Televisual Images in Presidential Politics: A Baudrillardian Reading of Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential Campaign


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Virginia Tech


Television's role in American presidential politics is significant; sixty percent of the American people identify television as their sole soure of news. Thus, a presidential candidate must do his best to appear favorably in the media. Some scholars have suggested that this involves the creation of an "image" which appeals to the electorate, even to the exent of creating the appearance of a "reality" unsupported by known facts.

We continue to explore the creation of these televisual images with the assistance of some insights made by a controversial french social theorist, Jean Baudrillard. Applying his ideas of hyperreality, simulation, "will to spectacle," fate, and power to Bill Clinton's 1992 appearance on 60 Minutes (in which he denys allegations of an affair with Geniffer Flowers) and that year's Democratic National Convention film, The Man from Hope, we corroborate the "image making" aspects of theories purported by Tim Luke and Joanne Morreale. However, we also suggest that the televisual images generated by the presidential campaign satisfy more than the candidate's political aspirations, they also fulfill a social demand for reality's production. Furthermore, we find that difficulties determining an image's meaning suggest that its appeal to the electorate is based more on "sentiment" than its ability to construct a comprehensive, consistent representation of reality. These arguments are then summarily applied to Monica Lewinsky's introduction into political discourse in late January and early February 1998.



Hyperreality, Baudrillard, Clinton