A good idea to get rich quicker- Go to politics as a profession. The generation 'X' has almost engulfed in star attention of media, and publicity. Across the spectre of politics from far left to far right, the sweeping wind of celebrity culture has penetrated enough to bring about phantom changes in the culture of politics itself. The blanket statement has no objection either from caste or from class.
The rise of celebrity culture with the rapid spread of modern communication infrastructure, development of culture industry, and growing consumer culture; claim significant ramifications in the hybrid creation of political class of contemporary age.
The celebrity culture seems influencing the culture of political class. Ganeshan, a film actor turned politician, ex-minister in Kerala, is now a TV anchor in Asianet where he hosts Nammal Thammil, a popular programme.
Over the years, it seems politicians, sports stars, celebrities, media tycoons, television anchors, etc., have a close connection. Their unholy nexus claimed a major portion of the political public. Sharad Pawar, an influential politician of National Congress Party, is also the president of Mumbai Cricket Association. From known to unknown, politicians in Kerala makes occasional appearances in Malayalam movies.
In Tamil Nadu, ‘Kollywood’ is a transit point to successful political career. In Andhra Pradesh, leaders of Telungu Desham Party have close connection with ‘Tollywood’. In Tamil Nadu, film actor turned politician, Nepoleaon was a Union Minister in UPA II. In Kerala, film actor Mamooty is known for his close affiliation with CPI (M). He is also one of the directors of the Kairali Network, a television network owned by party.
Internet, TV, commercials, ad, films, etc., have copied influences in the making of modern celebrities. They too have their significant make over in political public. The political class attains celebrity status in the age of culture industry, infotainment and tabloidisation of media word. With celebrity status, politicians attained class status. Class and celebrity thus intermingle to create their own hybrids.
They are hybrid creation of popularity and satellite value. P C George, a senior politician of Kerala Congress network, has the usual appearances in most of the prime time news debate in Malayalam Television channels by evening. Media usually slot in him in any tight debate schedule considering his satellite value by which news and debate get Television Rating Points. Propaganda, metaphors, billboard campaigns, ad, and self-advertisements dominate and dictate our politics of the day.
Other side of this development is the fragmentation of audience. Fan activism, hobbyists, etc., has profoundly influenced the makeover of political public. Celebrity culture, and subsequent fan basis, that political class claimed over the years, has paved the way for a new channel of political engagements.
Shashi Tharoor and Narendra Modi speak to a larger fifth estate voters over social media platforms. Political classes who are still skeptical of the platforms are finding new platforms of self-advertisements. In southern part of Kerala where local politicians are creating larger flex for self-advertisements beside public roads and national Highways. This means self-advertisement campaign ahead of the general elections.
A type of billboard campaign by politicians who had a heritage of great politicians who faced toughest challenges of bumpy streets, imperials prisons etc. This also means a new kind of celebrity politicians who are self-made by advertisements, media connection, publicity stunts, etc. Politicians knocking doorsteps are ancient ideal in contemporary time.
The new breed of celebrity politicians addresses a pool of audience who are significantly young and media savvy. Internet is their cultural vocabulary. Media is their food. Successful appearances in television are their token of victory.
In fact, political class behaves like celebrities. A status something similar to those of celebrity culture is the real test of democracy. Here, the political class has to pass through toughest manipulative principles.
Gone are the days when politics was a leveling process as seen in the writings of Aristotle. It is an ancient ideal to think of politics as the art of possible when Chancellor Bismarck addressed German Reichstag. Now, politics is the last resort of scoundrels; thanks to George Bernard Shaw. Certainly, seeing Indian political class from Statue making for Bahujans to marriage after marriages, Baron Acton would have repeated, power corrupts and absolute power absolutely.
‘Moneycracy’, ‘powerocracy’, ‘corpocracy’, ‘mediacracy’, a surfeit of labels define our democracy and now, one more beautiful label: ‘Celebritycracy’! Thanks to media, Internet, ad, India Inc and culture industry for making our politicos behave like celebrities.
About the contributor: Biju P R, teaches Political Science at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, Kerala. Researches on social media and political interfaces in the Indian context. Currently writing two books on the same theme. (Clicking Alone: Mechanics of protest and change in digital India) and (Connective Politics: Reflections on digital public in India).
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