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'Mad As Hell': Behind a Political-Season Refrain

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Over the past several months Carl Paladino, the
winner of New York's Republican primary for governor — and a Tea Party
favorite — invoked a theme that prompted wild cheers from his
supporters: "I'm as mad as hell."

And he's
not the only one who's "not going to take it anymore." Earlier this
month, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley said, "We are mad as hell
because since the Democrats took the White House and the Congress, we
have awakened to some new horror."

And all
this "mad" talk isn't confined to the right side of the political arena.
Liberal commentator Jamie Court is "mad as hell" too, "and I don't
think any of us should have to take it again."

Go to the window, open it and stick your head out and yell, 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!'

- Actor Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the 1976 film, Network

The source material for this line, of course, is the 1976 movie Network.
In the film Howard Beale, a washed up anchorman at the end of his
career — and, at the end of his rope — vents his rage on the evening
news:

"I want you to get up right now, go to
the window, open it and stick your head out and yell, 'I'm as mad as
hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

The
famous scene, unmoored from its context, sounds like a rallying cry.
But in fact, it's meant to be the pathetic ramblings of a lunatic.
Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, is described by one character as a
"manifestly irresponsible man."

Republican
gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino makes a point at a campaign event
at the Elks Lodge in Riverhead, N.Y., on Sept. 10, 2010.

Beale is also called a typhoid, a plague and
smallpox. He is screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's critique on American
society in the television era, legions of citizens tuning into a glowing
box and unquestioningly, uncritically react to emotion rather than
utilizing critical thought.

Is it a fair point?

New Yorker
film critic Pauline Kael, who didn't much like the movie, allowed that
satire doesn't have to be fair to be funny. After enough time, it
doesn't even have to be satire.