today I would like to talk about the tube. No, not the London Underground! "The tube" can also mean television, the TV set. TV is or has been the most important means of communication, one of the most common mass media, maybe the most powerful tool ever. Fortunately, with the Internet boom, TV has lost a lot of its influence and power, but I guess it is still the most common means of communication.
The following text is taken from the film Network, a film made in 1976 about the power of TV. While you follow the text, you can watch the extract here but I suggest you watch the entire film. You can find it here: Network . The film is fiction, of course but just change a few names and sentences in the text and it will perfectly fit the Italian context. Here is the text:
Edward George Ruddy died today!! Edward George Ruddy was the chairman of the board of the Union Broadcasting Systems and he died at 11 o’clock this morning of a heart condition, and woe is us, we’re in a lot of trouble!!!
So… a rich little man with white hair died. What has that got to do with the price of rice, right? And why is that woe to us? Because you people and 62 million of other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than three per cent of you people read books. Because less than 15 per cent of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole and entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube.
This tube is the gospel! The ultimate revelation! This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers. This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died.
Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communication Corporation of America. There’s a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr Ruddy’s office on the 20th floor, and when the 12th largest company in the worid controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network.
So you listen to me. Listen to me. Television is not the truth. Television’s a goddamned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a travelling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business.
So if you want the truth, go to God. Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves. Because that’s the only place you’re ever going to find any real truth. But, man, you’re never gonna get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you wanna hear. We lie like hell. We’ll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer, and that nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker’s house and however much trouble the hero is in, don’t worry, look at your watch, at the end of the hour he’s going to win.
We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true. But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colours, creeds. 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 that 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!
So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now! Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I’m speaking to you now. Turn them off.