Media Spectacle and the 2008 Presidential Election

Presidential campaigns in the U.S., but also globally, have become major media spectacles, often decided by orchestrated spectacles. During the 2004 U.S. presidential election, media spectacle was a major determinant of the campaign with the so-called Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry's war record and daily ads and Republican demonstrations dramatizing Kerry's alleged "flip-flopping." In this article, I review the role of media spectacle in the Democratic Party primaries where it played a major role and in the general election contest between Barack Obama and John McCain. I argue that the Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama included a spectacle of race vs. gender and that Obama emerged as master of the spectacle during the primaries, a role he successfully carefully out in the Fall 2008 presidential election. My argument is that media spectacle is an important and often overlooked element of recent presidential elections and I offer concluding comments on "Deconstructing the spectacle" as an important component of political and media literacy.

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