As American cities burn again and a bitterly-divided country prepares to battle to the death over the upcoming presidential election, Titus Techera finds all of it reminding him only too well of Sidney Lumet’s black comedy “Network” (1976) and some other Seventies cinematic visions of Apocalyptic despair and heroic struggle.
Network is so far-sighted because it takes seriously the shift in post-war liberalism, from the halcyon days of Edward R. Murrow to the transformation of the news into theater. We see the collapse and abandonment of the high hopes of transforming America through technocratic reason. As the administrative state replaces ignorant politicians with â€˜expertsâ€™ on issues of burning national importance, so the national media emphasizes its objectivity and tells everyone the same stories with the same authoritative confidence.
But the Great Society failed catastrophically as race riots, urban bombing campaigns unprecedented in American history, and Vietnam protests tore the country apart and set students against the Democrats who depended on their votes. Liberalismâ€™s authoritative media speakers lost their authority and became as questionable as liberalismâ€™s authoritative champions in politics. When the political elites fail to act for the common good, how can the journalistic elites do their job? By damning their own ideology or lying. Beautiful fantasies or ugly truths: this is how liberalism comes crashing down.