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There has been much said about Robert De Niro’s recent mental breakdown at the Tony Awards. No need to completely rehash it here.
But one thing perhaps overlooked in today’s Kulturkampf, in which coddled vacuous aging snowflakes like De Niro take a slack-jawed part, is how modern political discourse is becoming less about policy, even less about direct politics, and more about cultural indicators better understood by emotion than by logic of any sort.
That impulse, not ideas, rules the political roost.
If you looked at the clip of young Vito Corleone’s eloquent broadside, what you saw was an old man having a Tourette’s episode and an arm muscle spasm at the same time. But scan the precious audience and you’ll see them desperately looking around to see who else is standing up. That is before they give De Niro a richly deserved ovation from their ideologically diverse group of free thinkers.
Yes, Travis Bickle was in his own special safe space.
That kinder gentler bubble dots the landscape from New York City, to Washington, D.C., and then westward to the smoggy and smug confines of Southern California. And here lies, what we used to call in the Army, the FEBA. For I’m not sure the Tony Awards got a 20 share, in, say, Tulsa?
So every time Jimmy Conway opines, Kathy Griffin spouts, and Samantha Bee nauseates the vast majority of the United States, it is a small caliber mortar round aimed at their idea of the hoi polloi. The misaimed projectile is lobbed high into the vastness of pop culture, coming down with a Trump vote-increasing hiss in locales like West Virginia and Wyoming, places that the president won with 68 percent of the vote. Are they going for 80 percent? Seems so.
It’s not like high school dropout Ace Rothstein is exactly a policy expert, anyway. His violent tough-guy roles, as pleasing as they are to me on a visceral male level, don’t exactly have a wide intellectual range. It’s not like he’s doing “Twelve Angry Men” at the Old Vic anytime soon.
De Niro’s expertise is limited to make believe and making sure those around him on a movie set, every one of whom makes a living on account of him and thus are likely to treat him quite above his lowly cerebral station, can coach him well enough to translate his mumbling gibberish into actual dialogue in the English language. While that may pass for intellect in some of our nation’s more feverish broadcast salons, it has only recently been affirmed as political activity and discourse.
These days a tweet by Roseanne Barr, pompous professional athletes taking a knee during the anthem, or an insipid Broadway cast lecturing the vice-president elect of the United States moves the political meter as much as, if not more than, the federal budget, national security, or U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The process started in 1960 when John Kennedy won his debate with Richard Nixon on the basis of sheer star quality (radio listeners said Richard Nixon clobbered him) has truly come to fruition. For some, there’s no need for a politician to be a leader. Being a celebrity will do just fine because the script is already written for the Left. There is only selling it.
This is why they don’t know how to react to the current president who embodies their methods but is completely off script.
Curiously, this hive violates a sacred rule of the game regarding our cultural cold war. By leaping at every piece of bait the president throws out. Their hysterical shrew-like behavior every time he makes any move or pronouncement, does his marketing for him. By the time we get to the political box office, these free unintentional promos have done the work his White House communications office could only hope to accomplish.
It’s as if they’ve seen one film, one of the versions of Orwell’s 1984. But instead of a warning, they take it as a guide and make the president subject to the daily Two Minutes Hate required towards all enemies of the reigning regime.
That coarsening of debate brings a dark instinctual emotion to the forefront and our media masters know emotional voters are easier to convince than logical and empirical voters.
Contrast that with a pop culture so deep in the gutter, so generally bereft of meaning or gravitas, that the policy mutterings from the likes of a fake Jake LaMotta are given standing ovations from his equally fake peers but completely disregarded by the public at large.
And when that happens? The political needle moves in the president’s direction. One has to believe that certain members of the offending set, or at least their corporate superiors, know this and decry the Newtonian Third Law effect.
But a serious corporate trimming of their sting would incur the ire of the whole nest, followed by ominous declarations of a “chilling effect” and “an end of democracy.”
Instead of an old man striving for relevance by indulging in reactionary hippy theatrics, De Niro might have taken a leaf from his own repertoire and channeled Harry Tuttle one more time. Tuttle was the character in Terry Gilliam’s film “Brazil” who bypasses the orthodoxy and steps in to fix what is broken.
Asking Robert De Niro to take a brave stand against the conformist Tony Award crowd may be asking a lot.
But Lorenzo Anello would have done it.