The surprising appeal of The Crazy: Way back when, itinerant merchants would peddle "elixir remedies" designed to "cure what ails you." During our sophomore year in college, we created an award-winning show which referenced this fact.
The show was an homage to our Grandfather Rufus, who we'd learned about the previous year from our older half-brother. It had an award-winning cast.
This will sound chronologically improbable, but Grandfather Rufus was a traveling showman starting around the time of the Civil War. He even has his own Wikipedia page concerning this early part of his career.
(One of them perfesser fellers has studied this part of his life.)
In October 1966, we took our act of homage to a coffeehouse at Wellesley College, an earlier, less expensive version of Trump University. As Melinda Henneberger later revealed, a future presidential contender performed a humorous sketch as our elixir salesman.
Henneberger had her chronology a tiny bit wrong, but the bulk of what follows is accurate. Ignore what Kapetan said:
HENNEBERGER (6/21/00): At the end of their freshman year, Mr. Gore, Mr. Jones and a couple of other friends assembled a musical revue that they actually took on the road—for one performance, at a Wellesley coffeehouse. "It was kind of like the Little Rascals: 'Let's put on a show!' " said Michael Kapetan, now a sculptor at the University of Michigan.Mr. Gore's recollection was perhaps a bit faulty. Of course, by the time this report appeared, everyone knew about his problem with the truth!
"Here at last, no longer coming soon," [the poster] said, "the Old-Time Country Panorama, featuring those old-time country musicians of note, Tommy Lee Jones and the Ben Hill County Boys."
"I was the stand-up comic," Mr. Gore said, "if you can believe that." And sure enough, there he is, billed as "the highly respected professor of animal husbandry and the curative sciences, Doctor Albert A. Gore" who "has promised to favor us with readings from the society pages of The Carthage Courier, including news on Wilber Gridley's recent trip to Bristol."
Mr. Gore does not remember the show as an unqualified success: "The women of Wellesley were in between puzzled and amused," he said. "Not quite the reaction we were shooting for."
Dr. Gore had taken the stage that night to sell his "Tennessee Elixir Remedy (No Refunds)." Back in the era of Grandfather Rufus, itinerants would actually peddle such phony products to us, the susceptible rubes.
All too often, we the people couldn't tell that we were being scammed. Federal agencies now exist to regulate such craziness.
Over the past fifty years, reliable journalistic gatekeepers have been replaced by scam artists. In the process, we've learned that large numbers of us the people are highly susceptible to the kinds of claims the press now calls "fake news."
Until about fifteen minutes ago, the mainstream press was doing its best to ignore this general phenomenon. For that reason, our big newspapers made little attempt to explore apparently widespread crazy beliefs about President Obama's place of birth.
(Before that, the press made little attempt to challenge crazy claims about the many people the Clintons were said to have murdered. Later, the press corps played the leading role in inventing and spreading phony claims about Gore's deeply troubling lies. That was "fake news" too, of course. Our journalists peddled it hard.)
As people like Walter Cronkite were replaced by arrays of scammers, we learned a surprising fact—many people are inclined to believe The Crazy. At present, conservatives believe that Obama was born on the dark side of the moon. Liberals believe that The Others are all racists, based on stupid shit we get from professors and 10-year-old journalists.
As it turns out, many people seem to be strongly inclined to believe The Crazy. One such person is General Michael Flynn, who will soon be destroying the world.
General Flynn's crazy son seems to be even worse. For an overview, read Kevin Drum's report.
The press corps reveled in this lunacy for decades. Now they suddenly find it disturbing. For decades, they worked to build this culture. Now, they're very upset.
In the 1860s, Grandfather Rufus had a show called "the Civil War panorama." Wounded veterans would take the stage and describe battle scenes. Later, he toured at the head of Barnum-era traveling shows with colorful names, such as "Professor Wormwood's Trained Monkeys." The show broke box office records in the Maritimes in the late 1870s.
He also gave public lectures about the evils of hypocrisy. In paraphrased form, at substantial length, these lectures would appear on the front pages of major newspapers.
He died in 1903; we were born in 1947. (Yes, he was our grandfather and yes, the numbers work out.) In 1966, we learned about him for the first time. The rest is slightly inaccurate history.
If General Flynn had been in the crowd at Wellesley that night, he probably would have rushed the stage, such as it was, to purchase Professor Gore's remedy. The general seems to be starking raving mad, but so is our failed public culture.
The mainstream press corps worked for years to bring us to this dangerous point. Many top liberals helped in this work, although we agree not to say so.