…back in the dark days before the Internet, there was a brilliantly scripted, star-studded movie, titled Network. It was scripted by Paddy Chayevsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. If you haven’t seen it, repent of your sins and beg, borrow, or buy the DVD. (If you don’t have a DVD player, buy one of those, too.) Because it is massively relevant to our time.
Newscaster Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) has a break of sorts, says a few angry, outrageous things on the air…and becomes a major audience draw as a result:
I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
Upon noting the overwhelmingly positive popular response, network executive Diana Christensen (played by Faye Dunaway) spearheads Beale’s transformation into a network asset as “The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves:”
Did you see the news this morning? Did you see the Times? We got press coverage on this you couldn’t buy for a million dollars. Frank, that dumb show jumped five rating points in one night. Tonight’s show is gonna be at least fifteen. We’ve just increased our audience by twenty or thirty million people in one night! And you’re not going to get something like this in your lap for the rest of your days and you can’t just piss it away. Howard Beale went up there last night and said what every American feels, that he’s tired of all the bullshit! He’s articulating the popular rage! I want that show, Frank. I can turn that show into the biggest smash on television.
And for a while, Beale pulls ‘em in like nothing else on TV. But after he denounces a pending merger deal that would further enlarge an already giant corporation, resulting in tens of thousands of letters of protest to the Department of Commerce, the CEO of that corporation, Arthur Jensen (played by the sadly underappreciated Ned Beatty) calls Beale in for a little chat:
You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it! Is that clear? You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immanent, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU… WILL… ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. 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. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that… perfect world… in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.
Many young Americans who have no idea what we in the Right are ranting about with our denunciations of the “globalists” and our “America First” slogan desperately need to see that brilliant, well-ahead-of-its-time movie. They need the sense of it: the steely determination of men in gray suits who command huge concentrations of wealth and commerce to supervene the nation-state in pursuit of ever greater profits, nations and cultures be damned. Those men think of themselves as the Twenty-First Century’s evolutionary replacements for governments, borders, and statesmen.
I trust the message is clear. Have a nice day.