WASHINGTON. Writer Paddy Chayefsky was nothing if not a visionary. His screenplay for the 1976 film “Network” presaged the American people’s awed rapture over reality TV. But it also foreshadowed the decline of network news. As in CNN and Jim Acosta. Inadvertently recalling this prophecy last Sunday, actor Bryan Cranston copped a Tony Award for his performance as the mentally deranged news anchor, Howard Beale in the Broadway stage adaptation of Chayefsky’s film.
As Cranston clutched his award, he attempted to infuse today’s unbalanced Beale-like journalists with unwarranted, hairy-chested heroism.
“I would like to dedicate this to all the real journalists around the world, both in the press – the print media – and the broadcast media, who actually are in the line of fire with their pursuit of the truth. The media is not the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people.”
Remember: Bryan Cranston is only acting
These words are especially funny coming from an actor like Bryan Cranston portraying a news-reading madman. Equally insane is Cranston’s attempt to counter President Donald Trump’s demonstrably correct description of today’s nattering nabobs.
As Trump tweeted,
“The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs. They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
Tonight’s news begins with a deranged journalist
You may recall that the film “Network” begins with news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) brooding after being told the nightly newscast he anchors will be canceled for lack of ratings. Consequently, the overwrought Beale makes an astonishing announcement to his dwindling television audience.
“I’m going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. So, tune in next Tuesday. That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show. You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. 50 share, easy.”
Beale eventually has as sit-down with friend and network executive Max Schumacher (William Holden). He tells Beale, “I’m taking you off the air. I think you’re having a breakdown, require treatment.”
But Beale, suddenly giddy in the glow of revelatory fervor, will have none of it, .
“This is not a psychotic episode. This is a cleansing moment of clarity. I’m imbued… with some special spirit. It’s not a religious feeling at all. It’s a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing, as if suddenly I’d been plugged into some great electromagnetic field. I feel connected to all living things. To flowers, birds, all the animals in the world. And even to some great, unseen, living force… It’s not a breakdown… It is a shattering and beautiful sensation. It is the exalted flow of the space-time continuum, save that it is spaceless and timeless and of such loveliness. I feel on the verge of some great, ultimate truth. And you will not take me off the air for now or for any other spaceless time!”
From fiction to reality: From Walter Cronkite to Jim Acosta
When Chayefsky penned these words, the sonorous, serious and urgent tones of CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite still filled our ears most weeknights. Contrast that with today’s, high-pitched, Kim Jong-un ravings from pearl-clutching media mavens such as CNN correspondent and resident asshat, Jim Acosta. Sadly, Acosta is the kind of fake journalist Bryan Cranston purports to defend.
Batty Jim Acosta believes his near-perfect case of Trump-Derangement Syndrome fills him with a “shattering and beautiful sensation.” It has him perched on “the verge of some great, ultimate truth.” He’s so certain of this, he’s written a book that encapsulates the mass hysteria affecting so many desperately pursuing his dying profession.
In his book “The Enemy of The People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America,” Acosta asserts:
“I had feared the day would come when the president’s [anti-media] rhetoric would lead one of his supporters to harm or even murder a journalist. And when it happened, the United States would undergo something of a sea change, joining a list of countries around the world where journalists were no longer safe reporting the truth. Perhaps we have already entered that era, a dangerous time to tell the truth in America.”
The death of journalism, not journalists
The elimination of journalists, especially CNN’s, has already begun. Just not in the manner concocted in the fevered imagination of Jim Acosta. As reported by NewsBusters’ Rich Noyes:
- There are more prostitutes in the US than viewers of CNN.
- CNN ranks 15th behind Home and Garden TV (HGTV).
- CNN has lost more viewers over the past year than the populations of Richmond Virginia, Baton Rouge Louisiana, and Des Moines Iowa combined.
- CNN’s viewership is less than the number of people mega-retailer Walmart employs nationally.
- Finally, my favorite: More Americans keep chickens as pets than watch CNN.
American viewers have formed a skirmish line of sorts. They wield their television remotes like rifles in the hands of a firing squad. Square in their cross-hairs are the fabricators of today’s dishonest journalism.
CNN’s precipitous drop in viewership nicely corresponds with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s weird denouement. Namely, his grudging admission that no evidence exists proving President Trump a traitor to his country in the employ of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. This bogus conspiracy theory had burst into a conflagration engulfing media outlets like CNN. This bonfire of the vanities has now nearly consumed them.
Bryan Cranston and Jim Acosta don’t get it
As a leader in the vanguard of what calls itself “the Resistance,” the mainstream media forgot it wasn’t President Trump they were resisting. It was the good people living in that vast region surrounded by the teaming populations of America’s squalid coasts. Those “deplorables” in “flyover country” that chose the ultimate outsider to serve as America’s 45th president. It amounted to a profoundly anti-elitist electoral decision. One that a corrupt Democratic administration’s NSA, CIA, and FBI clearly sought to overturn.
Clearly, Americans adopted the furious war cry of Paddy Chayefsky’s howling anchorman Howard Beale on November 8, 2016. And their cry continues to echo loudly in the ears of today’s dishonest and dwindling band of unprincipaled journalists.
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Too bad Bryan Cranston and Jim Acosta can’t hear them.
Top Image: Actor Bryan Cranston in the Broadway play “Network.”
Photo: Raph_PH via flickr.