Presidential Propaganda

22:42 Mon 29 Oct 2007
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ThinkProgress notes that Fox’s promotion of “great moments in World Series history” included Bush throwing the first pitch in the 2001 Words Series. Kept to merely that, it might not have been that bad. But they added in a dramatization of firefighters watching Bush throw the first pitch on television, and admiring the strike he threw… So ridiculous. Such pure propaganda, identifying The Leader not merely with the national pastime, but as someone who is admired by right-thinking (or heroic) folks everywhere.

I wonder whether his approval rating would be even lower than it is if not for propaganda of that kind. Hard to say, and one could also argue that it might be higher if his propaganda were better. Regardless, there’s something truly wrong about making leaders into mythic figures simply because they’re leaders. I think this is a particular issue in the United States, where being the President apparently confers instantly the characteristics of honor, dedication, nobility, selflessness, and piety. Patriotism is brought into play strongly, and the media strongly encourages the notion that the current office-holder is worthy of respect (and adulation) more or less automatically. Much more rare is the idea that being the President is a responsibility and a test, something that the office-holder must live up to.

Bill Clinton certainly got put through the wringer by the media when he was in office, and many of the right-wingers felt that he had failed this test of office, but their response to Bush shows how seriously they take that. In any case, that was an aberration, but more pertinently it was also still based on this idea of the President as Perfect Leader. Perfect Leaders don’t get caught having sex with staff, and Clinton got caught, so he needed to go—regardless of what kind of job he was doing with respect to his actual duties. Not that I think Clinton was doing a great, or even good, job, despite the fact that his successor makes him look like Solomon.

This is also part of the idea that high political office is all about “character”, which is obviously tremendously easy to make very subjective judgments about, meaning that it’s a discourse more easily controlled. Actions, on the other hand, are more difficult to obfuscate, which is why coverage of American political races focuses so little on actions the candidates would take and instead concentrates on laughable attempts at personality analysis.

The campaign managers, meanwhile, treat it like selling toothpaste. The selection of the mythic leader-figure is determined by a process akin to hawking dental hygiene products.

2 Responses to “Presidential Propaganda”

  1. Radegund Says:

    Cf. footage of Mussolini wrestling a bear-cub.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Heh, indeed… Perfect Leaders wrestle bear cubs before breakfast!

    Mussolini seemed to have pushed the Leader-as-Superman propaganda pretty hard. In the contemporary US, the focus is on Leader-as-macho-but-ordinary-guy-who-is-a-strong-disciplinarian. I’m not sure which is more laughable.

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