The Silent Majority: Consisting of rare footage filmed by President Richard M. Nixon’s aides, this experimental documentary revisits Nixon’s campaign to win an elusive majority.
By PENNY LANE and BRIAN L. FRYE
Published: November 2, 2011
THIS film, “The Silent Majority,” was born out of a larger project. We are making a feature-length documentary using the Super 8 home movies of some of Richard M. Nixon’s aides. As we combed through the home movies, we fell in love with these long shots of crowds out to meet the president. Filming over Nixon’s shoulder, the cameramen lingered on the faces of these ordinary, anonymous Americans. We began referring to this footage in edit-room shorthand as the “Silent Majority” footage.
This short documentary suggests a direct connection between two of Nixon’s greatest triumphs as president: his landmark 1969 “Silent Majority” speech (in which he argued that street protesters did not represent the views of most Americans, despite their increasing visibility) and his historic landslide re-election in 1972 (in which George S. McGovern won only one state and the District of Columbia, losing even his home state of South Dakota).
Given our current moment, with next year’s presidential election approaching and with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement repopularizing street protests throughout the nation, we think that spending a few minutes considering parallels between 1972 and 2012 is interesting. But we do not draw conclusions in this video as to what the significance of the notion of a “Silent Majority” is to today’s political reality. That, dear viewer, we leave up to you.
Penny Lane and Brian L. Frye are the directors of the upcoming film “Our Nixon.” Ms. Lane, a visiting professor at Bard College, has been awarded grants from Cinereach, the New York State Council on the Arts, Independent Filmmaker Project, the Experimental Television Center, LEF Foundation and the Puffin Foundation. Mr. Frye, a visiting assistant professor of law at Hofstra, has had work shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New York Film Festival.