"Creating an appealing image has become more important in contemporary society than is the reality or truth behind that image."
Has creating an image become more important in our society than the reality or truth behind the image? I agree that image has become a more central concern, at least where short-term business or political success is at stake (＝at risk). Nevertheless, I think that in the longer term mage ultimately yields to substance and fact.
精华：a central concern
be at stake
yield to = give up the position to……让位于，被……主宰
The important role of image is particularly evident in the business world. Consider, for example, today's automobile industry. American cars are becoming essentially identical to competing Japanese cars in nearly every mechanical and structural respect, as well as in price. Thus to compete effectively auto companies must now differentiate their products largelythrough image advertising, by conjuring up(＝create) certain illusory benefits——such as machismo, status, sensibility, or fun. The increasing focus on image is also evident in the book-publishing business. Publishers are relying more and more on the power of their brands rather than the content of their books. Today mass-market books are supplanted within a year with products that are essential the same——except with fresh faces, rifles, and other promotional angles. I find quite telling the fact that today more and more book publishers are being acquired by large media companies. And the increasing importance of image is especially evident in the music industry, where originality, artistic interpretation, and technical proficiency have yielded almost entirely to sex appeal.
The growing significance of image is also evident in the political realm, particularly when it comes to presidential politics. Admittedly, by its very nature politicking has always emphasized rhetoric and appearances above substance and fact. Yet since the invention of the camera presidential politicians have become increasingly concerned about their image. For example, Teddy Roosevelt was very careful never to be photographed wearing a tennis outfit, for fear that such photographs would serve to undermine his rough-rider image that won him his onlyterm in office. With the advent of television, image became even more central in presidential politics. After all, it was television that elected J.F.K. over Nixon. And our only two-term presidents in the television age were elected based largely on their image. Query whether Presidents Lincoln, Taft, or even F.D.R. would be elected today if pitted against the handsome leading man Reagan, or the suave and politically correct Clinton. After all, Lincoln was homely, Taft was obese, and F.D.R. was crippled.
In the long term, however, the significance of image wanes considerably. The image of the Marlboro man ultimately gave way to the truth about the health hazards of cigarette smoking. Popular musical actors with nothing truly innovative to offer musically eventually disappear from the music scene. And anyone who frequents yard sales knows that today's best-selling books often become tomorrow's pulp. Even in politics, I think history has a knack for peeling away image to focus on real accomplishments. I think history will remember Teddy Roosevelt, for example, primarily for building the Panama Canal and for establishing our National Park System——and not for his rough-and-ready wardrobe.
In the final analysis, it seems that in every endeavor where success depends to some degree on persuasion, marketing, or salesmanship, image has indeed become the central concern of those who seek to persuade. And as our lives become busier, our attention spans briefer, and our choices among products and services greater, I expect this trend to continue unabated—— for better or worse.