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[Opinion] Politainment

Posted August. 13, 2003 21:22,   


Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his bid for governor race in California at late night TV show `Tonight.` Two months ago, he was on the same seat, promoting his new movie `Terminator .` At that time, he said (apparently to the incumbent governor of California), ˝I cannot put up with him any more because I am so mad,˝ quoting a line from one of his movies `The Network.` He also used such well-known phrases as ˝Hasta la vista, baby (So long, baby)˝ and ˝I`ll be back,˝ which were from the hit series `Terminator.` We are indeed living in an era of politainment, a powerful combination of politics and entertainment.

Politicians have been using this so-called politainment for some time. John F. Kennedy turned politics into something entertaining, and Hollywood actor-turned president Ronald Reagan blurred the line between politics and entertainment. Then, the prime years of politainment came with Bill Clinton. He appeared on a TV show, playing saxophone. Politicians were even on MTV programs talking about their favorite underwear colors. The fun time, however, was almost gone when the Sept. 11 attacks jolted Americans. Six days after the incident, comedian Bill Mayhuh was sacked right after he made a joke about George W. Bush and the Sept. 11. Americans could not condone the comedian for making fun of the president, who they believe was the one to protect the country and the people.

And now the action star running for Bush`s Republicans is reportedly enjoying fast-growing popularity. America must have regained its sense of humor thanks to the rican imperialistic hubris. Analysts say that Schwarzenegger has fat chances of winning the race with his savior-like Terminator image and aura of machoism. ˝Politics has already become a game of show business,˝ noted communication scholar Martin Kaplan. Politics and show business, in fact, share many common traits - they both feed on popularity, acting and communication skills matter and politicians must know how to ride on the wave of betrayal. So in Washington, they say, ˝Politics is a show business for stupid people.˝

Critics, however, point out that Schwarzenegger cannot be a second Reagan since he is inexperienced and has little knowledge. Yet, it is too early to label him as incompetent. He is also from an immigration community, therefore carries the message of the `American Dream.` He has no debt in terms of political relationships, so he will be free from interest groups` pressure. It is not welcoming that politics increasingly becomes a game of show business, but it is still better than watching a tragedy called politics, like one staged in this country.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com