I Love Barack Obama (and So Does the Media)

FEIFEI LING
Staff Writer
Published: January 29, 2009

I love Barack Obama.

There, I admit it. I’ve been hiding this deep dark secret for a long time now—hiding it behind pro-John McCain jokes, racist comments and referring to myself as “Feifei O’Reilly.” That was a façade. I love Obama, and I am desperate for any and all contact with the guy. I watch Obama on TV. I talk about Obama on blogs and message boards. I even own the Obama commemorative coins. You say obsession; I say: true.

But it’s not just me. The guy is celebrity in the vein of Brad Pitt, Britney Spears and Barbara Walters. He has over a million friends on Myspace and nearly four million fans on Facebook. My roommate’s walls are covered with his campaign signs. He’s got Grammys from the will.i.am-produced video on Youtube and is TIME magazine’s person of the year. What’s his secret? Obama knows how to use new technology and pop culture to his advantage, and that certainly won’t stop now that he’s president.

The ever-suffocating grasps of the Internet and mobile technologies have irrevocably changed the face of politics. The American public, especially people in the 18-24 age group, get most of their news, videos, podcasts and interviews from the all-powerful “.com.” Intense debates about economic, international and domestic issues take place 24/7 on laptops, Blackberries and iPhones.

Less intense debates about Michelle Obama’s fashion choices, the cuteness of Obama’s kids and what kind of puppy the family should get also take place on those same electronic devices.

The fast, extensive flow of information makes and breaks people ever so easily these days, and no one is safe—not moguls, not billionaires but particularly not politicians. Sarah Palin lost credibility not in televised, old-school debates, but by a comedian’s impersonation on Saturday Night Live.

Frankly, youth and pop culture played a big hand in Obama’s presidential victory. An MSNBC article from November 2008 said that a record number of the youngest members of the country’s electorate voted in the election—and they voted Democratic. He has very strong support among younger Americans, and most of this support is backed up by his public image as a technologically-savvy, down-to-earth, man-first-politician-second kind of guy.

Now, while media coverage of Obama has been extensive, the majority of the news pieces have been hard news about his political processes and duties. But for every couple of articles titled, “How Barack Obama’s Bailout May Differ From Henry Paulson’s,” there are the pieces titled, “Barack Obama Shirtless: Best of the World Leaders.” For all the photos of Obama’s family grinning on stage during his speeches, there are also stalkerish pictures of his daughters going to their first day of school in sleazy gossip magazines and Web sites. I can’t say that I’m thrilled that watchdog journalists sometimes degenerate into a form of rabid paparazzi, but I suppose there’s a fine line there.

Do I wish things could be different, that Obama’s family could live peacefully without everyone (and their moms) watching them with telephoto lenses? Of course I do.

But then I remember what happens when leaders are left to their own devices with no questions, no inspection, no protest. I, along with many other Americans, wish that the media had asked the Bush administration more questions, that we had more insight into their day-to-day dealings with foreign leaders and policy decisions and that Bush had had to reveal at least a few of his cards. Maybe then America wouldn’t have a terrible image in the international community, wouldn’t have started two wars, wouldn’t have collapsed the global economy with no warning or wouldn’t be a part in bringing about the end of the world.

I’m gonna say to the people who cry for the media to back off of Obama’s personal life exactly what I would say to celebrities who whine about the lack of privacy and the multitude of untrue stories in the tabloids: he knew what he was getting himself into. If you want the job of leading America, you’re going to be in the limelight at all times. I want to see what exactly you’re doing in office, what you’re doing and saying to other countries and yes, how impeccable your abs really are. No way would I allow the president, even one as magically delicious as Obama, to conduct his affairs without the harsh spotlight of the Fourth Estate.