Young Mike Pence
A new TV Series features the former VP's early years—before Frankenstein blew up, forcing him into hiding on the worst day of his life. (Part 2 of the Uvalde Series)
It all started after Day 3 of the January 6 Hearings
Which turned Mike Pence into an 11th-hour hero during the Capitol Riot. That’s when the big three networks embarked on a frantic race to bring some version of his story to television.
For a while the front-runner appeared to be The Fly Catcher—a series about how the lackluster VP and MAGA yes-man becomes transformed after he’s bitten by a pansexual insect during a televised debate with Kamala Harris.
Pitched as “Spiderman meets The Fly meets Do the Right Thing,” the show’s premise turned on the idea that even a robotic human can find the courage to do what’s right when he accepts his place in the Marvel Universe and learns to orgasm.
“This is what today’s 18-49 demographic wants to see,”
Said show runner Rhonda Grimes. “Let’s face it, we’re trying to sell cars and makeup here.”
But that project floundered when the producers failed to work an interracial romance into the story line. Also, while several actors expressed interest in portraying the fly, no one in Hollywood wanted to play the former Vice President.
Another offering that bit the dust early was the Dick Wolf-inspired Law & Order, Seditious Activities Unit, put forth by NBC. Apparently, those producers blew it by casting Sam Waterston as the Vice President.
“You can’t take a guy who played Nick Caraway and Jack McCoy and turn him into Pinocchio,” said one insider who preferred to remain anonymous. “The hair’s right, but Waterston’s image oozes too much integrity. He’s already a real boy.”
For the time being, it looks like the CBS network will be first out of the gate this fall with Young Mike Pence, a multi-decade prequel to the January 6th riot, which looks at several seminal events in the Veep’s childhood.
Billed as a reluctant coming-of-age story
The series foreshadows the last-minute heroism during which Pence finally grew a pair, saving America from a major constitutional crisis and the nation’s first foundational threat to the rule of law in 230 years.
The pilot begins with Caroline Kennedy bestowing the annual Profiles in Courage Award on Mr. Pence as his surrogates on Team Normal sing Negro Spirituals based on the Book of Daniel in the background. Then the scene shifts to Young Mike’s first encounter with a bully on the school playground, a fat kid with red hair who bosses other kids around and gets away with it.
The mad dash to elevate Mr. Pence to hero status is a perfect illustration of how things sometimes take on a life of their own—a phenomenon known as the Frankenstein Effect.
What it is
Coined by a Belgian consulting firm in 2011, the Frankenstein Effect is what happens when ideas and concepts fly free of their creator without any regard for the global concept. When this happens on a massive scale, it becomes a monster—a construction of unconnected modules—that strangles the clarity and direction of the original concept.
Recent well-known examples of the Frankenstein Effect include—the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial, the Oscar Slap Heard Round the World, Bye Felicia, and the political market known as Trumpism, which will likely continue to live after its creator has disappeared.
On this 50th anniversary of Watergate, everyone from Politico to Fox News to Bill Maher is busy comparing Woodward and Bernstein to the recent Bye Felicia incident at the Washington Post. But the firing of a reporter (whose name really is Felicia) for engaging in a Tweet storm with her colleagues is not as funny as some would like to think.
Granted, it’s not as funny as getting tossed butt-naked from an orgy like the Felicia of Straight Outta Compton. Nor should it be. But just like Amber and Johnny, it’s a perfect example of the staggering power of the Frankenstein Effect. The way it takes off like wildfire on a windy day, threatening everything in its path.
You know what else is not funny?
The 25 million* Republicans who still believe the 2020 Presidential Election was rigged, fraudulent, and ultimately stolen from Donald Trump—the so-called Big Lie. Not only is that not funny—it’s downright scary.
The 25 million (who account for 70% of registered Republicans) believe the Big Lie even though the Trump campaign submitted 180 claims in 62 lawsuits, half of which were thrown out for lack of standing—( e.g., you can’t bring a lawsuit about something that happened in Pennsylvania if you live in Texas) while the rest failed because they lacked evidence and were unable to make their case.
The 25 million believe the election was stolen even though every hand-recount has shown no evidence of fraud on a scale likely to change the outcome.
They believe it even though Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani had his law license suspended for making false and misleading claims regarding the election in a court of law.
Although the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol has documented all these things in painstaking detail, it is sadly unlikely that the 25 million have bothered to watch the public hearings.
It’s easy to understand why they’re skeptical
Compared to Young Mike Pence or Will Smith slapping the sh*t out of Chris Rock at the Oscars, the hearings are boring. Also, the 25 million may very well regard them as a partisan witch hunt—just like they view the Trump-Russia probe and the two impeachments.
That skepticism naturally increased when the Democratic leadership in the House removed three Trump loyalists who all but telegraphed ahead of time that they intended to divert attention away from the former president’s role in the attack and focus instead on things like poor security at the Capitol. You can see why the Dems felt they had to do what they did, but the optics are not good.
As a result, the 25 million will probably never see the sworn public testimony from members of Trump’s own inner circle. Most of whom have stated under oath that they could find no evidence of fraud, knew the election was not stolen, and communicated all of this to the former president. A man who nevertheless continues to proclaim just the opposite to this very day.
Even former Attorney General Bill Barr testified that Trump behaved like he was “detached from reality.”
But don’t tell that to the 25 million
Why? Because the Big Lie has taken on a life of its own. Even if Trump himself were to suddenly announce that he’d been joking the whole time, the believers would continue to believe that somehow, some way, the election was fraudulent.
That is the Frankenstein Effect writ large
On April 25, several weeks before the January 6 hearings began, ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news agency, released a trove of emails and interviews it conducted with leading advocates of the Big Lie.
Their research shows that Trump’s claims of election fraud could not have taken hold with the public to such a large degree if those claims had not been repeated again and again by surrogates who promoted the falsehood in the news media and on social media platforms.
Those interviews revealed that all these advocates knew their election-fraud claims had been disproved, disputed, or dismissed as dubious. And yet, they continued to push the rigged-election theory into the communications ecosystem.
When confronted with the report’s findings
Most of these people dismissed them outright. But perhaps the most telling response came from Joseph J. Flynn, brother and spokesperson of Michael T. Flynn.
“Stupid report. No one we care about will read it.”
That’s how confident he was that the Frankenstein Effect had taken hold. Not only will the 25 million not read such a report, they won’t even hear about it on any media outlet or social media feed they follow.
For them, the Big Lie has passed from the realm of reason into the realm of faith. It would be easier to convince an evangelical Christian that the Bible was written by Dr. Strange than to get them to accept the outcome of the 2020 election.
Which brings us to the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association, and Uvalde
This is where the Frankenstein Effect is literally killing us.
According to historian Heather Cox Richardson, at the time the Constitution was written the “right to bear arms” was generally construed to mean part of an organized militia. Although the amendment’s language is broad, even the Supreme Court upheld this concept for decades. So did the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Richardson writes that prior to the 1970s, the NRA supported federal legislation to:
limit concealed weapons;
prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children;
require all dealers to be licensed;
and require background checks before the delivery of any firearm.
It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act
and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.
But in the 1970s, according to Richardson, a faction of the NRA forced the organization to part with its own traditional support of gun sportsmanship (hunting, skeet-shooting, etc.)—and to focus instead on “gun rights.”
They formed a political action committee (PAC), hired a PR firm, and began pumping money into the idea that the Second Amendment protected the right of individuals to own any gun they wanted to.
In the words of the Brennan Center for Justice, this was how the NRA rewrote the Second Amendment.
It’s also how they helped put 20 million AR-15 style assault weapons into the United States. Our nation of 332 million now has more guns than people.
Although the power and financial resources of the NRA have waned in recent years, thanks in part to in-fighting within the organization, all that previous effort has paid off just like the Big Lie has paid off. Fifty years of NRA campaigning has created a constituency that no longer needs NRA input to maintain a chokehold over Congress.
Those heavily marketed ideas now have a life of their own.
Mike Spies is a senior writer at The Trace, a magazine that covers gun violence exclusively. During an interview the day after 19 children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas, he told the PBS NewsHour that the NRA has created a monster over which it has lost control. It has constructed its own Frankenstein.
Here’s the Irony
In Mary Shelley’s novel, the monster winds up killing its creators. Dr. Frankenstein dies from disgust and pneumonia, and his partner Henry Clerval is murdered by the very monster he helped create.
Shelley’s story of a modern Prometheus is a cautionary tale for today’s America.
As the highly respected conservative federal Judge J. Michael Luttig pointed out during Day 3 of the January 6 hearing, the Big Lie promoted by Donald Trump and his associates remains a serious and ongoing threat to our democracy.
But that other monster threatens us every single day too—where we shop, where we pray, in hotels, in spas, in hospitals, in movie theaters, on the streets, and even where our children go to school.
It’s a good thing we can count on Congress to create a pathetically inadequate “framework” that will give them something to campaign on for the midterms, while doing little, if anything, to save us from another Uvalde.
Meanwhile, the rest of us can kick back and wait for CBS to release the first episode of Young Mike Pence. Because sometimes, half a hero is better than no hero at all.
©2022 Andrew Jazprose Hill
(*According to PolitiFact, as of June 10, 2022, 70% of the 36.4 million registered Republicans in poll after poll believe there was election fraud during the 2020 election.)
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