Back in 1972, around the dawn of the self-esteem movement and the resulting widespread narcissism in us all, Carly Simon sang about a lover that was more in love with himself than her. The singer has toyed with fans since then, never fully divulging who the vain man is. Perhaps she really means, in a feminist way, all men.
It also could speak more generally to the media-centred focus of politics. Since television, practicing politics has become as much about appearances as the message.
The apocryphal story harkens back to the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy twelve years earlier. Those watching on the “boob tube” thought Kennedy did better, since Nixon was sweating and appeared uncomfortable. But those listening on radio thought Nixon did better, being only able to hear the ideas he was attempting to communicate. We know who won the election, and does this suggest Kennedy was more substance than style?
Well, JFK delivered some tremendous, thoughtful speeches. It can be hard to imagine a politician today coming off as reasoned and literate as the Founding Fathers before him, presumably being less concerned with the width of their suit lapels.
Today, a politician calling their executive assistant in the morning usually has this question: did I get picked up by the media? And if the answer is yes, the next question is, did they use a picture of me? And the third question, is it the ‘good’ picture?
Are politicians dumber today, or victims themselves of a sound bite-fed, ADD distracted audience and world?