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Politainment, a portmanteau word composed of politics and entertainment, describes tendencies in politics and mass media to liven up political reports and news coverage using elements from public relations to create a new kind of political communication. Politainment, while outwardly emphasizing the political aspects of the information communicated, nevertheless draws heavily upon techniques from pop culture and journalism to make complex information more accessible or convincing and distract public attention from politically unfavorable topics. The interdependencies of politicians and media are known as the politico-media complex.
Of doubtful virtue, declining amounts of content and substance can easily be compensated by giving news stories a sensationalistic twinge. Politainment thus ranges on the same level as edu- and infotainment.
Typical catchlines in politainment reports or media will at times bluntly argue ad hominem in a generalizing manner and try to emphasize virtues and charisma ("xyz will make America great again") or vices and weaknesses (by denunciation: "xyz will wreck this country","lynching", etc.). The latter example is also known as fear appeal. More moderate forms make extensive use of imprecise, metaphoric language (allegories, metonymy, periphrases, kennings etc.).
Politainment can be both a communication aspect of (1) politicians and spin doctors to their and their party's own advantage and the political adversary's disadvantage or (2) a strategy for news publishers, journalists, etc., to promote their medium and journalistic work. Trumpism with its strong anti-intellectualist mass appeal is said to have exerted influence in both dimensions.
Politainment may be a factor in party identification, mass-influencing voter's choices, it has thus become an indispensable tool in political campaigns and elections. As such it can also be one of the—seemingly innocuous—ingredients of crowd manipulation up to political psychological warfare.
Politics is show business for ugly people— Bill Miller, 1991
Politics is show business
- Nieland, Jörg-Uwe (2008-06-05), "Politainment", The International Encyclopedia of Communication, Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, doi:10.1002/9781405186407.wbiecp047, ISBN 978-1-4051-8640-7
- "Dismantling democracy – the right to be entertained". openDemocracy. 2020-06-02. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
Recently on the BBC, the Hungarian State Secretary for International Communication, Zoltan Kovacs, ridiculed questions about his leader Victor Orban ruling by decree, calling any kind of criticism of Hungary “political lynching”.
- Riegert, Kristina; Collins, Sue (2016-01-04), Politainment, Wiley, pp. 1–11, doi:10.1002/9781118541555.wbiepc157, ISBN 978-1-118-29075-0
- Schultz, David (2019-06-20). "The Intellectual Origins of the Trump Presidency and the Construction of Contemporary American Politics". CounterPunch.org. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
Trump is simply the latest in a lineage of politainers advantaged by the new rules of journalism. His mastery of the new celebrity, entertainment, for-profit news industry gave him the ability to overcome the strong party government that had been constructed by the political science community. He and interested groups also exploited the weaknesses in party governance by capturing the GOP. Once elected, Trump continues to benefit from the journalism and partisan trends, but also from the powerful intellectual forces creating the modern presidency.
- David Schultz, Politainment, 2012
- Laverne, Lauren (2014-11-09). "The Boris, Brand and Farage show: why politicians should steer clear of showbiz". the Guardian. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
Politainment is what unites Boris, Brand and Farage, the men who dominate our political dialogue to such an extent that we’ve given up talking about it in favour of talking about them. It’s an old idea (Texan politico Bill Miller coined the phrase “Politics is show business for ugly people” back in 1991, before Jay Leno), but with a twist.
- III, Tom Maxedon (1970-01-01). "Politics is an ugly 'sport' – and always has been". The Guam Daily Post. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
“Politics is show business for ugly people” wrote Texas political consultant Bill Miller in a 1991 Dallas Morning News article. It was his caustic update of the phrase “politics is show business” from a 1954 column written by Drew Pearson.
- David Schultz (2012). Politainment: The Ten Rules of Contemporary Politics: A citizens' guide to understanding campaigns and elections. ISBN 978-0615594200.
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