Monday, January 4, 2010

Are We "Mad As Hell" Forever?

Lots of media commentators and writers have been making predictions about the new year, and the new decade. While it can be fun to read them, history shows that most such predictions turn out to be wrong. This morning I read that Fortune magazine’s Top Ten Stock list for the last decade, published in 2000, was down 44%. Two of the companies on the list went bankrupt.

With most predictions being so far off, I have a lot of respect for those who seem to have insight into our direction--whether that direction is positive or negative. One such prediction was made by Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the screenplay for the 1976 movie Network.

At the time it came out, Network was considered an outrageous satire of the TV business. Indeed, it is entertainingly over-the-top in places. But, sadly, a basic premise of the film has come true over the last ten years.

In the film, a TV network discovers the power of anger to entertain people and hold their attention. At one point Faye Dunaway, who plays the network’s chief programmer, screams at her staff that she wants “programs about anger.” At another point she takes control of the network’s news division.

I don’t know about you, but I often find it distressing that I can tune up and down the AM radio dial, or across several cable TV channels, and hear angry, irrational voices at any hour of the day or night. The reason these voices are on the air is that they attract listeners and viewers. We listen to them and watch them.

Maybe all this is harmless. I certainly hope so. But I keep getting the nagging thought that anger is being celebrated, rather than information being shared.

In 2010, I hope for a new birth of solution-finding, justice-serving and peace-making, in the media, our communities and our governments.

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