Monday, 24 May 2010

Glamour and politics

A problem in the political culture and intellectual climate of Northern ireland is the tendency for the first answer to be "Government needs to do something". One personal means of trying to escape from that is my subscription to Reason magazine, a libertarian magazine from the USA. However, the most interesting article is this month's issue is not about the size of government but rather the role of glamour in politcs (sadly not online).
In an interview, Virginia Pastrel argues (unsurprisingly) that President Obama's glamour factor helped him get elected. it defines glamour as:

"...a particular form of illusion. It's an illusion that tells a truth about the audience's desires, and it requires mystery and distance."

This illusion and projection of individual desires leads to a dangerous tendency as regards lying:

"Lying is usually a bad thing, but they would would project onto him that he was lying about his positions because he secretly agreed with them: "Anyone that smart has got to be a free trader at heart. He's just saying this to pander to those idiots. He can't really mean it.""
However, the power of being elected on glamour comes at two costs. First, a decision for the candidate to chose between maintaining the glamour and getting things done:

"You've seen, as he's taken office and tried to govern, this back and forth where he is consciously or unconsciously trying to maintain his glamour - which requires a kind of distance from the political process so that people can continue to see him as representing them."

Second, is the flip side of a person who fell for the glamour:

"...there is always this capacity for disillusionment. People have projected so much of what they think, including things that are sort of impossible, onto a glamourous figure, that when any flaw shows up the glamour is dispelled and suddenly he becomes terrible."

Postrel's blog which examines the role of glamour in society is here.

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