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Nelson Chaney washes his hands

Not Mad As Hell, Just Dead
Nelson Chaney: All I know is that this violates every canon of respectable broadcasting.
Frank Hackett: We're not a respectable network. We're a whorehouse network, and we have to take whatever we can get.
Nelson Chaney: Well, I don't want any part of it. I don't fancy myself the president of a whorehouse.
Frank Hackett: That's very commendable of you, Nelson. Now sit down. Your indignation is duly noted; you can always resign tomorrow.
Dan Henninger bears a passing resemblance to Wesley Addy, the actor who portrayed Nelson Chaney in the film Network and last week he channeled the fictional television executive when writing his weekly column for the WSJ - the title of last weeks dispatch: The Joy of Madness. I hesitate to keep banging this drum on the KOTCB blog but the "conservative" pundit psychological collapse is so entertaining and informative that I just have to dive in one more time - especially since Henninger has used a film near and dear to my heart, Network, as his ledge to crawl out on and threaten national suicide. This piece is the first sign I've seen that establishment conservative commentators are entering the bargaining stage (stage 3) of the K├╝bler-Ross model and that's a hopeful sign. Check it out:
"Is it trivial of me to conflate campus microaggression theory with Islamic State’s barbarism? I don’t think so. Because it is when people start to conclude that all of this stuff has rolled into a huge, spinning, out-of-control ball of incomprehension that it becomes madness.
That’s when normal people default their politics to the Howard Beale Option. Howard Beale was the anchorman gone ’round the bend in the movie “Network,” who started shouting on his broadcast one evening, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Beale’s last-straw rant is a compendium of political crises and petty annoyances that added up to a society running off the rails. Driven mad, Beale yells: “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!”
That was 1976. This is 2015. It’s back. What happened?"
What happened? The answer to that question is beyond the scope of this blog post, but let me address a few of Henninger's points because this habit of blaming the electorate (We the People) when things don't go "as planned" and in this case accusing the voters of "madness" is a calumny that shows just how disconnected the media is from America and it's citizens.

  • Yes, it is trivial to conflate what happens on school campuses with beheadings, immolation and child sacrifice in the Middle East and Africa. No one in America sees them as remotely connected because they're not - The subversive college campus high jinx has been part of the US "higher education" since the 1960's and though it's idiotic we have determined that Universities are a great place to aggregate the nations wing-nuts and keep them out of the general workforce. ISIS is a brutal, dedicated and wealthy State/Terror organization that actually carries out the wishes of US Academia were one to follow professor X's "logic" to a meaningful conclusion. None of it, including ISIS, is beyond comprehension or spinning or out-of-control - the problem is that the University and ISIS are NOT being controlled. There is a lack of will not a lack of understanding.
  • The character Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network did NOT "go 'round the bend" and this is a very important point both in criticizing the movie and Henninger's take on current events. Howard Beale had a transcendent moment of clarity and was spoken to by an otherworldly voice that called him to bear witness to the truth about television. The point of the movie is that Howard Beale is sane, but in an insane world he was defined as "the mad prophet of the airways", even by his old friend Max Schumacher who's personal journey from ignorance to understanding the film chronicles.
  • The "I'm mad as hell" rant is memorable but its most important line is, "You've gotta say, 'I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!'" The relevant point, as pertains to Henninger's analysis, is that Howard Beale is dead and has been dead for 40 years - he was assassinated on live TV by a radicalized idiot in accordance with a directive initiated by network management. What's happening today is what occurs when the audience realizes that 40 years ago the programing director had Howard Beale killed because she didn't like his message and we've been living through her lousy "counterculture" shows ever since.



Not that Henninger or any of the corporate journals who cover the world of politics will every see this or, seeing it, will name it for what it is. Blame the people, blame the president or congress, blame anyone but yourself. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not the problem - they are proof that human beings still exist in the land of the free, and God willing they'll keep on breaking out of the box.

Breaking out of the box
Program Director: Take 2, cue Howard. 
Beale: 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 TVs 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 all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy. 
It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're 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 gotta say, "I'm a human being, goddammit! 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!!"

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