What? Milli Vanilli didn't sing their own songs? Is there anything left to believe in? Next thing you know, somebody's going to say there's no Santa Claus.

Ah, yes, what a hoot it is to see bogus superstars of the new video age exposed. The rock world quaked when Milli Vanilli gave up their Grammy for ``Best New Artists' after German producer Frank Farian disclosed that three other singers actually performed on the group's hit album.``Which one is Milli and which one is Vanilli?' Arsenio Hall smirked after the fall, knowing full well that it is neither a person nor a band. It is a ``concept,' in the language of modern marketing, an image packaged and sold to a public too hungry for something new to be very critical of authenticity.

After all, other superstars like Madonna, Janet Jackson and New Kids on the Block have been known to lip-sync at least part of their concerts. Welcome to the age of MTV. The rock commercials we call ``videos' are supplanting the very art form they were invented to promote. The medium, as Marshall McLuhan observed, has become the message.

The Vanilli silliness illustrates how thoroughly the fake has degraded the real in our cultural, political and economic life, helped along by media, politicians and a public more willing to go along with the charade than to question it.

As New York University Professor Neil Postman warned in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, show-biz values don't stop at the borders of show biz.

``Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice,' he wrote.

When election victories go to the most effective ad campaign, the candidate is as incidental to the issues as the model-perfect cheekbones of Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, a.k.a. Milli Vanilli, are incidental to the quality of the music they pantomimed.

Ronald Reagan, a professional actor, always seemed to have the right words and attitude for every national moment of triumph or trauma. Bush, a professional politician, seems unable to find the words to explain his own foreign policy.

Since August, President Bush has presented almost as many conflicting sound bites to justify his Persian Gulf policy as Milli Vanilli have dreadlocks. First Bush said the ``American way of life' was at stake. (Oh, really? In a country that won't let women drive, much less vote?)

Then he said Saddam Hussein was ``worse than Hitler' and the ``new world order' was at stake. (Oh, yeah? Then why was he our ally during Iraq's war with Iran, even after he gassed his own Kurds and fired a missile into one of our warships?)

Still later he said: ``It isn't oil. ... It's raw, naked aggression.' (So? Are we going to send American troops to fight every raw, naked aggressor in the new world order?)

Secretary of State James Baker said, ``If you want to sum it up in one word,' he said, ``it's jobs.' (Oh, yeah? Whose jobs? Bush's and Baker's?)

To inspire a nation, you must believe in something. Beneath the Bush administration's tarnished luster, the American people seem to detect that it doesn't seem to believe in much of anything.

Maybe Bush and Baker should take a tip from the Vanilli silliness. They could try moving their lips to Ronald Reagan's voice. I wonder how they'd look in dreadlocks?

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