In the 1957 movie A Face in the Crowd a man from the middle of the country, Lonesome Rhodes, rose from obscurity to national social and political prominence overnight. He did this by playing a character that appealed to a large percentage of ordinary Americans. A key moment in the movie was his energetic endorsement of a placebo, Vitajex, that would cure everybody’s ills. Lonesome Rhodes could cure everything if you just heeded his words. It was hogwash of course but manias take on a life of their own. The media and receptive politicians worshipped him. In 2008, Obama was the personification of Vitajex, that unexceptional pill that the media loved and could cure all.
Lonesome Rhodes was undone by unfiltered television footage that showed him to be a con man, manipulating his audiences with words he did not believe. We have something of a parallel in 2012. Obama is being undone by unfiltered moments, such as footage of two debates, and his clumsy handling of Benghazi, that showed him to be similar to Lonesome Roads, a charlatan, a faker, and a dissembler.
In 2008 the Obama team and David Axelrod ran a brilliant campaign, but it was only brilliant because the media chose to be cheerleaders rather than reporters. They utterly failed to question, even a little, the campaign’s carefully crafted narratives. Centrist, no. Uniter, no. Reach across the aisle, no. Unilateral, hard left, yes. I won, yes. Obama has been in large measure a creation of the media, perhaps especially the NYT, capitalizing on his excellent ability to read a speech. In 2004, that paper virtually ignored the Democrat who spoke at the RNC, while gushing over their chosen one. Why not? He was the perfect embodiment of what the media and the academy would want in a president.
We have speculated for a long time now that the MSM’s ability to shape a persuasive narrative for their agenda has been eroding. The evidence is now pretty clear on this point. The rot in the universities and the media has been pretty powerful, and of course that has a lingering influence on the young and the stupid. However, there are reasons perhaps to be long-term optimistic. The increase in life spans over the last century means that there are a lot more people who have learned from hard experience and who have lived in the private sector. Hopefully we can be spared the next Vitajex president and his media enablers.