Polarizing rabble-rouser Cenk Uygur is the subject of a new documentary that explores the birth of online news.
Co-founder of The Young Turks, the "largest news show on the Internet," Uygur first gained notoriety for his combative, entertaining take on liberal politics. Once a staunch Republican, the movie traces the commentator's disillusionment with the party and subsequent identification as a progressive with a mission to upend corporate media.
"Mad as Hell" seeks to elicit a passionate response from viewers, with a title that gives a less than subtle nod to an essential scene from "Network": "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore," bellows Howard Beale (Peter Finch), an exasperated TV news anchor in Sidney Lumet's 1976 Oscar winner. Not wholly unlike Beale, Uygur is known for his impassioned, polemic style while reporting on current events and the inner-dealings of Washington lawmakers.
In 2005, The Young Turks began receiving national attention for orchestrating a 99-hour "live on air filibuster" of Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination. As his fan base continued to grow, Uygur became a frequent guest on the left-leaning cable news channel MSNBC and was eventually given his own show in 2011. "Mad as Hell" charts Uygur's journey from underground Internet agitator to mainstream media figure and back again. Uygur's primetime program lasted all of six months, as MSNBC tried to shift the host out from the 6 p.m. hour, a time slot civil rights activist Al Sharpton now occupies.
Uygur has not hesitated to take aim at the mainstream media power structure, frequently lambasting Fox News and CNN, as well as his former employer, MSNBC.
"I think defeating Fox -- and more importantly, getting the rest of the media to understand they do not do legitimate news -- is very important," he said in an interview with AlterNet in 2011. "I hope to do that through pointing out their hypocrisy, propaganda and general foolishness. But I also plan to beat them in the ratings and make them fear me."