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February 26 2019

The Brave, New World of Intimacy and Celebrity in American Politics

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day II:

Have you noticed more and more politicians broadcasting their visits to the dentist or live-streaming themselves cooking their favorite Instant Pot mac-and-cheese recipe or posting footage of themselves chugging beer in their kitchen (as Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren have all done)? You’re not alone. These efforts at hyper-authenticity are rapidly becoming the new normal.

--Christine Rosen in Commentary

Just want to call your attention to IWF alum Christine Rosen's excellent "The Age of the Hyper-Authentic, Para-Social Pseudo Celebrity Politician" in Commentary.

Unfortunately, the article is behind the pay wall (Christine and so many other sparkling Commentary writers make subscriptions an appealing proposition), but I can provide a few snippets.

As you can guess, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a star of the piece:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has mastered the art of pseudo-intimacy on Instagram and Twitter, which is why she looms far larger in the public imagination than her so-far modest accomplishments should allow. “I keep things raw and honest on here since I believe public servants do a disservice to our communities by pretending to be perfect,” she tells her followers. Her Instagram feed is filled with appealing images of her blowing bubbles with kids, complaining about Columbus Day (because: genocide), and, yes, using her Instant Pot – interspersed with a few carefully curated glamour shots of her posing around the Capitol with her new colleagues or appearing in Va n i t y Fa i r.

Christine maintains that the illusion of intimacy with our politicians could have a profound effect on our politics:

When citizens become fans, they are chang-ing the traditional relationship between vote-seeker and voter. They begin to insist others share their extra-political loyalty to the politician and become overly eager to punish critics. Thus, when someone criticizes a policy position taken by Ocasio-Cortez or Donald Trump, their sup-porters swiftly organize on-line mobs to defend them. Similarly, when the facts of a situation are not fully known, loyal fans are quick to project their intense per-sonal feelings instead; and the more extreme the feel-ings, the more likely they are to dominate the public conversation.

. . .

Machiavelli thought it was better for leaders to be feared than loved. In an age of pseudo-intimacy, the politicians fear being loved too little. At a time when the majority of people get their news and information online (and many are happy to vote for a candidate because a pop star told them to), we need politicians who act less like Instagram celebrities and more like traditional public servants. But what we need and what we’re going to get are two different things.

Terrific article.

 

 

 





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