Thursday, September 17, 2009

Past is Prologue

Perused this week’s Time cover story (by David Von Drehle) featuring Glenn Beck this morning, and frankly found very little in it that was enlightening other than the following closing passage:

Starting after the election and continuing into spring, pollster Frank Luntz conducted a survey of some 6,400 Americans, and the first question was whether they agreed with this statement: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Nearly 3 out of 4 — 72% — said yes.

Movie buffs might appreciate this, because when Beck gets rolling on a particularly emotional riff, when the tears glisten and the shoulders shudder, Paddy Chayefsky, the great leftist playwright, looks like a prophet. He's the man who coined the phrase that, according to Luntz, is the rare thing Americans can agree on. He gave the line to Howard Beale, the mad anchorman at the center of the dark satire “Network.”

Chayefsky imagines cynical television executives who create a ratings sensation out of the nightly rants and ravings of Beale. The host energizes the nation with his cry, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" It's hard to find a film that better captures the rotten vibe of the early 1970s, when America found itself suffering through one downer after another: failing companies, tense foreign relations, high unemployment, rampant incivility, spiraling deficits, corruption in high places, a seemingly endless war.

Sound familiar?


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