I am currently reading a thought-provoking book on the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle – Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion. Here’s a snippet on modern politicians (pg 46):
Those captive to images [ed. -the majority of our population today] cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with the carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics. Politicians have learned that to get votes they must replicate the faux intimacy established between celebrities and the public. There has to be a sense, created through artful theatrical staging and scripting by political spin machines, that the politician is “one of us.” The politician, like the celebrity, has to give voters the impression that he or she, as Bill Clinton use to say, feels their pain. We have to be able to see ourselves in them. If this connection, invariably a product of extremely sophisticated artifice, is not established, no politician can get any traction in a celebrity culture.
In Canada, to see evidence o f this, we need only look at men of substance who did not make it in the glare of politics, when they failed to connect: Joe Clark, John Turner, Paul Martin and, more recently, Stephane Dion.