The Madness of American Crowds

There’s nothing new about Trump, but that’s not necessarily reassuring.

Comments: 176

  1. Our Orange Jabberwock, His Unhinged Unraveling Unfitness, was 'compromised' from the day he was sworn in. But he arrived where he is due to the enabling of the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions at the Roberts SCOTUS, and the sedition of GOP'ers who threw the Constitution aside, pretending a 2-term Dem POTUS could not nominate a SCOTUS Justice past the 85th month of his 96 months in office. The same GOP'ers who allowed onto their primary ballots a serial bankruptee fraudster, who would not produce his tax returns, and has packed the White House with people who cannot pass their FBI back-ground checks, who are busily stuffing the Federal Judiciary with lifetime appointees - repeating - people who shouldn't even be in their positions, are skewing the Federal Judiciary, and even when this administration is gone, the judiciary legacy will persist. And these are the same GOP'ers who refused to sign on to a letter telling Americans in 2016 what our Intel agencies had discovered regarding Russia's cyber-attacks on our approaching election: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gop-leaders-russia-hacking_us_58513... All the while, Russian oligarchs were contributing millions to GOP'er campaigns across-the-board: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/8/4/1687031/-Dallas-Morning-News-R... America's 2-party political system isn't equipped for the sedition of one of the parties.

  2. Hillary Clinton supporters just do not get it. Both candidates had negative polls. Hillary was so disliked that at the Democratic Convention the boos from the Bernie Sanders crowd were hard to miss. Polls showed earlier in the Spring of 2016 that Sanders had the larger lead against Trump than Hillary. But he was running as a Democrat and the party's establishment, which included Congresswoman Deborah Wasserman Shultz, were working against Sanders. I read recently where the Obamas will received $70 million plus for their autobiographies. This is very Clintonian, which is why we need to support Sanders in 2020, not to bring the country to the political left, but to bring it back to the center.

  3. Vote Republicans out in 2018 and 2020. Then lock them up. Orange is, after all, Dumpy Don's color.

  4. @Mark - Let's worry about 2018 before talking about 2020; it's important Dems don't lose focus, since rabid ferret GOP'ers (hat tip Gail Collins) must be thrown out in 2018, before even more irreparable damage can be done: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/20/opinion/destructive-political-tribali...®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront

  5. I doubt that even a hot mic will undo Trump. Most of Donald's followers take the man seriously, but not literally. Either Mueller will produce a smoking gun, or the voters will have the chance to retire Donald in 2020.

  6. Or the voters will reelect Trump in 2020. He is at 40% on CNN, 46% on Rasmussen, and an average of 42%. This with one bad story following another. Democrats need to stop deluding themselves. The possibility of a Trump reelection looms larger everyday. The Orange Menace must be stopped. Democracy will not survive a second Trump term.

  7. Thank you Mr. Cohen for another spot-on column. As Fintan O'Toole describes in his review in the current NYRB of the current London stage production of "Network", Chayefsky struggled in his movie to describe exactly what the people were "mad as hell about". Today, I think much of what our current political primal scream is about is captured in the paragraph from your father's high school magazine - "the stresses set up by the social changes wrought by the advent of technology are straining the structure of civilization beyond the limits of tolerance". And the question is, what can be done about that? So far at least, we haven't a good answer. Neither party has it at this point, although the Democrats are closer with their recognition of the need for a strong(er) social safety net. If the wealthy are incapable, out of some combination of ignorance or arrogance, of recognizing that their fate is also tied to the answer we are in for a tough go. Lacking an answer, there will be an endless stream of Trumps, each likely worse than the last.

  8. The problem of modern society is not that technology is straining the structures of civilization, it is that a set of people have decided that this is a zero-sum game, and the more they make other people lose, the more they gain for themselves. If you could, resurrect Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House for 10 years from 1977 to 1987, and have him join Congress to observe for a few weeks. In the end, he'll tell you he doesn't recognize anyone, not even the people that he actually worked with in the 80s, because they have been transformed into animals.

  9. I hear you, Mr. Cohen, but then I read an article in the Times and elsewhere this morning that indicates that Americans are feeling more positive about the GOP's massive tax cut because they are seeing a few extra bucks in their paycheck. And as a result, Trump's abysmal ratings are beginning to inch up, as they are for the Republican-led Congress, a fact which has political pundits now predicting that the party of the rich can hold on to its Congressional majority in the fall, and that Trump may very well win-re-election in 2020. And all I can do is echo the fictional Mr. Beale's rage, rage, at the dying of the light settling over our land.

  10. The Chamber of Commerce is spending millions to convince people that the tax cuts are great for them. They have been joined by corporations doing the same and even making one time bonuses in order to keep the employee voters from demanding repeal. Young republican college students are funded to do canvassing that emphasizes the tax cuts for people.

  11. Latest Gallup poll 59% disapprove 37% approve...anything over 35% is soft support.

  12. I'm seeing these polls about the tax cuts and Trump's approval ratings and feel sick to my stomach. I myself am getting an extra 20 bucks in my paychecks. So what? That 20 bucks is nothing compared to the long-term damage this president and these tax cuts are doing to this country. I was hoping other Americans would feel the same way, but no. They are apparently okay with seeing their own country burn just for the temporary satisfaction of a few extra dollars that will be rendered useless by inflation anyways. The glimpse of hope I was feeling for 2018 is now being replaced by foreboding.

  13. REAL lesson? Don’t bore Americans. We could elect Howard Beale. And 1976 was just before they started widely prescribing lithium for acute mania. Worse, we might bring back “Celebrity Apprentice”. On a brief aside, I’ve never been partial to chopped liver. The “hot mic” may have been what undid John Kerry in 2004, but it’s unlikely ever to undo Donald Trump. Over a long lifetime during which EVERYONE knows he’s probably said a TON of politically incorrect and at times truly awful things, he’s been caught only once – that Billy Bush ambush. Trump understands mics, although once in a great while he grants the wrong individual his personal trust. Besides, we know that he reads the Times, so, with Roger’s column, he’s forewarned. Roger, oddly for his years (he’s three months younger than I) and for the breadth of his travels, apparently has never learned that ALL people and peoples are meshuganah. If you take them too seriously, your children will find you at 5:00 AM hanging from a chandelier above an overturned chair. And all for insistence by authorities that liquor stores and bars close so early. And then there’s Prozac.

  14. I prefer 'delusions' of grandeur myself. They're cheap, effective, and impervious to corruption by lesser mortals no number of which have been able to disabuse me of them. I understand their logic, just have never seen the advantage it affords them. I loved the place I came from. Miss it terribly sometimes. The endorphins I release when I dream my way back there are real and a far better place than the one Cohen describes. No hangover either.

  15. Memi: Somehow ... I don't feature you suffering from a hangover even the morning after you've downed an entire bottle of Canadian Club.

  16. "Every now and again, along comes somebody, or some new technology, or both, capable of taking this raw human material and shaping it into a crazed, baying, hypnotized mob that is convinced the Great Leader has come." Your film examples, and the passage written by your father (I actually thought it was from some English political scientist during the industrial revolution!) are great. As for the Trump phenomenon, I've also thought it resembles Jim Jones. And we know what happened to him and his followers. We are so divided, it's a cliche. Right can't accept left, left thinks right has lost its collective minds. I like your hot mic reference--remember the "true" Romney when you watch him run in Nevada--but please, Mr. Cohen, Trump has hot mics every day that have never cost him support. I don't think you're thinking through the full ramifications of Trump's perverse psyche that can twist a mass shooting into a political rant about how the FBI spends its time. Also the films you cite--Jim Jones too--represent discrete movements, which are contained. Contrast that to our "Messiah" whose power over the entire country is existential. Do you really think his supporters would wake up if he declared martial law, nuked North Korea, or cancelled the midterm elections? I sure don't. Where it all ends up is anyone's guess. I just hope this administration isn't the one that proves Abe Lincoln wrong.

  17. I don't like correcting you, but Mr. Romney is running in Utah, not Nevada. Otherwise, I always enjoy reading your comments.

  18. @wolf201: Wow, my bad. Slip of the brain, thanks for correcting this and your general comment.

  19. Do you really think his supporters would wake up if he declared martial law, nuked North Korea, or cancelled the midterm elections? The tragedy is that what you say is absolutely true. Hannity and Limbaugh would tell their disciples it is to save America and they would believe.

  20. The problem with an article like this and the viewpoint it comes from is that it believes the people are fooled. They are not. Those republicans all knew Obama was born in Hawaii. They know climate change is real. They know Trump is in bed with the Russians. We know this because when these people take surveys for free, they give all these side-protecting answers. But if you say you will pay them, they can tell you all of the counter arguments that show they are wrong. They aren't fooled, they are just going along for the ride. Liberals like to tell themselves this lie about being fooled and trying to educate the masses because it makes them feel like there is something they can do. Anything to feel not powerless. There's a lessons that we need to learn. You can't "fix" someone that doesn't want your help. It's the family of addicts problem: you want so desperately to change their behavior, to help end their own suffering, but at the end of the day they have to work on themselves and if they don't want your help you can't make it better. The End. Feel powerless. Now, instead of focusing on their deflections and manipulations, focus on the justifications they tell themselves to defend their own behavior: fear of their own community, using flaws of the other side to justify their own bad behavior, relabeling their actions to obscure their content. For example, stop reporting what they "say" they support and instead report what they do to support or oppose only.

  21. Brilliant comment. Far too much bandwidth is wasted, all day evety day, discussing what anti-everything-good Trump and his craven mob of emotional cretins and power-lusting politicians SAY and not enough revealing what they DO. This country is teetering on the edge of a very dark abyss and dithering, tut-tut conversations will do nothing about that. The streets of DC should be full and business-as-usual should be frozen until the cabal of evil is removed from government.

  22. Mr.Cohen,America has madness not only in the uneducated classes there is madness among the educated class as in the NYT and its readers,blaming the Russians for electing Donald.The russians have only done on a small scale what america has done big time for a long time which is interfering in other countries politics,elections,coups and the USA is proud of its interference.Its called American Exceptionism,

  23. Yes! Of course, we should find it concerning that any other country should “interfere” in our elections but I can’t believe a few million dollars in ads influenced very many voters to change their minds. What about the many more millions spent on ads by our candidates and their PACs that were as toxic and ugly as anything the Russians could come up with? America has, by far, been the worst interfering country in recent history: installing dictators of our choosing, assationations of leaders we don’t find to our liking, regime changes and the endless wars in the Middle East and Asia that have killed so many. We are not only sheep but also hypocrites.

  24. For one, Trumps latest approval poll puts him at a 42% (an average across all the major polls). Thus, the comment "...but they know when their president is compromised" is nonsense. Second, the quote implies that Trump is compromised. By what? The fact that the Russians spent $1.25 million dollars in the last election, some of it on anti-Trump ads promoted by CNN? Last time I checked, Obama was the President when this occurred and it has also been verified that Obama was informed of the problem by the FBI - and did nothing to stop it.

  25. 99.9 % of what Roger said is true, except for 65,844,954 million people who did not succumb to the madness- deciding to believe in those Better Angles (for themselves, their families and the nation).

  26. Not to ever suggest that Trump supporters likely favor country music over all other forms, but there is a similar device used in both pop country songs and the messaging of Donald Trump: the concept of hook; that line or series of lines which, like a drug make the listener addicted to what they are hearing. Country songs, especially the bad ones, are all about the hook, a key phrase such as, for example, "Make America Great Again" or "we're going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it," and it makes no difference if the rest of the words within the mix of the lyrics support or defeat its meaning, the hook is most of what the listener hears, remembers and is addicted to. So each time President Trump shouts from the rafters about whatever nonsense strikes his fancy, whatever chicken fertilizer is currently posing as caviar, his supporters only hear his ugly red baseball cap shouting "Make America Great Again."

  27. Hooks in a song can be quite satisfying. It made the Beatles' music great. What is dangerous is the musical ear worm as in the Maccarena song. The worm is a slimy, brainless, ugly creature. It reminds me of our dear leaders.

  28. I am surprised that Mr.Cohen left out Robert Penn Warren's "All The King's Men." it is the greatest political novel written in the English language,in my judgement. his portrayal of the Huey Long character, Willie Stark,is a study in the very nature of mob manipulation. I recommend it to everyone who cares what Mr. Trump is doing to America.

  29. Frank forgets that this is a novel. Those who make movies seem to live in terror of genuine Populists, like William Jennings Bryan and Huey Long. I suggest Frank and others who lump Huey Long with fascists actually read some history, like T. Harry Williams's biography of Long and/or Alan Brinkley's Voices of Protest. The Stark character is a wrong-headed parody of a man who, whatever his personal flaws, led a "Share Our Wealth" movement that pulled FDR to the left, got him to back Social Security, a new labor law, and higher income taxes. It's a shame our cultural elites put so much faith in movies and so little in historical facts.

  30. Pretty sobering. We were born to die and Life is a distraction from the Ultimate Event.

  31. Not to quibble, well, ok, to quibble - you state that "Americans voted [dt] into office," but we didn't; the electoral college put him there.

  32. So...it’s not as bad as all that, after all?

  33. Well, that all sounds pretty gloomy. Just wait until the masters of the universe replace us all with robots that don't need to be paid. How will we distract ourselves 'from the monotony of existence' then? Enlightenment through lowered expectations? Expectations of what? It is said that when the ships of Christopher Columbus sailed over the horizon towards the eastern shores of our continent, they could not be seen by anyone except the chief of a tribe, an enlightened being who was able to see what others had never seen before. The others had no frame of reference until he gave it to them. Then, they too, could see. We are those people on the shore who do not see. Until we do, there's no saving us from what we have wrought. Lowered expectations are not going to save us. Removing them might be a start. At least it opens the door to unconsidered possibilities. A hot mic is not one I personally have considered, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

  34. “'I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.?' he declared during the campaign." Trump loves the uneducated, remember? So during the election, he didn't waste their time, or anyone else's time, with boring policy details. Even today, he keeps his desk empty, just like his mind -- of any substance, that is. He doesn't need to know anything -- that's what the little people around him are for -- he just needs to keep playing The Great Communicator Part II, and all will be well. After all, Trump spent most of his life learning how to manipulate and con people: in real-estate deals, with contractors, with beauty pageants, in casino gambling, in the NFL. "The beat goes on," he relays in "The Art of the Deal." So far it has worked out for him. His ego would not allow him to reject the presidency once he won it, even though he apparently did not expect to, according to "Fire and Fury." Now he has a front row seat watching as it could all go down in flames, taking the family empire with it. Indeed, there is a madness to crowds. But also a wisdom. It looks like it is the latter that Trump never really thought through.

  35. This is a myopic view. 100 years ago, most people lived in the country, and corporations were less than 5% of the country. Your neighbors and the family you saw often all lived within 30 miles of you. Today, cultural wars online look at things phenomenologically, and without accepted norms of our neighbors and community, nothing stands as a given. Hobbes had a schizoid character flaw, one which does not allow for friends or family, or appeals to humanity. We are isolated. We are atomized. To stay scared is to be controlled by the powerful.

  36. 'You can't fool all the people all the time.' - but a power wielder can fool subjects by holding position, power, influence and fear over those somewhat less powerful and equally influential but within lesser spheres of influence. Example: The Republican Congress, who surely and collectively understand Trump's short comings but who also fully understand their own vulnerabilities. Trump can brazenly threaten to shoot someone on 5th Avenue, Congressional leadership will not object to ugly rhetoric so long as their own (and spouse and family and friends) office, lobbying future and reputation might be compromised if they did, if they do. 'The little' people rely on local leaders to set them straight, especially on policy and that trust can be easily compromised from those who wield the levers of information.

  37. Well done Mr. Cohen, well done. I am not sure why the obvious Trump card is not discussed more. In the very near future he will pardon all those around him and himself for their treasonous acts. This legal inoculation will hold because Mitch and Paul won't act to impeach, and that's the only legal recourse. So it falls to political recourse to remedy this situation. Voters will have one last opportunity to right these wrongs in the fall. If we fail, we have no one else to blame.

  38. For what it's worth, Mr. Trump has never fooled all of the people all of the time. He has not fooled Mr. Cohen, most readers of this newspaper or virtually anyone else whose living depends on getting their facts straight -- journalists, college professors, scientists, and most of important of all, the courts, the FBI and his own Department of Justice. He isn't the first to stain our democracy (Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Nixon) and probably won't be the last. Trump succeeds because his narcissistic personality regularly spawns fantastic claims about what he does and what is capable of (e.g reforming health care, but also how much money his casinos would make before they didn't and went bankrupt) and he is wealthy enough to surround himself with the cache of success. And he has mastered the art, for better or worse, of branding himself and his political opposition in ways that create neat, tidy packages that make him popular among people whose natural tendency is to assume that important people are important for a reason and are generally reliable without dwelling too much on substance. He gets votes for the same reason that it is easier to fill a football stadium than a concert hall and for the same reason that people flock to super hero movies more than "art" films. On an optimistic note, Mr. Cohen writes without the fear that people speaking up under past demagogues have had to live with. There is plenty better than Trump, but there have been worse, too.

  39. Last night I heard an interview on the radio with one of the Trump supporters who had been targeted by the Russian spies. He sounded pleased that the Russians "chose" his anti-Hillary campaign to use in their ads. He saw manipulation by Russians as a feather in his cap. He definitely sounded closer to the Russians with whom he agreed than with Americans who supported Hillary. How "off" is that? How do you fix that? Are we too far gone?

  40. Thank you, Roger, this is brilliant. Lonesome Rhodes pegged us exactly right. Nothing speaks more to the depravity of our current situation than the spectacle of those who cherish and revere 23 ambiguous words written on a piece of parchment 240 some years ago over the lives of innocent school children slaughtered on a regular basis in this country.

  41. Lonesome Rhodes is not representative of a lower class, but of the failure of parental support. As I recall the movie, his mother had a lot of uncles who she slept with, (but then so did John Vann in the movie "Bright Shining Lie" where he tried hard to live up to the ideals because his mother was a victim of the system -- which he tried to change. Both are the consequence of a social system and cultural influence. A break-down in community standards at every level (but not in every community). Hitler's father was so brutal to his sons that his stepbrother left home as soon as he was able, to avoid further beatings, leaving Adolph to deal with the brutal beatings of his father. Then there is an opposite extreme in "Glass Castle" where the parents, although highly dysfunctional, loved each other and did everything they could to keep their family intact. They continually supported their kids who relied on each other and all ended up with contented lives in NY except for one who unknowingly traded food & clothes for family connection. The child is the father of the man; In Trump's case, he never left being a child and is probably the most confused individual on Earth. Consider the legacy of his grandfather who made a fortune exploiting women, gold miners, etc. and for all his gold grasping, was not allowed to return to Germany, so he came to the only place that would accept him. His grandson must be one very confused individual. Too much contradiction in character -- if any.

  42. Republican and Trumpian strategy have coalesced around a simple principle: give people more money and they will give you their allegiance, even if they don't like you. Tax cuts, spending cuts, deficit spending, stripping out regulations that protect people, environment and the economy will put another thousand or so dollars into many annual incomes, at least until these short term measures expire. It's classic bait and switch, but it will buy Trump and his enablers their eight years...and then who cares? Eventually Democrats get reelected and spend their eight years trying to clean up the mess (Obama's task) while Republicans obstruct their efforts and blame Democrats for the mess left by the previous administration. We've seen this all before, but public memory is short, and that extra 30 bucks a week is hard to fault, even when accelerating monetary inflation eats up wage increases and leaves all but the affluent running in place.

  43. Mueller can only take us so far. My great fear ( and prediction) is that Trump will stand for high crimes and misdemeanors and NOT be impeached. The next "movie" to be written about will be the horror show we all will be living for the balance of the Trump administration when he remains in office and the country descends further.

  44. As I approach my 59th year on earth, I admit to having been part of the “maddening crowd” at one point or another. Everyone has been influenced by social, economic, techno, and media, to varying degrees. What differentiates people is their ability and/or wanting to search out reputable sources of information and filter that info through an open lens. What we have today are lazy thinkers who are easily attracted to like-minded sources, being individuals, crowds, or media. These same people are the perfect targets of those who wish to manipulate the conversation. There is power in wisdom. Unfortunately, the inverse does not always follow suite.

  45. One of the best pieces written by Roger Cohen. America has lost its social cohesion. Russians are only exploiting America's moment of political weakness and vulnerability. The 21st-century war is being played via the Internet and social media. The national security damage being done by Donald Trump will be costly.

  46. Your superb piece also reminds me that Reinhold Niebuhr, an inspiration for James Comey and Dr. Martin Luther King, believed that groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. And, no, I don’t think Trump is an individual in the sense any of them intended.

  47. Cohen column today is more observation than insight. We all know Trump is a charlatan - yet we duly elected him. The greater shame is that he is just so much worse than the other "leaders" here in America that have been selling us all easy answers to complex problems. And this goes not just for our Presidents - the hyper focus of our 24/7 media - but also for our Congress, Judiciary and state and local elected officials. We as Americans have tuned out from being an engaged electorate and, more importantly, citizens since we are no longer involved in resolving anything. If your school is being poorly run you can't change it without going to your local leaders, then to your State court, then to your state leaders, then to a higher State or a Federal court, then to Congress, then to a higher Federal court and then finally to the Supreme Court. And so it goes for health care, environmental issues, etc. Our Republic has lost any level of commonality and common sense with the people. Think about it - when a rogue county clerk contravenes a law regarding gay marriage licenses isn't this better resolved locally than turning this in to a Federal case and media spectacle that then gets played out needlessly for months on end? Our Republic is in crisis and its more than just Trump or the madness of crowds.

  48. Your contention that people voted for Donald Trump because they were "bored" (paragraph 6) is severely incorrect. 60% of the country has less than $500 in savings, we also have declining life expectancy among demographics that are key to Trump's support. So maybe the people that voted for Trump got "bored" with lives of financial insecurity and declining health?

  49. Well good luck with Trump and his acolytes fixing that. The ACA and many Obama initiatives were a path to helping more citizens get a leg up, maybe clean the air and water and hold the financial hegemony in check. Instead of incremental improvements on these issues we get Trump and the GOP taking us back 50 years right before our eyes. These policies being enacted are not going to end well. It may take awhile but it will not be pretty.

  50. D Cassidy, your theory has been proven wrong. The average trump voter did better financially than average American. The poorest Americans, who work for minimum wage and struggle with their bills, voted for Clinton.

  51. ah...here is the conundrum, are these followers bored because they lack the education to achieve more or the capacity to improve their lives, or simply sheep following the carnival barker to escape the dismal realization of their situation? What about the rest of us, who are being unwittingly caught in the whirlpool.

  52. And thus explains the right-wing embrace of Charter Schools while attacking higher education. Make generations of intellectually challenged and indoctrinated citizens who are easily motivated by reinforcing the falsity of thought, replaced by anger, frustration and miscalculations.

  53. The madness of American crowds, today, in 2018, with respect to politics? Probably since the birth of WMD, and following both World Wars in the 20th century, the advanced societies have been in an ironic situation. On one hand the masses must be stabilized, controlled, are considered dangerous, must be managed, must not swing too far to the left or the right politically, but on the other hand the narrative that the highest quality people in all spheres of life are in the public sphere must be maintained, that in controlling the masses we are not cutting into possibility of towering genius, when of course we are cutting into exactly that and lowering the standard of excellence. Prior to the two great wars, WMD, and for all suspicion concerning the masses, the masses could neither be controlled enough nor were considered dangerous enough to cut into production of great military leaders, great artists, great scientists, triumphs in virtually all fields. But now the masses must be controlled, must be managed as sheep, and all fields have seen a sharp decline in the towering genius. Instead we have public figures who seem not much better than the average person in crowd, and this sets up a tremendous hostility. Why should such and such a person be considered the best in his or her field when obviously history shows there were better in the past and that there must be any number of actual contenders today? It's a contemptible life, sheep led by not much more than sheep.

  54. May I name an example of the madness of crowds where madness takes on its other possible meaning, justifiably angry. Listen to Emma Gonzalez - video and transcribed text readily available - and to the crowd call and response. A voice whose sanity is an infinite distance from that of the Senator from Florida, and a crowd supporting her sanity. Yes, I know that perhaps the sanity of some in that crowd is already weakening. I read that some teachers want to become armed and that in Alabama a law has been proposed to arm them. Individual insanity on display. Only-NeverInSweden.blogspot.com Dual citizen US SE

  55. This semester I showed my Media Programming & Ratings class "Network." I have been doing this for more than a dozen years. The primary reason is that Paddy Chayefsky so perfectly uses the terms and concepts of the television business, but it is also to remind my college students that: "You're beginning to believe this illusion we're spinning here...."

  56. Let's blame the victims here. The real fact here is that almost all media outlets are corporately owned and their message is tailored to keep the oligarchy I power by distraction and misinformation. Although inartfully stated, Trump is right about the concept of "fake news" being applicable to mass media. The response has been what it always is; the commandeering of language to make his accusation of fake news into something else in the minds of the public. Ordinarily, corporate media loves the election of conservative, corporate supporting candidates, but Trump committed a cardinal sin to cause the oligarchy to turn against him, he used a "populist" message to get elected(albeit he had no intention of being a populist after election). But if the readers of the NYTs need any proof that the media commandeers language, research the meaning of the word populist. It was previously not a perjorative term in that it implies support for the working class over the interests of corporate and wealthy interests.

  57. Also to be included, Roger, I'm thinking of the GW Bush III administrative operative who told a reporter, "We create our own reality every day." And then we have Trump, who is the apotheosis of this. What is so tragic and frightening to me is that Trump's followers will NOT know when he is compromised. They will refuse to know. He's their religion; he's all they have left; they're betting the house on him. "Apres lui, L' enfer!"

  58. All so true. There is biological root to this behavior. We are a tribal species. Tribes are run by authoritarian figures. We call them tribal chiefs. This forms the most elementary system of governance when societies began to organize in groups larger than hunter gatherer clans, which is about 25 people. You do what the chief says or get tossed out and if you get tossed out, you get picked off by predators or other competing tribes. This creates reproductive selection to breed following into our behaviors. In fact, some anthropologists have written that society is comprised of about 10% leaders and 90% followers. Nature has achieved this balance so that there are enough followers to have cohesive society which improves reproductive fitness and the 10% provide social and technological advance which does so also. Religion is also structured around central, authoritarian figures. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, were all authoritarian figures. Basically, I'm arguing that nature has created us to all act like a bunch of sheep. The 10% reads this paper. Many, many more worship at the feet of Hannity and Limbaugh who tell them what to do. They are the chiefs to the followers. What Trump and the GOP have done is exploit this inherent weakness in humanity for profit and power. Those that follow have no idea that they are being led. They think they are independent agents. They are not. They are sheep. Their flock is pushing all of us over a cliff.

  59. "Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, were all authoritarian figures." I can't speak for all of them, but neither Jesus nor Buddha was authoritarian. They may have been regarded as authorities, but that's very different from being authoritarian. Read what they wrote, then read up on authoritarianism. You can start with Bob Altemeyer's research. For one thing, there's a very strong insider/outsider element to authoritarianism that is completely absent in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha. See the parable of the Good Samaritan (which deliberately portrays as hero a despised outsider) and the Buddhist saying, "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha" and its insistence that you take nothing on faith. (Sorry, I'm not too up on Buddhist teachings.) Both are far from authoritarian, whatever conservative Christians of today would have you believe.

  60. But I thought humans were the most intelligent form of life.

  61. I would hardly call the Buddha an authoritarian figure.

  62. Trump will be undone. However, he is just a symptom. If we do not figure out how to resolve the major structural problems within this world, there will soon be another Beale or Rhodes or Trump.

  63. Nothing wrong with another Beale. We could use a lot more of them.

  64. One moment, please. I applaud the general line of this piece. I have a high regard for your thinking and writing. However, I must object to the following sentence: "Americans voted him [Trump, that is] into office after he said that." The English language is rich in modifiers and determiners. Properly represented, your "Americans" would clearly show themselves to be decidedly less than "the Americans" or "a majority of Americans" or even "a plurality of those Americans who voted". What you mean is that some Americans (a shamefully large number, yes) voted for Trump; those votes were cast in crucial districts; and Trump became president *without* being the People's choice. I understand what happened here. That oddly indeterminate "Americans" shows that the sentence in question is simply one of those weak links that force themselves into the pivotal paragraphs of excellent but imperfect discourses. It's true enough that American society, in thrall as it is to a charlatan and his admirers, exhibits dystopian madness. Many Americans have been swept up by the forces you cite, and not only since the advent of Donald Trump. If only one could refer to them as "the Americans", life would be a bit easier for essayists. The fact that one cannot do so is at least a source of hope for the country and the world. http://thefamilyproperty.blogspot.jp/2018/01/the-voyage-to-restoration.html

  65. spot on. such word carelessness is atypical of roger. "those who voted for him" is more accurate. as an upper middle class, California liberal, I do not have a fig of responsibility for this mess. sadly, I am stuck with the outcome which I really do dread.

  66. The spirit of the times in America does not reflect honor or high purpose: it reflects a love of the dollar. Trump was promoted for decades because he had a TV persona and a reputation as a successful businessman. On Presidents’ Day, yesterday, the cohosts of the ABC show, The View, told us that Trump had been a guest on the show a staggering 18 times, going back through the years. Thanks ladies! Many of those who voted for Trump are not devoted followers of his but of some brand of Christianity. They rejected abortion and anything tainted by socialism. Or they followed established leaders (with old names like Graham and Falwell). In the end, the majority of Trump voters were traditional, reliable GOP voters, and were never going to vote for Clinton. Yes, America seems to be in a mess. There is little nobility of character and no sense of obligation among the profiteers of today.

  67. Discouragingly, the "hot mike" moment already occurred with Trump with the Access Hollywood tape, and it did nothing to dent his popularity. It did destroy Billy Bush's career, however, perhaps making him a better person. Nothing will ever make The Donald a better person but perhaps Robert Mueller will make him an ex-president sooner rather than later.

  68. This is the reason why we need a truly progressive agenda. Things fall apart; including human society. It's a natural part of life on Earth; a fundamental Law. In order to avoid being swept away by the madness, the destruction, we need to be moving forward. Always. I grew up near the water. We had a boat. And we also had a plan for securing the boat when the weather turned ugly. We didn't wait til the hurricane flags went up. We had a plan;we had the extra ropes etc that we needed. And, though we lost some bits and pieces and took on more water than we wanted to, we never lost the boat.

  69. "They lie, they exploit, they seek distraction at any price from the monotony of existence. " That, as much as any other reason, explains Trump's election. He was elected specifically to distract and entertain, not to actually do any "governing". At this point, there are many more cynics in terms what people believe are the abilities of government to improve our lot. Politics and politicians are viewed as commodities by these people much more so than humans that have real abilities to shape our world for the better. That's what results in a Trump. People, given the choice, want to be entertained, all other things being equal. Even I would admit that Trump, in a grotesque and increasingly macabre fashion, is a lot more fascinating than Hillary Clinton in a "I can't believe what he's doing now" kind of way. Before the election, as it became clear that he had a real chance to pull off this inside straight, I feared that the practical joke of his election would be too irresistible for most people to not indulge in. Unfortunately, my instinct was right. They wanted this circus to come to town. Hope they're enjoying the show so far.

  70. Interesting, we were in Italy in 2012 and stayed long enough to delve into Italian life behind the picture postcard facade. When we asked several Italians how Berlusconi got elected and stayed in office for so long, they said that, while Italians didn't take politics very seriously, they found Berlusconi's antics entertaining and good for a laugh. Of course he owns TV networks, Trump was the real deal, an actual cable TV entertainer. Americans, like the Italians before them, whether they love or hate DJT, are hooked on the unfolding Soap Opera in the Whitehouse.

  71. We see variations of this throughout our history while technology accelerates the pace of fake news in a way that was unimaginable even for the prescient film Network. But while we have had demigods like like Huey Long, Joe McCarthy, George Lincoln Rockwell, David Duke and others, Trump has managed to command attention in a manner only dreamed above by other charlatans. It reminds me of the phrase, “We don’t want to look but we can’t look away either.” He craves attention and he gets it. At any moment of the day whether it’s Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and others, it’s Trump all the time. Sure, there is heavy criticism but that doesn’t matter because it’s all about him and for Trump, publicity is what counts.

  72. Exactly. The media plays right into his hands, despite that fact that he's damaging their credibility, because they can't help themselves. It's about rating and money. This is what Stalin meant when he allegedly said that "capitalism will sell the rope by which to hang itself."

  73. However, unlike the characters that Peter Finch and Andy Griffith embodied, Trump is real. We don't have a screenwriter willing to end this disaster with a classic "fall from grace" in the third act. The GOP Congress could help write the end, but as of now, their pens have been silent...

  74. Perhaps the people, with mere pencils, can eventually write that downfall third act.

  75. No, we don't have a screenwriter to come to the rescue, but we still have the intelligent American people left.

  76. I remember going to see a play in London in the late 60's I think the central premise of which was that the great lumpen mass of society would be controlled by watching members of the elite ruling class having sex on TV. I'm often reminded of this play by today's often coarse and sex obsessed media.

  77. “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” ― George Carlin “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” ― Albert Einstein “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” ― Napoléon Bonaparte “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” ― Søren Kierkegaard “We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.” ― Christopher Hitchens Regressive, reactionary, religious, Republican America keeps rolling right along, surfing massive waves of American stupidity and heartfelt conviction that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” The Party of Stupid proudly supports their Moron-In-Chief and American 'free-dumb !' "I'm With Stupid !" TRUMP 2018 Register and vote November 6 2018 Help cure American stupidity in your lifetime.

  78. "Nobody ever got rich overestimating the intelligence (or wisdom,) of the American People."

  79. Or at least put it in remission.

  80. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups...George Carlin "Half of the American people have never read a newspaper; half have never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half...Gore Vidal Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies...Groucho Marx When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro...Hunter S. Thompson It's easier to fool someone than convince them they were fooled...Mark Twain

  81. Trump's been doing hot tweets constantly. All they've done is ensure that further tweets are taken to be mere entertainment, except that foreign leaders have to be told that's what they are by Administration officials.

  82. David--He's a cowardly, guilty criminal who imagines himself in prison. I hope his worst fears come true.

  83. Recently spotted bumper sticker: "Elect a clown, expect a circus" According to Gallup's Feb 18 weekly Trump approval poll average, 37% of America are still buying tickets to the circus, now aptly renamed the Moscow Cat Circus. Another 59% are boosting mainstream media ratings, hoping to learn when the circus is leaving town and who is going to clean up the mess this time. Historians of all political orientations, some 91 of them, have ranked Trump dead last among American Presidents. Considering the competition around the bottom, that is impressive.

  84. Look Ahead--"Got Mind?" "Question Authority." "No, I won't accept that. I have basic morals." "Think Twice Before You Act." "I Will Fight for Democracy." "Don't Necessarily Believe What You Already Think." "Gather Information."

  85. That gives cat circuses a bad name.

  86. The survey that ranked the American presidents was incredibly biased and unrepresentative of the American people. I know for a fact that all 91 surveyed historians were literate.

  87. The invention of the printing press and later the radio and after it the television led to similar social disruptions until societies adjusted to the enhancements in information exchange, the power of manipulators of public opinion diminished, and the processes of social change adapted to the new technologies. We will survive the disruptions brought on by the technology of social media. That is, if someone does not launch a nuclear missile first. There is a crisis bearing down upon us that will reunite the US and all of humanity - climate change.

  88. Are you kidding. When the real effects of climate change hit hard the disruptions in societies will be enormous. Every man for himself will be more prevalent than usual.

  89. "...societies adjusted to the enhancements in information exchange, the power of manipulators of public opinion diminished . . ." Alan Wright: I would assert that this has never happened, not remotely. What has happened, by degrees, is that information has replaced knowledge and become synonymous with manipulation. We increasingly are given not knowledge on which to form an opinion, but opinions to choose from, provided by interested parties. We chase ever more simplistic & polarized versions of "our" opinions, as the alternatives become more threatening. I don't mean to suggest that the past was some Athenian utopia of knowledge & rational debate, but knowledge & rational debate did have a place in the relations between the powerful and the rest of us. Now they do not.

  90. "We will survive the disruptions brought on by the technology of social media." - The historical analysis that says "we survived" the printing press, and electronic media means that we will survive social media leaves out the fact that the historical rise of the printing press and the historical rise of electronic media were quickly followed by significant carnage. In Europe, the Reformation/Counter-Reformation was triggered by the printing press, and the rise of "cheap print" and pamphleteering resulted in the overlapping civil wars in England, Scotland, and Ireland and related atrocities and carnage that still impact relations on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland today. Hitler's propaganda machine likewise harness the new technology. So, the statement "we will survive" social media really depends on who you mean by "we." If "we" = the human race, I agree with you. But the fact that millions died in the downstream history of the earlier rise of new media technologies like pamphleteering and moving images should not make us so sanguine today about our personal and families' prospects.

  91. If only it were true. But I don't believe that there will be a hot mic moment for Trump. The voters that support him do so because he is despised by people that they hate. Nothing will change that dynamic.

  92. I didn’t vote for him, nor did my husband or our friends. We saw a number of flaws in Clinton –too quick to turn to military options, too much of a bureaucrat and incrementalist –but these were minor, when compared to the consequences of electing any Republican, let alone Trump. We care about the environment, Social Security and Medicare, the infrastructure – all issues upon which we felt safe with Clinton. Under no circumstances would we have supported a charlatan,incompetent, narcissist like Trump. It is true that there is a mob –people you can fool all of the time. There are also those whom you can fool some of the time; but frankly, I do not think that the latter are Trumpers. Mainstream Republicans who voted for Trump voted a straight ticket, and most assumed Trump would lose. One Republican friend, who broke ranks to vote for Clinton at the top of the ticket, told me that although he had never before voted for a Democrat, he felt safe with her because she was intelligent and tough. There are also those who you can fool none of the time –the ones who, painful as it may be, reverse course and walk the other way when the crowd, including perhaps their employers or teachers, heads in a direction thst they view as dangerous or wrong, With the 2018 midterms months away and the Mueller investigation proceeding, these are the people who may lead us out of this nightmare. There will always be a mob. But the mob need not always rule. We have 8 1/2 months to find our way out.

  93. It's no wonder, Mr. Cohen, but Mr. Trump has gotten to you. I have several remedies for relief: 1) Take a longer view of history, and put more emphasis on structures and forces than individuals. 2) Take up an avocation like playing stride piano, read whimsical poetry by Edward Lear, or ride a bike along country roads. 3) If those suggestions fail, take Richard Luettgen's advice and try prozac or some other happy pill.

  94. Here is American hucksterism gone totally berserk. Yes, there's a long heritage of it here, as in other forms elsewhere. Yes, you can fool some of the people all of the time. It's hoped that those "some" in parts of the Electoral College territory will come to their senses. I'm from a county in PA that hadn't gone Republican in recent memory (voted Obama twice) and went for Trump in 2016. From this course of history, it seems that most people here might be able to return to reality, not just reality TV.

  95. Without doubt, many if not most of the Republican side of Congress and the Senate agree with everything said in this column yet they affirmatively support Trump. They even obediently swoon over him as in their disgusting display after passage of the Tax Cuts for Rich Folks Bill was enacted. The simplest reason must be that they have made the calculation that doing so better enhances reelection than would disagreeing with him. After all, for Trump and his minions, disagreement with him is criticism, and criticism is an attack. They must be voted out in November because it is highly probable that eventually Mueller will have enough evidence to indict Trump on one or all of conspiracy to commit election fraud, money laundering, or obstruction of justice. Yet, there is no reason to believe that a Republican controlled House will impeach Trump for those reasons or even if he "shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue." Flipping the House and Senate may be America's last best hope. Two more years of this guy and what we formerly thought was America will be found only in an ancient history text.

  96. My siblings and I were raised to be skeptical and to vote progressively. I can still hear my mother saying that Americans are like sheep. I don't know why some people see the truth and others do not; I think about it every day and am amazed and saddened by my friends who watch Fox and cannot be disabused of what they believe. To me, Fox News, the NRA, and dark money are anti-democratic elements in our country and Trump and the GOP are in with it all. I hope young people rebel, register to vote, and refuse to follow along-they may be our only hope.

  97. Bolsheviks were actually mensheviks and Tories probably outnumbered Patriots. It only takes some of the people--maybe a bit more than 30%.

  98. The movie Madness of the Crowd was produced in 1957 starring Andy Griffith. It was Andy's first role in the movies preceding TV's lovable sheriff of "Mayberry" years earlier. I remember watching it a few years back and thinking it could have been the life story of Rush Limbaugh minus the "hot mic" episode but including the bombast and the ability to sell it to the masses via radio. Limbaugh is from southeast Missouri, just a few short miles from Arkansas where Griffith's character was said to be from even though it was set 25 years earlier than Limbaugh's rise to fame. It's as if Limbaugh patterned his career after this fictional character. Later Russian trolls have undoubtedly been inspired by this story.

  99. Indeed. I didn't recognize any of the quotes but I did first think that one might be from Limbaugh.

  100. I think what you're talking about is the movie "A Face in the Crowd" that the author mentioned....

  101. This may all be true but the US has a long history of being "Fantasyland",the title of a new book by Kurt Andersen which helps put the current state into context. Additionally, the parochialism and disdain for education in the broadest sense makes us particularly susceptible to Heel Spur's nature and message.The jury is out (no pun) on whether Americans recognize Trump for what he is or see output from Mueller etc as more evidence of Fake News from the Deep State.

  102. a more accurate and meaningful title is "the desperation of crowds." All these demagogues-- going back to Caesar, if you read Shakespeare, climbed upon the downtrodden and hopeless. Meanwhile the chattering classes continue to deal in scorn

  103. Trump is seriously flawed and possessed of openly displayed messianic qualities. But he portrays himself as Everyman. He resonates with many who are themselves flawed, who believe that through no fault of their own they are without options or hope, and who believe that they need do nothing to improve their situations other than to show loyalty to a strong leader who gives them legitimacy and agency, perhaps the only time in their lives they've shared this experience. These people care little if at all about politics, about social norms, and about the dynamics of the larger world. That's not to say there aren't legitimate grievances and issues; it is to say that they need someone, even figureheads if not leaders, to tell them what they want to hear, to reaffirm their own sense of worth and place. Trump is no leader; he is himself more a figurehead than he may be able to acknowledge. As he manipulates his followers, he is also being manipulated. He also needs reaffirmation and approval. Despite his bluster, he is influenced by and takes direction from others. He may only want to be a figurehead; a titular head of state. This dynamic, that both Trump and his "constituents" are followers, is at the root of our current problem that must be addressed.

  104. No, I think the real problem consumer options and choices. =============================================== We are under the illusion that because we have so many choices, today, we can tune Trump off, in our lives, and simply wait for him to leave office. Trump is everywhere. He is on every TV channel, whether we like it our not. There is no escape. He is not going away. We can't just wait until he is gone. We have become too passive, as consumers. Now, we must act politically. We must get involved in political change, at the grassroots level. No time to wait! We can mobilized resistance. We can develop creative media messages. ====================================================== The question is... will we rise up, now, or must we keep "waiting for Godot"?

  105. For another sobering view of where we stand today, take a look at the following TED presentation by the former finance minister of Greece: https://www.ted.com/talks/yanis_varoufakis_capitalism_will_eat_democracy... • Liberal democracy only surfaced when it was possible to separate fully the political sphere from the economic sphere, so as to confine the democratic process fully in the political sphere, leaving the economic sphere -- the corporate world, if you want -- as a democracy-free zone. • In our democracies today, this separation of the economic from the political sphere gave rise to an epic struggle between the two, with the economic sphere colonizing the political sphere, eating into its power. • One can be in government today and not in power, because power has migrated from the political to the economic sphere, which is separate.

  106. So far, it is mostly a peculiarity of the right wing to accept a messiah or a fuhrer, or in our current case, a snake-oil salesman. "True Believers", as defined by Eric Hoffer in his trenchant little book, usually are full of the insecurities, resentment, and just-below-the-surface rage that characterizes today's right. We on the left were, however, fooled by the soaring, seemingly progressive, rhetoric of one Barack Obama, who ran as a progressive change agent but who governed like the moderate Republican guardian of the status quo ante that he turned out to be. Millions of us were so negatively affected by Obama that we didn't vote for Hillary, and now we have Trump. If the country can survive him - and McConnell - and Ryan - and the rest of the GOP wrecking crew, look for a liberal resurgence. In the meantime, down we go to second-, or even third-rate status.

  107. What are your solutions? And this is all fine if you view the world in one dimension, from a silo. But the problem is systemic. "Look around". It's happening all across the West. There appear to be a lot of weak, susceptible, easily manipulated people in the world searching for Messiahs, according to your theory. In Poland. Hungary. Austria. Germany. France. Great Britain. You need to address the root cause of why so many people across the developed world are "ready to roll the dice". Perhaps it’s because the system you espoused and represented for the past 25 years has failed them spectacularly? The passage about technology is also part of the answer, and the stresses it is causing are just beginning, because it's going to fundamentally re-architect civilization in the next 20 years. But the other part is that globalization has decimated the middle classes of the developed world and raised inequality to society-destabilizing levels. And now technology is about to compound the problem by an order of magnitude, if changes aren't made. Unfortunately, we're now entering the most challenging era in history in a position of profound weakness, because of the catastrophic legacy of neoliberal globalization. You may soon find yourself nostalgic for the days of Trump, because the next President may be much, much worse. He is not an aberration. This is the new normal. We are Rome. I thought you had that figured out by now. And your beloved Europe is even worse.

  108. Since Roger Cohen is no cynic, I have to assume this column reflects the natural frustration that arises from observing the first year in office of the most bizarre, unfit man ever to occupy the Oval Office. But like all analyses that focus on only one facet of a complex issue, Cohen's essay distorts reality. Writing like a latter day H. L. Mencken (but without the dark humor), Cohen easily identifies the wide streak of insanity that has always distinguished our political culture from that of most other stable democracies. Other countries (Germany, for example) have experienced nervous breakdowns that facilitated the rise of demagogues, but even in quiet periods American politics accommodates peculiar, often autocratic, personalities and fringe movements. Until now, though, we never elevated such strange creatures to the presidency. If American weakness for vicious and unqualified candidates defined our political culture, however, the republic could not have survived for more than two centuries. Even now, battered by this administration's assaults on our institutions, millions of Americans have organized a vigorous resistance. Investigative journalism has enjoyed a renaissance; citizen groups have applied unprecedented pressure on elected officials to reject Trump initiatives; and the government itself has launched an investigation into the administration. Crowds can be mad, but they can also act with a controlled fury inspired by devotion to democratic values.

  109. When he announced his candidacy, I immediately thought of "A Face in the Crowd," and hoped trump's downfall would be just as swift and brutal as that of Lonesome Rhodes. I'm still waiting.

  110. So you think an open mic catching Trump saying what he really thinks about his supporters would sink him? Did you forget that during the presidential campaign Trump, speaking at a podium, openly told a crowd of his supporters that he loves the poorly educated?

  111. I watched the movie Network when it first came out in theaters. I thought it was heavy handed and a bit absurdist. As time past and I watched it over the years, more and more of the absurdist aspects seemed to change. In my mind what was changing was the world around me. I have it on my list to watch it again and see how I view the movie characters against what is happening in America. I think the ideas and plot of the movie may ring more true today than ever before. The current person in the White House and many of the republicans in Congress can been seen in the background plot and the dialogue in the movie. I hope Americans can see through what these people are really like and vote them out of office in 2018 and 2020.

  112. You see just Republicans? I see the entire 2016 race, and a threat to do it again.

  113. I wish I could share the optimism near the end of your column, Mr. Cohen, about Mr. Tump waiting for his hot mic moment. Surely that moment has come already, in so many forms and examples that they are hardly worth enumerating here. What worries me in this cycle is that the alt-right is more angry, more mean, more credulous, and far more petty than ever before. They only know two things: tweaking liberals, and willfully ignoring the amoral behaviour of their leader. I no longer believe Trump supporters were conned; it is clear to me they are knowing participants in the magic trick, and know that they are being tricked. How messed up is that?

  114. I regret that you may be too optimistic about the chances of a downfall. As in the last election, a polled 37 percent approval rating, now in the face of Russia investigations, corruption, prostitutes, self-dealing, misgovernment and all the rest translates into a much higher number inside the voting booth. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel secured the unquestioning votes of 50 million-plus Christian Evangelicals in the coming mid-terms. A flag-filled, gilt-covered opening of a new (i.e. slapped together) U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on or about October 1, 2020, Trump presiding in all his glory, will ensure those votes and many others for a second Trump term. And that's all if Trump doesn't force a violent, perhaps devastating war in order to draw attention away from the investigations. Even the press declared him (temporarily) Presidential last year for the mere act of resorting to yet additional military action. Hoi polloi love nothing better than a great, patriotic war, at least at the beginning.

  115. Alas, Roger Cohen misses the point. Hobbes wasn't describing his own daily life (it was life in the wild, bare and unaccommodated, he was referring to) and "Network" isn't a study of a mad charismatic newsman, but a look at corporate-produced news itself. Purveyed by sensible people like, well, Roger Cohen. For profit. It's the mainstream which should have to answer for Trump. You can't lie selectively and self-interestedly about the big stuff, for years on end, and not expect to poison the well, for everything.

  116. Nor offer up someone widely disliked, urging us to hold our noses because they say the alternative is worse.

  117. Donald J. Trump is the demon child of Madison Avenue, better known as the Advertising Industry. Howard Beale is the zombie who suddenly comes alive and realizes his bewichment. You may not agree that the awfully successfully rich advertising industry -since it signs your own paycheck - is the demon behind the crushing blow to education and the reason for its demon child capturing the White House. We are educated by media advertising, we live in tv commercials which dominate irresistible programming. Candidates for political office need the means to pay for mind-snaring commercials, and these requirements form the foundation for corruption. Note that Trump needed very little funds to run for office; he had tv and the media at absolutely no cost. More so, the media begged to cover him, paid to cover him, every minute of every sad day ... sad for America ... “sad”, the demon’s favorite word. Hopefully, wishfully, Howard Beale will emerge in the American crowd, yelling that we won’t take it any more, i.e., once the day arrives when a democracy begins to realize that the advertising industry requires strong, meaningful government regulation. Tragically for us it continues nurturing a society educated on lies and deception — the “hustle” — and one malignantly deprived of academics, when the concept of free speech is not so comfortably granted to destroyers of freedom of speech.

  118. Roger, another man wisely observed that you can easily fool enough of the people long enough to utterly destroy a country. Trump will eventually face some form of justice, but how will that help the rest of us in the end?

  119. I purposely re-watched "A Face in the Crowd," during the final days of the 2016 campaign. Russia and GOP messaging is indeed a danger to democracy....but only because of the ignorance, gullibility, desperation, and hate sensors, of the masses. For decades the Republican have run effective ad campaigns setting the stage for the grand manipulator to rise to power.

  120. "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." H. L. Mencken

  121. Wrong and deeply unfortunate. I agree about Trump, but the millions who voted for him are not all, or even mostly, stupid or ignorant or under the sway of a new messiah. They are people who feel disconnected from the nation's government and its priorities, who want the focus to be on their jobs, their families, their communities. I deeply support LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage; immigrant rights and dreamers; free trade; the right to abortion; and universal health care. But we New York Times readers (stereotype: upper middle class, college-educated, blue-state coastal-dwellers; anyone you know?) need to realize that those "others", those who deeply disagree with us, are also reasonable people of good will. We need to put our hearts into reestablishing a true dialogue, rather than into the kind of nasty school-yard name-calling exemplified in this article.

  122. There once was a whole population The citizens of our great nation Who were duped by a man And by some in his clan Who leveraged our polarization

  123. The upside of democracy is that the people rule. The downside of democracy is that the people rule. The notion that anyone was "fooled" by Trump, Russian hacking, big media, et. al. is comforting only if you believe in the tooth fairy. As soon as these scoundrels are rounded up and given a lashing, America will be alright again. If you are waiting for that to happen, don't hold your breath. The current political arrangements of money totally corrupting politics is only accelerating the brutish behavior of the governed as they exercise their will.

  124. Pity the poor "Edgar Bergens" who, so far have kept him from getting us blown up. Edgar, However, actually did control Charlie McCarthy, while sometimes it seems Trump has reversed the roles and is pulling all our strings. I often feel sorry for Sarah Sanders who has to know The terrible truth she daily destroys.

  125. Perhaps "you can't fool all the people all of the time". But, as Mencken opined "You can fool too many people too much of the time." And that's all it takes to send things down the tubes.

  126. Trump was enabled not just by the masses but by media across the political spectrum in search of profits. The television networks embraced reality shows. Cable news gave Trump disproportionate coverage during the primary season. Elites with Ivy League and Wall Street backgrounds have facilitated Trumo in the administration and Congress. For starters, Harvard's Rob Porter in the White House and Princeton's crow-eating Ted Cruz in Congress.

  127. This is just about the best essay I've read on Mr. Trump & his appeal. But especially after the last 2 administrations, where the distance between reality and public perception reached absurd proportions, I've begun to wonder: can you fool all the people all the time? I don't think that the question of whether or not the scales will fall from Trumps' followers eyes will depend on anything he's caught doing; it will depend on some conflict arising between his greed and the greed of Fox & the right wing media.

  128. As usual, the most dangerous enemy is apathy. Scoundrels will ply their trade; crude and demented types like Trump will flagrantly flare up and then out, while more crafty ones, like McConnell and Ryan, will last longer. Will we care sufficiently to figure out their motives and devices, and then actively resist? In his great novel, The Plague, Camus advocates the humanist response to the absurdity and the cruelties of life. But he notes that "the habit of despair is worse than despair itself." We can become inured to the avarice, stupidity, and evil we see around us. It can be hard to watch, and daunting to perceive its advances. Ultimately, progress is inexorable, but it can often be subjected to painful and egregiously-long interruptions. It takes stamina and determination to continue along the arc described by Dr. King. Let's not let Trump and his cohorts beat that resolve out of us. There is too much at stake.

  129. To understand Donald Trump as a Mobbist (he is no Populist), one need only look at professional wrestling. Not for nothing is he in their Hall of Fame.

  130. I fail understand the point of this article other than the author's desire to slip in a plug for his books. America spoke. We were not duped. We chose.

  131. Mr. Cohen. The media goes full circle and comes back on itself! Hollywood is duplicitous in the creation of Trump types. If the Media is the message think of P T Barnum "there's a sucker born everyday!" When one thinks of Paddy Chayefsky a prominent Liberal from the 1950's -who should be respected- I remeber how the real anti-establishment thinkers were trying to alert us: Kerouac , Ginsburg ,the music of Charlie Parker and others. Chayefsky's effort was, it is correct, an attempt to say 'something, he probably was influenced by Liberal failures of his own and others to influence the populace.of his time? If you need a Hollywood reference here is one{ a rare instance of authenticity} that illuminates the Political realities of populism : All The Kings Men 1949 a take on Huey Long's run in Louisiana, Having said all this the Intellectuals of the 1950's look like minor deities compared to todays "thinkers".

  132. In the US, Trump doesn't have to fool all of the people or even some of the people. Thanks to the electoral college, he only needs to fool enough people in key districts in the rust belt. It is time to go to a popular vote approach in Presidential elections. Low population states already have outsized influence in the Senate.

  133. Isn't it fantastic how crowds can be manipulated by madmen. If you look into history there's a continuous stream of bad fellows pressing their devious ideas into the brains of the masses and those believe it. It's a procedure you normally argue that can't be true but it happens, over and over again. With an advancing civilization you hope there will come better times, but nada the next madcap is on the scene.

  134. I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Cohen. I, too, have always seen Trump as a kind of malevolent Howard Beale, with a poisonous dash of Jerzy Kozinski’s Chauncey Gardener, as portrayed by Peter Sellers, thrown in. As an analyst opined recently, I also detect a massive inferiority complex in Trump’s constant childish need to defend himself, as well as the indefensible, when no one else will. Add to the above a public that is strung out on opioids, guns, unreality television, brain-killing football and commodity fetishism, and you have just what Putin and the doctored election ordered.

  135. Some quite brilliant analogies here.One must also keep in mind that before his television shows, DJT was the prince of the tabloids.He truly believed that all publicity was good.The feuds,the bankruptcies, the marital woes spread across the front pages of supermarket rags and the like. Back then he was mostly considered a loud mouthed, self-aggrandizing buffoon, little has changed in that quarter. The real danger that came to pass is that he parlayed those characteristics into convincing voters that he was a man of the people,a crusader who vowed to upend the Washington Establishment. In reality what he pulled off is probably the biggest political scam in history. He promised to have advisers and a cabinet of the best. What a sad joke. Advisers and close associates who couldn't get security clearance for a job in the Bronx Zoo! A cabinet of inept, pampered individuals who think that their accustomed lifestyles should be extended by the taxpayers. What is most disturbing is the manipulation of facts and ideologies. We are a nation strongly divided and the tensions are bellowed by outlets such as Fox News. There could very likely be violence here soon.Since we have devolved into a third rate banana republic, the bullets and street riots might not be far off.

  136. The now-how man grabbed many by their desire for gratification in the now. Buying a stake in the plan for the bridge to tomorrow was for many too far of a reach to make. The no-plan man was the Lotto.

  137. Our grand experiment is self-government sets the bar high. It requires 'Citizens' who are so much more than voters. Citizens seek and respect 'Truth'. They pursue the Common Good. They are women and men of Integrity. But a consumer-based society promotes different characteristics; Instant Gratification, Malleability, Material over Morality. Our Founders "pledged....(their) Sacred Honor"... Honor!! How quaint it now seems from here....

  138. I really wish people would stop saying Trump won the election... An arcane systemput Trump into office. And I lived in Appalachia.. where Trump was more popular than Hillary whom I couldn't stand either... but I did not vote for Trump except that my every so importan and well informed friends assure me that I did. Trump won because the rest of the Republan candidates were worse... and he campaigned.. which Mrs. Clinton did not deem necessary.. She thought it was more impt. to have impt. people go out and campaign for her. NO. (Too much Hollywood -- it was not about the e-mails, but it was about the sense of privilege -- encouraged by the Times -- "I am going to be the first woman president (and Bill and 'Barrack both support me!) -- and the endless fundraisers. ) BTW had Oprah run, I believe she would have won. (she would have campaigned>) Clinton had everything she needed but she did not use it... and frankly, I am concerned about her health (remember that issue?). I'm not sur Trump fooled anyone. What we have learned it seems is that too many people think more or less exactly as he does (or are equally paranoid and narcisistic -- finally in my mind I have identified the condition which explains at least some of what is going on.) Paranoia and narcissisim. and throw in greed for good measure.

  139. Don’t know why youthink Hillary Clinton didn’t campaign. She’s been criticized for making a bad decision not to campaign in Wisconsin, for example, but she campaigned hard elsewhere. I remember reading reports during 2016 that her campaign schedule was much heavier than Trump’s.

  140. A hot mic recorded plenty before the election but he won. I think his base is still strong with him. Florida will be key for the next election.

  141. Andy Griffith was phenomenal and scary in "A Face in the Crowd." See it, if you haven't, then for comic relief after you're utterly depressed that today's truth is even stranger than that fiction, watch Griffith in "No Time for Sargeants" and/or "Daddy and Them." Then to be gobsmacked once more about the likelihood that Trump will continue to fool way too many people all the time, listen to Malcolm Gladwell's "Revisionist History" podcast episode 10 entitled, "The Satire Paradox." Good column, Mr. Cohen!

  142. So, that's the American excuse for its failures? That "people are fragile"? I didn't hear this excuse when you were going to bomb Iraq to oblivion in 2003. The Iraqi didn't have the benefit of the doubt.

  143. "You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on." ~Donald Trump - The Art of the Deal~ He is 70+ with nothing to lose. He is running The Con as long as he can at the end of his time here on Earth....and he does not care.

  144. As Mr. Cohen's editorial illustrates there is certainly correlation between the crowd's behavior and the demagogue of the moment, but I would have to question cause and effect. Is the crowd out there so embittered by their miserable status, both economically and socially, that they would relish eating dog food in order to support the rabble rouser ? Is the crowd more impassioned by its desire to punish another group (racial, immigrational, religious, whatever) than it is in fostering its own best interests ? Does the rabble rouser sway the crowd or is the crowd milling about just waiting for the most obnoxious rabble rouser to stir up the conventional ?

  145. I respect and would love to believe Mr. Cohen's prediction that sooner or later our aptly-described "mean and vulgar charlatan" will be done in, either by a hot mic or by the realization he's compromised. However, I see little cause for optimism at the moment. Trump has already HAD a "hot mic" moment (with Billy Bush) and was elected anyway. His failure to do anything about now-confirmed Russian meddling in our 2016 election except whine about the investigation and claim "SEE? NO COLLUSION!" fairly screams, "Compromised!!" and yet his base remains steadfast. I wonder, "What's it going to take??" and then I wonder, "Maybe this time around, now that we've all been led by the nose into the gutter, we've decided it's easier to ignore the facts and continue to lie there than admit we've made a dreadful mistake, climb out, and deal with all the messes we've let this monster create."

  146. I always picture Roger Cohen in a white linen suit lounging at a sidewalk cafe in Tangier or Shanghai, the tramp steamer he came in on moored in the harbour, awaiting his next peregrination. The most interesting people around him soon become his acquaintances, ranging from the kindly to the, possibly, mildly criminal in intent. In some ways we're all somewhat like Diogenes, treading the streets, lantern in hand, looking for an honest man. Huzzah to the individual with the guts to inform Alexander to stop blocking the sun.

  147. Great essay; thank you for writing it. I'm convinced that a "hot mic" will not do anything except elevate the monster. I work in an office environment, with a lot of his base - yes, here in a so-called liberal east coast Westchester county suburb - and I assure you that they have stars in their eyes & ice in their hearts. Nothing will sway them from cheering the grotesque mouthpiece that puts voice to the hate & resentment(s) that consume their very being. Please, be sure your children who are old enough, get registered to vote. THEY are a big part of the answer/solution. DO IT.

  148. "... stars in their eyes & ice in their hearts." Great. That says it all!

  149. I take exception to the statement, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.” We have proof of its falsity: 2016 and 2017. Additional proof: there are still Republicans holding political office.

  150. Bernie Sanders was Howard Beale.

  151. Oh well, I comfort myself in the realization that soon America will be in a massive shooting war, maybe with Iran, maybe Korea...just someone, anyone, so the military machine and the factories can produce exciting war for the masses. That distraction will keep me occupied in attending futile demonstrations as I demand rationality of my government, and they spend the treasury on themselves and their big missiles. But it will replace Trump discussions on the TV, and like warring ant tribes, peace is just not in the genes. George Carlin had it right in his talks just prior to his death. The game is rigged for the in crowd, and that ain't me, or us. I do hope that at least a tiny bit of our military might is destined to prove to Putin that making us the laughing stock of the world with his stooge, well, that comes at a cost. We lost the war because we thought we could trust our government. The Republicans would mate with the devil if she would promise more wealth for them, and poverty for the poor. Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon

  152. A more light-hearted movie that presciently depicts a Trump-ish (though less successful) character in corrupt Washington is "Born Yesterday" from 1950. Broderick Crawford, Judy Holliday and William Holden are all great.

  153. Network is a brilliant 1970's film....it seems that after it was released the GOP saw it as a plan rather then the scathing social commentary it is...so much for their non existent understanding of art...since the 70's they have embraced this model as their strategy, combined w/ Citizens United unlimited campaign contributions from various unknown sources, including foreign powers & international corporations and you can see where we are today. When a GOP leader, Paul Ryan, is a fan of Ayn Rand that tells you just how intellectually unsophisticated the GOP is. No thinking adult should ever publicly admit to liking the ridiculously poor writings of the Russian immigrant Ayn Rand.

  154. I can't think of anything to add to this excellent thesis.

  155. If you want to understand Donald Trump's success, you need look no further than iconic gurus of capitalist culture like Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman or Edward Bernays or P.T. Barnum. Or the apocryphal quote attributed to the economist John Maynard Keynes, "Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work together for the benefit of all.” Unbridled greed, narcissism, self-promotion, predatory behavior, sociopathy -- these are all traits that U.S. capitalism celebrates and rewards handsomely. Donald Trump is as American as apple pie.

  156. Those optimistic about a coming reduction in Trump's power underestimate him and give the American people too much credit. First, Trump realizes he doesn't have to fool all the people all the time. He skated into office after losing the popular vote. Second, he realizes who really runs the country, and it's not the people. As long as he placates the oligarchs, the Republican Congress will fall into line. And third, the mike is always hot for Donald Trump; the greater his transgressions, the more he's liked. Trump is the wrestling villain people love to hate. For his base, he's the guy who shows the pinheads and intellectuals who's boss. The more crude, vulgar, deceitful, and mendacious he is, the more popular he is with his base. And when people get tired of his act, the oligarchs will replace it with a "kinder, gentler" conservative like Mike Pence, who will elevate meanness and mendacity to new levels, all while cloaked in a shining mantle of Christian humility. The show goes on.

  157. Even if Trump were to literally be caught on a hot mic throwing shade at his supporters (and didn’t he already do that publicly when he told a rally crowd that he loved the uneducated?), they would say it was either Obama’s fault, a hoax, or fake news (or all of the above).

  158. The most enduring strength of the conservative movement is the oft spoken belief of liberals that conservatives are stupid, crazy, or misled, and that they will at some point in the future come to their senses and follow the lead of the liberal elite. The arrogance of that attitude keeps people voting against that elite in election after election. In fact, many people reject the liberal elite's advice for the quite sensible reason that it is a system designed to keep the elite in place. Those who are not part of that elite have much less to lose in rejecting it. Many non-elite Americans vote against their short term economic interests because they, while uncertain of the best alternative approach, are certain that they do not wish to vote for the status quo, as stated by some privileged advanced degree graduate of an elite school. They're not crazy or misled. They're simply willing to continue gambling, no matter how hard it may be to beat the house.

  159. "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.?” he declared during the campaign. Let’s hand it to Trump: he was right. Americans voted him into office after he said that. They were ready to roll the dice, even on nuclear war, if the alternative was to be bored. . ." So true.

  160. Yes, you can fool all the people all the time, if those people are from Texas. There's a reason the Russians turned to Texas to promote their phony political events and groups--Texans love Trump, distrust the FBI, think the Russia thing is all phony, etc. The Republicans down here still give Trump high marks for "temperament", among other accolades. They will follow him down any drain, no matter what. This is a state that's at the bottom when it comes to public education, maternal mortality, number of people uninsured, etc. In other words, this is Trump's America.

  161. Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for providing a better explanation than I could have of one of the most significant reasons the founding fathers established the Electoral College (EC) - they feared mob rule. If my 50 year old high school “isms” course (comparative governments) class was correct (or I remember it correctly), then: Yes, the constitution was a compromise, and they didn’t get everything right (and some of what they got right was likely for the wrong reason). Nevertheless, they did a damn fine job of understanding and anticipating human nature. So, to all of those wishing to see the Electoral College eliminated, (or worse, try to make it happen), imagine that Hillary had lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, but won the EC. You’d be defending the EC as having “saved” the country from a mad and immoral maniac. The sad thing is, the EC didn’t do one of the primary things it was created to do- to assure that the person elected president was qualified to serve in that office. I’m not sure I have the answer for how to “fix” the EC, but it needs fixed more than it needs eliminated. Tempering some of its political underpinnings would seem to be a good place to start. And start soon. The mob is growing, and I fear that the quip a friend has used for over forty years may, in fact be true: “Intelligence is a constant. The population increases.”

  162. Fine, don't get rid of th Electoral College completely then. But stop it with th winner-takes-all-ism regarding each state! Ex: Hillary only received 32% of th vote in Nebraska; but all five of th Cornhusker States's electoral votes went to Trump. Shouldn't 32% get one 20%? I thought Nebraska had something like that already, along with Maine. And not to forget, these Electoral College representatives are supposed to ACT in accordance with certain responsibilities when casting their votes for the Presidency. Some of these reps should resign for not taking their respective responsibilities serious enough after this past election.

  163. The most prescient thought of the brilliant "Network" is not the rise of demagogues, but rather the supplanting of democracy by a corporate oligarchy. The process began in earnest in the '70s and has accelerated greatly in the last several years. All that is required is a distracted public (500 channels of TV, legalized weed, social media and its requisite gadgets), an ignorant and complicit scoundrel in the White House, and a Congress beholden to its corporate sponsors. Check, check, check.

  164. We can explain this by two contemporaries, FDR and the Nazis. They both said a lot about leadership, and they each had about a dozen years to demonstrate it. FDR thought well of people, and the Nazis thought people were sheep. Their messages were dramatically different. The choice is ours on which to believe about human nature. Cohen here in his despair is uncharacteristically thinking like those we know he despises. Another great leader thought much better of Americans en mass, and Cohen ends by quoting him -- Lincoln. Lincoln also said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” And, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

  165. "People are dumb, but they know when their president is compromised." I wish you were right, Mr. Cohen, but I disagree. Despite the despicable brutality of Nixon's Christmas bombing of North Vietnam--done not for strategic reasons but to appease South Vietnamese despots angry at the Paris Peace Talks--the American public didn't get particularly upset. It took a Democratic-controlled congress to get him on lying about a "third-rate burglary." As long as Trump sticks to his own personal script--being honest while lying, his popularity will rise. I'm no Trump supporter, but I think he's going to win again.

  166. " but I think he's going to win again. " While that's possible, I think he will make the same mistakes that he made which led to his multiple bankruptcies . . .he'll overplay his hand. His support is a mile wide and an inch deep.

  167. I think you're looking at things in an extremely superficial way. I'm tempted to agree with you about the conscience or moral compass of the American public, but when you bring up Nixon and the Democratic Congress, I won't half-step. You're wrong. The opposition to the Vietnam War grew and grew to massive proportions. If millions didn't take to the streets over the Christmas bombings, they certain did when Cambodia was invaded. Further, Nixon was driven from office. The Democratic controlled-Congress pushed Nixon only because the public was losing faith in the system. A lot of people don't know or have forgotten this, but to be called a liberal back in the 60s-70s was essentially to be called an accomodationist, one without the "spine" we hear so much moaning about nowadays. I feel that was an accurate description of liberals, then and now.

  168. There comes a time when even the dream selling leaders like Trump get disillusioned once the sheep flock they are herding moves to the lure of a new sheferd.

  169. You write like you know something. You don't because I read your stuff in 2015 when Trump just got started. So stop pontificating. You were the rube, the bumpkin, the sheep, "even more stupid" than Trump. Most of us dispaired that you and others like Brooks constantly said,"give Trump a chance. Let's see what happens?" Now you see. Thanks for nothing, rube. Just go away.

  170. John,you are so right...longevity with remembrance is indeed a blessing...l would add to your list of revisionists Ms.Dowd.

  171. The other revelatory screed in Network was the tirade by Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) confronting Howard Beale: "You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU... WILL... ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today." QED

  172. Wow.....nailed it. But Trump doesn’t even need a “hot mic”....or a “hot mike” as he prefers to call it....for people to see what a charlatan he is. His cruel, petty, misogynistic, narcissistic and mendacious self has been on open display for decades. People just need to wake up and see what has always been right in front of their eyes.

  173. You can't fool all of the people all of the time. But our problem is that you can fool 46.1% of the people all of the time.

  174. I appreciate the cinematic references. I was actually going to guess "Videodrome" for the first quote. However, I realized Trump was already a fully formed adult by the time that film was released. Rather than formative, the film is actually something of a commentary on the Trumps of the world. I'll add a disclaimer though. "Videodrome" is not a film for the faint of heart. I've only seen the film twice and once was definitely enough. For the sake of argument though, here are some of the more polite passages that came to mind from Cohen's opinion. Keep in mind these two quotes come from separate scenes. Brian O'Blivion: The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television. Harlan: North America's getting soft, patrón, and the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We're entering savage new times, and we're going to have to be pure and direct and strong, if we're going to survive them. Now, you and this cesspool you call a television station and your people who wallow around in it, your viewers who watch you do it, they're rotting us away from the inside. We intend to stop that rot.

  175. Roger, he's been talking into that hot mike his whole life . . . and the guinea pigs are still buying the dog food and thinking it's steak.

  176. Hot mic will make no difference. (It MADE no difference...grab em by the what?? ...) What we need now is a sequel to this work entitled "Guidance on how to protect yourself and your children from charismatic frauds"