Crystia Freeland, the sexy looking (see photo) US managing editor of the Financial Times, certainly tries. In the "The beauty contest", her A-Train column in this morning's FT, she tells us that the "magnifying impact of Web 2.0" makes all of us -- particularly politicians -- more obsessed with and dependent on our physical looks:
I suspect technology has made what Maureen Dowd calls “the beauty bias” more intense. In an era of YouTube, cellphone cameras, HDTV and a blogosphere obsessed with commenting on evidence collected by all of the above, even people who have never seen us in person may know how we look.
I have to admit that I rather like the radically visual culture that the Flickring Web 2.0 revolution is inaugerating. Freeland reveals herself as a "self-confessed feminist" which I interpret to mean that she thinks what is inside us is more important than how we look (soul and virtue having more moral significance than legs or chests). But, as the anything but sexy George Orwell once remarked, we get the faces we deserve. And in our Fast Food Nation, of course, we certainly get the bodies we deserve. Freeland tells us that politicians and entrepreneurs are very well aware of this. Thus, in her "Beauty contest", she introduces us to a private equity chief who works out at 5.00am in order to avoid looking like a "fat little piggy".
In some ways, I think that the magnifying impact of Web 2.0 results in more rather than less truth. Seeing the raw photograph of an obese politician (Dennis Hastert or Al Gore) is quite revealing. It says they can't control their appetite, that they lack internal discipline, that they've lost the battle of the bulge. You see, a visual culture is anything but a superficial culture. A photo tells a million truths (take photos of Hillary, for example -- who always looks different). So just make sure you suck in your tummy and stick out your jaw next time somebody points and clicks one of those digital truth machines at you.