The 1976 film “Network” may offer some insight. You see, the world is a business, and if you don’t like your job in it, you better get a new one.
The other day I had a conversation with a few friends in which we were sharing our collective befuddlement regarding the epic new levels of American Apathy. We agreed that it was hard to understand how people could seem so unconcerned about things, and ran through the typical list of things that people should be enraged about but aren’t. Things like the Bush administration lies that mired us in war, their reckless deregulation that contributed to the bailouts, and the banskters arrogant behavior after the bailouts, when they paid themselves bigger bonuses than ever. Or our presumed “good guy” Obama, who was elected on promises of reform and transparency, but who started the deceit before he was even elected, by reversing himself on public campaign funding and voting for FISA. And then proceeded to maintain Bush-era secrecy and tax cuts, uphold the Patriot Act, keep Guantanamo open, and create a health care plan that benefits the insurance industry more than the insured. And then added a whole NEW level of hostility abroad, with drone attacks and the “surge” in Afghanistan. Or the entire culture of modern American governing itself, which sneers at honesty, integrity, and the collective good as naive concepts, primarily so it can comfortably perpetuate its pervasive bribery and grift system under the epically misleading term “lobbying”.
That’s just the short list; also discussed were the outright crimes of big Pharma, health care, the energy industry, the military industrial complex, corporate media, and the new industries and agencies built around creating a surveillance state. As is typically the case in discussions like this, the sources of information being discussed were referenced a lot. Toward the end of our “How To Fix The World Conference” of 2013, someone mentioned the last episode in Oliver Stone’s recent “Untold History” series (also available as a book), in which he talked about how all these insane things had happened in business and government since the year 2000, and how the public seemed utterly indifferent, apparently easily distracted by increasingly bizarre “reality” TV shows. And that’s when it hit me; that’s when I realized why everyone is really so apathetic.
I had recently watched the 1976 film Network for the first time in ages, and had been struck by how much the fictional network UBS – which at the time probably seemed like a preposterous and absurd notion – had in fact actually come into existence, in the form of Fox News. Why aren’t people picking up their torches and pitchforks? Perhaps it’s because they’ve found their Howard Beale . If you haven’t seen this gem written by Sidney Lumet, Beale – the guy who tells America to lean out their windows and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it!” – is described as “an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our times” who is “articulating the popular rage”. If you’ve ever seen Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, or their mellower liberal counterparts, the Beale character would not come across as nearly as insane as he did when the film came out. And that’s when I remembered the epic monologue (clip below) by the network executive Arthur Jensen, which he gave in order to get Meade back in line after his rants had disrupted a multibillion dollar deal the network was making. And that’s when I remembered why we may as well just leave our torches and pitchforks in the shed. The world’s a business, and if you don’t like your job, you better get a new one. Or shut up, order a pizza, and flip on the TV.