Friday, July 12, 2013

Paddy Chayefsky and the Wonders of the Invisible World Part I

Over the years I've become convinced that the films Network and Altered States are, if not quite companion pieces, linked to one another in some way. While both films originated from scripts written by legendary playwright and scribe Paddy Chayefsky they are rarely connected in the minds of movie buff and not without reason: Chayefsky famously denounced the latter film, having his name removed from the final credits and replacing it with the moniker of Sidney Aaron (his real first and middle names).


Beyond that the subject matters of both films are, to the mind of normal viewers, worlds apart. Network is famously a scathing sendup of network news and television in general while Altered States delves deeply into some of the most far out theories concerning entheogens the first modern psychedelic era produced. So to were the public responses: Network is almost universally held as one of the landmark films of its era and still remains incredibly beloved (especially amongst the conspiratorial right) while Altered States was a commercial failure upon its initial run but has since gained a cult following as a campy stoner artifact of the 1980s.

And yet both films share something else in common besides Chayefsky's involvement: plot lines revolving around altered states consciousness. This is of course rather obvious in the film Altered States but many often forget that the chief character in Network, newscaster Howard Beale, becomes convinced that some type of entity instructed him in becoming a "prophet" of the airwaves.

Over the course of this series I would like to consider this similarity that both films share, beginning with Network and then moving along to Altered States in the next installment. With these perimeters established let me now briefly break down Network for the uninitiated: The network of the title is the floundering Union Broadcasting Systems (UBS), which has recently been acquired by a mega-media conglomerate known as Communications Company of America (CCA). Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is the aging news anchorman of UBS who is informed by his boss and longtime friend Max Schumacher (William Holden) that he has been fired from the network. During one of his final broadcast Beale promises to commit suicide live on national TV and becomes the center of a media spectacle.

After being let back on the air to apologize for the prior outburst Beale brazenly proclaims that everything is effectively "bullshit" and that he has run out of it, tapping into the seething anger of Americans everywhere in the process. This leads an ambitious network executive, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), to conceive of Beale as a kind of "mad prophet" of the airwaves and insist that he continues to be put on the air. Beale, who has seemingly begun to have an actual breakdown, agrees and the show goes on.

Initially Beale falters in his new role but then he claims to have had a prophetic experience in which a disembodied voice instructs him to stay on the air so that it can impart its message through Beale to the American public. This leads to Beale's legendary "I'm madder than hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore" monologue and the media storm that comes with it.

Beale is a hit while Christensen becomes one of the hottest executives at UBS, developing a reality series-like show involving a faux left-wing terror outfit modeled upon the Symbionese Liberation Army called the Mao Tse-Tung Hour. She also begins an affair with Schumacher, who has since been fired from the network.

Beale and the Mao Tse-Tung Hour revitalize the network but the newscaster ultimately falls afoul of CCA head Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) when he disrupts a deal that Jensen's conglomerate is negotiating with an even bigger Saudi Arabian conglomerate. Beale is brought to Jensen, and has another prophetic experience before the CEO and becomes a converted disciple of globalism in the process. Beale then sallies forth to spread Jensen's "corporate cosmology" and ratings promptly tank. Christensen and her boss, Frank Hackett (Robert Duval), attempt to remove Beale but Jensen believes that Beale's message is important and insists that he remains on the air regardless of ratings. Eventually they conspire with the Ecumenical Liberation Army (the Symbionese knockoff) to murder Beale live on TV, thus fulfilling his initial desire to die on air.

Needless to say, this film is certainly rich in symbolism, synchronicities, and twilight language. First let us briefly consider several of the leading characters, all of whom are highly rich in symbolism, beginning with Howard Beale himself. The name Beale has long fascinated the more onomatology-minded conspiracy theorists out there, most especially the legendary and highly controversial James Shelby Downard.

No doubt some of you are cringing simply at Downard being mentioned but he is especially apt in this case as he and the Howard Beale character share a few similarities. Both were effectively granted incredible insights via the madness that afflicted them respectively but their insights were also tainted: Beale by the age from which he grew up in (where the printed word was the end all in legitimacy) and later the corporate globalism of Arthur Jensen; Downard by the Masonic/Talmudic/Communistic conspiracy theories whose modern American incarnation largely originated from a cabal of far right military officers (one of whom we shall briefly address at the end of this article, bringing the Downard/Beale linkage somewhat full circle).

allegedly Downard

But back to the matter at hand. In Downard's (unstable) mind the name Beale was closely linked to the Kennedy and Bouvier clans.
"Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale was the sister of John Bouvier, the father of Jacqueline. Mrs. Beale and her daughter Edith (Edie) lived in a state of wretchedness and destitution in a decaying mansion in East Hampton, Long Island. Eviction proceedings against the Beales were initiated because the women were discovered to be living in total squalor amid piles of empty pet food cans, newspapers and assorted filth. For some reason, Madam Onassis permitted a film crew to record the degradation of her aunt and niece, and anyone viewing Grey Gardens will certainly attest to the "House of Usher" eccentricities of the pair. As an anthology of control, it is interesting to note that a peculiar rapport occasionally exist between owners and domesticated animals, and that the Beale mansion reflects a reversal of roles in the master-pet relationship.
"John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 at 83 Beals Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. Beals-Beale-Beal are names associated with the Kennedys through the magic and mystery of words. Beale onomatology is rendered thus: El-Bel-Baal-Be al-Beal-Beale. El is said to be one of the Hebrew names of God, signifying the 'mighty one.' It is the root of many other divine names and therefore, many of the sacred names in Masonry. Approximately one mile from Lindisfarne (the 'Holy Island'/'Holy House') is a barren place known as Beal. Lindisfarne is associated with Heredom, and the legends of King Arthur, the Round Table, Merlin, and other Camelot stories, as well as the Scottish Black Watch."
(Secret and Suppressed, "Sorcery, Sex, Assassination and the Science of Symbols," James Shelby Downard, pgs. 67-68)
The name Beale's association with the ancient god Baal is most interesting in the context of altered states we shall be working in throughout the series. Before the revisions of the Christian era, Baal was associated with prophecy and possibly the taking of psychedelics.
"... Jehovah was not yet a transcendental God but lived, like Boreas, in a mountain to the far north; he was, in fact, the white bull-god Baal Zephon ('Lord of the North') who had borrowed his title from his goddess mother Baaltis Zapuna, a name attested in an inscription from Goshen where the tribe of Joseph was once settled. The Canaanites worshiped him as King of the Northern Otherworld and the Philistines of Ekron had taken over the cult; he was a god of prophecy and fertility. Another of his titles was Baal-Zebul, 'the Lord of the Mansion [of the North]' which named the tribe of Zebulon: they worshiped him on Mount Tabor. When King Ahaziah of Israel consulted his oracle at Ekron... he earned Elijah's reproach for not consulting the native Israelite oracle, presumably on Tabor. I suspect that Baal Zabul was an autumnal Dionysus, whose devotees intoxicated themselves on amanita muscaria, which still grows there; the Biblical name of these toadstools being either 'ermrod' or 'little foxes'. By the time of Jesus, who was accused of traffic with Beelzebub, the Kingdoms of Israel and Philistia had long been suppressed and the shrines of Ekron and Tabor destroyed; and Baal-Zebul's functions having been taken over by the archangel Gabriel, he had declined to a mere devil mockingly called Baal-Zebub, 'Lord of the Flies'. Yet the Levite butchers continued the old ritual of turning the victim's head to the north when they sacrificed."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pg. 440)
Baal-Zebub, more commonly known as Beelzebub
In this context the association of Baal with the Howard Beale character is particularly appropriate --beyond either's association with prophecy there is also a perception of both being messengers of a bygone era. Baal was later replaced by Jehovah during the rise of monotheism while Beale, a relic of a generation that grew up prior to the advent of television, becomes the spokesman for a state of reality that is well on its way to becoming obsolete.

Thus Beale is very much a archetypical prophet but also a Trickster --A fact UBS/CCA learns the hard way during the Saudi debacle. The combination of Beale's wisdom and madness is a potent brew and make it difficult to determine whether he is the real deal or simply an opportunist. The movie itself does not even seem to know by the final credits. But enough about Beale for now --In the next installment I shall breakdown his prophetic journey in depth. For now, let us finish considering several of the other key characters.

The character of Diana Christensen also has an especially symbolic name. Diana was of course the name of one of the chief Roman deities.
"On August 13th, the pre-Christian feast the Mother Goddess Diana, or Vesta, was once celebrated with cyder, a roasted kid spitted on hazel-twigs and apples hanging in clusters from a bough. Another name of this Goddess was Nemesis (from the Greek nemos, 'grove') which in classical Greek connotes divine vengeance for breaches of taboo. In her statues she carries an apple-bough in one hand, and the fifth-century Christian poet Commodianus identifies her with Diana Nemorensis ('of the grove') whose followers 'worship a cut branch and call a log Diana'. But both Nemesis and Diana Nemorensis are associated with the deer, not the goat, cult. Nemesis carries a wheel in her other hand to show that she is the goddess of the turning year, like Egyptian Isis and Latin Fortuna, but this has been generally understood as meaning that the wheel will one day come full circle and vengeance be exacted on the sinner. In Gaul she was Diana Nemetona, nemeton being a sacred grove; and was represented with an apple-bough, a cyder-bowl with Aethiopians on it, and a lion-eagle griffin to denote the season of her feast."
(ibid, pg. 255)
Diana, who is more commonly associated with the Greek goddess Artemis, was also a manifestation of the Triple or Threefold Goddess as well as a Mother Goddess.
"She was the Lady of Wild Things, Huntsman-in-chief to the gods, an office for a woman. Like a good huntsman, she was careful to preserve the young; she was the 'protectress of dewy youth' everywhere. Nevertheless, with one of those startling contradictions so common in mythology, she kept the Greek Fleet from selling to Troy until they sacrificed a maiden to her. In many another story, too, she is fierce and revengeful. On the other hand, when women died a swift and painless death, they were held to have been slain by her silver arrows.
"As Phoebus was the Sun, she was the Moon, called Phoebe and Selene (Luna in Latin). Neither name originally belonged to her. Phoebe was a Titan, one of the older gods. So too was Selene -- a moon-goddess, indeed, but not connected with Apollo. She was the sister of Helios, the sun-god with whom Apollo was confused.
"In the later poets, Artemis is identified with Hecate. She is 'the goddess with three forms,' Selene in the sky, Artemis on earth, Hecate in the lower world and in the world above when it is wrapped in darkness. Hecate was the Goddess of the Dark of the Moon, the black nights when the moon is hidden. She was associated with deeds of darkness, the Goddess of the Crossways, which were held to be ghostly places of evil magic."
(Mythology, Edith Hamilton, pgs. 31-32)
Hecate in her threefold nature
And yet, despite the incredibly strong association her name has with the Goddess, her last name literally means son of Christen, a sideform of Christian. This then connects Diana Christensen's name to both major Matriarchal and Patriarchal deities. And yet her character is about as far from anything resembling spirituality as can be. In point of fact, she is essentially nothing but a walking calculator constantly processing her ratings share. She is, by her own admission, inept at everything except her job, as she diligently explains to Max during their first date:
"I was married for four years, and pretended to be happy; and I had six years of analysis, and pretended to be sane. My husband ran off with his boyfriend, and I had an affair with my analyst, who told me I was the worst lay he'd ever had. I can't tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. I apparently have a masculine temperament. I arouse quickly, consummate prematurely, and can't wait to get my clothes back on and get out of that bedroom. I seem to be inept at everything except my work. I'm goddamn good at my work and so I confine myself to that. All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating."

Indeed, during sex with Max Diana even climaxes (quickly) while contemplating the ratings boost the FBI filing charges against the network over the Mao Tse-Tung Hour will generate, certainly a fitting (and just) personification of their affair. At one point Max even goes so far as to compare Diana to "television incarnate" while observing that she has brought nothing but ruin and chaos to those around her. Given the religious characteristics of her name I suppose her character is a kind of observation on the deification of television on some level. In this context at least, Diana lives up to an aspect of her goddess name sake --As Hecate Diana was a death goddess and so to is Diana Christensen, though perhaps Kali would have been a more apt alter ego for Diana than Hecate.

the chaos-bringing Hindu goddess Kali

In general the character of Max Schumacher is every bit as pathetic as his name implies: Max is short for Maximilian, adapted from the Roman name Maximilianus, a derivative of Maximus. Maximus in turn means "greatest" while Schumacher is a German occupational surname denoting a shoemaker. Thus, "Greatest Shoemaker," certainly a apt description of Max.

Max's life is riddled with hypocrisy. He attempts to take Howard off the air on the basis of concern for his old friend's health even as one senses that he is spiteful of Diana's superiority over him as a division head --She is the one, after all, who recognizes the incredible ratings potential Howard Beale possesses. Naturally Diana ends up with Max's job, but this doesn't stop him from having an affair with her (one of which he started while she was already eyeing his job). In fact, he moves out of his home with his long-suffering wife and moves into her apartment for a time. Max eventually ends back up with his wife, but after suffering more indignities at Diana's hands (i.e. their sex life, such as it is) that few would endure for the time he does.

Frank Hackett is every bit the hatchet man his name implies. According to Wikipedia (granted not always the most reliable source) the name Hackett is of Norman origins and first appeared in England in the wake of the Norman Conquest. This is fitting, as Frank Hackett's company (CCA) has recently conquered UBS and is subjecting it to increasingly hostile rule. Hackett is the new breed of media corporate overlord: a totally morally bankrupt hack that will seemingly stoop to any level to ensure that the profits flow. The only real poetic moment he has in the entire film stems from the Saudi debacle where he waxes about being a "sun god at CCA" four hours prior but now seemingly a "man without a corporation." Ah, but like all sun gods, he is (along with Beale) reborn again. But more on that later.

Laureen Hobbs (Marlene Warfield), an associate of the Ecumenical Liberation Army clearly modeled upon famed Communist activist Angela Davis, also has a symbolic surname. The name Hobbs has long been associated with Robert and Robin, which oddly links it to both the mythological figures of hobgoblins and Robin Goodfellow, specifically through the figure of Puck. Puck was famously depicted in Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream where one of Titania's fairies describes him as thus:
"Either I mistake your shape and making quite;
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?"
Robin Goodfellow was in turn associated with Robin Hood in mythology.
"... Merddin, by this time Christianized as 'Robin Hood,' apparently a variant of Merddin's Saxon name, Rof Breoht Woden, 'Bright Strength of Woden,' also known euphemistically as Robin Good-Fellow. In French the word Robin, which is regarded as diminutive of Robert but is probably pre-Teutonic, means a ram and also a devil."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pg. 396) 

As the character of Laureen Hobbs proves to be every bit the capitalist lackey that Diana Christensen is it's pretty safe to assume that this association (if it was in fact intentional) is meant to be highly ironic.

Of course, it's impossible to address the Hobbs character without also addressing the Ecumenical Liberation Army of whom she is the spokesman for (and seemingly the mastermind behind). As noted above, the Ecumenical Liberation Army was surely modeled upon the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a group that has been the subject of countless conspiracy theories since practically its inception.
"The SLA was a bizarre revolutionary militant group, whose claim to fame was the kidnapping of publishing heiress Patty Hearst on February 4, 1974... and it has been a favorite subject of conspiracy theorists for decades, who believe that the SLA was a front for a domestic CIA operation. The mere fact of the kidnapping itself, with Patty Hearst being subjected to brainwashing by the SLA cadres and then sent out to help them rob a bank, was headline-grabbing news for weeks, even though many people could not understand what it all represented...
"Much was happening between 1973 and 1975. Donald DeFreeze, the commander of the SLA, had earlier been a prisoner at the Vacaville facility that was used by the CIA as part of their mind-control experimentation program. At Vacaville, an organization was set up to raise black consciousness -- the Black Cultural Association, or BCA -- which was under the direction of Professor Colston Westbrook. Westbrook has since been identified as a former intelligence officer who served in the Far East during the 1960s and, in fact, worked for AID...  Westbrook had been a psychological warfare officer in Vietnam, Japan and Korea. At Vacaville, he may have been involved in the MK-ULTRA testing and manipulation of violent inmates...
"DeFreeze himself was a police informant who spent very little time in prison, even though he had a record of arms-dealing, and other felonies. When he left prison, he simply walked out, leading many to assume that his escape was an inside job. This was after prolonged contact with known intelligence officer Colston Westbrook. Although the SLA was painted in the worst possible colors as a violent revolutionary group, the record as violent revolutionaries is rather weak. They make so mistakes, and revealed themselves to so many people during the course of their life 'in hiding,' losing large quantities of arms and ammunition at various poorly-disguised safehouses, that it is possible to view their actions those of agents provocateurs and not as genuine revolutionaries."
(Sinister Forces Book II, Peter Levenda, pgs. 204-207) 
the SLA
The Ecumenical Liberation Army also has their own fictional celebrity comrade-in-arms, Mary Ann Gifford (played by Kathy Cronkite, daughter of legendary newscaster Walter). And given their rather blatant commercial interests even before coming into contact with Diana Christensen, describing them as agents provocateurs would hardly be a stretch. Indeed, UBS barely faces any legal fall out from giving a terror outfit their own prime time show (indeed, the potential of such even brings Diana to orgasm, as noted above). Perhaps then there are even darker implications behind the ELA's murder of Howard Beale during the film's final scene?

Patty Hearst during her SLA days (top) and Kathy Cronkite as Mary Ann Gifford (bottom)
Finally we come to the figure of Arthur Jensen, the head of CCA, the conglomerate that owns UBS. Of course his first name is most apt as Arthur is certainly a kingly name and immediately brings to mind the Arthurian cycle. Jensen means "son of Jens" while Jens is a derivative of Johannes. Johannes in turn originated from the Hebrew word Yehochanan, which means "Yahweh is gracious." This is especially amusing as at one point during a meeting with Howard Beale, the newscaster proclaims "I have seen the face of God" to which Jensen replies "You just might be right, Mr. Beale." But more on that in the next installment.

Jensen (fictional)
To my mind, however, the most curious thing about Jensen's name is the fact that it is exactly the same as that of the famed and highly controversial U.C. Berkeley psychologist. The real Arthur Jensen was already well-known and quite notorious by the time Network came out in 1976 thanks to the publication of his work "How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?" in 1969. By this time Jensen, along with his good friend William Shockley (a physicist based out of Stanford University), had become the chief proponents of "scientific" racism in America.
"Shockley's most ambitious and most expensive mailing effort was designed to market the work of Berkeley educational psychologist Arthur Jensen in an attempt not only to sway public opinion about racial differences but also to bring pressure on the NAS to adopt his agenda. Although Shockley himself had conducted no empirical studies on cognitive abilities, he was instrumental in persuading Jensen, an active researcher in the field, that blacks were genetically less intelligent than whites and recruiting him into the Pioneer circle. Early in his career, Jensen had believe that racial differences in intelligence test scores were 'due to environmental rather than to genetic factors,' but his position changed dramatically after he spent the 1966-67 year as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences on the Stanford campus, where he engaged in regular discussions with Shockley, the two scientists working so closely together that, when Shockley was out of town, Jensen answered mail addressed to the physicist...
"In 1969, Jensen produced the article that would become the centerpiece of Shockley's campaign to impose his views on the NAS and the public. In this lengthy and inflammatory work -- the longest publication in the history of Harvard Educational Review, taking up almost the entire winter issue --Jensen argued that minority schoolchildren were hampered neither by discrimination or deprivation; their poor educational performance was a consequence of teaching methods that had been appropriate for white middle-class students but not for minorities, who did not respond to conceptual explanations because of the genetic limitations in their intelligence but who could nevertheless be taught by relying on their ability for association rather than understanding. Obviously reflecting the influence of his discussions with Shockley, Jensen also expressed concern that 'misguided and ineffective attempts to improve [the] lot' of blacks through social programs would only lead -- in the physicist's favorite phrase -- to their 'genetic enslavement' unless accompanied by 'eugenic foresight.' The conclusions of Jensen's article thus were both educational and social: rote memorization to improve the skills of low-IQ black children unable to appreciate abstract principles and some sort of eugenic intervention designed to reduce their numbers."
(The Funding of Scientific Racism, William H. Tucker, pgs. 147-148)
Jensen (real)
Jensen was the longtime golden boy of the Pioneer Fund, the notorious nonprofit organization that has long been linked to eugenics and racist diatribes such as The Bell Curve. Securing Jensen in the 1960s, a highly reputable scientist, was one of the biggest scores in the history of the Fund, which continued to generously subsidize Jensen's work throughout his career.

The Pioneer Fund was in turn founded by Colonel Wickliffe Preston "Daddy Warbucks" Draper, who surely must be high in the rankings of the most vile and treasonous human beings to ever call themselves an American. Draper was a textile magnate who came from one of the oldest and richest families in New England from his father's side, a clan whom John Bevilaqua alleges played a major role in developing the concepts of the company town and child labor in America. His mother was a descendent of the Wickliffe and Preston clans, two old houses in the Kentucky "aristocracy." Draper's maternal grandfather had been William Preston, a state senator, ambassador, and general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War; another relation was Charles A. Wickliffe, the wealthiest planter and largest slave holder in Kentucky during his era.

Draper spent all of his life and much of his considerable fortune backing any number of far right and frequently racist causes throughout the years. The character of Arthur Jensen in Network seems to be a little too refined to be a stand-in for Draper, but one imagines the Colonel, while objecting to more than a few points, ultimately would have found much to applaud in Jensen's "corporate cosmology."

the Colonel
Whether or not Chayefsky meant the Jensen character to be an allusion to the real one or even Pioneer Fund/Draper is difficult to say. Jensen was relatively well known by the time Network was released but Pioneer did not start to gain notoriety until a few years later while the Colonel and the extent of the evil he has wrought upon this country has only begun to become apparent in recent years beyond a relatively small circle of researchers. But regardless of whether the Arthur Jensen name was deliberate or not it is certainly apt, for both the real and fictional Jensen are the elegant fronts of the vile agenda men like Draper have bankrolled for years.

And it is here that I shall wrap things up for the time being. In the next installment we shall focus in on Howard Beale's disembodied voice and the dueling revelations given to him by the voice and Jensen. Stay tuned.


  1. I enjoyed this blog. I remember the controversy over the book "The Bell Curve" when it came out, but never delved into the history. I learned something new here about the Pioneer Fund and the Colonel.

    It seems strange though, that some black (and liberal white) educators/activists/theorists, seemed to unintentionally or indirectly support the Pioneer Fund theories by complaining how standardized tests (SAT's, etc.) and civil service exams favored whites at the expense of blacks. While these complaints were largely based on cultural differences (as far as I can remember), just the mere mention of a supposed testing or intelligence bias based on "differences" leaves the door open for the genetic theorizing.

    As an aside, in terms of onomatology, your mention of the names Robin Hood and Draper, makes me wonder what Downard would have thought of the "Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills," and the huge popularity of the character "Don Draper" from "Mad Men."

  2. Anon-

    I've loathed standardized tests for years as I always struggled with them in school (I was always a much better essay/speech-type student). Intelligence can manifest in so many different ways in human beings that attempting to standardize it seems like folly. I suspect these tests have their origins with the same fascist ideologues behind things like the Pioneer Funds as a means of separating the "wheat from the chaff."

    I've actually been toying with the idea of writing a blog on the West Memphis Three for a while now as the Robin Hood Hills killings have a lot of personal significance to me: I came of age right around the time the "Paradise Lost" documentaries were starting to come out and was a metalhead all throughout high school(and still am:), so I identified very strongly with the kids. Several of my friends were quite obsessed with them as well --a very good friend of mine even wrote one of them a letter while she was in high school.

    And yes, there are a lot of strange instances of twilight language around the Robin Hood Hills murders.

    I'm not familiar at all with "Mad Men" but I'm interested now that you've told me the main character is named Draper and after reading that its a period piece set during the 1960s on the Wiki entry for the Don Draper character. It definitely sounds very curious.


  3. If you read the Wikipedia entry for Christine Chubbuck, it says that Paddy Chayefsky's 'Network' script was inspired, in part, by Chubbuck's 1974 on-air suicide. Unfortunately, the link to the source cited for this "fact" is a dead link (no pun intended), so it's tough to tell if this is based on Chayefsky's own statement or not.

    Historically, the first widespread use for standardized testing was for job placement within the U.S. military. Standardized tests can measure one particular kind of intelligence - the kind based on reading comprehension and memory. They can't tell an institution such as the military or a school much about an individual's overall intellectual capacity (they can't, for example, tell how creative you are, and a creative genius may score poorly), but they do have a LIMITED usefulness for placement. They can tell a middle school, for instance, whether an eighth grader should be placed in the high school prep reading class or whether she might benefit from a more remedial class - or an advanced placement class.

    Like any tool, a standardized test has the potential to be abused, but overall they're fairly benign. I think most college administrators, for example, realize how limited their usefulness actually is.

    From the point of view of science, "race" doesn't exist. Race is a sociological idea; biologically, all human beings are just human beings. Any fertile male can reproduce with any fertile female. So any "scientific" data on differences "between races" will be inherently flawed.

    Eugenics was always terrible science anyway. Of course, they didn't know the structure of DNA back then. Now we know that genetic diversity isn't just nice, it's necessary for a species to survive. Any widespread use of eugenics would lead to a genetic bottleneck that would cause the species to become first inbred, and then eventually instinct. The right to reproduce freely should be a universal human right just in justice terms (because hey, we're people, not someone's lab animals), and science only CONFIRMS why we need that right.

    ...Not that this would stop evil people from doing evil things anyway. It should, but it won't.

  4. Erin-

    Yeah, I've long heard that Christine Chubbuck partly inspired "Network" but I was unable to confirm it. Strangely, Network's fictional UBS also echoed the rise of FOX somewhat --Fox first made a name for itself in the mid-1980s with envelop-pushing comedies such as "... Married With Children" and "The Tracy Ullman Show" as well as one of the earliest (and most successful) reality shows, "Cops." They also have the whole yellow journalism thing going on as well.:)

    One of the first major proponents of standardized testing in the United States was H. H. Goddard, a psychologist and prominent eugenicist. According to John Taylor Gatto in "The Underground History of American Education" Goddard believed that standardized testing would be "a way to make lower classes recognize their own inferiority" (pg. 59).

    From my own experience with standardized testing, I would have to question how effective they would even be for reading comprehension. When I was younger I struggled with multiple choice questions because they had a tendency to make me over think my answers. Finally, in the eight grade, a teacher pointed out to me that most of my initial answers on two-thirds of the question I had ultimately gotten wrong on a recent test had been correct --I had latter gone back and answered them wrong after becoming confused by the several of the other possible answers.

    From there I learned to always go with my initial answer to questions on multiple choice exams and my testing improved greatly. Certainly my struggles did not stem from comprehending the material I had read and more than a few people I've known over the years had similar problems with standardized tests. But you are correct, many schools have begun to de-emphasis the importance of standardized tests in recent years in relation to other academic achievement for such reasons as my case.

    I did not mean to imply that eugenics is scientific, which is why I initially put scientific in quotes when I mentioned "scientific" racism. In general, eugenics was almost solely driven by politics and not science --It was effectively a way for the elite to justify the conditions they had subjected the poor to as well as legally sanctioning population control against said class (a practice the state of California apparently hasn't totally given up on if the recent sterilization of female inmates is any indication).


  5. Re: Eugenics. Try Lothrop Stoddard's The Revolt Of The Underman to understand why eugenics. Nice essay.

  6. R.E.-

    Thanks for the tip and thank you.


  7. thanks so much for this man!! one of my all time favorite movies, i could tell there was something deeper going on. Im sending you an email momentarily and i urge you to contact me .

    PS!!!... have you ever viddied either of my other favorite Occult based movies ??? The Holy Mountain (jodorowsky), True Stories (david byrne, a super weirdo alien), or the VVitch: a new england folktale?

    i look forward to more superb articles from you :) keep it up