by Joe Tortorici
This Is Not Theater –
My friends often refer to quotes from the Quentin Tarantino classic “Pulp Fiction” when emphasizing a point. “Say ‘what’ one more time! I dare you!” The iconic phrase carries a sentiment that embodies the character’s delivery (Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield) in all its impact. I can’t read the words without hearing his tone and feeling the dread.
The media circus surrounding the Donald Trump cabal vainly attempts to pirate the gangster dialog of popular cinema.
Currently, the most common has been the “Godfather II” scene of a congressional hearing against Michael Corleone and the appearance of Frank Pentangeli (portrayed by the fabulous Michael Gazzo). At a pivotal moment, Michael Corleone arrives at the hearing in the company of Frank’s brother, Vincenzo. Frank is reminded of “omerta,” the code of silence, and exonerates the Godfather at the cost of his own life.
It’s a testament to the impact of this scene when it is used in a variety of circumstances surrounding the criminality of the Trump dynasty. MSNBC host Chris Matthews (Hardball) uses it as a catch-all metaphor for coercion and witness intimidation, et al. Roger Stone urged radio personality Randy Credico to do a “Frank Pentangeli” and lie to the House Intelligence Committee. Allusions to subterfuge involving the Trump organization have also been compared to the fictional Tony Soprano.
These scenes exist as colorful descriptions attempting to clarify lawlessness to a society awash in pop-culture literacy. Perhaps it’s time to abandon fictional references when speaking of real issues. The truth is far more horrifying than any dramatic portrayals. This is not a movie. A profoundly sober attitude toward the suffering of so many people should shake our core. The recent government shutdown brings this into focus.
Lost in the make-believe is an underlying truth about the most clever of real criminals: they keep their mouths shut. This crowd finds it impossible to STFU. They love the sound of their own voices. They covet time in front of a camera. They telegraph their lies and get entangled in their own words. They will strangle themselves with their own words.
The message of Frank Pentangeli’s scene is simple. Silence is often the best response.