Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Kitsch President

Do bad taste and bad politics go together?

Matthew Yglesias:

And nothing's less classy than a pervasive aesthetic of kitsch, which is more-or-less what you get from this administration. It's the faux-populist posturing of clearing brush in 100+ degree Texas weather even though nobody would ever actually do that. It's lying about what kind of cheese the president takes on his Philly cheesesteak during the campaign to score some obscure political point against his opponent. It's the mock-profundity of declaring that we will make no distinction between countries that harbor terrorists and the terrorists themselves, when everyone knows perfectly well that we have no intention of invading Pakistan

The larger question is whether kitsch or false consciousness or something like that is an endemic, built-in feature of US political culture. We love to be entranced by images, and Republicans have just been better at image manipulation than Democrats.

The esthetics of mass culture is improving, somewhat, as Martha Stewart and Target bring at least an aura of good taste to the hoi polloi. Will that translate to a more critical mindset, or is it just another image to follow?

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