Move Past the Celebrity
In 2012, when Barack Obama had a no record to run on, his promises had fallen short, and his policies were unsuccessful, he opted to run a high-profile celebrity campaign against boring unemotional Mitt Romney. Obama turned up the celebrity charm, and people stood in awe of his presence. He sang Al Green in the Apollo Theater. It was brilliant, brilliant politics. He offered his opinion on celebrity feuds, and posed for pictures while playing pool. It’s proof, people would say, that the country is in good hands. Yes, Romney talked policy, he talked smart, he talked decent, but he could not fare against the singing and dancing Obama, who said he could do the Gangnam Style dance. A perceived cold-blooded Romney, as well-meaning as he was, could not compete with Obama, who suddenly was homebrewing beer in the White House and sharing his secret recipe with the world. Celebrity sells, coolness sells, and it sells cheap. Obama was cool.
For all that coolness, I'm not convinced Obama actually likes people all that much, and I'm less convinced that he is actually as cool as he portrays himself, but it doesn't matter. He was able to connect, dazzle, and people hang on his celebrity more than his presidency. Fast-forward through a term of television reality TV appearances, selfie sticks, interviews with YouTube stars, and offering opinions on pop culture, including whether or not dogs should wear pants. The show goes on.
The show goes beyond politicians themselves, as they enlist celebrities to propagandize for them.
This isn't a new tactic, nor is it limited only to any one party. It isn't always inherently bad, either, and some good may come from attention brought to a particular issue. However, in a world of social media and constant information exchange, where fiction is taken as fact, celebrity politics deserves some scrutiny. Why are we at a point where Kim Kardashian was spouting false gun rumors and Jack Black was Obama's salesperson on the Iran Deal?
To start, we would rather be told what to think or feel about issues rather than think critically and research them ourselves. It is much easier to have them dictated to us. We want our opinions to be solidified into fact immediately without regard for evidence. The word of pop culture idols seems to be enough to do that.
Our worship of celebrity far surpasses our appreciation for honesty. Whether or not something is true is less relevant than who is speaking it. We no longer verify sources and consider any celebrity an expert in whatever they are talking about.
Objective journalism has become irrelevant. People want entertainment over substance, and bias over neutrality. Media isn't of value unless it throws dirt at the opposition and validates your opinions. Ultimately, we are an insecure people with no clear principle, and we want to constantly be validated by wealthy elitist strangers who don't know us or our circumstances, and who will not have to endure the consequences of whatever they are campaigning for.
We scoff at these criticisms of course, because we've refused to take ourselves seriously and have even been telling everyone else with concerns that they are upright and need to relax. We had fun, and nicknamed a SCOTUS Justice after a rap star, and she got so comfortable with being a celebrity she openly criticized a presidential candidate. We relaxed, and a reality TV show host decided he could run for president, so he can have fun too, and won the Republican Nomination. We continue to collectively expect less of our leaders, believing a Twitter war between politicians is something more than a sideshow, or a celebrity endorsement is a valid argument. We've bought into the lie that somehow we are doing well, when someone we idolize agrees with us. We need to start thinking for ourselves again.
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Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.