The 2016 Revenge Vote

fupolitics“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Those were the words of Howard Beale, the longtime fictional anchor of the equally fictional Union Broadcasting System’s UBS Evening News. You’ll recognize Beale and the statement from the 1976 film Network, starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Dunaway’s UBS was suffering from poor ratings and Finch’s Howard Beale was the answer. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the plot:

…Beale…learns from the news division president, Max Schumacher (Holden), that he has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. The two old friends get roaring drunk and lament the state of their industry. The following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast. UBS fires him after this incident, but Schumacher intervenes so that Beale can have a dignified farewell. Beale promises he will apologize for his outburst, but once on the air, he launches back into a rant claiming that life is “bullshit”. Beale’s outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike, and much to Schumacher’s dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics rather than pull him off the air. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation, persuading his viewers to shout out of their windows “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Here’s a small portion of that wonderful rant via YouTube:

This award-winning and culturally significant film exploits the ease with which television can influence the lives of people who don’t like how “things” have turned out for them regarding economics, morality, crime, or anything else. Howard Beale’s suggestion that raging out the window is necessary to let “them” know how real people feel may seem cathartic, but psychologists say such behavior usually results in the opposite. Unresolved anger, whether personal or collective, demands attention, or it will literally destroy the one who carries it. In AA, for example, we call this “whacking ourselves with the two-by-four we intend for others.”

The most destructive of these actions is revenge, and while it may seem self-satisfying — and Hollywood continually tells us that it is — it’s actually quite self-destructive.

“Rather than providing closure,” says Kevin Carlsmith, PhD, a social psychologist at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. who published a study on the subject in 2008, “it does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh.” Evolution, Carlsmith adds, may play a role. “Punishing others in this context—what they call ‘altruistic punishment’—is a way to keep societies working smoothly,” he says. “You’re willing to sacrifice your well-being in order to punish someone who misbehaved.” And to get people to punish altruistically, Carlsmith says, they have to be fooled into it. Hence, evolution might have wired our minds to think that revenge will make us feel good.

It doesn’t.

I’m convinced that altruistic punishment is at the core of much of the support for both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign. Both shout from beyond the status quo that we ought to be mad as hell and not willing to take it anymore, and so — with little regard for the consequences except the notion that revenge will make them feel better — people are voting for both in the primary season. The voters simply don’t care about the actual positions of both of these candidates; they simply “know” that neither is a part of a status quo that has wronged them so badly. Supporters hear their own words spoken back to them, so there’s really no reason to probe beyond those words. It’s the film Network being played out in real life.

This is probably much truer as regards Mr. Trump than it is regarding Mr. Sanders, but I think both have tapped the deep wellspring of anger and rage at what seems to them to be a system spinning out of control in this country. The people supporting the presumptive Republican nominee are tired of the tyranny of the minority, including immigrants of all stripes and those with differing views of sex and nature. They feel they’ve lost what they used to have — and to forces that don’t care what they think and that are ramrodding laws that flaunt recklessness in their faces. They want back the control they seem to have lost, and they think Mr. Trump is the candidate who speaks for them, regardless of what he can actually do about it. Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, draws those who feel the government hasn’t gone far enough in speaking to their anger over what they view as the failings of capitalism, especially as it relates to the poor and the afflicted, which includes many of them. They think the government is listening to too much that comes from the right, including those Trump followers who believe the opposite. Both groups want revenge to right wrongs they feel were foisted upon them by powerful outside interests.

It would be encouraging to think that these groups cancel each other out, but that would be naive. It may seem that this unresolved anger will benefit Ms. Clinton in the election, but there’s plenty of anger at her, too, although I tend to agree with those who think this is manufactured and has been ongoing since she first entered the national political scene with her husband in 1992. She’s part of a powerful political family in Arkansas that has had its share of enemies for a great many years. I can’t support her, because her position on Israel is steadfast and intolerant in its support of Zionism.

So whose lever will I pull in November? I don’t know. I’m going to watch and see what happens, and then perhaps write in the name of Mark Cuban. Remember, Cuban was President in Sharknado 3, so he’s certainly qualified.

Comments

  1. David Clark says:

    Terry
    Must admit this is the first time on your blog in a long time. I just read your description of “post modernisms” and find it insightful and even brilliant. While I would like a long discussion with you on several of your “probs” (McLuhan’s term) I do think you have captured many of the changes that we are facing politically, media wise, in marketing, in education, and even in the family.
    I agree that the demonizing of the Clintons is largely driven by conservative enemies. But I really cant see how she can lose. Trump has few women, Hispanics or African American supporters. No one can win without them. There just aren’t enough ticked off white blue collar white guys to elect a president. The votes just aren’t there anymore.
    What I find interesting about the present ticked off mood of some of the country is that most of these folks have never had it better economically. Yes the blue collar white guys have the feeling they no longer matter as good production jobs have diminished. Yet even here there is a lot of false information. The US remains a production powerhouse and many great jobs are going begging. But I’m wondering if the social networks may be partially responsible for giving voice to this discontent. Now they have a place to say what they really think and feel. While some of Hilary’s positions are troubling to me, on balance I agree with her in most areas and in some areas she is actually to the right of Trump. I could be wrong, but I think the election will be a landslide for her and of course Bill. It will give new meaning to “being Trumped.”

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