Fiction Becomes Reality: Donald Trump Is A Modern Day
Like The Fictional Rhodes, Trump Is Becoming Drunk On His Power Over His Followers
The growth of Donald Trump's personality cult has now reached the malignant stage. We know this because recently Trump openly bragged he could shoot somebody in public & suffer no backlash from his supporters at all.
A candidate for President has now openly boasted before the world about how blindly his personality cult will follow him.
If you trust the media polls, Trump's boast looks accurate. This was just another example of a long line of outrageous things he's said during this campaign that likely would have derailed another candidate.
Some commentators have claimed what Trump meant here was that he thinks anything he does is right, he can't do something wrong. That's not my sense of what he means. He knows shooting someone on Fifth Avenue would be wrong. The point he's making here isn't about his moral sensibilities, it's about the blind devotion of his followers, which has grown to a point that perhaps even he himself is starting to be amazed by it.
What Trump's 'I could shoot someone!' boast gets at is that he sees himself as being unstoppable because of the blind commitment his followers have made to him. Trump truly believes his personality cult has grown so large, his winning this race is a foregone conclusion. And there's nothing he could ever do that would cause him to start losing his devoted fans.
Trump is a mass media creation who had a direct hand in fashioning the image of himself he is now selling to the public. In the public eye since the 1970's, Trump has carefully crafted a public persona of himself as always right, always in charge, always successful and always very, very rich.
Much commentary has been spent this election cycle looking at how the media covers Trump and how Trump reacts to media coverage, especially any criticism he receives from it. He demands uninterrupted adulation at all times, and woe to any reporter or media person who dares to offend him.
Trump spent the run up to the Iowa primary loudly complaining that Fox News had dared to defy him by not removing Megyn Kelly from their debate. Even more recently, after weeks of Trump attacking & insulting fellow candidate Ted Cruz, Cruz responded with his first negative ad against Trump - and this led to Trump loudly threatening both a lawsuit and again bringing up the possibility he will run as a 3rd party candidate.
As many in the media stare aghast at this monster they helped create, let's take a look back at a perceptive film from the 1950's that presciently explored many of the mass media themes that have arisen from Trump's presidential campaign.
The rise of mass media & it's use of personality cults to drive popular opinion was explored in director Elia Kazan's 1957 film 'A Face In The Crowd'.
The film depicts the rise and fall of Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes, an Arkansas grifter plucked from obscurity to become a radio & TV personality who sells products like mattresses and energy supplements.
If all you know of Andy Griffith is his wholesome portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry RFD, here in his first big role he turns in an Oscar worthy performance as a man who's about to gain the whole world while losing his soul.
With his folksy charm, country singing and down home humor, Rhodes becomes an instant hit who's popularity grows to such an extent he quickly becomes a national celebrity.
Rich, famous, and now with millions of people hanging on his every word waiting to see what he'll say next, at first Rhodes can scarcely believe what's happening to him. Then human nature takes it's course and Rhodes begins taking advantage of his newfound power over others.
As the story unfolds, we watch as all this goes straight to Rhodes' head. Drunk on the power he now holds over his fans, he becomes contemptuous of them and the people who are sponsoring him. He realizes he's the public face of a huge con game. He knows in his heart he's still just a grifter running a con, and it eats at him.
Rhodes is exposed when the network executive [Patricia Neal] who helped create him can no longer bear the sight of what he's become. As Rhodes is in the studio bragging about how stupid and blind his audience is, she turns on the microphones and gives America a look at the true face of the man they've become enthralled with.
As a stunned America watches, Rhodes boasts to his fellow cast members:
“Sell that stuff about a man among men to those morons out there? Shucks,” says Lonesome, “I sell them chicken fertilizer as caviar. I can make them eat dog food and think it’s steak.
Sure, I’ve got them like this. You know what the public’s like? A cage full of guinea pigs. Goodnight, you stupid idiots. Goodnight, you miserable slobs. They’re a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers.”The scene in which Rhodes' contempt for his followers is exposed and his downfall begins can be seen in this Youtube clip:
The development of the personality cult has come a long way in just the last few years, however.
While Rhodes was exposed when it was revealed he held his audience in abject contempt, Trump can openly boast his followers are so enthralled by his awesomeness they will instantly ignore any wrong done, any blasphemy uttered.
Rhodes was mouthing words given to him by others to sell products & political candidates. Trump is different because he's writing his own script. And with this campaign for President of the United States, at last Trump can now try to close the deal in which he's selling the object closest and dearest to his heart: himself.
By the way, I'm far from the first to make the connection between Donald Trump & 'Lonesome' Rhodes. This appeared in the New Mexico Political Journal in October of last year:
The post isn't signed, but whoever wrote it was prescient.
It's been incredible watching some of the same people who spent 8 years marveling at the personality cult that sprang up around Barack Obama actively help to create one around Donald Trump.
You can't spend all this time decrying Obama's over reaches & expansion of Presidential powers at the expense of the other two Constitutional branches...and then turn around and throw your support behind Donald Trump, who has literally promised to be Obama-On-Steroids.
If you listen to what Trump says, he doesn't talk about working with Congress or respecting court rulings. Asked how he'll accomplish he agenda, he deliberately avoids specifics for generalized answers like "I'll fix it, it'll be awesome." If you get the impression he thinks he's going to make stuff happen by sheer willpower, you're not alone.
A few years ago, Ann Coulter wrote a book called 'Demonic' in which she laid out in great detail how Democrats use mobs and personality cults to drive a progressive agenda forward. She now apparently believes naked populism is the only way to win an election and has ditched Conservatism to adopt the tactics of the mob because it will 'work' and this election is too important to lose.
Not a single vote has been cast in a single primary at this point and the present election cycle has served a useful purpose: it's separated those who really believe in and stand on Conservative principles and those who don't.