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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oh, the humanity!

The origins of some phrases:

Oh the humanity: This expression was first uttered by radio reporter Herbert Morrison as he witnessed the fiery crash of the Hindenburg airship in May of 1937. I cannot remember where I read that Morrison was an excitable fellow who was known for reacting very emotionally to stories, as was certainly the case here. The quotation with some of the context:
It's burst into flames! It's burst into flames and it's falling it's crashing! Watch it; watch it! Get out of the way! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! ... And all the folks agree that this is terrible; this is the one of the worst catastrophes in the world... Oh, the humanity! And all the passengers screaming around here. I told you; it—I can't even talk to people, their friends are out there! ... Honest: I can hardly breathe. I... I'm going to step inside, where I cannot see it... This is the worst thing I've ever witnessed.
Nowadays, newscasters and reporters are expected to remain so calm and detached. I remember watching news coverage of the Twin Towers as they fell. I remember how disturbing it was to hear the calm, steady voice of Tom Brokaw breaking with emotion and fear. I cannot imagine how poor Herbert Morrison would have responded.
~ Quotation courtesy of Wikipedia

Have you no sense of decency, sir? Back in 1953, Joseph McCarthy began his famous quest to sniff out communist sympathizers in the government and military. McCarthy's mission was very popular with both Democrats and Republicans early on, but his tactics soon became unpopular when people realized that the man was completely insane. What started as a legitimate investigation became a paranoid zealotry, and McCarthy soon stopped bothering with little details like facts and evidence when accusing people. During a hearing in 1954, it was Joseph Welch, a lawyer for the army, who famously asked this question. The hearings lasted only until 1954, when McCarthy was stopped and censured. 
~Info courtesy of The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!: This comes from the star-studded film Network, in which a news anchor Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, learns he's going to be fired from his job. The news wakes something up in Beale, and he begins to rant and rave and speak his mind on the air. In one episode, he delivers the following monologue: 
We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has Value!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore.'
~Quotation courtesy of 

I was a fired newscaster once. Or news writer anyway. Back when I was at Baldwin Wallace, the newspaper staff got just a little to mouthy for the comfort of some of the members of the Student Senate, and the entire editorial staff was sent packing. Apparently, the people who shut us down hadn't seen Network, though, because they let us put out one final issue. We didn't manage anything quite so artful as the monologue above, but one of our reporters did manage to get one of the people who shut us down to snap "It's not pure censorship" in a recorded interview. We ran with that as the headline. It was pretty epic.

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