Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Great Pretenders 

Observations from a Californian who volunteered for John Kerry in Pennsylvania recently, from Salon.com:

Kerry was actually the second choice for most people in the room. And everyone watching is evaluating Kerry not as a candidate, but as an actor. No one feels particularly inspired by Kerry's candidacy, but everyone is passionately concerned that he play his role well. We find ourselves at a strange moment in American political history. Most people have internalized the rules of the game; everyone is an expert in the gestures that denote "authority," "the common touch," "love of country," "excessive intellectuality" and so on. In this election, at least, no one even pretends that substance will win the day. Years ago, in his book "Mythologies," the French culture critic Roland Barthes wrote about the way that mass-culture consumer societies create and maintain images, gestures, discourses that act as the filters through which we perceive the world. It is the double gaze that all of us have to some degree. It is the world of spin. We have all become implicit spinners. No one likes it and no one knows how to stop it. We look simultaneously at content and predicted effect, at what actually happened and how it will play. If it doesn't play, it never happened. Conversely, even blatant lies, if they play, become true.