Was "Network" a "savagely funny" accurate prediction?
Was the 1976 Oscar - winning film "Network" an amazingly accurate roman a clef based on this summer's trials and tribulations of poor, poor pitiful Rupert Murdock or was it just a good guess about what could happen in the future?
[Spoiler warning: this column will reveal surprise plot points. If you have not seen the 1976 film, Network, it would be better if you made the effort to watch it and then read this column. If you have already seen the film, you might get more enjoyment from it and this column, if you re-view it and then read this assessment of that classic film and its chillingly accurate predictions.]
The World's Laziest Journalist betook himself to San Francisco CA to attend the weekly front steps used book sale at the San Francisco Public Library's main branch that is conducted (weather permitting) each Wednesday during the May to September months.
When we spotted Network amongst a trove of VHS tapes that appealed to our columnist instincts ("Notorious," "King Kong," "High Noon," the original version of "the Manchurian Candidate" and "Twelve O'Clock High" [Expect more plugs for Donald L. Miller's book "Masters of the Air" in future columns]), we glommed on to it with gun fighter reflexes speed.
In "Network," legendary newsman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) -- a fictional member of the "Murrow's Boys" gang -- uses his influential position as a journalist with a regular network TV show to do the bidding of a wealthy mogul who is a front man for the Arab royal family. Beale is assigned to convince Americans that they are insignificant cogs in a new and improved world where democracy has become obsolete and business is the raison d'être for the existence of humanity. How close to home does this classic film hit?
Some alarmists (conspiracy theory nuts?) are implying that if (subjunctive mood) Rupert Murdoch meddled with politics in both Great Britain and Australia, he may have, could have, might possibly have also done so in the United States of America. This irresponsible reckless speculation is based upon the assumption that many Americans aren't fully informed on political issues.
[This just in: C-SPAN is (allegedly) being eliminated from some cable pay packages in the Berkeley CA area.]
There was an item on the Internet, on The Australian web site, that asserted that an investigation into the (alleged) influence Rupert Murdoch may have had on the politics in the country where he was born.
As a hypothetical example of how Murdoch may have possibly meddled, the host of the progressive talk show (that airs on KKGN from 6 to 9 P. M. in the Pacific Time Zone, each weekday evening) postulated a hypothetical example of how such imaginary meddling might have worked, suppose (hypothetically) that Rupert Murdoch's aggressive style of journalism fact finding divulged that a guy in America's legislature (we'll call him "Knute") was simultaneously having an extra-marital affair while urging that a fellow southerner in the White House should be impeached for defending a woman's honor by telling a fib under oath. (The WLJ legal advisors insist on such convoluted cautionary wording and we trust their judgment.)
Additionally, the talk show host urged listeners to imagine what would happen if Rupert Murdoch were to use that knowledge as a bargaining chip in discussion with "Knute" about granting some legal dispensations to the Murdock empire so that they could establish a new beachhead in America for Murdoch's brand of aggressively and selectively dishing the dirt out on politicians who opposed his efforts?
[Wouldn't all this sound so much more palatable if the voice of Rod Serling could be used to supply the vocal track?]
If Rupert Murdoch were to use political blackmail to achieve his goals, wouldn't some Paul Wellstoneish fellow do the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" routine in opposition? What ever happened to Senator Wellstone?
Does that radio guy think that decency and honesty in politics and fair and balanced journalism have done a variation of the "no survivors" results at the Battle of the Little Big Horn? He might be right, eh?
Murdoch came to America, got some legislative breaks, and started Fox News. Does that mean that Paddy Chayefsky was spot-on with a prescient script all that long ago or are there merely some superfluous basic plot similarities?
Would Vincent Canby call the summer of 2011 "brilliantly, surprisingly funny," as he did "Network"?
BTW if Fox News blatantly ignores the various stories involving Rupert Murdoch, does that mean that they should change their motto to: "the best Biased and Slanted opinions that Rupert's money can buy"?
The shopping expedition to fog city has had a noticeable detrimental effect on this columnist's reserve energy level and so we will eliminate any attempts to draw some conclusions for our readers and merely strongly urge them to make a concerted effort to get a chance to see "Network" either again or for the first time, this weekend, and then decide if it was time well spent or if it was a wild goose chase.
Almost thirty five years ago Howard Beale summed it up thusly: "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 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!"
Now, the disk jockey will play "Happy Days Are Here Again," "Dancing in the Dark," and Fred Waring's "Little White Lies." We have to go find a the specifics for next year's Conspiracy Theory Convention. Have a "good night and good luck" type week.
BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future Pulitzer Prize winner. (Eddie Adams in the AP lunch room told him to get rid of the everready case for his new Nikon F). A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter broke BP in on the police beat for a small daily in Pa. By 1975, Paul Newman had asked for Bob's Autograph.
(Google this: "Paul Newman asked my autograph" and click the top suggested URL.)
His co-workers on the weekly newspaper in Santa Monica,(in the Seventies) included a future White House correspondent for Time magazine and one of the future editors high up on the Playboy masthead. Bob has been to the Oscar ceremony twice before Oscar turned 50.
He is working on a book of memoirs tentatively titled "Paul Newman Asked for my Autograph." In the gold mining area of Australia (Kalgoorlie), Bob was called: "Col. Sanders."