Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The celebrity reality show craze has already crossed over into politics, and I’m not talking about C-Span. Last year millionaire Mitch Daniel, running for governor of Indiana, aired his own reality show. Hand -held cameras followed him around the state as he visited Hoosier hamlets far and wide, kissing babies and pressing the flesh. You could watch the orgy online anytime, or catch the hour-long TV version once a week. Daniels, who had no prior experience in elected office, made minced meat of the incumbent.

But ordinarily celebrity reality shows are a last ditch attempt to resuscitate a fading star’s career: check out “Chasing Farrah,” “Being Bobby Brown,” or “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.” What unites these cyber-age freakshows is not only their second-rate celebrities, but that indomitable spirit that has swept America in recent years: making a virtue of failure and futility. This is the true nexus between celebrity and politics in America today.

Here in our home state, we may not be able to claim any stars of the Whitney or Britney caliber, but we do have Mittney, who is poised to bust a move on the national stage. Like his B-list celebrity counterparts in the reality TV business he has become adept at capitalizing on his failures in office, and hopes to parlay them into a big victory in 2008. I fully expect to see him at the dais at the next Republican National Convention in a tight bodice complete with cone bra and tassels, Bill Frist and Trent Lott his scantily clad back-ups, dirty-dancing to a sexed-up medley of Mormon hymns.

Golly, but politicians sure love a good old-fashioned fete. Aside from conventions, the next best thing to a fund-raiser is a terror attack. You can be sure Mittney kicked into high gear when terrorists struck London last week. The way politicians have so successfully exploited 9/11 for their own ends, it kind of makes you wonder whose side the terrorists are on. The London attack was a freebee for Mittney, who, playing state paterfamilias, announced a stepped-up (or at least more visible, and certainly temporary) police presence on the T, though there was no greater threat than usual. Late Sunday night on my way home from the movies, there were more MBTA police than passengers in the subway. Aside from feeling ever-so-safe with the additional security, riders were treated, every five minutes, to the soothing sound of Mittney’s smash hit, “Terror Attacks Is Whack.” His PSA for TransitWatch repeated ad nauseam on the T’s public address system.

Mittney has spent over $1.5 million so far this year on a publicity blitz designed to boost his national name recognition. He’s not really a governor, but he plays one on TV. He doesn’t care if it’s good press or bad press he gets, so long as his voice is in your ear and his name is on your tongue. Like Whitney and Britney, he may be washed-up, but at least you know his name.


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