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9.2.14

"We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore"

Maureen Dowd 

The title phrase, which is ours, was the signature catchphrase of Howard Beale, the fictional evening news anchorman of "Network," Sidney Lumet's satirical film of 1976 with Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Written by Paddy Chayefsky, who won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, it was about a fictional television network that struggled with ratings. Dunaway and Holden also won Academy Awards for best actress and actor, as well as Beatrice Straight (best support actress for a 5 min. 40 seconds performance). In 2007 it was voted 64th among the hundred best American films of all times by the American Film Institute. The first question that Maureen Dowd would pose to the late screenwriter of the film would be about . . . Kim Kardashian.

I OFTEN wonder what Paddy would think.
I wish I could have a pastrami on wry with the late writer and satirist at the Carnegie Deli and get an exhilarating blast of truth about “the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today.”
What would Paddy Chayefsky make of Kim Kardashian?
What would he think of Diane Sawyer showing cat videos on the ABC evening news?
What would he say about Brian Williams broadcasting on the Huntley-Brinkley network a video of a pig saving a baby goat while admitting he had no idea if it was phony? (It was.)
What would Paddy rant about the viral, often venomous world of the Internet, Twitter and cable news, where fake rage is all the rage all the time, bleeding over into a Congress that chooses antagonism over accomplishment, no over yes?
What would he think of ominous corporate “synergy” run amok, where “news” seamlessly blends into promotion, where it’s frighteningly easy for corporate commercial interests to dictate editorial content?
What would Paddy say about the Murdochization of the news, where a network slants its perspective because it sells and sells big?
What would he make of former Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Norman Pearlstine returning in a new position as Time Inc.’s chief content officer, breaking the firewall between editorial and business as he works “with business and edit teams to drive the development of new content experiences and products throughout our portfolio that will fuel future revenue growth,” as C.E.O. Joe Ripp put it?
What would Paddy think of American corporations skipping out on taxes by earning nearly half of their profits in tax-haven countries?
What would he think of the unholy alliance between Internet giants like Google and Facebook and the U.S. national security apparatus?
Chayefsky’s dazzling satire “Network,” with its unforgettable mad prophet of the airwaves, Howard Beale, blossomed from the writer’s curdled feelings about TV. What wouldn’t the network suits do for ratings, he would ask lunch companions like Mel Brooks and Bob Fosse at the Carnegie Deli.
But now America runs on clicks. Chayefsky’s nightmare has been multiplied many times over, with the total media-ization and monetization of everything, the supremacy of ratings and market share, the commercialization of all editorial decisions.
(. . .)
In his fun upcoming book, “Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies,” Dave Itzkoff, a culture reporter at The Times, offers a vivid portrait of the charming and depressed curmudgeon.
(. . . ) Chayefsky said his 1976 masterpiece was “a rage against the dehumanization of people” addicted to “boredom-killing” devices — a dehumanization that has gone to warp speed as we have entered the cloud. He said it was about “how to protect ourselves” from “the illusion we sell as truth.”

"The New York Times," February 9, 2014


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