Monday, December 14, 2015

Will it take a “Face in the Crowd” moment to finally stop Donald Trump?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 11:59 AM

“Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. Sure, I got 'em like this... You know what the public's like? A cage of Guinea Pigs. Good Night you stupid idiots. Good Night, you miserable slobs. They're a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they'll flap their flippers.” - Lonesome Rhodes (A Face in the Crowd - 1957)

Written by Budd Schulberg, based on his short story “Your Arkansas Traveler,” the 1957 film directed by Elia Kazan,  A Face in the Crowd  is one of the best political movies ever made in this country.

Besides showing what a tremendous actor Andy Griffith could be when he had the right material, it is also a tale for our times, when entertainment figures appear on cable television and the campaign trail, frothing at the edges, and reality TV stars manipulate millions of people who may or may not have actually been paying attention in Social Studies Class.

It is the story of millions of people who may not actually want to be manipulated, but who definitely want a Strong Man to lead them in times of political and spiritual danger, and it is the story of a man who is only too happy to be the smiling, singing troubadour for the Dark Forces of American fascism.

But some men’s reach should never exceed their grasp, and in both the short story and the film Lonesome Rhodes finally faces extinction. In the film it happens during the end credits of one of his broadcasts, when he is expressing his true opinion of the masses of people who hang on to his every word. His lover - who has grown to fear what he represents - turns up the volume, and the whole world finally hears the truth.

“You know what the public's like? A cage of Guinea Pigs. Good Night you stupid idiots. Good Night, you miserable slobs. They're a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they'll flap their flippers.”

And just like that, the scales fall from the eyes of a public which has been lulled into believing that this man - who was saying things that other men didn’t - had a lock on some eternal truth, and that he was sharing it his friends, the American people.

I keep wondering when and if Donald Trump’s Lonesome Rhodes moment may come, when people will suddenly realize that what he is offering isn’t wisdom after all, but the vain shoutings of an angry man.

You notice I said if, as well as when? Because life isn’t a movie, after all . . .

From “Your Arkansas Traveler,” by Budd Schulberg:

He was saying, "If I tell the people to declare war they will flood the White House and their congressmen with letters and telegrams. The GI's will insist on going into action. Volunteer militias will rise in every town and hamlet in America. The people listen to Lonesome Rhodes. The people act with Lonesome Rhodes."

It frightened me. Maybe he was only bluffing. Trying to get a rise out of me. He knew how I felt about irresponsible amateurs with mass followings sounding off on international crises . . .


Your Arkansas Traveler

To read the original short story  A Face in the Crowd  is based on, go to:

It’s well worth your time.


Today’s Soundtrack

Today’s blog was written to Holly Near’s “Singer in the Storm” CD.


Quote of the Day

"Normal is not something to aspire to, it's something to get away from." - Jodie Foster



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Richard Drake

  • Scorn for the young: just as foolish now as in the past

    In yet another example of the lack of originality we so often see on Facebook, there are various memes purporting the show the difference between the rugged young men who enlist in the armed services, and the sorts of young men who, well, may become “community organizers” at some point in their future.
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Washington County Judge Joseph Wood: voters experiencing buyer’s remorse?

    In a move that can only be called extraordinary, Jim Estes, Chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, had a letter published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week, extolling the virtues of  County Judge, Joseph Wood.
    • Feb 14, 2017
  • One for Randy Weddington

    Randy Weddington
    • Feb 8, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Home again

    The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.
  • Who needs courts?

    Not since the John Birch Society's "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards littered Southern roadsides after the Supreme Court's school-integration decision in 1954 has the American judicial system been under such siege, but who would have thought the trifling Arkansas legislature would lead the charge?
  • Bungling

    If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they'd read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration.
  • UPDATE: Campus carry bill amended by Senate to require training

    The Senate this morning added an amendment to Rep. Charlie Collins campus carry bill that incorporates the effort denied in committee yesterday to require a 16-hour additional training period before university staff members with concealed carry permits may take the weapons on campus.
  • Director to resign from state court administrative office

    Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp announced today the resignation of J.D. Gingerich, long-time director of the administrative office of the courts.

Visit Arkansas

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.

Most Recent Comments



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation