I always record Sixty Minutes on Sunday evening. It not only gives me the opportunity to skip the commercials but also to fast forward through segments that either don’t interest me or race past shallowness I can’t abide. Yesterday, Arnold Schwarzenegger got high-speed fast-forwards.
I consider Arnold representative of what is wrong with our cultural values, relative to celebrity, personality that sells, fixation with success, exhibitionism, coolness, anti-intellectual worship, and a belief in media magic. Arnold is a perfect match for such shallow attributes.
He has been cute in a idiosyncratic way; he is shallow; he is self-centered; he has a childlike, bad-boy mantra; he’ll never leave you behind with his simplistic communication skills, while he markets with catchy-phrases; he is a master at self-promotion; he can still attract a following; his many negatives turn on but do not turn off, and he self-promotes ad nauseam (for some of us anyway).
I must confess that I had not been anti-Arnold until he ran for governor of California. As an actor he did no damage to me and did offer some mass-audience entertainment value in some of his movie roles. But his running for governor was different. He could do damage to millions of Californians. Besides, his meager qualifications and his leadership talents made fellow-actor and ex-governor Ronald Reagan look like a genius. Though Gray Davis wasn’t exactly an inspiration as governor, he wasn’t comparatively bad, especially in hindsight after Arnold’s term-and-a-half of uninspiring leadership.
Perhaps with paranoia regarding the coup that swept George W. Bush into the White House, I suspected that neo-conservatives were restructuring national and state governments in preparations for a conservative power grab. Arnold benefited from Enron defrauding Californians, the right-wing millionaire politician, Darrell Issa, spending millions to unseat Davis, and the national Republican campaign to control large dominions like California. So besides my dislike for what Arnold represented then, I saw him as a tool of the neocon reach for more power.
For this column, I did read media reports on Arnold’s 60 Minutes interview. Knowing the alchemy of Arnold’s marketing skills, I saw him fashion gold out of average talents, use the media, showcase gym-built muscles, fashion and refashion facts, and build a golden career out of it. from this, I gathered that most of his own story is to be doubted. Arnold’s claims of discovering the fatherhood of his housekeeper’s child only when the boy reached 7 or 8 is quite convenient now. Certainly it helps explain part of his years of deception regarding a host of important decisions including his fatherhood, his running for governor, and his bypass surgery.
For someone whose whole life involves an exercise in deceiving those close to him as well as his fans in marketing his talents to make money, are we to believe his latest pitch to defend his own honor, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.
The title of his memoir sounds like an obtuse marketing hype, or perhaps a conman’s self-deceiving scam. Even Arnold depicts himself as “an expert in living in denial.” Shouldn’t that be warning enough about the puffed-up story of his life, something puffed out like Cocoa Puffs.
If you are drawn to read it, I have some genuine newly minted California quarters with Arnold’s visage on them to sell for advance purchase.