Sunday, January 04, 2004

Microphone Fiend

A great piece in The New Yorker, a critique written by Louis Menand on two recent books that examine the Kennedy and Nixon eras in the United States.

The article examines the use of image, and one of the interesting points made is from an observation by University of Chicago historian, Daniel Boorstin.

His argument was that the rise of mechanical means of communication and reproduction—the telegraph, photography, the high-speed printing press, radio, television—and the subsequent emergence of media “sciences,” such as advertising and public relations, had produced a culture of what he called “pseudo-events,” events that are neither real nor illusory, neither genuine nor fake, like, he said, the Kennedy-Nixon debates.

Boorstin believed that date - the advent of PR and communication - went back to the 19th century and the "graphic revolution" that began the age of the celebrity, someone known for being known.

In essence, though, the current era of public relations and advertising can be traced to the Nixon - Kennedy debates. Kennedy understood the nature of the soundbite, the public image, while Kennedy was surrounded by ad men and understood the nature of appearance - sometimes too well, and too well scripted.

That's not nearly the whole article - and there's some more great tidbits and ideas that were presented in the books critiqued by Menand.

Both Nixon and Kennedy, in their own way, were "microphone fiends," borrowing a phrase from a somewhat fitting title - Eric B. and Rakim.
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