Presidential Superstars — Celebrities or Leaders?

by Editors

THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Presidential Superstars — Celebrities or Leaders?

By Jessica Miles, Bread and Circus contributing writer

Cameras flash blindingly from every angle. Countless numbers of people horde the streets. They cheer in unison. They wait with anticipation. Britney Spears walks by. Paris Hilton strikes a pose. Then Barack Obama appears? Suddenly, the narrator’s voice resounds, “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world, but is he ready to lead?”

The campaign ad produced by John McCain’s party meshes perfectly with the status and media-saturated society we have become. But is our individual welfare being threatened by the hallucinations of those responsible for our democracy? We have to wonder whether these fantasy-inspired revelations should exist amongst our potential leaders, leaders we call upon to address the uncertainties and fears of people in personal crisis throughout the country.

While our pleas seem helpless, we must acknowledge that the presidential candidates and their campaign parties are not the only forces driving our society to an impractical way of life.

This is not about which candidate is more suitable to run this country, but rather how the media has transformed this election into a media-driven political frenzy supporting the notion of celebrity as opposed to leadership. The media has a responsibility to educate the public about local, national, and global affairs and honesty is to be held at its highest regard to uphold democratic ideals. Sadly, I feel this country’s profit-driven media have taken advantage of society’s essential principles, choosing to focus on the entertainment values of the election, as opposed to the educational values that affect society.

Pick up the newspaper on Sunday morning, turn on the TV for headline news, surf the Internet. Since the beginning of Election ’08, an overwhelming amount of “information” being fed through the media covers the inane details of our supposed future leaders. Moreover, the media often mishandles the information and twists it into an argument over proper and improper behavior for presidential candidates. For example, Barack Obama was criticized by the media for a leisurely day of golf. It made headline news because his trip fell in the midst of the turmoil between Georgia and Russia.

With these irrelevant issues flooding media sources it is no surprise that the primary question remains unanswered. “Where do the candidates stand on the real issues facing our country?” We are still left in the dark after the presidential debates when news stations pummel us with even more questions about whether or not we are exposed to the truth and if the candidates have their facts straight.

This election has been blanketed by a layer of overriding fabrication. Consider “Obama Girl.” Remember her? The girl who danced around in skimpy shorts and a t-shirt, singing her praises to the love of her life, “Obama.” Barack Obama’s values and goals for this country became invisible thanks in large part to the mild entertainment of a few guys with a video camera. The media hyped it up to the point that “Obama Girl” was making headlines ahead of hard news. This marked the reemergence of the presidential celebrity.

Unfortunately, the idea of the presidential celebrity became even more outlandish following John McCain’s campaign ad, depicting Obama as a comparable icon to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Could this have been a more inappropriate comparison? This association ignited a response from attention-seeking goddess, Paris Hilton, who produced an ad recommending a hybrid alternative to both sides of the environmental crisis and bringing together the frightfully evident marriage of Hollywood and politics.

The media’s perception of the political process has become a smorgasbord of sex, lies, and videotape that has trumped society’s ever-growing concerns about the future. We can look back to Bill Clinton’s sex scandal or look more recently at John Edward’s infidelity drama. The endless war in Iraq and skyrocketing unemployment rates have taken a backseat throughout the gradual transformation of the news journalist to the news-making journalist – a distinction evident in the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Charles Gibson, and Katie Couric, to name a few.

So why should you care about what the media expose society to regarding the election?  It is increasingly apparent that people are untrusting of their candidates and feel disconnected from them. This can be directly linked to a profound divide between society and election coverage.

In the recent months leading up to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions I have questioned our position in this election. If a popularity contest based on petty bickering and name-calling is what our society is yearning for, then it seems we have given up hope and our right to a voice. At a time when our country is facing bleak circumstances and the majority of people are in a state of constant fear, we should not have to demand resilience from our potential leaders. It should be an imperative credential for our leaders. For this effect to take place we must be a vigilant society and the media must reinstate their position as society’s watchdogs.

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Jessica Miles, Bread and Circus contributing writer, attends Bryant University, where she is a  Communication major.

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