IS SOCIAL MEDIA ROBBING THE WORLD OF GREAT LEADERSHIP ?
December 9, 2013 Leave a comment
I have become increasingly more of the opinion that social media, aided with a less forgiving press, is robbing us of better political leadership.
Up until the 1960s, the western press tended to believe that the private lives of public figures were off limits for them to report on, and hence many of the leaders at the time did not have their peculiarities and peccadilloes exposed to public scrutiny until after their deaths.
The most famous example is of course American President John F. Kennedy whose life, 50 years later, is still described by many in Camelot mythology terms. The reality now coming to light is of a man whose sexual appetites knew no boundaries, and who disregarded any and all restrictions of security or proprietary in satisfying them, having had relationships with Danish journalist Inge Arvad (suspected of Nazi connections), Judith Exner Campbell (an intimate of Mafia bosses) and Mariella Novotny (who was involved in the Profumo affair in Britain and was also intimate with the Soviet Naval attaché at the time). Despite repeated warnings from the FBI and the American security services, JFK persisted and continued to be reckless in his personal life. He was well protected, as when the press threatened to publish his links to the Profumo affair, suggesting that he too was involved in the vice scandal, his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, intervened to stop the newspapers from publishing any details.
Compare this situation with the rather childish, though weird and immature, transgression of Anthony Weiner, the former member of the United States House of Representatives from New York City, whose hobby appears to be the sending of photos of himself in a state of arousal to young women. In 2011, he was caught out sending a link of a sexually explicit photo of himself, over Twitter, to a young woman in Seattle, ultimately resulting in his resignation. He tried to resurrect his political career in 2013, running for Mayor of New York, when more pictures and “sexting” came to light released by the website “The Dirty”. He refused to retire from the race, but gained less than 5% of the vote, despite his photographic skills.
The point is that it took only a few weeks from the announcement of his intention to run in the New York Mayoral race to this latest set of “selfies” going viral across the internet via twitter, Facebook and the Blogosphere.
Today, our lives, private and public are so open to scrutiny that I wonder why anyone in their right mind would consider running for public office, with the understanding that not only will all their skeletons come out of the closet into bright sunshine, but that social media today has the ability to ensure that these skeletons can get widespread global airing in times measured in milliseconds.
I believe that there are probably some potentially great people out there who could make a significant contribution to the betterment of their city, their country, the world and mankind, who are just not prepared to step into an arena of public scrutiny that will ensure that they are stripped bare of all cover. I don’t blame them as I am sure that very few of us have nothing, or even very little, to hide ?
This may help to explain why we seem to have such a lame and lacklustre bunch of politicians running the place today.
Francois Hollande, current President of France is a really good example of this current state. He has long had the nickname of “Monsieur Flanby” after a pudding in France which is soft both on the inside and outside, and in his first year of office has shown that he can live up to his nickname by flip-flopping on many issues from immigration to taxes.
Sadly it is not much different in the UK and Germany being the other major European powers. No one could accuse David Cameron or Angela Merkel of being exciting or of being game changers. The nicest thing we can say about them is that they have never done anything significantly wrong, and that sadly they also haven’t done anything very right, very different or very exciting.
What these three current country leader examples have in common is that they are bland, and have very little in their pasts that would make interesting reading in any form of media, the most exciting viral post about Angela Merkel having been a series of photographs showing her wearing exactly the same business-style suit in about 40 slightly differing colours. Be still my heart !
Just when we need some serious leadership, we seem to be getting the “white bread choices” because the “onion and cheese poppy seed roll” politicians that are needed are keeping away from the social spotlights that can bring out all imperfections in their glow. We are therefore being presented with second and third rate candidates to choose from, and are thus just ending up with national leaders that are merely the best of what is on offer … or so we hope. (see “We get the Leaders we deserve” posted February 2nd, 2011).
Or the world gets the fools like Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, who has recently admitted to smoking crack cocaine, but excused his drug taking as he was always in a drunken stupor whenever he did, so he cannot be held accountable for his actions.
With the death of Nelson Mandela this last week we may have seen the last of the great leaders who went ahead and did what was needed to fight for his beliefs, without fear or hesitation of the polls or of how the media might interpret his actions either public or private. He was no saint, but he dramatically changed the part of the world he lived in, and in doing so changed all of us in different ways.
In Mandela’s own words “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.
I would rather have some passionate world leaders with imperfections, than have a world run by the bland “flanbys” with none.