Politics, as currently practiced, is no longer the art of the possible, but the art of the fictive. Its aim is not to change the world as it exists, but to affect the way it is perceived.
This is the subject of Christian Salmon’s Storytelling, which looks at how the creative imagination has been hijacked in the twenty-first century. Salmon anatomizes the timeless human desire for narrative form and how it is abused in the marketing mechanisms behind politicians and products: luxury brands trade on their embellished histories, managers tell stories to motivate employees, soldiers in Iraq train on computer games conceived in Hollywood, and spin doctors construct political lives as if they were a folk epic.
Salmon unveils the workings of a “storytelling machine” more effective and insidious as a means of oppression than anything dreamed up by Orwell. The “reality-based community”—to use a phrase coined by an aide to George W. Bush—is now regularly outmaneuvered by public relations gurus and political advisers, as they construct story arcs for a population that has come to expect them.