BIGGI: Politicians’ popularity should not overshadow policy

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BIGGI newLast week, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford called into a local radio show to defend Justin Bieber, who had just been charged with assault in Canada’s most populated city, just a week after his driving under the influence and resisting arrest charges in Florida.

“At 19 years old, I wish I was as successful as he was,” Ford said.

Ford hasn’t reached Bieber’s level of notoriety, but he has had his fair share of public incidents while in office. In general, with Ford’s admission to smoking crack cocaine, it is pretty ridiculous that he still holds the position of mayor. Both of these Canadian bad boys are on a downward spiral, and it is terrifying to think of the influence they have worldwide.

The entertainment industry and the government are becoming more similar as politicians are viewed in the same light as celebrities.

We live in an age when celebrities and politicians are critiqued on the same playing field. People are more willing to listen to cultural icons rather than those who may have more effective political perspectives. We end up valuing those we see in movies and whose music we listen to on the radio over those who can help make the changes we want to see in world.

Take someone who has had careers in both realms, as a celebrity and a politician: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The two-term California governor was one of the only Republicans who could win in the overwhelmingly blue state, and that is because he is a symbol of Hollywood. This demonstrates the overwhelming power of his status over his policy. In the end of his political career, Schwarzenegger had a 22 percent approval rating, showing that a background in the entertainment industry should not take precedence over political experience.

Our society has a greater respect for celebrity over anything. One of the most counterproductive attacks the McCain campaign made on Obama in 2008 was that he was “the biggest celebrity in the world.” Little did they know that is exactly what the American people were looking for. Unlike Schwarzenegger, Obama’s primary occupation is in politics. Obama’s icon status was sold to voters in part by the “Hope” posters done by Shepard Fairey, which drew parallels with the infamous Che Guevara posters symbolizing revolution and charisma.

We often favor a superficial, celebrity-like reputation over the actual credentials of politicians. But celebrities can’t always effectively determine how much money we should pay in taxes.

I cannot deny the popularity of Justin Bieber’s brand. Unfortunately, the way the world sees it, he might as well be a massive political figure. With his current fan base, who knows what he might be capable of when he’s 30 and is eligible for the Canadian Senate. If Rob Ford could be elected to represent Toronto and act as the head of the city’s political affairs, maybe Bieber could too. Despite this, Ford has become such a joke that it is hard to tell whether he has any say in anything culturally or politically in Canada.

It is not too astonishing Ford has endorsed Bieber, but it highlights the unnecessary intertwining of the entertainment industry and the political sphere.

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