One of the most memorable scenes in American cinema is in Paddy Chayefsky’s film, “Network.” Directed by Sidney Lumet, it features a sequence in which the news anchor, played by the late, great Peter Finch, unravels for all the world to see, live on network television.
Finch is consumed by anger at anything and everything – and he shouts his by now uncontrollable rage into the mike in front of him, with network executives looking on in disbelief. Finch’s fury – though maybe crazy – turns out to be contagious. It spreads to others, to ordinary citizens, who then do exactly as he tells them to do.
“You’ve got to get mad,” he screams. You’ve got to declare, “I’m a human being, God damn it! My life has value!” And then he says to his viewing audience all across America, “I want you to get up now. I want you to go to the window and open it, and to stick your head out and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
The exoneration of Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri was the match that lit the fire. The exoneration of Officer Daniel Panteleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City was the fuel that spread the fire.
Many millions of Americans are by now mad as hell. Many thousands of Americans have by now followed Finch’s lead. They went to the window and opened it. Then they stuck their heads out and shouted loud and clear that they are mad as hell – and that they’re not going to take this anymore. Put directly, their, our, anger has congealed to the point where it will not go away until there is hard evidence of real change.