[originally published in The Weekly, February 5, 1986]
I saw a movie the other day and (you probably aren’t going to believe this, but hear me out) it said that politicians can be confected and marketed just like any other commodity. It seems that when we, as citizens of a democracy, bear witness to a political campaign, we aren’t necessarily being given a fair chance to make an informed judgment about the values, or even the authentic personal identities, of the candidates. The campaigns are, to a large extent, managed events, smokescreens, projections of cosmetic fictions designed and orchestrated by behind-the-scenes consultants called (pardon me while I check my notes here) media wizards. These highly paid people conduct a kind of advertising war in which the consumer/voter is persuaded to prefer Brand X to Brand Y largely on the basis of images—unflattering images of Brand Y, heroic images of Brand X—that don’t always correspond to the candidates’ realities or have much to do with the kind of job each candidate wants to do and would do upon achieving elective office. Moreover, these media wizards may not care whether Candidate X or Y will be good for the country, state, or whatever. They may even have been hired by (where did I put those notes again?) special interests looking to protect some business that could be affected by government policy and legislation. Theirs is a dirty job, such consultants may admit, but it is a job: “As long as our candidate polls 39 percent or better, it makes us look good.” Talk about cynicism! (Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t believe it.)
Power is an overweeningly silly movie that seems to have been made for, if not by, residents of one of the moons of Saturn. No one else, certainly no one who has come in contact with the American political process in the past several decades, would regard the appalled revelations of this motion picture as news. They’re still less likely to find it entertaining.