Here's a nice summary article from the Palm Beach Post about the trend toward "poli-tainment," under which general heading the author places everything from the Vote for Change tour to The Daily Show to The West Wing to Rush Limbaugh. The article makes the argument that the blending of entertainment with politics -- sometimes a little light on facts -- was pioneered by conservatives, with liberals only now really beginning to produce a lot of their own poli-tainment.
There's a lot of commentary and opinion about this issue right now, stemming from events like the recent announcement of the Vote for Change tour and lineup of artists. People on both sides of the political fence have argued that poli-tainment is a bad trend, either because celebrities outside politics should not use their position to push their political views, or because audiences for poli-tainment don't get the whole story. As I've previously written, I think the first argument is silly: celebrities ought to be able to address whatever issues they choose, so long as they're prepared for the potential consequences. As for the second point contra poli-tainment, I'm pessimistic (or realistic) enough to believe that some of those becoming "informed" through shows like The Daily Show, The West Wing, or even Rush Limbaugh are highly unlikely to seek out news and information through other means -- and some information is better than no information.
Also -- and maybe this is just postmodern Gen-X cynicism talking -- I'm not totally clear on the line between some of the things the article describes as poli-tainment and other things that purport to be respectable sources of news and opinion. Much of the content on Fox News comes immediately to mind, of course, but to be fair I would also include shows like MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Depending on your views and the stories of the day, these may be fun to watch, but they're the junk food of news: you'll probably learn enough to get by, but you're not doing yourself any favors by restricting your news diet to such sources.
I will, however, add the forthcoming book by former CNN editor David Mindich to my reading list. Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News will potentially provide some insight into whether the trend toward poli-tainment is actually something to worry about.Posted by at August 9, 2004 2:05 PM