Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mr. Thompson Live

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, published 1957:
"Listen to Mr. Thompson's report on the world crisis, November 22!" 
The newspapers did not mention the outbreaks of violence that had begun to burst across the country--but she watched them through the reports of train conductors about bullet-riddled cars, dismantled tracks, attacked trains, besieged stations, in. Nebraska, in Oregon, in Texas, in Montana--the futile, doomed outbreaks, prompted by nothing but despair, ending in nothing but destruction. Some were the explosions of local gangs; some spread wider. There were districts that rose in blind rebellion, arrested the local officials, expelled the agents of Washington, killed the tax collectors--then, announcing their secession from the country, went on to the final extreme of the very evil that had destroyed them, as if fighting murder with suicide: went on to seize all property within their reach, to declare community bondage of all to all, and to perish within a week, their meager loot consumed, in the bloody hatred of all for all, in the chaos of no rule save that of the gun, to perish under the lethargic thrust of a few worn soldiers sent out from Washington to bring order to the ruins.
The newspapers did not mention it. The editorials went on speaking of self-denial as the road to future progress, of self-sacrifice as the moral imperative, of greed as the enemy, of love as the solution--their threadbare phrases as sickeningly sweet as the odor of ether in a hospital...
It was the first acknowledgment of the unacknowledged. The announcements began to appear a week in advance and went ringing across the country. "Mr. Thompson will give the people a report on the world crisis! Listen to Mr. Thompson on every radio station and television channel at 8 P.M., on November 22!"
First, the front pages of the newspapers and the shouts of the radio voices had explained it: "To counteract the fears and rumors spread by the enemies of the people, Mr. Thompson will address the country on November 22 and will give us a full report on the state of the world in this solemn moment of global crisis. Mr. Thompson will put an end to those sinister forces whose purpose is to keep us in terror and despair. He will bring light into the darkness of the world and will show us the way out of our tragic problems... 
Then the chorus broke loose and went growing day by day. "Listen to Mr. Thompson on November 22!" said daily headlines. "Don't forget Mr. Thompson on November 22!" cried radio stations at the end of every program. "Mr. Thompson will tell you the truth!..." 
"Don't despair! Listen to Mr. Thompson!" said pennants on government cars, "Don't give up! Listen to Mr. Thompson!" said banners in offices and shops. "Have faith! Listen to Mr. Thompson!" said voices in churches. "Mr. Thompson will give you the answer!" wrote army airplanes across the sky, the letters dissolving in space, and only the last two words remaining by the time the sentence was completed. 
Public loud-speakers were built in the squares of New York for the day of the speech, and came to rasping life once an hour, in time with the ringing of distant clocks, to send over the worn rattle of the traffic, over the heads of the shabby crowds, the sonorous, mechanical cry of an alarm-toned voice: "Listen to Mr. Thompson's report on the world crisis, November 22!"
Do you feel lucky?

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