The cult of personality

I like music, not just the melodies and rhythms, but mostly the lyrics – especially when they take you on a journey or encourage you to think deeper.

One such song I remembered from my youth got stuck in my head recently (like they often do), and its lyrics brought me to an unexpected realisation that was there all along. Quite surprisingly the song was Cult of Personality by Living Color.

A cult of personality arises when a country’s regime or, more rarely, an individual, uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, and government-organized demonstrations and rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. A cult of personality is similar to apotheosis, except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques.

The media plays an instrumental role in forging national leaders’ cults of personality.

Thomas A. Wright reports that quote.

It is becoming evident that the charismatic leader, especially in politics, has increasingly become the product of media and self-exposure. Surely they did not create it all alone, but just as surely they have contributed to it. “In the personalised politics of recent years the “charisma” of the leader may be almost entirely a product of media exposure. end quote.

Thomas A. Wright

Living Color Guitarist Vernon Reid spelled it out with is song lyrics succinctly –

Look in my eyes, what do you see?  -  The cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I've been everything you want to be - I'm the cult of personality
Like Mussolini and Kennedy - I'm the cult of personality
Neon lights, a Nobel Prize
Then a mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You don't have to follow me, only you can set me free
I sell the things you need to be
I'm the smiling face on your T.V. - I'm the cult of personality
I exploit you still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three - I'm the cult of personality
Like Joseph Stalin and Gandhi - I'm the cult of personality

Awoken by the song lyrics I became quickly aware that we are no longer really living under the regime of the Coalition of Losers, but that Ardern is well on the way to building her cult of personality (if only Twyford could build houses as quickly!).  

Ardern needs Winston for now, however, she has engineered a situation where she is the brightest star with an unflinching perpetual international spotlight and with her popular brand growing stronger by the week, Winston and NZ First are likely to be out in the cold next election.

So how did she do it so quickly?

Ardern is adept at using her formal qualifications in Communication studies, and although her personal communication skills when put on the spot are weak, her carefully sculptured brand, virtue signalling to the public, control of the media and ability to form relationships, have been her key strengths.

This is what Waikato University says are the key skills to be gained from its Bachelor of Communications Studies degree: quote.

Gain the insights to design a communication campaign that can shape people’s beliefs and behaviour, address major social issues.

Students majoring in Public Relations will develop the professional writing, interpersonal and leadership skills to work with both clients and journalists, and craft media releases that make news headlines. You’ll know how to deliver effective communication strategies, build positive relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders, protect an organisation’s reputation from harm, and respond quickly to an emerging crisis.” end quote.

For Ardern, with her personal links to the media, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. All she needed was an opportunity which the floundering election campaign of Andrew Little allowed her.

Today there would be no one in Labour who would even dare to challenge her leadership, as with her personal brand carrying them along, they can be as lazy and incompetent as they like because brand Ardern ensures it is all swept under the mat.

Credit: SonovaMin

Ardern offers her party member’s security they have never felt before, and it is very different to the tyranny of Clark’s Labour regime. They adore her even more than the public and would die in a ditch to protect her brand whilst basking in all her reflected glory. Even the Aussie’s have bought into her cult of personality, preferring her to their PM, and wishing to immortalise her image on a silo in Melbourne.

Twenty months on and the majority is firmly on her side (including the speaker of the house!). Ardern is also blessed with a particularly weak and unpopular opposition leader who is easy to deal with, especially with a complicit media and attack dog Winston at her disposal.

Has Ardern’s cult of personality now become unstoppable? I believe it has and despairingly it will be further entrenched in 2020.