Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 12, 2014

Keith Kappes: Film eerily predicted modern media world: 1/13/14

Keith Kappes

MOREHEAD — That sentence of dialogue by British actor Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network” is among the most quoted movie lines in various trivia games.

Sadly, he died before he could accept the best actor Oscar the following year for that amazing performance.

Finch was playing television news anchor Howard Beale who, after having been told he was to be fired for low ratings, had threatened to commit suicide in a live newscast in front of millions of TV viewers.

Manipulated by the sinister but lovely Faye Dunaway, also an Oscar winner, Finch instead helped give birth to reality television a full 24 years before it happened in 2000 with the first “Survivor” on CBS.

“Network” was a critical success, taking three of the four acting Oscars that year, and was a big moneymaker at the box office. In fact, no other movie has won as many acting Oscars since.

To this day, I’m not sure what inspired the great writer Paddy Chayefsky to dream up what looks and feels so much like today’s media world.

He described what today we call reality TV, YouTube, in-your-face commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and the tabloid news format that sensationalizes the trivial.

Frankly, I suspect many of today’s angry news types borrowed that page out of the “Network” playbook.

Even more amazing is Chayefsky conjured all of that 20 years before the Internet exploded worldwide.

Finch’s famous rant about banks, crime, air pollution and unemployment is as timely today as it was in 1976.

I often wonder if strategists advising certain politicians didn’t study that movie to learn how to make their clients loud and proud in declaring they’ve had enough of big government, big spending, high taxes, etc.

In desperation, Finch’s character urges his viewers to throw open their windows and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

I’m convinced that libertarian spirit of defiance against the establishment is exactly what makes those Internet-based “money bombs” so effective in raising money for such candidates.

In response to the intense appeals, we don’t have any tea chests to empty into Boston Harbor, but we can generously send our money to these new patriots.

Another favorite line in that movie is when the network is accused of being “indifferent to suffering and insensitive to joy.”

I fear callousness fits too many politicians who don’t seem to care about the less fortunate.

KEITH KAPPES is publisher of The Morehead News, Grayson Journal-Enquirer and Olive Hill Times. He can be reached at kkappes@cnhi.com.