Elusive Trope's picture

    Stockholm (Resilience) Syndrome

    I was nine years old in April 1974 when the images of  Patty Hearst -- newspaper heiress and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnapping victim -- wielding an M1 carbine while robbing a San Francisco bank with the SLA splashed over the news.  Because I was nine, I wasn't aware of the whole back story or who the SLA or Randolph Hearst were.  I knew Ms. Hearst was some kind of an "important person" who normally doesn't go around robbing banks.  I was aware of the debate as to whether she had voluntarily joined in the SLA or whether she had been somehow brainwashed into doing so.  And somewhere along the line, I became aware that Ms. Hearst's apparent new revolutionary tangent was purported by some to be a consequence of the Stockholm Syndrome.

    For those who though Ms Hearst was “innocent,” how else could the following be explained: Nine days after the robbery, a recording from the SLA was delivered in which Patty Hearst stated, using her newly adopted name:

    Greetings to the people, this is Tania.  My gun was loaded, and at no time did my comrades intentionally point their guns at me. As for being brainwashed, the idea is ridiculous to the point of being beyond belief.

    Stockholm Syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

    It is important to keep in mind:

    No widely accepted diagnostic criteria exist to identify Stockholm syndrome — also known as terror-bonding or traumatic bonding — and critics insist its apparent prevalence is largely a figment of the media's overactive imagination. One FBI report called such close victim-captor relationships "overemphasized, overanalyzed, overpsychologized and overpublicized."

    In another bank robbery involving hostages, after terrorizing patrons and employees for many hours, a police sharpshooter shot and wounded the terrorizing bank robber. After he hit the floor, two women picked him up and physically held him up to the window for another shot.

    Still, this syndrome does exist.  And it can be seen in other situations beyond those where a person or persons are held in a hostage situation.  Any situation where abuse is present has the potential for the abused to experience Stockholm Syndrome. 

    Clinical Psychologist Dr. Joseph Carver makes the case that the spouse caught in an abusive and controlling relationship is suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

    [The abused individual] emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation.

    Local law enforcement personnel have long recognized this syndrome with battered women who fail to press charges, bail their battering husband/boyfriend out of jail, and even physically attack police officers when they arrive to rescue them from a violent assault.

    One doesn't have to go far on the web to find people who relate Stockholm Syndrome to those who continue to support and defend the current economic and political system.  Just one example from the Parlez Moi Blog:

    I keep trying to figure out why average citizens, making a decent living but far from billionaires, are so angry about the idea of taxing the super-rich at the same rate as the rest of us pay? It's a total mystery to me. I know people who are well-off, making a nice salary and with a good lifestyle, who just get rabid at the notion of millionaires having to pay the same percentage of taxes that made this country prosperous back before all the tax cuts for the uber-wealthy spent us spiraling into the current abysmal situation. I'm starting to think it's a form of economic Stockholm Syndrome.

    It isn't just those on the left side of the aisle.  The "other" side is just convinced those who want they consider to be big government as suffering from this infliction.  And each side is convinced they need to come to the rescue, to save those who don't believe they need to be saved.

    Dr. Carver lists the four conditions or situations that serve as the foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome.  The application to our current economic situation is rather easy to see.

    1. The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.

    The perception of threat can be formed by direct, indirect, or witnessed methods….Their history of violence leads us to believe that the captor/controller will carry out the threat in a direct manner if we fail to comply with their demands. The abuser assures us that only our cooperation keeps our loved ones safe.

    Witnessing violence or aggression is also a perceived threat….Witnessing the thoughts and attitudes of the abuser/controller is threatening and intimidating, knowing that we will be the target of those thoughts in the future.

    First, there is the constant threat of losing what one has gained if one does not continue to play the game.  No one want to end up being the lead character in a re-enactment of a Death of a Salesman. 

    And for those who have been economically fortunate, it is also too easy to witness those who have been discarded by the system, forgotten, and left to the violence of the streets. The foreclosed homes, the shut down factories, the food lines. Better to just play the game.

    Second, there is the threat to those who choose to resist or push back on the system and the status quo.  Aside from the perception of having to give up and leave behind what they have achieved in order to join the struggle, there is the belief that some undesirable punishment would be a consequence, like jail time or pepper spray. And it  isn't jus the government.  

    Many grassroot community groups who have tried to stand in the way of corporations have been slapped with lawsuits.  Even in cases where the community groups would have eventually won the case, they lack the financial resources to endure the drawn out court battles the corporations’ team of lawyers are able to throw at them.


    2. The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim

    In threatening and survival situations, we look for evidence of hope — a small sign that the situation may improve. When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, even though it is to the abuser’s benefit as well, the victim interprets that small kindness as a positive trait of the captor.

    In relationships with abusers, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat are interpreted as not only positive, but evidence that the abuser is not “all bad” and may at some time correct his/her behavior. Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation.

    Not only are people fearing the threat of losing what they do have, there is a gratefulness for the luxuries of life they have been able to accumulate over time. The system they believe has been good to them.  They convince themselves those who are less fortunate have somehow chosen the path of poverty and disenfranchisement. 

    They hate insurance companies, but they are glad their company offers some form of health care benefits.  

    And the system does throw a bone from time to time.  For some, it throws a lot of bones and their is promise if they do as they as they are told, play the game, they, too, will get a lot of bones.

    3. Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser

    For their survival, they begin to see the world through the abuser’s perspective. They begin to fix things that might prompt an outburst, act in ways they know makes the abuser happy, or avoid aspects of their own life that may prompt a problem….We become preoccupied with the needs, desires, and habits of the abuser/controller.

    Taking the abuser’s perspective as a survival technique can become so intense that the victim actually develops anger toward those trying to help them.

    Simply put, we grow up in a culture that indoctrinates us before we are aware enough to resist.  From our parents to our schools to the media that washes over us, we are surrounded by praise for the status quo.  Just play the game in the greatest country on Earth.  US is number one!

    Trying to survive, we do become preoccupied with the needs of the socio-economic system.  If you are gay: stay in the closet.  If you are a racial minority: know your place.  If you want praise: make a lot of money, have a big house, and shiny new cars. 

    We don't hear those on the edges who are trying to tell us we are in an abusive situation. And when we finally do, a lot of times our reaction is anger towards those who seem to be upsetting the boat.  We are back to being to feeling threatened.

    4. The perceived inability to escape the situation

    As a hostage in a bank robbery, threatened by criminals with guns, it’s easy to understand the perceived inability to escape. In romantic relationships, the belief that one can’t escape is also very common….locked together by mutual financial issues/assets, mutual intimate knowledge, or legal situations.

    Even if we are able to perceive the abuse, there is no other viable alternative available. Few of us are willing to go "off the grid."  And 307 million people going off the grid really isn't a solution to the problem. 

    Few of us are unwilling to leave behind the comforts and the responsibilities we have to others.  We need a roof over our head and food in the cupboard.  We need to be able to have access to medical care.  We need to ensure our children have a quality education.

    So just play the game and smile.


    Yet with all the threats of abuse and actual abuse, whether experienced or witnessed, we know, if only deep down below the surface, the situation isn't the way it should be.  We do want to escape, to break the isolation, to end the abuse. Yet things go on.  Same as they always was.  Same as it always was. 

    Dr. Carver adds to these conditions leading to the presence of Stockholm Syndrome a companion: cognitive dissonance. 

    “Cognitive Dissonance” explains how and why people change their ideas and opinions to support situations that do not appear to be healthy, positive, or normal. In the theory, an individual seeks to reduce information or opinions that make him or her uncomfortable. When we have two sets of cognitions (knowledge, opinion, feelings, input from others, etc.) that are the opposite, the situation becomes emotionally uncomfortable. Even though we might find ourselves in a foolish or difficult situation — few want to admit that fact. Instead, we attempt to reduce the dissonance — the fact that our cognitions don’t match, agree, or make sense when combined. “Cognitive Dissonance” can be reduced by adding new cognitions — adding new thoughts and attitudes.

    We all know the passion of those who defend the status quo. One only has to watch Fox News or go to sites like Red State.  It is a dog eat dog world and we like it.

    As Genghis related in After the Rapture, Cognitive Dissonance Will Strike .

    Festinger theorized that rationalization can somewhat reduce cognitive dissonance but that for it to be fully effective, people need others to ratify the rationalization.

    But in the case of severe dissonance, even the affirmation of a few peers may not be sufficient to relieve the psychological pressure. To truly assure themselves of the validity of their rationalization, people may feel the need to persuade a wider audience.

    As Festinger explained:

    If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must, after all, be correct. Consider the extreme case: if everyone in the whole world believed something there would be no question at all as to the validity of this belief. It is for this reason that we observe the increase in proselyting following disconfirmation. If the proselyting proves successful, then by gathering more adherents and effectively surrounding himself with supporters, the believer reduces dissonance to the point where he can live with it.

    So we have those who have rationalized their support for the status quo. And there are those who have rationalized the need for change.

    The question is: whose rationalization is actually rational?

    Each side has to believe they are right.  Each attempting to awaken the other.  As it should be.  The marketplace of ideas and all that. 

    For those looking to persuade others for the need to change the system to something more progressive, more sustainable, less abusive, we need to remember in the words of Dr. Carver:

    ...once they decide it doesn’t work and can’t be fixed, they will need our support as we patiently await their decision to return to a healthy and positive lifestyle.

    How do we support them as they have the little epiphanies? How can we talk to them in a way that can facilitate those little epiphanies?

    The first thing to remember is that it can only be done from within.

    If you’re not part of the problem

    You’re not part of the solution.

    There really is no escape. This is the system we have.  We are the grid.  The grid is us.  It becomes a matter of tweaking the system, and then tweaking again.  And then more tweaking.  Without upsetting the boat, as they might say. . 

    We can only hope to be successful in making the necessary changes if we break the isolation, and not just our own.  We have to find a way to leave the abuser behind, but that means persuading its supporters to do so, as well.

    The framework I believe that seems to be hold the greatest promise, to end the affliction of our socio-economic and political Stockholm Syndrome is the framework used but the organization the Stockholm Resilience Center.  

    is a leading research centre on the dynamics and interdependencies between social-ecological systems.

    The human pressure on earth has reached a scale where it is increasingly acknowledged that humans constitute the dominant driver of change to the whole Earth system. These changes are outpacing the capacity of governments and institutions to deal with them and transformational changes of governance are urgently required. Stockholm Resilience Centre applies a resilience framework to identify the complex social and ecological challenges that humanity is facing, from local ecosystem degradation to global environmental change. Resilience is about turning crisis into opportunity. It is about social learning and sustainable innovation. Research at Stockholm Resilience Centre builds upon this combination.

    The ability to turn this crisis into opportunity depends on our ability to reach those who continue to support the status quo.  As I pointed out in my last blog regarding Agenda 21, there are those who have come to believe the word "sustainable" is a four letter word.

    Sustainability is a threat and they will do what they can do to stick up for the abuser who they believe gives them their way of life and their freedoms.  Sustainability seeks to take away their private property and their luxuries.

    So the challenge before us from SRC's perspective:

    We are confronted with a new scientific endeavor – to generate insights supporting transformations of societal development towards respecting planetary boundaries and cultivating global resilience for sustainability.

    Social-ecological interactions in complex systems are the glue for all the research at the Centre, with a common denominator in resilience thinking and covering processes from individuals to global level.  In general, the scientific understanding of interdependent social and ecological systems is still poorly developed and needs to be considerably advanced in order for the academic systems to offer robust insights in dialogues with practice and policy on those issues.

    We cannot get away from the dialogue.  As difficult as it might seem at times, we can force sustainability on the current system. 

    How do we first develop the insights to infuse into those dialogues.  I believe SRC's core features for research will provide as a great guidance for any endeavor - regardless of the fields, be it the fine arts or biology - if the goal is move in a progressive direction:

    Since the beginning of the SRC all research efforts have been framed by the three core features or boundary conditions for SRC research (referred to by Clark as the framework questions):

    Society and nature represent truly interdependent social-ecological systems;

    Social-ecological systems are complex adaptive systems; and

    Cross scale and dynamic interactions represent new challenges for governance and management in relation to interdependent social-ecological systems and ecosystem services.

    These three core features provide a broad research direction, and will continue to serve  as a significant attractor  that allows for emergence of diverse approaches from different disciplines within a common framing.

    The research strategy of the SRC is very open and welcomes any approach, method, perspective, epistemology or ontology from the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences that can contribute to a deeper understanding of the challenge of governance of social-ecological systems in the context of the three features above.

    Moreover, SRC sets down three major challenges for goverance of social-ecological systems - in other words the challenges we humans face in attempting to guide and govern the vast number of interdependent, complex adaptive systems across scales and through interactive dynamics:

    The existence of potential tipping points (thresholds) and regime shifts and the challenges that implies;

    The adaptability of social-ecological systems to deal with such changes, uncertainty, and surprise;

    The ability to steer away from undesired regimes and possibly even transform social-ecological systems into new improved trajectories that sustain and enhance ecosystem services and human well-being.

    Which brings us back to the notion of resilience.

    We emphasize three features of resilience for analyzing social-ecological systems in relation to sustainability;

    Persistence – in the face of change, buffer capacity, withstand shocks

    Adaptability – the capacity of people in a social-ecological system to manage resilience through e.g. collective action

    Transformability – the capacity of people in the social-ecological system to create  a new system when ecological, political, social or economic conditions make the existing system untenable.

    Why resilience?

    We have seen it during financial crises and we are beginning to see it in ecosystems: if brittle systems fail, they can do so abruptly and in the worst case have catastrophic effects.

    Despite growing evidence that surprise, abrupt change, thresholds and regime shifts constitute normality in ecosystems, we still govern and manage forests, water resources, agricultural land and other natural resources as if they follow linear, predictable pathways.

    Resilience thinking helps us avoid the trap of simply rebuilding and repairing flawed structures of the past – be it financial strategies, city development plans or fisheries management. Resilience encourages us to anticipate, adapt, learn and transform human actions according to changes that take place.

    Resilience is about the capacity to withstand shocks and disturbances such as climate change or financial crisis and to use such events to catalyse renewal, novelty and innovation. It is about taking stock in diversity and spreading the risks.

    Loss of resilience tends to lead to more vulnerable systems and possible undesirable shifts in how ecosystems provide humans with crucial goods and services such as fish, crops, flood control and water purification. Clear lakes risk turning into murky, oxygen-depleted pools, grasslands into shrub deserts and coral reefs into algae-covered rubble.

    With increasing urbanisation, it is becoming equally essential to maintain healthy biodiversity in order to secure ecosystem services that are crucial for humans.

    For those who prefer video, Centre science Director Carl Folke has done a whiteboard video on the essence of resilience.






    So breaking the isolation, with a just and sustainable persistence, adaptation, and transformation we just might be able to leave the abuser behind. 


    Nice post, Trope.

    I was starting a new job in L.A. and we were sitting out on my host's deck overlooking a panoramic view of the L.A. basin when we noticed a large dark plume of smoke, like a house fire. We then became aware that it was the Patty Hearst standoff. Welcome to L.A.

    I like your treatise on Resiliency. It says a lot about the economic recovery we're in. People are very adaptable. If some of the large banks had been allowed to fail we would have had a much different result, perhaps more of a crash, and a faster recovery. But now we are just grinding it out, four yards at a time. People know that and don't want to get ahead of it.  

    Never a dull moment in LA. 

    If we were willing to endure the sacrifice of a larger crash, things might have worked out better.  But that willingness would only be possible if people had trust in "system" to heal itself. 

    That is where organizations like SRC have so much to offer.  Working on a local to global level, they are helping find actual working collaborative solutions that just might create that trust.

    This is a remarkable piece and I will have to come back tomorrow and think more about this.

    ...overemphasized, overanalyzed, overpsychologized and overpublicized.

    Sounds like how FOX News covers the bygone days of Reagan!

    I get bored with these shrinks who come up with new 'illnesses' so that they might be published in some more popular publication.

    And since our government is the world's greatest kidnapper; how come there are so few of our ransoms that turn sympathetic?


    I think we got the wrong directions for the ransom's drop spot. 

    Excellent post, especially regarding the sharing of resilience. I said last week that we would need to be ahead of the president on some of the important issues--ie sharing--but haven't had a chance to blog it yet.

    Please keep bringing this up.

    Hope you get a chance to blog about it.

    There is something to Obama's campaign saying "you are the change you've been looking for." While it is nice to have someone who can become the voice of a movement, like MLK, in the end we do have no one but ourselves.  The thing is, the leaders will eventually follow.  They will adapt if we are persistent.  And maybe then there can be a transformation. We just need a way to frame the next step.  the 99% has been effective, but what's next?  I don't think there is a single answer, but a lot of little answers happening all over the place.

    Oh bravo Trope.  I wish you lived next door.  The conversations we could have.  I would like to encourage you in the strongest terms to give this piece a wider distribution, at least by posting it at some larger web venues.

    There is much to ponder (and  pursue) in your thoughts here.  For now I will just offer a couple of personal notes.  As a Californian at the time, I followed the drama of the SLA/Patty Hearst affair with anguish and real interest.  The Hibernia Bank branch was actually about 10 blocks from my family home.  At the end I sat with an odd collection of acquaintances and watched live news coverage of the final assault on the SLA hideout in Los Angeles.

    To my mind there was never anything to recommend the SLA.   And yet from the beginning I had to grant them a certain talent for theatre.  From the choice of a meaningless name to the musical “Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the lives of the people,” it was a kind of mad satire – part Monty Python, part what today we might think of as “Steven Colbert-esque.”  There are two thoughts of mine about all of this that I think comport with your very thoughtful reflection on this whole affair.

    The first is that at the time and for ever more I have thought that intended or not the SLA presented a kind of moral hypothetical that is not easily resolved.  With each outrage the SLA violated one after another of the mores that any revolutionary clique would claim as their raison d’etre.  But they weren’t really a terrorist agency.  They weren’t the Baader- Meinhof or Red Brigade.  They had no practical ambition. They were ethereal terrorists – terrorists of the mind.   It was as if they were presenting a proposition: Even if one violates every moral principle one can still claim to be a moral actor.  At the time I found this whole affair evocative of the struggle for self-awareness as described by Andre Gide in “The Immoralist.” “It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.” And what a perfect dénouement the SLA episode was to the story of  rebellion and moral conflict in the 1960’s, the war in Vietnam and the ascendance and reign of a mad President, a story that comes to an end in the exhaustion of the national conscience itself. 

    For an ex-hippy and professional iconoclast these musings were rewarding enough at the time but for the ordinary citizen this was a period bereft of much solace.  For them Patty Hearst had to be guilty.  Otherwise they faced the specter of social norms as merely a veneer that covers a pitiless reality.  And as I say the national conscience was exhausted.  Nixon begat Carter who begat Reagan.  In the end the general public settled for a second rate cowboy impersonator and escaped into a rapturous embrace all their own.   

    My other thought has to do with the dramatic scene of the assault on the SLA hideout, reprised by the deft hand of Clint Eastwood in his movie “The Gauntlet.” As in the plot of the movie, the idea of the SLA coming to some public trial was unthinkable.  It would have meant another long and difficult public debate about morality, violence and the whole “means and ends” thingy.  One can almost imagine dramatic readings of “The Stranger” (Camus) or The Trial (Kafka) on the steps of the L.A. courthouse.  The nation was still teetering on the edge of its own moral abyss and such a public debate could easily fly out of control.  No.  No trial.  No speeches.  What was needed was to use a prototype of what we now know of as “shock and awe.”  Case closed.  And the message could not have been lost on the general public.  War is the path to peace.  No.  Better.  War is Peace.  Case also closed.

    Epilog:  I am a recovering Catholic.  Back in the day when I was fighting my way out of that abyss, I was quick to challenge even the hint of any theism.  Nowadays, safely distance from its clutches and much more experienced, I am loath to take up the argument.  I have not found any easy alternative consolation for the discontents of life.  So if today I meet a theist, worst yet a Christianist,  I keep silent.  In all candor I don’t have an alternative way to ease their pain and I am not a sadist.  “Go in peace” I say.  So while I pursue my solitary quest for understanding and “progress,” I can not in good conscience begrudge another human their moment of peace and concordance, even if it is based on a fantasy.

    Thanks again for your hard work and creativity on this subject.

    They were ethereal terrorists – terrorists of the mind.   It was as if they were presenting a proposition: Even if one violates every moral principle one can still claim to be a moral actor.  At the time I found this whole affair evocative of the struggle for self-awareness as described by Andre Gide in “The Immoralist.” “It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.” And what a perfect dénouement the SLA episode was to the story of  rebellion and moral conflict in the 1960’s, the war in Vietnam and the ascendance and reign of a mad President, a story that comes to an end in the exhaustion of the national conscience itself.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response.  I enjoyed your thoughts on the matter, but especially liked the above portion. 

    I think many people just see the Vietnam war as a 60's thang, but a month before Patty Hearst's abduction in 1974

    After two clashes that left 55 South Vietnamese soldiers dead, President Thiệu announced on 4 January that the war had restarted and that the Paris Peace Accord was no longer in effect.

    The exhaustion of the national consciousness probably peaked in that moment a little more than a year later in April 1975 with this image coming through their tv screens.


    The SLA was just one of the players that shifted the performance pathos to bathos.

    Against the backdrop of the Watergate Scandal that had been going on for two years, with Nixon finally resigning a few months later in August of 1974.

    I was young enough to be pissed coming home from school to find my cartoons being interrupted by a bunch of men in suits asking questions of other men in suits

    Stoppard could see the 70s come from a mile away

    The Player: We're more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see.

    Guildenstern: Is that what people want?

    The Player: It's what we do.

    Maybe Eastwood with The Gauntlet was trying to be postmodern.  I was 13 when I saw it in the theater, I liked the scene when the police watched the house collapse because it had been riddled with so many bullet holes as the best part. 

    Maybe the SLA should have pondered what Dirty Harry said in 1971:

    "You've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"

    But what I had forgotten about the whole Hearst episode was

    When the attempt to swap Hearst for jailed SLA members failed, the SLA demanded that the captive's family distribute $70 worth of food to every needy Californian – an operation that would cost an estimated $400 million. In response, Hearst's father arranged the immediate donation of $6 million worth of food to the poor of the Bay Area. After the distribution of food, the SLA refused to release Hearst because they deemed the food to have been of poor quality. (In a subsequent tape recording released to the press, Hearst commented that her father could have done better.)

    Somehow that seems to make it all so perfect.

    [and yeah I think we would be good neighbors]

    The SLA was just one of the players that shifted the performance pathos to bathos.

    That's a good way of describing how I remember feeling about it at the time; I would have been a junior/senior at UW-Madison. When I had arrived as a freshman, the whole revolutionary action thing was still taken very seriously and admired (I myself went there early, as a 17-year-old, hoping I wouldn't miss "the revolution," and I managed to experience the tail end of it.)

    By '75, the whole Hearst/SLA was indeed bathos to nearly everyone as I remember it, with ironies abounding. (Youthquake had evolved to disco-nation/Studio 54/ Warhol/Grace Jones.) So much so that the parody of an SLA-type group selling out for ratings in the movie Network (of 1976) was like a deliciously delightful treat of recognition.

    The more things change the more they stay the same:

    I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. 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 AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

    A nit on that, sort of hard to explain. I think the Howard Beale rant and the whole movie was more visionary about the future rather than reflecting the contemporary mood. When I first saw it, I don't remember seeing much to connect to the current zeitgeist, it was more like a wacky fantasy of how things might turn out in the future. People at the time didn't seem to be ready to follow Beale's window shouting instructions, they could take it some more, it was more like they were worried/scared, about crime, unemployment/inflation, energy costs, not really angry/mad as hell. Even the Japan car smashing stuff, which I would equate to the "mad as hell" thing, didn't happen until a couple years after the movie came out.

    But Chayefsky did turn out to be incredibly visionary, way ahead of time. As I see it, the angry mad as hell not going to take it anymore started with Bush v. Gore, Bush II and the blogosphere, the  Howard Beale Show thing, i.e., turning news into entertainment, rants and opinion really just ramped up with Monica Lewinsky and Rush Limbaugh; and the corporate oligarchy ruling the world thing that Howard Beale gets into at the end really just became a common meme since 2007, financial crash starting; before that it was the exclusive province of new-world-order conspiracy buffs. I think it took a long time for  his vision to show itself.

    Also, I think of a real life Howard Beale Show movement not being born until the Morton Downey Jr show, with wide syndication starting in 1988. And what he was doing was very controversial, enough so that for quite some time no one tried to copy him. I'll never forget meeting a German client the evening of his arrival in NYC, maybe 1989, in front of his hotel; the first thing he said was I just watched the most incredible TV show! with his mouth agape.

    People at the time didn't seem to be ready to follow Beale's window shouting instructions, they could take it some more

    I think you're right about this.  The zeitgeist at the time if any more along the lines of what Larry was saying - exhaustation.  People just wanted to get back to their lives.  Such that the 70's was called the Me Generation.  Which then turned into a nation that embraced Reagan and Gecko.

    But the conditions were in many ways the same as they are now and their were people who were feeling like Beale.  There were the people of all political stripes - environmentalists watching the planet going down the tubes and their were the traditional white heterosexual males who begin to see their way of life under attack who later found voices like Downey and Rush.  There were some in the far right religious community believing the nation was going to hell in a handbasket and who later emerge as the Moral Majority.  There was the beginnings of the punk rock scene stirring in places like NY and the Ramones.

    So in the late 70's there were the vanguard of the mad as hell zeitgeist.  But through the 80's and 90's, most still had some hope that they could bend the trajectory of the country and culture their way.  What we are seeing now I think is from all sides of the political and cultural divides is a collective frustration toward "The System" and those who are perceived to be in control.  Although there isn't agreement about exactly what constitutes the elites (at the same time there seems to be some more movement towards a consensus even though there is some resistance from the different sides admitting their commonality because of the years of partisanship and scapegoating).

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