– Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in the film Network, 1976
The full scene, with Howard Beale speechifying:
Edward George Ruddy died today! Edward George Ruddy was the Chairman of the Board of the Union Broadcasting Systems and he died at eleven 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 does that got to do with the price of rice, right? And why is that woe to us?
Because you people and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now.
Because less than 3 percent of you people read books.
Because less than 15 percent of you read newspapers.
Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube.
Right now, there is a whole, an 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 world 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 goddamn amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling 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 gonna 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 at Archie Bunker’s house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don’t worry. Just look at your watch. At the end of the hour, he’s gonna 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, colors, 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 this sentence I’m speaking to you now.
Turn them off!!
Network won an Academy Award for best screenplay. It was written by Paddy Chavevsky, who also won Oscars for The Hospital (1971) and Marty (1955.)
Thanks to American Rhetoric: Movie Speeches