Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 19:34 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 19:34 | SYDNEY

Authenticity: The hardest thing to fake


Sam Roggeveen


12 June 2009 08:36

Andrew Sullivan posts this photo and says, 'I can't imagine many previous (presidents) just hanging out like this "outside the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Paris"...There's something natural about this guy that evokes real support and affection.' 

Prime Minister Rudd famously struck a similar pose at the 2020 Summit.

But is this really 'naturalness'? My guess is that both Rudd and Obama recognise the power of 'signaling' (though Rudd's rather contrived use of Australian vernacular suggests he's not as good at it). Naturalness, then, is just as much a social contrivance as is the more formal and perhaps stiffer demeanour of a John Howard or a Hillary Clinton. The trick pulled off by those who master 'naturalness' is to convince others that they are not signalling.

That might be too cynical. Political leaders are almost constantly surrounded by cameras, so perhaps Obama was oblivious to the White House photographer, and this is a genuinely spontaneous moment we're seeing. But in our media-saturated age, you don't become prime minister or president without a highly-disciplined awareness of the messages you are sending not just with your words but with your clothes and, yes, even your posture.