The Cult of Personality

Posted by M ws On Tuesday, April 2, 2013 0 comments

After a very tiring day thanks to the heat wave in Penang and meandering my way through the traffic congestion, I finally settled down in front of my computer screen with a small bowl of peanuts - a little treat after one month's abstinence. When I clicked into The Malaysian Insider, lo and behold, I nearly choked on my peanuts when I read THIS ARTICLE - a classic case of unabashed hackneyed self-glorification.

It is common knowledge that long time political parties have a tendency to project a political narrative of their history, mission, vision, events, achievements and aspirations. But to issue a report card and then to give itself top marks not forgetting taking credit for various developments?

And then to say:

The report card will be used as part of the party’s campaign in Election 2013 and comes in an A2 size format listing MCA’s contributions on the left while rivals the DAP and PKR’s are on the right.  
 Virtually all of the space given to the opposition in the report card says “no contribution”. CLICK HERE for more.

I have not seen the report card but I do wonder if many of the claims and/or conclusions are nauseatingly trite, simplistic and exaggerated. A self-serving report card would be a stumbling block in listening to citizens' concern/issues.Easy - deny by making high falluting claims.

Such weak and banal efforts fall flat. Would you regard it as a sincere and honest report? I wonder if they realize how such overtures are driving people further and further away while they rejoice at the pinnacle of political demagogy.

This report reminded me of what I learnt decades ago in varsity about the political phenomenon - cult of personality which has been used by many politicians, including Stalin and North Koreans.

"A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. 

Sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as "charismatic authority". 

A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda."
(Source: HERE)

To put things into perspective, I wish to draw your attention to this fantastic article from BBC by Lucy Williamson, Delving into North Korea's mystical cult of personality:

Every night, North Korea's news bulletin begins with a song about the mythical qualities of the country's leader Kim Jong-il and the mountain where he is said to have been born.

North Koreans are used to the hyperbole of their state media, with a constant stream of stories about Kim Jong-il's economic guidance and benevolent care.

And since the death of the Dear Leader on 17 December, the media have focused their attention on a series of strange, natural phenomena being reported across the country - a giant lake of ice cracking in half, a red glow covering the mountain where their leader was born and, most recently, magpies gathering by the dozens in a single tree, in grief, according to one party official.

"We can't dismiss it as just a natural phenomenon," he told state television. "It shows that not only the people of the world, but the animals too, cannot forget our Dear Leader."

This is hardly surprising, perhaps, when his image - and that of his father Kim Il-sung - appears everywhere in billboards, buildings, television reports and every office wall.

Along with the army, North Korea's media apparatus is perhaps the institution most responsible for keeping its leaders in power.

It built powerful personality cults around both Kim Jong-il and his father and is now beginning to do the same with his son and successor, Kim Jong-un.

It is a myth-making factory that, for most of its audience, is their only source of news.

'Flowery language'
Brian Myers, professor of International Relations at Dongseo University in South Korea, has studied the archives of North Korean media reports closely.

He says this kind of imagery from the natural world has been seen before in other political systems.

North Korean media has used emotive language to encourage loyalty to Kim Jong-il
"There is the belief, which was common also in imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, that the actual physical territory occupied by the nation reflects the attributes of the race itself," he said.

"And this kind of flowery language that we've seen in the past few days, of ice cracking and cranes being seen in the sky, does reflect a uniquely North Korea understanding of a connection between the territory and the race."

And in the case of Kim Jong-il, he said, the media have spent years stirring up complex feelings in the minds of people.

"Kim Jong-il's official image in the propaganda was always a man with no time for himself, and a large part of the propaganda was aimed at making the public feel guilty about the overwork that he was subjecting himself to, Mr Myers said.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article.

There is a difference though between Kim and Chua. The former could fall back on "the power of his lineage, and the personality cult created by his country's unique cultural machine." What about Chua?

Is the sun setting for MCA or is it undergoing a metamorphosis?

It will be interesting to see how MCA performs in the next GE. If they do well, they can frame this 'report card'.

And if they don't, I wonder what will they do with this report card?

Do leave a message to share your thoughts.


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