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April 7, 2019

The twilight zone

Opinion

April 7, 2019

Have you noticed how much life increasingly feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone? Only instead of Rod Serling’s imaginary “land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas,” we’re trapped in a topsy-turvy, all-too-real land of corruption, brutality and lies, where freedom, justice and integrity play second fiddle to political ambition, corporate greed, and bureaucratic tyranny.

It’s not merely that life in the American Police State is more brutal, or more unjust, or even more corrupt. It’s getting more idiotic, more perverse, and more outlandish by the day. Somewhere over the course of the past 240-plus years, democracy has given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).

Examples abound. In Georgia, political organizers posted a “Black Media Only” sign outside a Baptist Church, barring white reporters from attending a meeting about an upcoming mayoral election. In Arizona, a SWAT team raided a family’s home in the middle of the night on the say-so of Child Protective Services, which sounded the alarm after the parents determined that their 2-year-old – who had been suffering a 100-degree fever – was feeling better and didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital.

In Virginia, landlords are requiring dog-owning tenants to submit their pets’ DNA to a database that will be used to track down (and fine) owners who fail to clean up after their dogs poop in public. In Texas, a police officer who allegedly gave a homeless man a sandwich with dog feces won’t be held accountable for his actions. In Illinois, Chicago police used a battering ram and a sledgehammer to crash into a family’s home with weapons drawn, terrorizing the young children gathered for a 4-year-old’s birthday party, only to find that they were at the wrong house. In Kansas, a 61-year-old back man in the process of moving into his new house found himself held at gunpoint and handcuffed by police, who refused to believe he was a homeowner and not a burglar.

If you’re starting to notice a pattern here, it speaks to the fact that nearly 50 years after Serling’s creative brainchild, The Twilight Zone, premiered on national television, we’re still fumbling around in the dark, trying to make sense of a world dominated by racism, cruelty, war, violence, poverty, prejudice, intolerance, ignorance, injustice and a host of other social maladies and spiritual evils.

The Twilight Zone was an oasis in television wasteland: a show that captured imaginations; challenged moral hypocrisy and societal prejudices; and railed against inhumanity, racism, prejudice, the mechanization of human beings by way of their technology, tyrants of all shapes and colors, a passive populace, war, injustice, the surveillance state, corporate greed.

Fifty years later, with so much having changed legally, technologically and politically, so much still remains the same. Fear is the same. Prejudice is the same. Ignorance is the same. Hate and war and tyranny are unchanged. Police officers are still shooting unarmed citizens. Bloated government agencies are still fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are still spying on our communications. And American citizens are still allowing themselves to be manipulated by their fears and pitted one against the other. All of these themes can be found in The Twilight Zone.

Serling, a truth-teller who pulled no punches when it came to calling out the evils of his day, channeled his moral outrage into storytelling. As his daughter Anne explained, “The Twilight Zone was more than just the strangest show on TV, with the best theme song, but back in the 50’s Rod Serling was serving up social commentary through science fiction.”

That social commentary disguised as entertainment tackled some of the most pressing issues of Serling’s day. “It dealt with human issues which I guess is why it’s lasted so long, because it dealt with racism and mob mentality and scapegoating and things that are still very, very prevalent and relevant today sadly,” said Anne. “We don’t seem to be able to move ahead and change.”

Serling would have no shortage of material to draw from today, given the government’s greed for money and power, its disregard for human life, its corruption and graft, its pollution of the environment, its reliance on excessive force in order to ensure compliance, its covert activities, its illegal surveillance, and its blatant disdain for the rule of law.

“I can tell you [my dad] would be absolutely apoplectic about what’s happening in the world today. And deeply saddened,” said his daughter Anne Serling. “There are moments that I’m glad he’s not here to see.”

It boggles the mind how relevant The Twilight Zone and its unique brand of truth-telling are to an age in which truth has become a convenient fiction for those in power, what researchers refer to as ‘Truth Decay’.

As a report from the Rand Corporation explains, “Truth Decay is defined as a set of four related trends: increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data; a blurring of the line between opinion and fact; an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact; and declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.”

Serling would have had a lot to say about the lies that masquerade as truth today. I’m not sure that Serling would have been surprised by current events, though. After all, this was the man who concluded that people are alike all over: that was the kernel of truth in one of Serling’s episodes about a pair of astronauts who journey to Mars only to find that while they may have landed on an alien planet, inhabited by alien creatures, the ignorance, fear and prejudice of the “foreigner” was the same.

So many truths, packaged in 156 episodes that aired from 1959 to 1964.

Serling took pride in the writing, penning 92 of the 156 episodes himself. For the rest, he enlisted some of the best writers of the 20th century to lend their talents to Zone episodes: Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Earl Hamner, to mention a few. As such, the Twilight Zone became the embodiment of great story-telling.

If you want to watch something that fuses time and space into reality by way of a fictional setting, then I suggest that you tune into The Twilight Zone.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘America Enters the Twilight Zone’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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