Maddie Niblett is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.
A fellow named Courtland Sykes released a YouTube video on Sept. 26 declaring his candidacy for the upcoming 2018 U.S. Senate election in Missouri. If nominated by the Republican Party, he will likely face Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. According to the Kansas City Star, Sykes only moved to Missouri last month and is an avid admirer of Steve Bannon, who was fired from his White House position as chief strategist in August.
Sykes’ video opens with a somber, badly edited, black-and-white stock image of an elderly person with their face in their hands. Soft piano music floats in from the background as a voice, gentle as a baby bird, masculine and slightly nasally, seems to come out of the sky. “Debt: 20 trillion,” the voice says, as those words suddenly flash onto the screen in a disturbingly bright red, just like Sykes’ political leanings.
The video goes on to talk about war, failing schools, “rampant” crime and sky-high taxes, pretty much any key phrase to trigger fear in the heart of the viewer, priming them to accept whoever the video presents as the one person able to fix this disaster of a country. Then, you hear Sykes tell you that immigration is “out of control” while showing you a video of an unidentified rioter throwing a Molotov cocktail at a burning building.
Before you realize that you just watched a blatantly falsified connection between immigrants and violent rioters that plays on the fears of nationalists, the soft piano music you forgot was still playing crescendos into sudden orchestral arpeggios that even the best action movie previews would be envious of. Sykes then proceeds to channel his inner Chris Christie, letting all of his viewers know that Trump is everything short of his personal lord and savior.
Sykes’ video is filled to the brim with ominous messages that feed on the same kinds of fears that Trump’s campaign was based on. At one point, while claiming that Trump will do “what’s best for America,” a picture of a Christian church, steeple and cross are shown. It’s unclear whether this implies that Christianity is what’s supposed to be better for our country or if the church is supposed to represent Americans; either way, this shows that Sykes seems to believe that politics and religion are two sides of the same coin.
One thing stood out to me in particular about this video: In all of the melodramatic shots of people supporting what Sykes stands for, there are only three instances (barring shots of what are obviously supposed to be people from foreign countries) where a minority person is shown. The first instance is when Sen. Charles Schumer, endearingly labelled as “swamp,” is in front of a group of people. The second is a soldier holding a flag and staring pensively off into the distance. The third is behind Rep. Rosa DeLauro as Sykes passionately shrieks, “No more liberals!”
The grand finale of this absolute masterpiece is a shot of Sykes, dress shirt unbuttoned to emulate the look of a commoner, doing his best Trump squint off into the distance while his luscious, perfectly combed hair flows in the wind. You’re left wondering if perhaps this video is actually just a big joke, made to encourage Missourians to vote for literally anybody besides this guy. The only concrete fact this video tells us is that Sykes is an expert at playing on people’s fears and imitating the ideologies of another person in order to be elected into a position of power, neither of which make him qualified to be a representative of Missouri.