Arthur Jensen, a corporate chieftain, escorts Howard Beale, a television newscaster-turned-prophet into a grand boardroom after folksily sharing his exploits as a door to door salesman, remarking “They say I can sell anything. I’d like to try to sell something to you.”
Jensen’s sudden explosive tirade is a stroke of genius. Striding to the head of the huge boardroom table, he booms “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale….” Beale had been ginning up opposition to a takeover of Jensen’s network by the Saudis, and the notion of a billion dollar transaction floundering at the hands of a TV pundit is simply too much for this seasoned corporate champion to tolerate. At the end of his polemic, Jensen tells Beale that he must repent his heresy and preach his gospel of global commerce. Beale asks, “Why me?” and receives Jensen’s immortal reply.
Never has this been more true than today. But today, Jensen is much more than a television network — he’s the internet, which ultimate is a much, much more powerful device than TV, since it includes virtually every form of expression and communication.
That is just the point. The world as we know it has been built on trade, commerce, data, information, and the exchange of goods and services in exchange for more trade, commerce, data, information, and wealth. No one person or company can be allowed to get in the way of this wonderful symphony of commerce.
Yet some believe that the internet changed this — that the ivory towers of corporate America would crumble as Google, Facebook, and Twitter leveled the playing field: trade would be balanced, commerce would be egalitarian, data would be free, information would be provided by the public, and wealth evenly distributed by to the masses.
The Internet provided one simple change. People are still mad as hell, but they would feel a lot better if they didn’t have to pay for everything. So why not trade on the people? Bingo. It is the people themselves that are the internet’s trade, commerce, data, information, and wealth. Why? – Because it’s free: “You’re on the internet, dummy.” So listen up, Occupy Movement, and pay attention to the 99% — you are fueling the very system that you propose to overhaul. Every time you use the internet or are featured on CNN, Fox, or Aljazeera it is IBM, AT&T, DuPont, Dow, Coke, and Exxon who benefit. You are the news that brings viewers and benefits to the advertisers and marketers of corporate America.
And you don’t make a dime on it. You work for free.
The irony is that Arthur Jensen was part of the 99%, and did everything in his power to become a part of the 1%. It is in that journey that he came to perceive that “There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immense, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, florins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today!”
What was true in 1976 is still very true today.