Monday, April 07, 2008

Johnny Byrne Thought of the Day:

As a tribute to my late mentor and hero, Irish TV writer and poet Johnny Byrne, I shall be posting here this week some of the memorable thoughts and quotes he shared with me in our interviews over the years. Johnny was more than a science fiction TV writer; actually something more akin to a philosopher in the Age of Global Media. I'd like to see his thoughts find additional relevancy in this Age of You Tube and The New Media. So here we go. This quote reflects Johnny's intense dislike of the phenomenon of political correctness in the Clinton/Bush age, which he felt was practically Orwellian. From 2002:

"In terms of what is happening now, as opposed to 1975, is we're living in an age in which there is a serious spiritual vacuum. Values are having to be artificially created for people to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of worth. We notice that particularly in the all-pervasive global media grasp. Feelings now can be manipulated by global media.

There is nothing to seriously believe in, except personal advancement and personal ambition. There is very little striving for something greater. That's why we have such a very strong downward pressure from political correctness. We're meant to abide by a kind of opaque series of pre-judgments and rules which are almost totalitarian in their severity. It's not enough to do as you're told, you actually have to think as you're told and feel as you're told. These shifting things mean there is a lack of something concrete which people can hold onto and say 'this is the thing.'"


  1. Mike De Luca11:33 AM

    On the other hand, it seems rather often that when some complains of "political correctness", it's because they've just said something rather offensive. Also, when I look back at all the vitriol concerning the "concept" spewed back in the '90s, it seems all rather trivial stuff, compared to, say, wars based on false information that result in thousand of death with no end in sight, global warming, loss of civil liberties, torture, etc. It's like back in '99, when I used to watch "Fight Club". I was 19, and was awed by the whole concept of Tyler Durden's disenfranchisement with a generation unchallenged by some "Great War". Be careful what you wish for. But now, the once omnipresent threat of popular culture defined by IKEA catalogues seems, like "political correctness", all old hat, in the face of all the horrors that were to come.

  2. Yeah. The "War on Terror" makes blow jobs in the Oval Office look rather quaint by comparison. I can't disagree...

  3. astrid4:22 PM

    I would argue that it's because of political correctness and the fact that we're supposed to unquestioningly swallow (pun intended) what the government and the media tell us is proper and right and moral, that we're in the 'war on terror' in the first place. War protesters, at the beginning, were as much the enemy as anyone from Al Quaeda. It was literally dangerous to be seen as unpatriotic in some sections of town where I lived at the time (i.e., bars and restaurants patronized by fans of Nascar and the like). Political correctness can kiss my white ass - America has been mentally and spiritually emasculated. (Reference the definition of an American Man from John's tribute to Chuck Heston.)

  4. Mike De Luca9:58 AM

    I always looked up to Roy Scheider, myself.

  5. joey_bishop_jr.11:21 AM

    I have to totally agree with the spirit of what Astrid said. America has been emasculated. Teachers can’t use red pens anymore because students who get bad grades with a lot of red marks on their papers “feel bad” about it. You know what? Maybe if you feel bad enough you’ll put down the X-Box for a few minutes and study a bit more. Other schools have banned the game Tag, for Christ’s sake. Heaven forbid a child be chased and be considered “it”, and not a part of the group- even for a few minutes. And as far as “undocumented worker” goes- do I have to start calling crack dealers “independent unlicensed pharmacists” now too? Political Correctness is one of the most serious problems we deal with, because we are forced to come up with cute, inoffensive names for real problems, and in turn I believe it lessens the seriousness with which we deal with them

    And as far as what Mike referenced, about people complaining about PC because they just said something offensive- whenever someone near me makes a racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive comment, I deal with it accordingly. I tell them to shut their ignorant mouths and I put distance between us. I cowboy up, and take a stand, I don’t wait for the courts or the ACLU to do it for me. Is everyone who makes an offensive comment, even to the point of not actually intending any harm, supposed to be jailed or litigated into bankruptcy? How many of us- all good, decent folks, from those that I know- wouldn’t be penalized for something we’ve said at some point?

    I know that this is really cliché, but that little piece of paper called the Constitution guarantees each of us the right to have our own opinions and also to voice them, no matter how inane or silly they may be.

  6. Love to see that Johnny's thoughts are still inspiring debate and discussion.

    I'm with you up to a point, Joey Bishop, but your attack on the ACLU is not the whole picture.

    My point: the ACLU also defends people who are arrested for wearing Anti-Bush T-shirts at rallies, and those who were put away in cages called "freedom zones" (there's a PC euphemism for you!) at the Republican Convention so they would not interrupt Bush speeches. Their rights WERE violated...and egregiously so.

    The ACLU performs a critical function in this country. Not that is 100 percent admirable, but let's be fair: it does a lot of good things too. It defends homeowners and small business against eminent domain claims, and so forth.

    I mean, if you have a President who doesn't understand that all of America is a "freedom zone," - a place to have freedom of speech - you gotta have some mechanism with which to push back against the King. And right now that's the ACLU. I know the right hates the ACLU, but civil liberties must be looked after...or it's a totalitarian state.

    Again, just an opposing thought.

  7. astrid2:54 PM

    I don't think he was attacking the ACLU, John, just using them to make a point. Sure they serve a vital purpose - but I think we're lamenting that it's gotten out of hand on both sides, which you illustrate by bringing up the 'freedom zones' - if there was ever an Orwellian red flag that went unfrickingnoticed...I guess there never will be another violent revolution to overthrow the government in this country, eh? No, and why? Because we're soft and have no ba... er, guts.

    Nothing but love, baby!

  8. joey_bishop_jr.1:10 AM

    And here we go!!!

    John, Astrid is totally correct- I wasn’t attacking them per se whilst making my point, just using them to make a point. But as far as fairness goes, I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio (surprise!), and can honestly say that Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage all rail against the horrendous eminent domain situation. That’s not a left or right issue, that’s a right and wrong issue. And as a conservative, myself as well as every other right winger with a heart and a conscience knows that it’s a crime, and needs to be addressed.

    And since we happened onto the ACLU, let’s have a look at the rest of the highlight reel:

    - They’ve represented NAMBLA.

    - Has taken the position that it "opposes child pornography that uses real children in its depictions," but that material "which is produced without using real children, and is not otherwise obscene, is protected under the First Amendment”

    And the all time crowd pleaser:

    - They support Mumia Abu Jamal.

    No matter what good they may have done in the past, these points, ESPECIALLY the last means that I can’t ever see them in a positive light. And no, I won't ever be able to debate that one especially rationally. I'm aware of that, and freely admit it....

    It can be fun being the token conservative!!!

  9. Hey Joey Bishop --

    Went back and re-read my comment. I didn't mean to be harsh to you in my comment regarding the ACLU. I shouldn't have said "attacked" (uh oh, I'm being politically correct!)

    You know I love you, right, buddy?

    Okay, now my turn in this game of ping pong.

    Regarding the ACLU -- there's no doubt plenty of bad they've done too, but it can't compare to the bad done by the current Administration, which - in the mismanagement of the Iraq War is responsible for the maiming and injury of tens of thousands of American soldiers, over 4000 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. Plus, they've spent so much money on Iraq (which they don't even include in their yearly budgets...) that America is going to have nothing left for important stuff like universal health care, social security and Medicare.

    Your shot! (should we have our own show?)


  10. Joey...

    "token conservative"?


  11. Another (in)famous ACLU moment is when they defended the "rights" of those who defaced and vandalized religious scenes like the Birth of Christ Manger scene on church properties and frontyards of people's homes.

    How about this one? They have defended criminals who have broken into people's homes to rob them, get caught, get beaten shot or stabbed, then SUE those homeowners for wrongful assault or attempted homicide. I didn't realize that criminal was an actual career.

    As far as the Anti-Bush protests at the RNC. At least, they were allowed to attend the event. At the DNC, Conservatives and other anti-liberals would have been served with restraining orders weeks before the event saying they couldn't be in that city's limits nor stage a protest rally so it would make it look like the Democrats all agree and have no dissent in their ranks. But as this Presidential race goes on, the Dems are fighting more dirty with themselves than any other party in any other race.

    Now if only McCain would put me somewhere in his Cabinet. "Solicitor General Lee Hansen" has a nice ring to it. "Minister of Absolute Law" sounds better. Oh well, a girl can dream.

  12. I wager you don't like unions either. :)

  13. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Oh, go hug a tree Muir. You pansy.

    I kid, sir. Been following this fun debate. I'm totally not getting into it, but I've been
    enjoying it.

    Still, I can't help but feel that this debate not only
    misses the point of Johnny's comment, but goes a long
    way toward proving it.

    The spiritual vacuum he (rightly, profoundly)
    describes leaves us all groping for meaning, for
    purpose, for identity and for common values. It seems
    our knowledge has far exceeded our wisdom.

    Perhaps this is why we fragment and squabble. We've
    little sense of community. We are all desperate to
    understand and validate our identities in this
    plastic, antiseptic not-a-culture we're living in.

    I think it's this desperation which leaves many of us
    so hypersensitive to the perceived judgment of others
    that we'll actually attempt to alter speech, if not
    thought, to prevent anyone from "feeling bad" about
    themselves. We are so easily manipulated by words.

    Morality is a word that makes us all squirm. It seems
    we don't even debate the nature of evil so much as we
    struggle to identify lesser evils. "The ACLU may be
    bad", we say, "but they're not as bad as the current
    Administration." "I don't believe in any of the
    Republican candidates", we say, "but at least they're
    not Democrats."

    Mr. Byrne was taking a larger view; looking at the
    state of the human condition. Wondering, perhaps, how
    that part of us all that reaches out for something
    greater has been supplanted by a willingness to
    support "lesser evils". I believe that much of what's
    been discussed here is symptomatic of that condition.

    I hope we'll be getting more of these Thoughts of the
    Day, John.

    -Tony Mercer

  14. Wow!

    Brilliant insights, Tony. Thank you for sharing them, my friend.

    I have to admit, hosting a discussion like this brought up all kinds of conlflicted emotions in me. I wondered - should I contribute or not? Should I censor myself or how I felt? If it gets heated, should I shut it down and end the discussion...?

    Then I realized, of course, that's exactly WHAT the PC menace is. That we'll all be so afraid of our honest feelings that we'll self-censor. I think that's the ultimate goal.

    I'm proud of us. We're all friends and we all take care of each other, even though we are of vastly different political stripes. We don't have to agree on politics or on every topic. We're budz.

    My only disappointment: where was the communist? Come on Coulter...why no diatribe agaisnt capitalism here?:)


  15. One more thing. I just can't seem to shut up, apparently.

    But I want to add: I think Johnny would feel gratified to know that people are discussing his ideas.

    Thank you for everyone who has written in to this post to share your feelings and ideas.

    I'm going to keep posting Johnny's philosophies, and we'll see where they lead us...

    It may not always be hugs and puppies, but I'm sure as hell learning a lot about myself...

  16. astrid5:33 PM

    Are you saying that there are political groups out there who do NOT like hugs and puppies?


  17. Anonymous1:00 AM

    Yes, The People Against Pitbulls with Leprosy Party.


  18. Anonymous2:32 PM

    You're the one we should be thanking Mr. Muir. This blog is always a place of IDEAS. Ideas on film criticism
    ideas on filmmaking, ideas even on politics and metaphysics. Ive been coming here for years and you always leave my brain realing. Thank you for hosting.