Friday, November 6, 2009

Charisma: Its Effect on Politics & Media

The 1960 Kennedy-Nixon Debates ushered in an era of politics that has transformed how politics plays in the media as well as how public policy is formulated. The emergence of candidate-centered politics made individual personalities as important, if not more, than policy platforms. Eminent sociologist Max Weber transformed the concept of charisma from its religious origins to its secular manifestations. Weber asserted that charismatic personalities gained power and significance through sheer will, determination and ambition contrary to inheriting or climbing the corporate hierarchy (Weber 1978). His notion of Charismatic Authority was prescient in that this leadership model would find a place within modern politics. The Celebrity Industrial Complex (Orth 2004)turned celebrities into politicians and politicians into celebrities, which allowed California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to go from film star to governor without any political experience or political platform. The objectivity of the media became skewed, because journalists either fawned over charismatic politicians or were self-conscious about seeming overly positive when a charismatic politician connected with the public viscerally. The effectiveness of proposed public policy considerations were no longer vetted or mulled over, but presented to the public as "focus group" to determine its acceptance. How the proposed initiative resonated in the media would determine how hard politicians fought for legislative passage. Media objectivity has also been called into question when it has to juggle its role as public "truth provider" versus for-profit corporation. Arguably, the media has often opted for the latter with the notion, "If it bleeds, it leads." The bloodletting could be literal or metaphorical.

References

Orth, M. (2004). The importance of being Famous: Behind the scenes of the celebrity-industrial complex. New York. Henry Holt & Co., LLC.

Weber, M. (1978). Weber: Selections in translations. Runciman, W. (Ed.). United Kingdom. Cambridge. Press.

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