Philip A. Farruggio -- World News Trust
Oct. 12, 2018
Forty-two years ago director Sidney Lumet brought to the big screen Paddy Chayefsky's brilliant story of Network. This great satirical film can now be looked at through the prism of our current state of Amerikan culture, or lack of same.
In the film, top prime time newscaster Howard Beale has a nervous breakdown on air, but not before he gets at the truth, the crux of it all. Beale rants and raves about how this whole system is totally broken and corrupt, with the media leading the way... or perhaps echoing it.
He tells the public to go to their windows, open them up and yell " I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!!" When word of the event goes viral throughout the country, Beale is no longer looked upon as a "Nut" but as an icon. The whores at his network realize that their faulty ratings could now be rocketed to the top.
And thus, what we now call Reality Television was born. As with today's Reality TV, his station not only gave Beale a show of his own to continue with both his rants and his passing out each time, but they created a myriad of far-out Reality TV shows. One of them actually had a violent revolutionary group under the microscope of the television lens. That would be like having a Reality TV show today following ISIS, or maybe one of our rogue and covert CIA units planning to undermine another nation's sovereignty.
The inner secret behind the "Why" of his network allowing, even encouraging, Howard Beale to continue to rile people up, was this: The American public are and have always been suckers for the hype, and only care about being ENTERTAINED. Forty-two years go by and nothing changes on that account. Bread and circuses is all the majority of our fellow suckers want... and need!
You see, Howard Beale did not offer solutions, only criticisms. That is all the movers and shakers of this empire can and will tolerate. When voices of dissent give out ideas of how to radically transform this empire into something much more viable, they are silenced or blacklisted from the mainstream media. To paraphrase and re-edit the famous Mark Twain quote: Politics and Mainstream Media are the last refuges of scoundrels.
Of course, to make certain that Howard Beale did not begin offering real and viable solutions (or to incite mass demonstrations) the head of the network, Arthur Jenson, had him come up for a "One on One." Actually, Jenson did all the talking, and how appropriate his monologue was for today's times.
He begins by shouting at Beale that "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and I won't have it!!" Jenson then informs Beale, very powerfully, that "There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.... The world is a collage of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime."
Watching Network, a film that every high school civics class should be shown, we see how Chayefsky realized then (as now) that with this dumbed down populace there is only entertainment and consumerism. Nothing else matters to the empire.
Wars are staged and sold to us like toothpaste. Network news is scripted only to get us to watch their commercials, and nothing more. We can get the same from reading supermarket tabloids.
Debate on real issues for our very physical, economic and environmental survival are tossed aside to make room for sex scandals, false patriotism and scapegoating. Congress, the Presidency and members of the mainstream media are millionaires, as are the athletes in the sports we watch. Everyone is super rich except the suckers who buy into the con.
What the Trump phenomena revealed is how the rage of Everyman can be channeled into following demagogues right over the cliffs of reason. Sadly, the key is to make the suckers always look below their caste and never above it. The whole Tea Party movement has shown how that works.
On the other side of that phony Two Party/One Party coin we have the Democrats who rail against the very corporate sharks that most of their party takes donations from. In Network the powers that be knew that it was healthy for the suckers to vent rather than act.
This writer remembers standing in the public square with my activist friend and I holding our protest signs against the illegal ( and immoral ) invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. A lady, recently emigrated from Germany, approached me.
"You know," she offered, "If my country did what yours did in the Middle East, there would be thousands out in the streets demonstrating, not just like the two of you here."