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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Times AREN'T A-Changin'

So, have you watched Network yet? If not, WTF is wrong with you? Go rent it NOW. Back? Good. If you're anything like me, you'll appreciate the grimly precognitive nature of the film (whilst simultaneously ignoring the idiotic, tacked-on romantic plot which is even mocked within the film itself). Network is considered a satire but like all great satire it's built on the sardonic and presents us with a "laugh to keep you from crying" option. Take this for example: at the climax of the film, Beale's popularity has grown so substantial that he's actually beginning to have an effect on public policy. When his letter writing campaign thwarts a huge business deal between the USA and the UAE, he's taken up to network headquarters to meet the big boss, so that the reality of REALITY can be properly explained:

"You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, Yen, Pounds and Shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature and YOU WILL ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused."

Considering this was written into a film in 1976, it's pretty fucking depressing to see how accurate it still is; if not more so than was originally intended. The only difference being that now the corporations don't even care if we are provided for, tranquilized or amused, so long as we keep handing them money. Besides, war, famine, oppression and brutality are good for business. Fuck.

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