Conner Russo at the Flemish version of “Mask Singer” in @Instagram screenshot
Last Friday the Flemings got a pleasant surprise by watching the local adaptation of “Mask Singer” on VTM. Because Conner Russo was hiding behind the Rabbit suit. Yes, chairman of the Social Democratic Party Woruit. An unexpected finalist that drew some criticism for being on the program. Attacks against which he has since had to react. I must say that in addition, Conner Russo is far from the only politician who has already been invited to the entertainment program. Whether this has any real impact on the electorate remains to be seen.
“People want politicians to stand among the people»
Among those skeptical of Conner Russo’s performance on The Mask Singer is VRT columnist Ivan De Vadder. “One might wonder if politicians should participate in this kind of program.he wonders. For Chief Voorwit, such questions are invalid. “I leave these opinions as they are, I do not answer them. Some people are very dismissive about this program.he answers on the MNM morning show.
According to Conner Russo, his involvement is in no way controversial, quite the contrary. “People always want politicians to stand among the people. I am a 29 year old average guy who wants to do something other than my job.“, – he says, while ensuring that his presence on “Mask Singer” is possible only because he had free time on Sunday. “I’m not going to apologize, because these records are ten months old, and we don’t know what will happen in ten months.“, he adds to those who will criticize him for looking like a rabbit during the war in Ukraine.
Popular entertainment and desert politics
Before Conner Russo, other Flemish politicians had already participated in entertainment shows. This is especially true of the program “De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld” in which Ministers Peter De Crem (CD&V) and Sven Gatz (Open VLD) took part. N-VA President Bart De Wever, for his part, appeared as a panda during the presentation of the Flemish Television Stars (TV-Sterren). In French-speaking Belgium, this situation is much less common, but this does not take into account the presence of French television. Because in France, politicians have been meddling in entertainment for decades. This is already evidenced by the passage of Minister Jack Lang in the 1980s in Patrick Sebastien’s Carnival program or even in the Manege Tour.
It must be said that it can be tempting to appear in these kinds of programs. Not everyone watches political broadcasts. In addition, today they attract only a small part of the audience. Apart from Quievrain, only the debates organized for the presidential election stand out, such as last week’s “France at War” with a market share of 20% and 4.21 million viewers. But even there, the genre is in decline as more French people were in front of their small screens to attend the 2017 election debates. On March 20, 2017, 9.8 million people watched the meeting of five candidates at the Elysee Palace.
Reach as many people as possible
So when faced with this problem, entertainment betting seems like a good choice. Since that’s where the voters are, you could meet with them. Even if it is not about politics, it would be an opportunity to create a beautiful image. This phenomenon has even led to the creation of neologisms such as “political entertainment” or “political peopolization”. In France, this applies especially to “Touche pas à mon poste”. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron, then presidential candidate, showed up there to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the TPMP. Today, Cyril Hanuna talks a lot about politics there and welcomes various presidential candidates.
“Politicians are realizing that if they want to reach everyone, they can’t just go to traditional newscasts because there are people who don’t watch them or are wary of politics. Therefore, these people only watch entertainment programs or programs that combine information and entertainment,” Gaspar Ganzer, former head of communications for François Hollande, admits to France Info. He also elaborates that the former French president was very reluctant to train. Did it affect the fact that he could not even run for a second term? The question is relevant.
However, it is not certain that participation in these programs is a winning strategy. “What is important is that politicians believe that over-polization is reflected in the ballot box. There are very few ways to find out if this is the case.“Explains Jamil Dahlia, professor of political communication at the Sorbonne. “There is only one study that has been able to measure the impact of some form of peopolization. In this case, she looked to Oprah Winfrey’s support for Barack Obama in the United States. Based on the circulation of Winfrey’s magazine, the study was able to prove that this initiative resulted in an increase of one million votes.It is therefore possible that an appearance in The Masked Singer or Touche pas à mon poste is paying off for politicians, despite the lack of concrete evidence.
In any case, whether it’s a winning bet or not,it allows them to show a different face”, adds Jamil Dahlia. “In conditions of distrust of politicians, they think that in this way they can catch up with the voter by the sleeve, sympathizing, carelessly, smiling …“.