Most everyone's familiar with Howard Beale's rant "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," but that's not the part that resonated with me throughout the years. Rather, it was one of Beale's jeremiads where he reveals that TV will tell us whatever we want to hear -- and we take it to be true. (Fox News anyone?)
Here's the bulk of the rant:
Why is it woe to us? Because you people and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than 3% of you people read books. Because less than 15% of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube.Television's not totally evil, of course -- and neither is the Internet. But as I look at the rise of Facebook, and the increase of online gaming and virtual worlds such as Second Life, I have to wonder.
Right now there is a hole -- an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube.
This tube is the gospel; the ultimate revelation. This tube can make and break presidents, Popes, prime ministers... This tube in the most awesome g*ddammed force in the whole g*ddammed world.
Woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people.
So you listen to me. Television is not the truth. Television is a goddammed amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players.
We're in the boredom-killing business.
So if you want the truth, go to God; go to your gurus; go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're going to find real truth.
Man, you're never going to get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear. We lie like hell. We'll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer, that nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble's the hero's in, don't worry. Just look at your watch. At the end of the hour he's going to win.
We'll tell you any sh*t you want to hear.
We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true. But you people sit there day after day, night after night -- all ages, colors, creeds. We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal.
You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube.
This is mass madness!
You maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion.
So turn off your television sets, turn them off now. Turn them off right now and leave them off.
What if we substituted the word "Internet" for "tube" and "television" in the monologue above. Would it still ring true?