Arnold Schwarzenegger marched into the Orange County Register’s lobby wearing cowboy boots and confidence. He was mobbed in the lobby by women who wanted him and men who wanted to be him. He cheerfully signed autographs. He then came up to our offices to meet the editorial board.
The celluloid dream became a physical reality for the hour of his interview. It was 2002, and Schwarzenegger was promoting a boutique ballot initiative for a new spending program: $450 million per year for after-school programs for kids, so they could have a chance like he did to enter sports such as bodybuilding. He promised our editorial board that no new taxes would be needed, because the new program would reduce juvenile crime, and so help the state economy while lowering police and court expenses. It was a practice campaign for his run for governor the next year.
Fast-forward to 2009, and that $450 million had to be paid with part of the record $13 billion in tax increases the governor signed into law.
Like that 2002 campaign, everything about Arnold is a celluloid illusion, even more than it was for JFK or Reagan. In his movie Last Action Hero, the image of Arnold is conflated with the real Arnold, as a young boy and Arnold move back and forth across the screen between the movie and “reality.”
It’s a synthetic example that could come from the pages of Jean Baudrillard’s...