What is Political Kitsch?

Political Kitsch is a form of propaganda, mostly designed to shape public policy direction.  Drawing from the word kitsch as used in art world to refer to how art emotionalizes everyday life, political kitsch is intended to comfort and reassure the consumer or observer.

Kitsch tends to imitate the effects that are produced by sensory experiences. It presents charged imagery, music or language that triggers an involuntary emotional reaction. The word “kitsch” is associated with object or art that are popular but lack artistic value. Kitsch is also closely related to mass produced objects. Thus, it is associated with modernity, industrial revolution and the growth of the bourgeoisie.

In art, Kitsch is understood by some people as the art that engages emotions and purposely ignores the intellect. It is a form of cultural anesthesia that exploits, builds and manipulates conflicted history. In the political field, kitsch uses symbolism to support national mythologies and make use of constructed political ‘realities’.  Normally, it colonizes the consciousness of the receiver. It appeases rather than provokes.

In England, John Major, former Prime Minister, tried to use political kitsch when he stated that Britain was a state of long shadows on cricket ground, invincible green suburbs, warm beer, pool fillers and dog lovers. He was mocked since a large population found those Britishness notions alien.

Demagogic and populist politicians from Chávez to Chirac, Peron to Berlusconi, all use political kitsch while trying to win voters’ hearts, appealing to notions of culture that are out-of-date. Right-wing regimes use the popular distrust of ‘welfare mothers’ abusing the system to derive advantages while the left-wing governments tend to use popular mistrust of financiers, bankers and Jews.

Kitsch is the artistic ideal of many political parties, politician and movements. For instance, when you see a politician kissing a baby that is an ultimate kitschy political move. During the communist movement, the communists tricked the participants into praising communism by pretending they were celebrating life.

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