You are Howard Beale. We are all Howard Beale. We’re mad as hell and, well, we’re not going to take it… for much longer.
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
The death of George Carlin and my own eulogy for him brought to mind the counterculture selling out to corporations and being further atrophied to this day by not getting infused and energized by an equally apathetic-to-nonexistent anti-war movement.
It made me think today of Network
’s Howard Beale, one of the most tragic characters ever in the history of the big screen. At first exhilarated then deluded by the limits of his power and influence, Beale only touches back down to earth after his talk with his network’s boss, Arthur Jensen.
Jensen, among his many cruel but prescient truisms, informs “the mad prophet of the airwaves” that, far from powerless to stop his rants, the network that Beale exhorts his viewers to turn off encourages him. Why? The reasons are simple.
Beale is allowed to continue spreading his verbal samizdat because he fattens their bottom line. The higher Beale’s ratings, the more the network can charge for ad time. The higher the price, the greater the likelihood it’ll get scarfed up only by corporations that can afford it. That would be corporations like Exxon, IBM, Union Carbide, the elite corporate ruling class Jensen tells us and Beale that really owns and runs the world.
This corporate ownership elite get their propaganda out to the masses when Beale draws breath every seven minutes and everybody’s happy or thinks they are. So the network really doesn’t care what Beale says or how he does it. He could go out there every night Monday through Friday jerking off to the strains of Igor Stravinsky and cumming on the poncho section in the front row. As long as it kept ratings and the cost of air time up, who gives a fuck?
So, when Jensen tells him that there are no nations, certainly no America and no democracy left to defend, Beale goes back out and tells his audience that they’re a bunch of worthless couch potatoes and they suddenly got offended when it was their turn to swim into Beale’s crosshairs.
Then, as with every zeitgeist, Beale’s message gets old and stale. His undiluted facts become as passe as those “Wasuuuuup?” idiots in those beer commercials. Even the God’s unflyblown truth, whether or not imparted from God’s lips to Beale’s ears, becomes a mere fad. Beale’s supporting cast begins to acquire satellite audiences. The truth is out of favor and the public reverts back to its waking coma for which Beale had just called them out.
Then, the network that had allowed Beale to rant finally pulls the plug on his show by having network-contracted mercs plug him on the air for having low ratings.
The other reason to let Howard have his day? On his gravestone, it could’ve said, “Here lies Howard Beale. Newsman. He got people to impotently yell out of their windows for a few minutes one night.” Beale never really mobilized the masses, the one and only thing that corporate types and elected officials fear more than anything else, the Only Solution.
Honey, where’s the remote?
Well, our lives aren’t in danger as was Howard Beale (Thank God we don’t get bumped off for our hit count dropping to Hadean levels) but we’re just as beholden to corporations. As I’d said in my Carlin eulogy, no matter how you express yourself, whether it be on television, radio, in a book, a magazine, even on a little-read blog, you will almost surely have to go through some corporate entity. Ranting on a soapbox holding up a cardboard sign that says, “The End is Near”? Check the soapbox, too: It may have been made by Johnson and Johnson, the cardboard sign by Georgia Pacific, the message scrawled on it by a Sharpie made by Rubbermaid.
That is, if most of us were hardy and hale enough of spirit to even do that. Unfortunately, we're as much of a roaming pack of electronically-anesthetized airheads as the fickle viewership of Howard Beale. Once again, we’ve let the corporately-mandated principles of Arthur Jensen fool us into thinking that we actually have a choice in the upcoming elections. Oh, sure, we rejected their dictates that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were the Anointed Standard Bearers but look at with whom we’d replaced them:
Mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers in Appalachia and in other red blobs on a national map are going ga-ga over John McCain, a doddering, incipiently senile psychopath in his own right who just six months ago was declared as more dead in the water than when he was captured in 1967 by the North Vietnamese near Hanoi. But, hey, let’s just forget that McCain won the nomination purely by default rather than on his own merits because he had the good sense of timing to run for president in a year when the Republicans could only field loathsome scumbags even more demented and detestable than himself.
Forget the fact that he's now promising to bring back this Monster Mash in the form of Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Karl Rove and Lord only knows who else.
Forget the fact that, like some hellish Energizer Bunny that was buried in the back yard eight years ago and has marched its way out of the soil, this creepy old man keeps coming and coming and coming back, beating his little toy war drum while we clap to it.
Now, McCain’s suddenly the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, he’s so in the groove, it doesn’t matter what idiocy dribbles from his mouth. When he says that he can win in January, they raucously applaud. When he says we have 25,000 less troops in Iraq than we do, they raucously applaud. When he says that we should ship bottles of hot water to dehydrated babies, they raucously applaud. When he insists that he’s in New Orleans when he’s actually in Kenner, they raucously applaud. When he insists time and again that Iran is funding al Qaeda and that Mamoud Ahmedinejad actually runs Iran, they raucously applaud
Not once do you see in any of these videotaped idiocies any two people looking at each other as if to ask, “What the fuck?” The devotion is unconditional, the discipline ironclad.
It wouldn’t matter at this point if McCain shuffled out gripping a walker like grim death, tapioca running out of one corner of his mouth, wearing two different pairs of shoes and socks with no pants on and declaring that it was 1955 again and promising computers that will one day weigh less than 2 ½ tons.
It wouldn’t matter if he showed up in Minnesota in September with Dick Cheney, the most despised man in America, at his side, Cheney not bothering anymore to file down the horns on his forehead and letting his forked tail swing back and forth, the barb at the end cutting the heads off babies.
And if Jesus showed up at the convention to say, “Hello, time out here? I was never a Republican. I was always a liberal. It’s not fair of these maniacs to co-opt me like this!”, I guaran-fucking-tee you at least a few of those mushroom-brained dead-enders will immediately go searching for the nearest pair of beams and box of nails.
We need another Republican in the White House at all costs, since the GOP has been so good to Middle America and all. So, Senator McCain, we’ll keep those votes coming in and please keep those caskets streaming in from Dover, Delaware.
Forget the fact that McCain has more lobbyists infesting his campaign than K Street and the Federal Bureau of Prisons combined, that he admits he doesn’t know shit about economics, that he’s willing to cut two trillion dollars a year out of an annual 3.1 trillion dollar budget for the next decade. All that’s inconvenient.
Forget the fact that McCain promises no change from what we’ve been subjected to these past 7 years and five months at the hands of that murderous Musharraf, that knee-high Noreiga, that pint-sized Pinochet, all tyrants about whom it could at least be said actually served their nation’s militaries, unlike some people we could mention
But what else can you say about an electorate that still stubbornly labors under the delusion that we’d actually inaugurated a 43rd president? In 2000, for the first time in American history, we’d “elected” a president based almost solely on the question of who would you rather have a beer with. Even that would’ve been an impossibility, even if Bush wasn’t such an elitist asswipe: Long before 2000, he’d been on the wagon.
And don’t think for a minute that I’m voting for Barack Obama and letting him off the hook. The more this man talks, the less I like him.
How can we be so rapturized by a man who promises change without really offering much hope for it? His health care plan is, if anything, an even bigger joke than Hillary’s and doesn’t hold out any hope of the single-payer health care plan that every major economic analyst and health care expert says we need.
Despite proudly eschewing lobbyist money and volunteered time, Obama of late has been sucking up to the right wing Likud zealots that largely make up AIPAC, one of the largest and most dangerous lobbying groups out there.
And when Obama tells us that Social Security is in a state of crisis, we raucously applaud. When Obama flip flops and tells us that we should give the telecoms retroactive immunity instead of working within the existing legal framework of the current FISA laws, we raucously applaud after calling the likes of Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi traitors for saying the same thing.
But we need that "liberal Democrat" in the White House at all costs since the Democratic party has been so good to Middle America and all.
Between McCain’s saber-rattling at Tehran now Obama’s, it may very well come down to the same dismal choice we had in 2004: Electing the guy whom we think will hold off WW III the longest.
The decisions have already been made for us: Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are no fucking good for you.
Hillary and Rudy
Obama and McCain are. No, no, don’t look to the edge of the screen, look in the middle of your screen, the middle
, you fucking zombies, where we put the big money candidates. There ya go.
I believe it was Emma Goldman who’d famously said, “If voting could really change things it would be illegal.” I can think of several tens of thousands of African American voters who were told it would’ve been illegal for them to vote in Florida in 2000, thousands more in Cleveland who weren’t allowed to vote in 2004.
The sad part is that in the real world Howard Beale never existed and likely never will. The mobs screaming in blood-curdling rage that we see every now and then in other countries is also something we’ll likely never see. Jesus fucking Christ tap dancing with a rubber crutch, the only solution, as someone once said, is to break everything and storm the gates, break through the ramparts, speak as one with one voice in one language, the only language that corporations and elected officials understand and can hear.
But the bread has made us fat and the circuses are so
entertaining. Therefore, the people of every democracy deserve whom it elects.