brings them to the edge of the UT campus, marveling at the clock tower and the 1966 school shooting that took place there. Returning to his home, the professor dismisses his guest with a parting quote from Nietzsche. The burglar leaves to join his companions, a gang of TV thieves, who return to a television-walled den inhabited by a videotape-hoarding McLuhanite monk.
Louis Mackey made a later appearance in Richard Linklater's other Austin-based pseudo documentary "Waking Life", and was a member of a group of University of Texas philosophy professors who focused on existentialism, critical theory, and more importantly, offered their musings to video productions in accordance with their understanding of mass media culture. Interviews and lectures featuring Douglas Kellner, Rick Roderick, and Robert C. Solomon are available in various formats on the internet, usually pulled from video tapes and audio cassettes and uploaded to YouTube.
Habermas scholar Rick Roderick is the most publicly internet-prolific of this list. A self-described son of a con-man from a rough and illiterate West Texas, Roderick emerged from the anti-Vietnam war movement and subsequent confused post-cultural-revolution of the 60s into an America out of touch with its rich past and ill-equipped to deal with a dark future. A 1987 interview on the UT campus details a search for answers in his philosophy career.
"I began to
see a hidden past of America, a past full of promise that had
basically been taken over by shoddy insurance salesmen and techno-war
bureaucrats, and I began to feel and see a part of America that's
been hidden and is still hidden, and is certainly systematically
hidden at the university."
His three series for The Teaching Company video publisher focused on tracing the history of Western philosophy in parallel with contemporary culture, from the Greeks, through the Enlightenment, to Nietzsche and analyses of modernity. He argues for a layman's utility of postmodern considerations, deconstructing subjects like cable television and mall culture of the 80s and 90s. The lectures themselves are a powerful rhetorical performance, utterly humanist in concern, captured with warm audio from VHS conversions.
Business philosopher Robert C. Solomon made an appearance on Linklater's "Waking Life" and like Roderick, gave lectures for The Teaching Company videos, one on existentialism available online in part, and another on philosophy of emotion available in full, arguing for an emerging emotional reality brought about by human existence. Lectures by his wife and fellow University of Texas philosopher Kathleen Higgens are also available online, discussing Nietzsche and feminism.
Douglas Kellner specializes in media and technology oriented critical theory, and founded the Austin public-access television program "Alternative Views" which covered topics like JFK conspiracy theories and the military industrial complex. Perhaps the most interesting of the Alternative Views broadcasts was an interview with Vietnam War scholar Bill Gibson, detailing a hidden history of the conflict as a "Technowar", a fully planned managerial enterprise testing a new class of "warrior-technician" operators to "fix" underdeveloped countries for utility to the United States, providing valuable lessons for future intelligence-driven operations in South America and the Middle East, and a proving ground for internal bureaucratic processes and public information management.
Co-producers of Alternative Views included Slacker director Richard Linklater and international video artist Ali Hossaini, and full recordings of the program are available on YouTube. The show was hosted from 1978 to 1998 on Austin Community Television, a local broadcast facility where Infowars host Alex Jones got his start: below is a rare clip of one of Jones's appearances on 'Mystic Kids Funtime'.