BREAKING: Satirical film predicted cable!


Devolved apes sifting the news:
Years ago, we settled on our three favorite movies of all time. Although we'd love to add Blue Crush, there has been no turning back:
Casablanca (1942)
Notorious (1946)
My Brilliant Career (1979)
Casablanca presents the most insightful (and humorous) view of human nature ever captured on film. In Notorious, Hitchcock explored the question our public discourse has finally caught up to:

Why do (some) men—indeed, perhaps many—seem to loathe women so?

My Brilliant Career? We'll let you supply the capsule.

It's clear that we may need to add a fourth film to the mix. We refer to The Planet of the Apes (1968), which satirically offered a less sanguine view of human potential.

In Planet of the Apes, three members of our own species, Homo sapiens, crash land on an unknown planet. Spoiler alert:

At the end of the film, they realize that they're actually on the planet Earth, way off in the future! The planet is now in the hands of a devolved species which closely resembles a group of talking great apes.

These apes speak English, but that's pretty much it. A few among them maintain "human values." Most seem to be greatly devolved.

We thought of this film in the first twelve minutes of a certain cable news program last night. The segment suggested the possibility that, no matter how devolved our "cable news" gets, no one will ever notice.

The program's host devoted the first twelve minutes of her program to an increasingly familiar task. She spent the time reading amazingly tedious parts of the transcript of yesterday's pretrial hearing for the upcoming Manafort trial.

Just how thoroughly inconsequential was yesterday's pretrial hearing? So inconsequential that it wasn't covered in this morning's hard-copy New York Times at all.

In the hard-copy Washington Post, where it qualifies as a local event, the hearing was covered in a 340-word news report. (Online, the report is longer.)

In hard copy, the 340-word Post report appeared below the fold on page A4. You get the nugget of the report in the hard-copy headline:
Manafort trial in D.C. is delayed by a week
There you have it! The upcoming trial, Manafort's second, had been scheduled to begin in D.C. on September 17. As a result of yesterday's hearing, it's now scheduled to begin on September 24.

The Post and the Times both seemed to feel that this was trivial stuff. But on the cable news program in question, the host devoted her first twelve minutes to reading the utterly trivial transcript of the discussion which led to this outcome.

You can watch this host's dramatic reading yourself. To do so, just click here.

Warning! Twelve minutes into the segment, the cable host will still be staging her dramatic reading. You'll see her supplying her own inflections as she reads each participant's lines, even though she has no way of knowing how the various statements actually sounded in court.

You won't see her consult a legal expert as to whether any of this is anything other than routine. For unknown reasons, this host has fallen in love with these dramatic readings; they're now a service she supplies on a regular basis.

Just think of all the serious topics which go unreported and undiscussed as this particular host kills time in this manner! The dead of Yemen and Puerto Rico get short shrift as we're offered this puzzling product, as do the orphans of the Southern border. We're constantly struck by the weirdness of these dramatic readings—but for some reason, cable viewers seem to keep watching this show.

Viewers may think these readings must be significant if this major star provides them. In truth, this stuff would have been too inane even for Court TV in the years before that little-loved channel was dumbed down even further, becoming TruTV.

Has a devolved race of great apes seized control of "cable news?" The prediction was made in 1968. Eight years later, the feature film Network predicted Bill O'Reilly!


  1. Witchcraft.

    1. Nice essay about the writing and recording of this song.

    2. David, that's the record, not an essay. Did you intend to post a different link?

    3. Caesar - here's the right link

  2. Why doesn't it surprise me that Somerby has a Hitchcock film among his top three favorite films? It is a love story about two men vying for the same woman, yet Somerby thinks it is about men's dislike for women. Hitchcock's problems with women are well-documented, but I wonder if Somerby is aware of that? The Bergman character is mistreated by both men -- is that justified because she was supposedly promiscuous in her past?

    And then My Brilliant Career (also about two men in love with the same woman) doesn't merit a synopsis. Is that woman also considered faithless because she prefers her writing aspirations to the local men (even if one of them is deceiving her about his financial status)? Do we have a good girl/bad girl contrast between these films?

    Casablanca has the same dynamic. Two men in love with one woman who has clearly made her choice between them (for the good of her country if not her heart). Bogey nobly steps aside then joins the foreign legion. Is she a slut or is she a good girl? Or maybe she was a slut but is being redeemed by her self-sacrifice?

    Then there is Planet of the Apes. Somerby remembers this as a bunch of apes pretending to be people but mostly failing. The author intended it as a racial parable. That's revealing too. In the film, different kinds of apes fulfill different social roles. Somerby seems to have missed that point that was present even in the remake. Instead, he considers us to be devolved apes and uses the film to make his own point, which is that people are scum. Hard to clearly see what movies are saying when you project your own issues onto them -- or in this case, onto your memory of what they were about.

    The feature film Network may have predicted O'Reilly but it didn't predict the golden age in TV programming that we are now experiencing due to the widening of platforms and production possibilities beyond the grasp of a few networks. Cable news is a small part of news available to people today and it is not the equivalent of the network news portrayed in that film. There is room for Maddow to spend time reading things to people if everyone wants that to happen. I don't see the harm.

    1. Please, go back and put your head in that hole in the ground near you.

    2. It isn't big enough for two.

  3. "The planet is now in the hands of a devolved species which closely resembles a group of talking great apes."

    I believe the premise of the original movie (and subsequent sequels) was that man had destroyed earth, and the apes had taken over. The apes learned human language and organized a society. The apes didn't represent a "devolved" species.

  4. "The dead of Yemen and Puerto Rico get short shrift as we're offered this puzzling product, as do the orphans of the Southern border."

    Wonder why Somerby just happens to mention Puerto Rico as one of those neglected topics? Could it be because he saw it last night on MSNBC, where the news of the vastly increased death toll was widely reported, including, yes, on Maddow's show? Also, there are ongoing reports about the "orphans" on that network. Their reporting on that has actually been quite consistent and occasionally intense. But instead of critiquing it or even mentioning it, he chooses to ignore it, focusing on other things and pretending it hasn't been discussed.

    Why did Somerby never do a critique of their coverage at the border? Their anchors were literally broadcasting live from the border for at least an entire week when the story first came out. Why did he ignore it, and then pretend they hardly discuss it? That is some shitty media criticism from Somerby in my view. It's dishonest.

    1. And yet, you keep coming back. Why don't you shove off if it bothers you so much?

    2. At 5:26, why don’t you skip the comments if they make you wet your pants?

  5. A stupid post, but let’s note it’s been a tough year for “Planet of the Apes.”

  6. "Warning! Twelve minutes into the segment, the cable host will still be staging her dramatic reading. "

    At least she can read -- more than Trump can do.

  7. Desantis is talking about apes (monkeys) taking over Florida and being called a racist for it. That's because his opponent is black. He is a cautionary tale for folks like Somerby who think it is cute or literary to compare people to apes. That's exactly what got Roseanne Barr's show canceled. Somerby must be having a giant laugh at the way he has gotten away with calling all of us apes, while these other people are being criticized for it.

    I'm not black, but I don't like being compared to apes any more than anyone else would. I am as rational as the next person and I am certain I could hold my own with Aristotle (at an equivalent age). It is wrong to keep calling everyone here names and denigrating everyone this way. Harari didn't write his book so that Somerby could beat up people with it, and Planet of the Apes has a subtext the opposite of Somerby's use of it.

    Bottom line -- I am glad Somerby is going to call it quits with this garbage.

    1. Anonymous 8:06 -- has Somerby indicated he's going to call it quits soon? I haven't been reading him consistently lately.

    2. Having been away from this site for several years due to the repetitive nature of the articles, I notice that now, Bob's preferred animal has migrated from reptiles to apes. Interesting evolution. And yet the obsession with Rachel Maddow remains. If she didn't exist, this blog would be 10% of its current size.

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