“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.” –James Thurber
I should have realized we were in deep shit as a society on 3 April 1978, the night Dallas burst onto American television. It was nothing but contrived, creaky, formulaic soap opera — but all dressed up for prime time. Somebody cynical had understood that people don’t really give a damn how outrageous and unscrupulous characters are, or how viciously they treat one another. As long as they’re pretty and have lots of shiny stuff, we love it.
When you think about it, the show was a perfect symbol of, and a most insidious propaganda vehicle for, the Randian/neoliberal agenda. Promoting and glorifying greed, selfishness, and lavish consumption. Sanctioning the relentless pursuit of dominance, profits and fossil fuels. Encouraging us to envy and idolize the rich and powerful, training us to exempt them from all normal standards of acceptable behavior.
I was in another room for Dallas’ debut, and totally missed all the ostentatious, seductive visuals. Since I only heard the painfully lame dialogue, my thought was, this thing will be off the air in two weeks. And I was ALMOST right — the series only lasted 14 seasons, with 357 episodes full of glitz, corruption and shitty writing. So much for my gifts of prophecy.
I’m not sure what brings this to mind now. Except this morning’s big news that US Navy SEALs have captured a “rogue” tanker carrying an estimated $20 million of ‘stolen’ Libyan oil reminds me of earlier covert missions. But somehow, something feels different these days. Weren’t such raids once made — at least occasionally — in order to save people, not just to assassinate them? Do we only rescue property now? This must be what we get when long-dead dinosaur compost means more to us than people … progress! Or something.
And as I write this, you know damn well someone already has a made-for-TV movie of this latest mission in post-production. It may not be popular though, with no violence or casualties reported in the whole operation. Sadly enough, it may be more dangerous to participate in a peaceful demonstration these days. C’est la vie.