Our Lost Howard Beale Moments

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


mad-as-hellRemember Howard Beale, the deranged anchorman from Network? During one broadcast he tells the viewers to turn off their televisions, go to the window, and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” In one of the iconic scenes from American movies, thousands of New Yorkers stick their heads out into the rain and scream their frustration over a corrupt political culture of lies, incompetence, and hypocrisy.

We need that moment today in America, but we’ve let too many opportunities pass by. On every front our political leaders demonstrate a shameless disregard for principle, truth, and the greater good that would have made an Athenian demagogue blush.

The preposterous Anthony Weiner, for example, a creepy, out-of-control exhibitionist, continues to run for mayor of New York, trusting in his phony apologies and mawkish meae culpae to deflect attention away from his pathetic neurosis, no doubt thinking that if it worked for Bill Clinton’s much worse sexual offenses, it should work for him. But the real outrage worthy of Howard Beale is his wife, Huma Abedin, a Muslim Brotherhood princess who as a close aid to Hillary Clinton enjoyed national security clearance. When five House conservatives sought to vet Abedin last year, Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner rode to the rescue, squawking about “McCarthyism” and “smears.” Did we learn nothing from the Cold War, when communist spies and fellow travelers infiltrated the highest levels of the government, helping the Soviet Union acquire nuclear weapons? Wouldn’t that experience suggest some prudence in allowing people access to the nation’s secrets?

So we have a high-level State Department functionary with demonstrated ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — an anti-American, anti-Semitic, genocidal, terrorist-nurturing organization preaching eliminationist violence against the enemies of Islam — and Republican congressmen attack their colleagues just for seeking clarification of this relationship. There’s a Howard Beale moment.

But of course, indifference to Abedin’s unsavory connections is small beer compared to the indifference to Obama’s courtship of the Brotherhood, just one dimension of his criminally incompetent foreign policy. Let’s recap his Egyptian disaster: we collude in the overthrow of the vicious but reliable Hosni Mubarak, replace him with the Muslim Brotherhood, give them international legitimacy and taxpayer cash, then when their overreaching and bungling rouse up the people against them, we stand by dazed and confused as another military strongman takes over. Meanwhile, as Syria burns, Russia flexes its geopolitical muscles, the Libya we “liberated” provides weapons to jihadists, Iran keeps the centrifuges spinning, Lebanon and Jordan descend into chaos, Iraq explodes into sectarian violence as its leadership snuggles ever deeper into Iran’s embrace — while all this is going on, our Inspector Clouseau of a Secretary of State wastes time and American prestige getting the Palestinians to talk about holding “peace talks,” and bullying our closest ally in the region, Israel, into releasing the murderers of women and children. There’s another Howard Beale moment.

Back home, the president continues the endless campaign, touring the country to preach old ideas and political smears to preselected choirs. His only solution for an anemic economy limping along because of his failed policies is to demand more failed policies – pork-barrel spending disguised as “stimulus” and “investment,” all to be funded by soak-the-rich tax hikes that for a century have been shown to strangle economic growth. More shameless still, he dismisses the IRS’s hounding of political enemies, the DOJ’s harassment of journalists, and worst of all, the questions over the murder of 4 Americans in Benghazi as “phony scandals,” even as his administration obstructs, misdirects, and stonewalls the Congressmen trying to get at the truth.

There’s nothing “phony” about dead Americans, about the administration’s nakedly political spin of the attacks as a “spontaneous” reaction to an obscure video, about the continuing stonewalling of those seeking the truth, about the perpetrators, whose names we know, walking around Libya with impunity. This fecklessness and indifference to our nation’s prestige is a genuine scandal and a stain on this country’s honor. We should have had to dig the bodies of those American heroes out of a vast mound of enemy dead. Right now we should have Navy Seals rounding up the terrorists in Libya and sending them to Allah on the Paradise Express. And don’t tell me the most powerful and lethal military in the history of the planet somehow “can’t.” They can, it’s our politicians who sacrifice this country’s honor to political expediency and comfort. There’s a great big Howard Beale moment.

And how about those Republicans? In the Senate, they’re wasting time over a “comprehensive” immigration bill, which is nothing more than amnesty for law-breakers and a cheap-worker employment agency. Apparently the unfolding disaster of “comprehensive” health-care “reform,” aka Obamacare, has taught them nothing. If they’re serious about fixing immigration, they should start by showing they have a credible plan for securing the border. But no, addled by fantasies of legions of “Hispanic” voters flocking to the Republican standard out of gratitude, they help the President craft a 2014 campaign-narrative of Republican intransigence and racist xenophobia, just because some House Republicans quaintly consider prudence and principle before signing off on bloated legislation that promises to reprise the failures of the 1986 “immigration reform.”

And now these same Republicans are tut-tutting over House Republicans who are trying to exercise their constitutional authority over the budget and defund Obamacare. Listen for a moment to James Madison, in Federalist 58: “The power over the purse, may in fact be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.” The low level of support for Obamacare, rammed into law without a single Republican vote and lubricated with outrageous pork and payoffs, is pretty much a “grievance” of the sort the Founders intended the House to address and correct. The failure of many Republican congressmen to legislate according to the principles they profess is another Howard Beale moment.

Most infuriating of all is the Republican political establishment’s abandonment of the principles and philosophy of the Constitution and its core doctrine of limited government. Too many have bought into the Progressive myth that our founding document is a relic from the past unsuited to our brave new world of high technology and mass communication. Too many act as though human nature, contrary to the beliefs of the Founders, has somehow stopped being motivated by colliding “passions and interests,” as Madison called them, and can be perfected if only the right government policies managed by technocrats can be forced upon the citizenry. For too many the fear of concentrated power and its inevitable corruption that undergirds every page of the Constitution has dissipated, and even so-called “conservatives” speak of the need for the federal government to “solve problems” — see No Child Left Behind — when it’s the responsibility of people to solve problems, not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats and functionaries hired by perpetual incumbents greased by lupine lobbyists. In short, rather than shrinking the federal Leviathan, they just want to manage it better, so we go broke and erode our remaining freedoms in 100 years instead of 50.

That’s the biggest Howard Beale moment that should have us all screaming out our windows. Instead all we hear are crickets.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

  • alyssa651

    what Maria implied I am blown away that anyone can get paid $4993 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this link w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

    • John E Coleman

      My Dear Ms Alyssa ,

      What in the Hell does ” KEP2 ” have to do with this article ?

    • TheOrdinaryMan

      I’m reminded of that rock song, “Money for nothing and the chicks are free” Don’t remember who the singer was.

      • sundance69

        Down Under…….

        • Memphisflashtcb

          Dire Straits

  • TheOrdinaryMan

    Thank you, Mr. Thornton. Boehner and Rubio have their answering machines on 24/7, and if you try to leave a message, you invariably get, “This mailbox is full. Call again later.” I’m sure this applies to McCain’s office as well. Our politicians have become completely corrupt. Don’t give any of them a cent; and hammer them if any organization you might belong to asks you to sign a petition, or send them a letter. And in 2014, vote them out.

    • sundance69

      Excellent idea, the only way we can change the scheme of things is to vote all of these old bastards out, nothing will change until they are gone and the voters are the only ones to make it happen. This bullshit of making deals is getting a little old.

      • davarino

        Yes, I believe our people have been comprimised. They need to be voted out. Frankly I believe the congress needs to have term limits just like the pres. These people get corrupted if they stay to long.

    • Ray Burke

      I could not agree more !!! But how about the voters? IMHO, the voting public has slowly but surely become as corrupt and morally decadent as the scoundrels we hope to dislodge. I fear we have lost our moral compass.

  • RevRoy

    …”so we go broke and erode our remaining freedoms in 100 years instead of 50″. Try “in 5 years instead of 10″. I think God is going to have a “Howard Beale” moment very soon and I don’t have to enumerate the reasons. Too bad the masses are totally unprepared for that event. (But it’s never too late to call upon the name of the Lord, people !!! Get with His program by accepting His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Saviour. You really need a Saviour you know.)
    Rev. Roy….<

    • Daniel

      Jesus does not offer salvation from human folly Rev. but rather salvation from the damnation due us because of our sinning. Preach the truth not some fantasy based on what you wish it to be.

      • RevRoy

        Daniel:
        Never said He did. I think you have missed my point. My post is referring to God’s judgement, not salvation. His “Howard Beale” moment is about to explode on this earth in His foretold JUDGEMENT, and that is what the masses are unprepared for. Those who are “prepared” (have accepted Christ as their Lord AND Saviour) will be “taken up to meet the Lord in the air” as they are not “appointed unto wrath”. And THAT is the truth !! :) Are you ready ??
        Rev. Roy….<

  • ata777

    those crickets come courtesy of a 40-year progressive success story: the dumbing-down of the public school system.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    Who knows why the masses aren’t raising hell? Perhaps it is the apocalyptic mood spread by popular culture and science fiction. I addressed that here: http://clarespark.com/2013/06/21/apocalypse-and-the-escape-artist/. “Apocalypse and the escape artist.” Those opposed to “technological society” would seem to bear the burden of cultural despair, which has been around since the late 19th century.

    • TheOrdinaryMan

      Ms. Spark: Great post; and I’d like to read that book on apocalyptic thinking. One of the points in the article, that much of the attention we pay towards potentially-apocalyptic problems, tends to be given to alleged problems which admit of no solution–the ozone hole, and the alleged rising of the seas. But problems that we can, and most assuredly should solve, are too often ignored. My answer? Have the masses call their congressmen and raise hell about why we aren’t doing more to prepare for an EMP attack. THAT’s a problem that can be solved.

  • Jerry G

    In the immortal words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and they is us”. The actions of our politicians simply reflect the attitudes of the people. As someone said this country founded by geniuses is now run by idiots. (Voted in by idiots.)

  • http://shugartpoliticalaction.shugartmedia.com/uncommonsense/ Chris Shugart

    I have Howard Beale moments on a frequent basis. I chalk it up to just a voice in the desert crying out. I know there are others out there, but their words seem to fall on the deaf ears of the political establishment. We need a leader who can restore the hearing of the DC monolith.

  • Drakken

    I am to the point now that I just don’t give a rats azz to the left’s demise, they voted in this abomination, they deserve everything they get and more, effem! Our voting electorate has voted for their free goodies, may they bloody well choke on it. Maybe after things have gotten so bad that common sense might come back in fashion once again. Until then, let the left and their useful idiots run into cold, harsh cruel reality.

  • Wilkins Micawber

    It was all there, plain to see,well before the election, and NOBODY CARED. This is, after all, a man who admitted heavy marijuana and cocaine use in his autobiography, wrote that he almost shot heroin with a needle but backed out at the last moment, wrote that he intentionally SOUGHT OUT Marxist and radical feminists and Chicanos in college to “not appear to be a sell-out,” and wrote that his one-year affirmative action stint in the private sector was like being “behind ENEMY lines.” He wrote that he went to listen to Marxist and socialist lectures at Columbia.
    This is a guy who never published any academic work; a guy who admitted that
    he was a beneficiary of affirmative-action; a guy who couldn’t actually manage
    a hot dog stand let alone a nation of 300 million and dictate terms to private
    sector corporations.
    And you know what? The slovenly, obese, stupid, entitlement-mentality,
    porn-and-football-obsessed American public VOTED for him, and they were stupid enough to RE-ELECT him in 2012.

    • Dylan Felts

      The O’LoBot’s are so self absorbed they can only see to the tip of their outstretched hand, palm up.

    • ProgDestroyer

      And sadly they will elect his anointed successor, “krispy kreme” Cristy or “her thighness” Hillary. Hold on because its going to be a bumpy ride.

  • taosnow

    We ARE having Howard Beal moments…sadly they are Silent Screams..on the internet…where we have been deluded into thinking we are being heard if we get one Like for our brilliant opinion…While the Administration marches on…Might be time to take to the Streets and get LOUD , like in the 60′s.

  • DontMessWithAmerica

    Beale was a fictional character but well represents many of us. Unfortunately, not enough of us. For the majority, as America continues to decline and perhaps progresses into free fall, we can apply Shakespeare’s lines: “The fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” We can look with envy and admiration at the Egyptians who have acted when disillusioned by their supposedly elected leader.

  • American1969

    Wow! What a great article! This nails it exactly! People in this country have become too apathetic, and they’re too busy playing with their Obamaphones to pay attention or care about what is happening. Add also that the majority of the public is not educated or informed about most of what goes on, and you see the end result.
    We have a political class that stands there and urinates all over the peons, and said peons are too busy trying to open their umbrellas instead of whacking their elected officials in the head with the umbrellas and reminding them of who they work for.
    Personally, I think that if you can’t name at least one of your elected officials, you shouldn’t be voting. And if you’re on the public dole, you shouldn’t be voting. You have no skin in the game. Of course you’ll vote for the one that grants free stuff at everyone else’s expense! JMO.

  • m4253y

    when kennedy proved too dangerous to the USA, a few bullets separated his life from the presidency…if history is correct, which i believe it to be infallible, the muslim in chief will elicit the same outcome because you cannot continue in the despotic manner you do uninhibited.

    will be interesting to watch this play out while he attempts to finish his second term and try to succeed in driving the final wedge into the heart of America.

  • johnnywoods

    The America I was born and grew up in is “no more”. I fear it is gone forever.