Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, FrontPage.Com, History, Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:51 am

Here’s a piece I wrote before Osama bin Laden was killed and published at FrontPage.com yesterday. It riffs off the White House Correspondent’s dinner on Saturday night, examining the connection between the media, Hollywood, and celebrity.

A sample:

We can trace the marriage of politics and celebrity to the rise of Hollywood as a national medium in the 1920s. But it was the presidency of John F. Kennedy that witnessed the first real effort to bind the two together and make politicians themselves indistinguishable from movie stars.

In their book The Kennedy’s: An American Drama, Peter Collier and David Horowitz relate some telling anecdotes about JFK’s numerous trips to Hollywood prior to his first run for Congress in 1946. The purpose of these trips was largely to bed starlets. But, according to Chuck Spaulding, a childhood friend of JFK, the future president became fascinated with what he termed “charisma.” What was it? How did one go about getting it? After having dinner with Gary Cooper, Kennedy was struck by the sheer ordinariness of the actor and wondered why women swooned and men wanted to meet such a near non-entity.

Kennedy wanted what they had. As his father Joe had pointed out to him, since the Depression and New Deal had obliterated the “old social hierarchies,” Hollywood had the ability to “manufacture status overnight” and create a “new aristocracy.” The family would, as Joe famously put it, sell Jack “like a box of soap flakes.” He wasn’t kidding. With his vast wealth and intimate contacts in the national media, JFK was appearing on the cover of every news magazine in feature articles that touted his “vigor” and “charisma.” Jack had precious little of either, being a sickly young man (probably afflicted with Addison’s disease), and a terrible case of stage fright. But the PR build up was intense — and it worked. By 1956, despite a paltry record in Congress, Kennedy was being taken seriously for the number 2 spot on the Democratic ticket.

The first television presidency was a triumph of hype and image creation. Kennedy actually accomplished very little in 3 years but he is still ranked by the public as one of the top 10 presidents of all time.

It was in 1968 that the Democratic party fully embraced celebrity. The party took advantage of a new generation of actors who, free of the rigidity of the studio system that was terrified of political activism and the potential for bad publicity, spoke out against the war, racism, poverty and the rest of the liberal “social justice” issues for which they are so closely associated with today. The candidacy of Eugene McCarthy galvanized the liberal Hollywood community and led to McCarthy’s surprising showing in New Hampshire that convinced Lyndon Johnson not to run for another term.

The Republicans got on board the celebrity bandwagon too, but it wasn’t until 1980 and the campaign of Ronald Reagan that endorsements from Hollywood became important for fundraising to the party. Most of the GOP celebrities were older, established Hollywood types who became famous under the studio system and whose patriotism and conservatism blended naturally with the Republican party. Once the Democrats abandoned many of the values that were shared with ordinary Americans, they, like Reagan himself, left the Democratic party for the friendlier confines of the GOP. Today, the GOP has its share of celebrity endorsers, most notably in the country music industry and among sports figures.

ABC News had 2 reporters covering the “red carpet” entrance to the Hilton and if you closed your eyes and listened, you’d would have been hard pressed to distinguish between celebrity and politician in their answers to questions. That is the perilous junction we find ourselves today, with the media slavishly serving both Hollywood and Washington.

It’s hard to imagine a worse situation given the immense problems we face today.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress