New York Times treasure Maureen Dowd yesterday resurrected the image of Network’s Howard Beale to demonstrate the latest comicalization of the news.
The late Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote "Network," coined comicalization because he believed making fun of the news is “disreputable and extremely destructive.” He was way ahead of his time.
Dowd’s piece is a must-read for PR firms, which must ask themselves what roles they play in the trivialization of news. Many have quit the traditional job of seeking third-party media endorsement for the fun of social media. What’s left of the “reputable media” plays second fiddle to snappy and ever so cool postings on Facebook and Twitter.
Young people talk about “addiction” to online games rather than real-world information or finding solutions to the myriad of problems faced by the U.S. We are raising a self-absorbed “don’t want to know anything” generation. What ramifications with that have on the country?
Meanwhile, Big Media rolls on, oblivious to its responsibility to be honest brokers with the job of delivering unvarnished truth (not junk) to the public that they are supposed to service. Profits come first.
NBC is currently under the gun for apparently editing the eloquent plea for human rights made by IOC president Thomas Bach during opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympic Games. Though he didn’t point any finger at the anti-gay crusade of Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin, Bach stressed the need to “live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason.” Message sent.
Shamefully, NBC decided those words were too delicate for the ears of U.S. viewers. It prefers to curry favor with its patron Putin. Images of the deplorable Putin were featured frequently yesterday during the Russian ice dancing team’s romp. Following its victory, the leader of the squad praised his president for bringing Russia such a glorious Olympics.
NBC has nothing to fear from Putin. Its toadyism is only equal to RT, Russia’s cable/online site that features the clueless Larry King.
And then there is Rupert Murdoch, who is in a class of his own when it comes to comicalization. Fox News has taken the rag-tag Tea Party collection of losers and propped it up to provide never-ending light-hearted fun at the expense of the President and the American way of governing. Tune in tonight to see the wrath of Tea Partiers, spewing inanities. Fox gives Comedy Central a run for its money.
As administrations come and go, Fox goes with the flow, shifting with the partisan winds. It’s equally comfortable with the role of chief propaganda cheerleader (e.g., George Bush’s disastrous wars of choice to fill GOP political coffers) or No. 1 attack-dog (Obamacare/immigration reform/minimum wage hikes). Rupert is Paddy’s Exhibit A.
But it’s the American public that is most responsible for the comicization of the news. Beale warned us way back in 1976 “you gotta get mad.” In fact, you had to “get mad as hell and not take it anymore.”
We are a long way from that rage. We failed Howard. The news comedy show goes on and on and on. The joke is on us.