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Mediated Authenticity

How the Media Constructs Reality

Gunn Enli

This book explores the paradox of mediated authenticity – the idea that our understanding of society is based on mediated representations of reality. Enli argues that mediated authenticity is established through negotiations between producers and audiences in what is coined the ‘authenticity contract’. Sometimes the contract is broken, leading to authenticity scandals and the need to renegotiate this contract. These moments of truth, some of which are analysed in this book, are important moments in media history. Through case studies, this book examines mediated authenticity in broadcast and online media, from the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, quiz show scandals, to manufactured reality-TV shows, blog hoaxes and fake social media, and the construction of Obama as an authentic politician. The book demonstrates that authenticity has become an increasingly important factor in the media, and that solving ‘authenticity puzzles’ – separating the fake from the real – has become an inherent practice of media use.


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Chapter 6: Performed Authenticity: The Obama Campaigns


· 6 · performed authenticity The Obama Campaigns Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favour of the image, because the image is more powerful than he could ever be. —Marshall McLuhan Politicians’ use of new media technologies has been a recurring theme in the book, and we have seen that the introduction of every new medium has redefined authenticity and therefore also applied new requirements for political campaigning. The previous chapters have demonstrated that the politician who at an early stage understood the potential of the new medium, and had the qualifications, skills, and network to take advantage of its potentials, had the upper hand in the campaigns. Among these pio- neers were President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who with his 1930s and 1940s “fireside chats” used broadcast radio to connect intimately with the voters; John F. Kennedy, who in the early 1960s became the first presidential can- didate who managed to use TV to his advantage; and Bill Clinton, who was the first to exploit the fragmented TV landscape in the early 1990s by appearing on talk shows targeted at specific audiences. In spite of their dif- ferent styles and historical premises, these three presidents had in common that they managed to use the media to perform their roles as authentic pres- idents and to connect with the voters. 110 mediated authenticity A key criterion for being elected as president of the United States is to come across to the voters...

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