The TUBE: Can you handle the truth?

After looking at the blog assignment, a YouTube video popped into my head. It was over a year ago that my friend sent me this clip from the 1976 satirical movie “Network.” I didn’t think too much about it then, besides finding it ironic that the clip showed a man ranting against the “Tube” while being a YouTube clip. To provide you a bit of background, the movie is about tv anchorman Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch and how he is shaken by his network for his poor ratings. He goes mad while live on camera and his ratings skyrocket. The network then gives Beale his own show where he rants and raves. In this particular segment, he speaks about his disillusionment with the media and how the television, man’s miracle invention, is filled with propaganda and lies that the public feed into without knowing any better.

Barely three minutes long, this clip touches heavily upon the topics of fear, anxiety, and paranoia that our class is based on in relation to the notion of “truth”. I have below the part of his impassioned speech that really hit home for me:

“We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true […] We’re all you know! You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here! You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and 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!”

The words were so powerful, especially in the frenzied way Finch plays his character. With each angry word, I was filled with anxiety. We take what we see on television and other digital media, as the unspoken truth. We learn our values from television, and we just hope that we’re being taught the right things. Isn’t it worrisome that what we see impacts how we think, and if we just watched or heard something else, maybe we wouldn’t think/act a certain way?

I know this kind of diatribe against the media is nothing new. No one can trust the media because it is biased, no matter which way you cut it. From Fox to CNN, all major news channels have their own motives for getting out certain stories while minimizing others. Then again, if we choose to never watch television or connect to the world through the media, does that mean that we’re too paranoid and choose to be ignorant of the world?

In relation to the movies we’ve watched, I thought the idea of truth, how we consciously (or subconsciously) try to hide from it, and how it can destroy the best and worst of us is evident in movies like in Touch of Evil and Memento. Quinlan in Touch of Evil hides the truth and frames people for committing crimes. Yet it catches up with him and he dies for what he’s done. Then in Memento, Leonard is forever on a quest to find the truth behind his wife’s murder, yet he’s actually sabotaging his own pursuits to fulfill his own needs. Just as striking was the fact that in this YouTube clip, Beale was a man denouncing the media while he himself is a player in the arena. It was insane that right as he was on the verge of finishing his speech telling people to turn the television off in the middle of his sentence, that he should faint in the middle of his sentence!

I don’t know whether he was staged to faint, but it’s still nevertheless an eerie omen–as though the truth is too much for one man to bear alone.

Also, you can find a longer version of the movie clip here:

3 thoughts on “The TUBE: Can you handle the truth?

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but, as I recall, this is where Peter Finch’s character dies. So he delivers this diatribe and then drops dead. Fitting, no?

    Network was a huge deal when it came out — won lots of Oscars and had everyone yelling “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

    Your post made me think of Minhaj’s post on John Hinckley and Taxi Driver where hge discusses the potential influence of mass media on social behavior, and, it would follow, our sense of what is “true.” This also got me thinking about Plantinga’s bit on movies, ideology and false consciousness (Monaco says more or less the same thing). What I’m getting here is that Peter Finch is is not just railing against how television shapes our sense of what is what, but also making the philosophical argument that truth is not static — not given, not a priori, but shaped through interactions with the world around us. Interesting stuff.

    • I think you’re absolutely right that Finch’s character was arguing that the truth can’t be dealt out. The truth is something that we have to discover ourselves, not through the media. Furthermore, he seems to show us that we don’t know scares us the most and it’s just easier following the status quo laid out to us. I think that people delve so deeply into the ‘false world’ created by the media because we’re too afraid of seeing the real world. We’re fearful of thinking for ourselves why things happen and the outcomes of acting on our own opinions and beliefs. It really is fitting that he died at that point because, metaphorically, his death shows that his discovery was so strong and so ‘true’ that he couldn’t bear the weight of that revelation!

      Then again, there are instances where the media does break though that barrier and lead us to a greater understanding of ourselves. When we watch a comedy that plays off racism or a documentary detailing the people of another country, maybe it’ll help us break that barrier in real life where we don’t find anything in common with someone/something who is ‘foreign’ to us.

      In relation to Minhaj’s post, Finch’s speech against the media is solely targeted against television. He notes that people read less newspapers and books, which are more objective and perhaps less sensationalized forms of media. We cannot lump all forms of media together because of the fundamental difference in who they attempt to influence and their message they want to send out. And the texts we’ve read on the influence of media point out that it’s just as important how the individual judges and assimilate what they’re watching as much as it is to know the media’s ulterior motive in giving us their form of ‘the truth.’

  2. AT&T definitely has hold of the market place with the iPhone and that’s what SHOULD be looked at…not Apple. Do you believe Apple really worries whether Google offers Google Voice on its platform…. as long as individuals are purchasing their phones – and they’re purchasing these life-changing gimmicks! I enjoy mine! The missed phone calls are one too many (AT&T), but the telephone is astounding! One thing I wish it would have is Flash to run videos from certain websites!

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