In the 1998 movie 'The Truman Show,' the hapless Truman lives his entire life on a TV set where, unbeknownst to him, everyone else is an actor. An unwanted child, Truman was adopted in infancy by a corporation that made him the center of the world's longest running reality show, with hidden cameras trained on him night and day.
Because Truman has no one to tell him the truth, he goes many years before questioning his existence-even though a few people have attempted to set him straight. While opening presents one Christmas morning, a man bursts through the living room window screaming that it's all a lie. Someone else parachutes onto the set to warn Truman. A pretty young extra who takes a shine to Truman tells him her real name before being hustled off the set by a producer.
On January 15 four activists from the audience interrupted The Tonight Show to shout out 'Let Dennis debate,' and 'GE, NBC, put impeachment on TV.' For Leno's guest, Bill Maher, it must have seemed like dÃƒ©jÃƒÂ vu: in October, activists from We Are Change disrupted his show by yelling 'Tell us about building seven.'
Like the man bursting through the window on The Truman Show, these interlopers were hustled away ASAP. They had only seconds to make an impression before being silenced.
There are eerie similarities between the set Truman inhabited and today's media landscape. Like Truman, we believe we know what's going on because we seem to have many independent sources of information which corroborate each other in important ways.
But almost all our media is controlled by just six corporations: Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, News Corp, Bertelsmann, and General Electric. Their holdings include the major TV networks, movie studios, book and magazine publishers, radio stations, cable channels, sports teams, theme parks and comic books. Except for conversations with family and friends, millions of Americans are never exposed to a point of view not vetted by the Big Six.
It appears that we're being exposed to a wide range of ideas, when in fact certain opinions and facts will never be seen or heard, but by those few who aggressively search out alternative sources.
Perhaps flying across the country to bellow out your message in one frantic sentence on The Tonight Show seems extreme-to those who are oblivious to the extent to which the mainstream media has shut out the truth. Like the man bursting through the window on The Truman Show, these activists are making a heroic effort to penetrate the corporate bubble encasing us.
If you're still under the spell of the Big Six, this may seem preposterous. We've been taught that we have freedom of the press, and perhaps we did, 25 years ago, when 50 corporations controlled our media, not five.
It's beyond the scope of this essay to go into what is being hidden, and why. You can find out, if you really want to know. First you must have some inkling that there are important things you don't know, and it's no accident that you don't know them.
The person parachuting onto the set to warn Truman that his life is a lie may simply be brushed off as a nutcase-or he might make Truman wonder, just a little, if all is not as it seems. The activists who disrupted The Tonight Show should do the same for us. You might consider yourself well informed, plugged in, in the know. Still, someone is trying desperately to tell you something. All is not as it seems.
Sheila Casey, who worked for years as an award-winning advertising writer, has returned to her first love of journalism after being jolted by the nation's slide into fascism.