Have you noticed more and more politicians broadcasting their visits to the dentist or live-streaming themselves cooking their favorite Instant Pot mac-and-cheese recipe or posting footage of themselves chugging beer in their kitchen (as Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren have all done)? You’re not alone. These efforts at hyper-authenticity are rapidly becoming the new normal.
Politicians who wanted to seem authentic used to have it much easier. They could show up at a diner and talk to locals, visit a police or fire station; or appear at the opening of a new factory—all with an eye to generating a few flattering photo opportunities. Add a few earnest television interviews and a friendly magazine profile, and one’s authenticity was confirmed. As Daniel Boorstin outlined in his 1962 book, The Image, as far back as FDR, politicians used staged press conferences and calculated leaks to enlist the press and the public in efforts to create “pseudo-events” designed to cast the politician in the most flattering light.
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