Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Parallels between the controversial self-styled doctor John R. Brinkley and Donald Trump pop up with startling frequency throughout Penny Lane's lively Nuts!, which opens just under a century ago, as Brinkley is starting to treat impotence by surgically implanting goat gonads in men's testicular sacs. That and other Brinkley “cures” soon become wildly popular as Brinkley masters the most promising new media of his time, broadcasting a call-in show from a powerful radio station that he built so he could counsel callers nationwide about their sexual problems and prescribe treatments.

Not only did Brinkley use the media to burnish his brand and hawk things of dubious value at a pumped-up price, but he ran for political office (governor of Kansas) on a disjointed, faux-populist platform that included far-fetched promises, like pledging to build a lake in every county in the state. And when a powerful enemy began to debunk his lies, he fought back by with racist smears. But Lane has her eyes on a larger prize than merely debunking Trump. She wants us to recognize the impulses in ourselves that make us vulnerable to charlatans like Brinkley, so we can inoculate ourselves against their appeal.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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