In our modern world, celebrity reign supreme. For decades, it only dominated the world of cinema, television and popular culture. However, in this post-Trump era, the world of celebrity has begun to seep into international politics through the widening popularity of social media platforms.
Obviously, with celebrity comes a substantial amount of wealth, charisma and societal influence and many fear certain celebrities will become the new policy-makers in a world where superficiality is unreservedly worshipped.
Naturally, there are many influential celebrities who are charitable and are major social activists. Oprah Winfrey, for example, has helped establish many charities and has been involved in philanthropic pursuits throughout her career, ranging from helping build schools for children in developing countries to helping raise awareness for ovarian cancer in the United States.
Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes Awards this year was undeniably inspiring and heart-warming. Undoubtedly, she is an idol for many young women of all ages from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. According to her, women are set to ‘become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “me too” again’.
Naturally the speech has received masses of attention and has given women confidence to continue to speak out against abuses not only in the film industry but in the traditional workplace no matter the country or region. Many are calling her speech ‘presidential’, which is sadly no longer regarded as an abnormality.
The general public’s admiration of such figures as Oprah Winfrey is understandable. She is a remarkable journalist, chat show host, interviewer, actor and author. According to popular culture she is vying to break her way into politics and become the President of the United States, hence the speech. Certainly, she would have enough capital to fund her own political agenda, as she was the world’s first multi-billionaire female African American. Does this necessarily mean, however, that she would not only be a good politician but also a good President of the United States of America? In my humble opinion, it does not.
Electing a celebrity with no political experience to lead the free world is naturally quite foolish and actively dangerous. We have seen it backfire once before when a male candidate with a known history of chauvinism, bigotry and racism was elected to the highest seat in American politics, a person with no political experience whatsoever, neither regional or national. That person did not have to go through the various political hoops to even become a presidential candidate, his celebrity influence alone garnered that privilege.
It is stereotypically common to be fooled by charisma and confidence. It is, in fact, exceptionally similar to the election of the classical dictator. Now, more than ever before, the potential leaders of our world have a significantly larger audience who spend the majority of their day on a platform which is trifled with political propaganda. A candidate can portray themselves in a better light at the cost of their opponent with no immediate counterpoint.
By also consuming our news via social media, we are giving a certain credibility to the platform which it truthfully does not deserve. Social media was traditionally used by the general public and celebrities. With a certain former celebrity who is now also a politician actively using social media, the public are beginning to view politicians and celebrities as one and the same. The people who strive their entire lives for the betterment of their community and country are regarded as equals to the outrageously wealthy film and television personalities of the twenty-first century.
The audience at their disposal is, in fact, continuing to increase. According to the CSO, in Ireland in 2017, 93% of 16-29 year olds are most likely to access the internet for social media purposes. Of the 16-29 year olds surveyed, a staggering 92% accessed the internet every single day. This is compared with 77% of 16-29 year olds in 2011. Young people throughout the world are becoming more and more dependent on social media, in fact we are vicariously living our lives through social media. Our idols are now those who are the most prominent on that platform, whether celebrity or politician or both.
The question is obvious; how will the younger generation be affected by this modern superficiality which has even entered the world of politics? A world were men and women feel free to discuss the appearance or attractiveness of a political leader such as Angela Merkel or Theresa May. Is there no refuge? Is there no profession untainted by celebrity and free from the scrutiny of the public eye?
Perhaps young men and women will stop striving for roles in government, when it becomes apparent that the highest positions are reserved only for the widely admired and enormously affluent elite. They say there is nothing money can’t buy and it seems that the saying has now taken on a sickening reality.
Mark Jackson – Features Writer