Wednesday 20 May 2020


"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

I love good mainstream media productions, like the ones I list in the background below. One of the reasons I love them so much is because the mainstream media is generally so incredibly dire. However, this is not a universal absolute, for example see the background links and: A mainstream media film that is good and is also a satire on the mainstream media is even better. I'm talking about Network, an American movie made in the mid-1970's that has since gained a cult following. Source: It is often stated to be a prediction of much of the 21st century media, especially reality TV; and as this century has aged, more and more people are coming back to Network and appreciating its foresight. The film has no score and very meagre and perfunctory titles. There is a narrator, but he only speaks a few times. It has an almost fly-on-the-wall docudrama atmosphere, a made-for-TV style, even though it actually came out on the big screen. It is about an imaginary television company called UBS that hosts an elderly and distinguished newsreader called Howard Beale who is a popular celebrity; until something highly strange happens to him. Beale is about to retire and UBS plan to make that a big occasion. After a drunken goodbye pub crawl with his friend and producer, Max Schumacher, Beale announces during his programme that he intends to commit suicide by shooting himself live on the show during what is scheduled to be his final broadcast the following day. Uproar obviously follows. This scene was inspired by a real life event two years earlier. A TV newsreader called Christine Chubbock shot herself in front of the cameras while on air. (There are a few videos claiming to be recordings of the event floating round, for example: They are all fake. The sole VT record of the suicide was only shown during the coroner's inquest then moved to a safe.) Beale is ejected from the studio by security guards. Schumacher feels guilty because of the party the previous night and offers to take care of Beale at his own home. He also allows Beale to return to the studio for his last show on the proviso that he does not get drunk and also apologizes. However, when Beale gets onto the programme he says: "I just ran out of bullshit..." There is yet another furious media scandal, however because of that scandal the viewing figures of UBS soar. One of the UBS staff who realizes the positive side of outrage is a young director called Diana Christiansen. She is a high-powered career woman who is a workaholic. She is having an affair with Max Schumacher, who is much older than her and has been married for twenty-five years; but even while making love she is emotionally cold and still continues to talk to him about work. She has a plan for a programme involving real life controversy. She got the idea when The ELF- Ecumenical Liberation Front, a far leftist terror group modelled on the various violent leftwing splinter cells that emerged in the western world in the 60's and 70's like the Red Army Faction in Germany, robs a bank and films the crime. She invites the ELF to take part in her programme, along with a mystic astrologer and several other controversial characters. She wants Beale to postpone his retirement and do one of his rants on her show. In the meantime, Beale is becoming more and more eccentric. He hears voices in the middle of the night telling him that he is a channel for some transcendental intelligence. It is similar to Moses and his communion with God, although at one point the voice says: "I am not God." According to his very conformist colleagues, Howard is simply having a mental breakdown. Howard is convinced he is really having a spiritual awakening. He says: "It's not a breakdown. I've never felt so orderly in my life... It's like what the Hindus call prana...The exalted flow of the space-time continuum... I'm on the verge of ultimate truth." There is a real life TV presenter who was denounced as insane when he had a spiritual awakening; you've probably guessed who I'm talking about. However the 1992 Wogan show didn't take place until more than fifteen years after Network was released. It's uncanny how life imitates art. At this point I truly warmed to Howard Beale. From the beginning of the film I liked him, but by this point he has emerged as one of my favourite fictional characters. This is probably because of my respect for David Icke. If I had been working at that TV studio I would have been a good friend to Howard Beale. I would have been interested to hear what he had to say.
Howard Beale, "the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves!", faints after his reality TV performance.

Beale's actual friend, Max Schumacher, likes Beale and wants to help him, but he is split over his unrequited love for Diana. He describes it as an "infatuation", but despite this he walks out on his loyal and loving wife. Both he and his mistress know very well that Diana is not capable of falling in love. He is also sacked by the head of UBS, who is working for a corporation called CCA which is taking over all media networks. That same day his life gets worse when he realizes that Beale has gone missing. He walked out of Schumacher's house in the middle of the previous night and nobody knows where he is. What follows is the most famous scene in the film. Howard Beale finally turns up at the studio, still dressed in his pyjamas and slippers with a khaki raincoat over them, soaked by the rain and dishevelled from wandering of the streets all night. He greets the security guard with the words: "I must make my witness." Then he bypasses makeup and heads straight for the studio desk where he passionately delivers this classic speech: "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 TV's 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 going to 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, goddamnit! 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 got to 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!'!" Source: Howard Beale is not a political figure. The insights brought to him by his kundalini experience have put him into a state of mind beyond simply retiring to a smoke filled room, setting up a political party or encouraging people to vote for this candidate or that candidate. The world situation has sunk too low for that; and, as Einstein said: "You cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that caused it". Howard understands that humanity has to change on a spiritual level before we can change politically or economically. The programme has record ratings and the people watching actually do what Beale wants. It's a wonderfully dramatic moment, there's a sense of real revolution in the air. Diana is also delighted... but for another reason. She jumps for joy and yells something different: "Son of a bitch! We've struck the mother lode!" She realizes that Beale's outburst guarantees a massive increase of the viewing figures for her new programme. He is dubbed "the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves" and enters the studio to a brass fanfare. The studio audience are coached to call out in unison his famous tagline: "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" He then does his customary rant in front of a fake circular stained-glass window. His stage is very big because he has a habit of wandering around during his tirades, walking among the audience and even backstage. He continues to preach great wisdom and remains an honest sincere person. He explains to them sarcastically how they are hypnotized be television: "The only truth you know is what you get out of this tube! Right now there is a whole generation who don't know anything that didn't come out of this tube!... This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation!...We deal in illusion! None of it is true!...So turn off your television sets! Turn then off right now!" He ends every show by falling unconscious, drained of energy. But of course the viewers do not take his advice. Howard Beale has merely been reduced to another product. The establishment he riles against has converted him, its own ultimate enemy, into one more commercialized consumer-durable to sell to the public which it has brainwashed. Howard has been plasticized by Diana to make money for UBS' owners, the CCA; whom we find out are being corruptly controlled by Saudi Arabian oil billionaires. This reminds me very much of what is done by Wesley Willis to The Plantation in Gone to Seed, see background links below. The worse thing about the authoritarian state-corporate system is that it can take something noble, decent and honest, something that is a genuine threat to it, and strip it of all its goodness; warping it into a shallow caricature of its true self until it becomes a part of that very system. Network has an exemplary script. It has a lot of swearing in it at a time when few films did. The writer, Paddy Cheyevsky, won a well-deserved Oscar for it. Despite the witty satire, the ending of the film is tragic. Diana's programme is all about controversy and so in its quest for each episode to be more extreme than the last, they arrange for Howard Beale to be murdered live on the air. Diana sets up this hit through her contacts in the ELF. It is discussed with her bosses in a secret meeting which is completely calm and matter-of-fact. Their heartlessness is astonishing; but then again, not really. Isn't that what most people are like, pseudo-psychopaths, if not instead the real thing? Like all the other subversive maverick firebrands preaching love and wisdom, Beale is killed. As Bill Hicks said: "We kill those good guys and let the little demons run amuck!", see: Today, Reality TV has now become an endemic and expanding part of the modern mainstream media. It has not gone as far as staging real death on screen, but how long will it be before that actually happens? Network is about our world, about our minds; it's about the conflict between conformism and trailblazing. It's about how lonely and vulnerable is it to be one of those golden people who, when faced with that choice, choose freedom; even when everybody around them is choosing to stay in the tyrannical comfort zone, and are willing to make their lives a misery for their insubordination. I am definitely adding Network to my list of must-see anti-establishment meaningful films and TV programmes, along with those in the background links below.