Celebrity and politics

Many of the supposed "heroes" of the past were liars, frauds, and butchers to varying degrees.  The association of fame with entertainers, for all its flaws, departs from earlier concepts of heroic brutality and martial virtue.  Most of today’s famous people have had to persuade consumers to offer their allegiance and their dollars.  Nowadays fame is attained through a high-stakes game of pursuit and seduction, rather than a heroic contest or a show of force in battle.  The shift in fame to entertainers is a modern extension of the Enlightenment doux commerce thesis that the wealth of the market civilizes morals and manners and supports an ethic of bourgeois virtue.

…Modern politics emphasizes images, rumor, negative campaigning, and a circus-like, mass media atmosphere.  Leaders lose their stature and become another set of celebrities.  We talk about them and use them for entertainment.  Yet contrary to the views of many critics, these developments are by no means wholly negative.

Commercial society has brought the taming of fame to politics…

That is from my 2000 book What Price Fame?


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