Thursday, July 28, 2016

Political speeches are performances, not reality

If you ever saw the 1957 film “a Face in the Crowd,” it was probably the only time in your life that you remember hating Andy Griffith (or at least the character he played).

In that classic piece of cinema Griffith plays Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a hateful, lecherous drifter who somehow manages to manipulate television and mass media to bring himself fame as sort of likeable everyman. He uses those tools and skills to help a senator rise in the presidential polls. Rhodes’ world falls apart once everyone realizes just who he is after his words about the ignorance of his fans (basically, all of America) inadvertently leak out during a live broadcast.

The film was groundbreaking for its time because the television medium was still relatively new yet somehow the film’s writers knew that mass media would be abused by those who could deliver messages with charisma and panache that would make the populace believe that the untrue was reality.

The message of “a Face in the Crowd” remains relevant to this day. Here it is, almost 60 years later, and we are still living in a world of lies foretold by that movie.

There are countless Larry Rhodeses out there, holding office and trying to run our country, projecting an image that is anything but who they actually are.  People see the lovable version of Rhodes, not the angry, drunken, disgusting Rhodes that was behind the cameras. 

One needs only to have caught a few of the key speeches at the Republican and Democratic conventions to see that in practice.

Depending on what side of the aisle you are on, you likely walked away from those thinking that “your guy” or “your gal” ruled the day.

But think about it, just who really is “your guy” or “your gal?”

It’s definitely not who you saw at the podium.

Donald Trump’s words about the decline of America weren’t his. Bill Clinton didn’t write the loving words about his wife. Michelle Obama didn’t create the speech that some say is an all-time great.

All of those speeches were written -- and rewritten -- by other people.

It’s obvious. For starters, a man who has made billions from a nation can’t claim it’s economically impoverished while another who cheated on a woman countless times can’t say that she’s his only love.

What they had said was disingenuous. It wasn’t real.

Just who is the real person? Only the speaker and his or her closest family and friends know that, which is unfortunate given the enormity of the offices we elect people for.

What you watched was performance art. Every single speaker, whether it was a senator, a governor, a presidential candidate or a First-Partner-to-be was an actor or actress delivering lines prepared for them by professional writers.

I pine for the good old days when real leaders wrote their own speeches.

Some make the claim that they don’t have time in this busy day and age.


Two of our greatest presidents -- Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt -- wrote all of their own speeches. They were far busier than any President of recent memory – Lincoln was trying to keep the country from being torn apart while Roosevelt was fighting corruption and reforming how we see and do things.

They succeeded in saving America and making it better by speaking from the heart, by sharing their thoughts, and living every word they said.

People followed them and believed in their causes because they knew who those men were. They knew they could believe in them.

The best way to know a man or woman is to get to the heart of their writings, as its shows them at their most introspective, most emotional, and most intellectual.

But, we’ve been robbed of that connection since the days of Warren Harding, the first president to employ a speechwriter.

What has Obama really stood for? What are Trump and Clinton about?

We don’t know, because the polished -- or in the case of Trump, “interesting” -- image we’ve been fed is there to sell a party or an idea, not to lead. Their meaningless words come from the hearts and minds of others, not from themselves. 

But, these politicians, as so many others, are so effective at brainwashing the masses that nearly all voters are incapable of discerning fact from fiction, the person from the myth when it comes to political speeches and the projection of the (alleged) persona. We are led to believe that that which we hear and see is reality, when in truth, it’s a façade; it’s Hollywood at its finest….there’s little bit of Lonesome Rhodes in every face in the crowd.  



From the 01 August 2016 Greater Niagara Newspapers  

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