“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” That’s the famous phrase that instantly entered the American lexicon, courtesy of Paddy Chayefsky, the writer of the 1976 Oscar-winning movie, “Network.”
The film, which starred Faye Dunaway, William Holden, and the late Peter Finch as enraged newscaster Howard Beale, won four Oscars, including a best actor prize for Finch, whose Beale character was the forerunner of every fuming cable TV pundit from Bill O’Reilly to Keith Olbermann to Glenn Beck to Rachel Maddow to, latterly, Tucker Carlson, expatiating on behalf of the American public.
Here’s the speech, which might have been written yesterday by a conservative, but 44 years ago was the authentic voice of a Hollywood liberal:
“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 that seems to know what to do with us. There’s no end to it.
“We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in a house as 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.’
“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 crying in the streets. All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a human being! … my life has value!’
“I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”
Welcome to 2020, the year in which what was once fanciful is now practically reality.
In the movie, things end badly for Beale, the “mad prophet of the airwaves,” who has become a quasi-religious leader hosting a segment called “Vox Populi”—he is assassinated on camera at the cynical direction of the network executives by members of Ecumenical Liberation Army, as a kickoff to their new show, “The Mao Tse-Tung Hour” of revolutionary chic.
It’s a win-win all around for the network, which has experienced a ratings bonanza with Beale, but with his usefulness at an end, needed a way to literally kill off his character to make way for something even more outrageous—even if it sends the exact opposite political message.
If the media was driving America crazy in 1976, in the direct aftermath of the Arab oil embargo, Watergate, and the surprising accession of an unelected vice president to the Oval Office in the hapless Gerald Ford, how much nuttier are we now?
We are currently living in a fantasy world in which Howard Beale really is the voice of sanity. Consider what we are being asked to believe:
- Some lives matter more than other lives, despite our common shared humanity.
- The mainstream media is an impartial, objective reporter of facts, unaligned with party or ideology.
- Men can be women, and women can be men, at will.
- Speech equals violence, but silence equals violence as well.
- Infection by the CCP virus equals death—even though the death toll in the United States at this writing is about .04 percent of the total population. It is also race-selective in its lethality.
- The United States was built on a foundation of sub-Saharan African slavery in 1619, and is therefore illegitimate.
- A “national conversation” means agreeing with the left in every particular no matter what the subject.
- The office of the Executive—Article II of the Constitution—is subject to the Supreme Court—Article III—thanks to an 1803 Court decision, Marbury v. Madison.
- The United States has benefited from outsourcing its crucial biomedical infrastructure to the Chinese Communist Party, along with a substantial portion of its manufacturing capability, because lower prices are what Adam Smith would have wanted.
- There is an epidemic of white policemen shooting black street criminals.
- The leftist/Fascist gang of street paramilitary thugs called “Antifa” are the equivalent of the American boys who landed at Omaha Beach in 1944, when, in fact, their “flag” is simply a color inversion of the Antifaschiste Aktion of the Weimar Republic Communists.
- Western civilization, which includes Homer, Cicero, Charlemagne, Mozart, Dickens, Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Mount Rushmore equals “white supremacy.”
- The highest form of “patriotism” isn’t simply “dissent” anymore, it’s overt treason.
Time to Rise Up
So perhaps now it’s time for real, patriotic Americans to assert themselves—for if not now, when?
The goal of the Herbert Marcuse–Saul Alinsky–Howard Zinn left has always been the destruction of the country-as-founded and its replacement by a (temporary) nation-state that acknowledges the illegitimacy of its founding—Marcuse’s doctrine of “Repressive Tolerance,” which posits tolerance for leftist ideas until the left seizes power, after which “tolerance” is no longer a virtue. (See also Alinsky’s “Rule No. 4,” which posits: “‘Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules’ … You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.”)
In the old Soviet Union, in which I spent many unhappy hours between the years 1986 and 1991, the United States was always referred to as the “principal enemy.” To today’s communists, whether Chinese or home-grown, this remains true. As I like to say on Twitter—from which I have been temporarily “suspended” for who-knows-what imagined transgression of the “Twitter safety” rules—“they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit.”
Nevertheless, it’s time for all patriotic Americans to rise up and say, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” As Beale says in his final speech, just before his assassination:
“At the bottom of all of our terrified souls, we know that democracy is a dying giant, a sick, sick, dying, decaying political concept, riling in its final pain. I don’t mean that the United States is finished as a world power. The United States is the richest, the most powerful, the most advanced country in the world, light years ahead of any other country. … What is finished … is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it.”
Was he right? Or is it up to us to prove him wrong? The choice in November is ours.
Michael Walsh is the editor of The-Pipeline.org and the author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” and “The Fiery Angel,” both published by Encounter Books. His latest book, “Last Stands,” a cultural study of military history from the Greeks to the Korean War, will be published in December by St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter @dkahanerules.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.