You might be surprised to know that the trend of the American media becoming less and less trustworthy has been recognized for a long time. As such, I'd like to introduce you to Network, a film that a majority of readers here are likely not familiar with. Amazingly, over thirty years ago in 1976 this ground-breaking movie saw the future, described it perfectly, and gave us all a clear warning about what happens when society starts believing its own fantasies.
Howard “Mad as Hell” Beale, a character from the film delivers this frantic yet insightful monologue that resonates even more clearly today. The speech is important enough, that below I've linked to the clip and transcript (for the bandwidth impaired).
Howard Beale: [arms outstretched to the heavens] Edward George Ruddy died today! Edward George Ruddy was the Chairman of the Board of the Union Broadcasting Systems, and he died at eleven o'clock this morning of a heart condition, and woe is us! We're in a lot of trouble!
[calmly strolling toward the audience] So. A rich little man with white hair died. What has that got to do with the price of rice, right? And *why* is that woe to us? Because you people, and sixty-two million other Americans, are listening to me right now. Because less than three percent of you people read books! Because less than fifteen percent of you read newspapers! Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube.
Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers... This tube is the most awesome God-damned force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls in to the hands of the wrong people, and that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA - the Communication Corporation of America. There's a new Chairman of the Board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the twentieth floor.
And when the twelfth largest company in the world controls the most awesome God-damned propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?
[ascending the stage] So, you listen to me. Listen to me: Television is not the truth! Television is a God-damned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business! So if you want the truth... Go to God! Go to your gurus! Go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're ever going to find any real truth.
[laughing to himself] But, man, you're never going to get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell. We'll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, or that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he's going to win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds... We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even *think* like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing! WE are the illusion! So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I'm speaking to you now!
Though the film was thought to be a bit melodramatic at the time, it unfortunately describes the American media situation in 2010 with near perfection. Less than fifteen percent of you read the newspaper? I hope that's not accurate, since chances are you'll never have made it this far into the article, much lest the next. A post in which we'll look deeper into the how and why this situation came about.