Jake Paul for President: A reality check to the rest of society
24th June 2021
The year is 2032: Chris Wallace is again hosting the US Presidential debate on a late Wednesday evening. Enter stage-left, the Republican candidate for president, Jake Paul, stands behind the podium. He is met by a huge applause from his preteen audience in the front row, who enthusiastically blow kisses to the social media star. Analysts have concluded there has never been so much youth interest in an election before; the viewing numbers have truly been astounding.
Paul, who built his entire career on social media, whilst also having short stints with boxing and music, has now turned his eye from YouTube to politics. Despite the vagueness of his campaign policies, Paul’s controversy-borne self has landed him as the GOP candidate- somehow. He reassures his voters in the debate that his presidency will be “dope”, and that he will be the one to “fight for gun rights and stuff”. This gets a big cheer from the crowd.
Some traditional conservatives in the republican GOP (Grand Old Party) are apprehensive of a potential Jake Paul presidency. In many instances Paul is grossly unqualified, however many are willing to overlook this if they think that they can continue to push their own agenda through him. The Democrats also are running a candidate, an experienced stateswoman. However, nobody seems to know or care who she is. Her policies are robust, but they get no views; hence, they are irrelevant. Her campaign’s main struggle has been fighting for media attention in a world dominated by sound bites and wild antics.
Of course, this situation is totally fictitious. It is not real and incredibly exaggerated. There is no social media star running for president. But at this point, is a scenario like this totally out of the question? Absolutely not.
“In a world where the line between news and entertainment has become so blurred, the chances of a reality star becoming president is never totally impossible. In fact it is probably becoming only more likely.”
If anything has come to fruition in the last number of years, it has been that some influencers truly have the social capital to do whatever they so desire, and that we must all bear the consequences for this mentality.
This was never more evident than in last month’s boxing event between YouTube star Logan Paul (brother of previously mentioned Jake Paul) and Floyd Mayweather. If you did not hear of it, you are not exactly in a minority- but a lot of people did tune in. Reports afterward show the fight between the retired boxer and social media star generated over $50 million and a million pay-per-view buys. To put this in context, Paul had virtually no boxing experience; albeit, with a hell of a lot of followers. This seems to have been enough for promoters to grant him a chance to grace the ring with the greatest of all time and make a lot of money while doing it.
Meanwhile two weekends previous, junior welterweight “real” boxer Josh Taylor unified the belts of his division to become undisputed champion- and nobody cared. Taylor later remarked on TalkSport that he “was a little surprised and kind of felt let down [by the media coverage]”. In an old-fashioned sense, silly Taylor assumed that he would gain the necessary recognition for his great athletic achievement through talent alone- however, this was not to be the case.
Celebrities like Logan Paul have figured out how to hack the sport of boxing, and that they can use their fame to bypass years of difficult and dangerous training; only to get carried for a few rounds by actual fighters in the name of entertainment. All Paul had to do was show-up, bring his followers along, and create a convincing enough storyline. The quality of the show was irrelevant. Mayweather having to get out of his alligator skin gown post-walkout was about as tough as the evening got for the champ.
Elsewhere in the world, YouTube star “KSI”, sold out the Wembley arena for his concert next year. KSI has had very limited experience in the music space, but his fans continue to push his songs to the Top 10 in the UK charts with each release, regardless of their quality. Much like Paul in boxing, KSI has managed to skip past many of the gruelling early steps in a typical music career. Instead, his fans have granted him the opportunity to grace his way to the top (relatively) scot free. There was no waiting outside Song BMG in the hopes of meeting someone famous to hand over a demo disk- only the end game of selling out 90,000 person arenas and having an army of superfans cheering your name.
To their credit, that is not to say both Paul and KSI have not worked hard. They clearly practice their respective skills with great diligence and dedication. For want of a better term, they do try at least. But ultimately, there is the ethical question of do they deserve it? Is this really a case of talent prevailing over celebrity? Not particularly. My concern for the future is this current trend continuing and that gifted individuals will often be overlooked due to their lack of clout and celebrity. Or what if it is in a field of actual importance? Could an experienced politician lose an election to a naive YouTube kid? This scenario could be closer than you think.
There have been similar instances like this already. British YouTuber Niko Omilana ran for mayor of London this year as a joke, and despite having no agenda, he placed 5th in a crowded field of 20+ candidates. His reason for running may have been “for vibes”, but if anything, it goes to show the power of his platform. He is not even a particularly famous YouTube star, with only 3 million followers. What would happen if a social media giant ran for office with an actual campaign? Could they win in an easy landslide? Some politicians here have already begun to realise the potential of social media, Simon Harris for one and Mary Lou McDonald in particular, who so deftly used it during the 2020 Irish general election.
So, what is next for the world of influencers? Who knows? Maybe neurology is the next industry they could have a bash at. One thing is for certain however: this should act as a reality check to the rest of society. This is a powerful force which is changing the landscape of our entire media industry, with no signs of slowing down. Expect more social media stars in more high-profile positions, competing against experienced industry veterans for attention. The world has clearly changed: you no longer need to be just talented; you also need to have a personal brand. Take note.