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Performance or politics?

Performance or politics?
by Lisa Knox

Over the past few months, Australian news programs have been bombarded with information about the American Presidential elections. Sure, Australians care about their international policies, economic policies and role in international terrorism, but does anyone honestly care how much Governor Sarah Palin spent on her wardrobe?

Presidential hopefuls, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, have coughed up significant amounts of money to reach the people of America. However, I find it concerning when, on the rare occasion, I tune into the Ellen Degeneres Show and see Senator Obama "shakin' his tail feather" with the daytime talk show queen. Is this what campaigning has come to?

While it has become customary to reach out to the younger voters through popular techniques such as MySpace and Facebook, are Presidential hopefuls going to eventually need Hollywood writers and acting lessons to make it into the White House? More concerning, is Australia going to begin leaning on this unnecessary entertainment campaigning to reach us? When did it become less about the politics and more about the sitcom-like entertainment?

In previous American campaigns, celebrities and famous faces, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Bruce Willis, have put their names to particular campaigns in order to get the attention of potential voters to persuade them to vote for their favourite candidate. This election, however, the candidates are becoming the celebrities themselves. With appearances on popular television shows, such as Saturday Night Live, the David Letterman Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show, Presidential candidates need not to be worried if their political careers fall through because they now have acting as a back-up profession.

Understandably, it is becoming more and more necessary for candidates to stray from traditional campaigning methods to reach the tech-savvy, attention-deficit plagued younger voters; however, it wasn't until I saw Governor Palin on Saturday Night Live, a popular American comedy show, that I began to realize how ridiculous campaigning has actually become. I quickly began to research these types of appearances and noticed that all four Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates have put forth significant effort to appear on comedy shows, such as Saturday Night Live. Both Presidential candidates have made appearances on the David Letterman Show, the Ellen Degeneres Show and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a satirical political comedy show.

Michael F. Knox, an American voter, showed his concerns about the election campaigning and said: "I am afraid that this election may be decided on who is more witty and entertaining on comedy shows than on the real issues." What has been labelled the Saturday Night Live effect could possibly be what wins this election. Viewers who are politically uneducated see satire skits and are gullible enough to believe these comical spoofs. Watching Senator McCain and Senator Obama being interviewed by biased talk show hosts could possibly have become the most important speeches these candidates gave during the election.

With the Presidential candidates scurrying to find all the possible media entertainment outlets to appear on before Election Day, is anyone else in the world standing back and wondering why? Couldn't their time and money spent on appearing funny and "hip" be put towards a better cause?

Which brings us to the amount of money that goes into reaching voters. The Presidential money war began nearly a year ago when Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama campaigned till their last penny dropped – and that was only to win the right of running for President for their Party. The big figures that have been spent on political advertising in the Presidential campaigning have reached outrageous amounts. This money is being spent on television, radio and print advertisements, television appearances and – you guessed it – comedy appearances. With combined totals adding up to close to one billion dollars, is this uncontrolled haemorrhage of cash really necessary?

To put these figures into prospective, 36 million Americans are living in poverty; more specifically, these Americans are living on around $20,000 a year for a family of four. More than 12 million of American children are growing up in poverty everyday. Frustrating to think that the leaders of the American nation are throwing money away to razzle-dazzle their campaigns to "win" a competition while their citizens are literally starving.

Okay, the point must be made that the likelihood of all of this unnecessary campaigning is happening because voting is not compulsory, this meaning that candidates must do everything in their power to make their campaign appealing to American voters to physically get them to polling booths. So the question is, will this begin to happen in upcoming Australian political campaigns?

Kristine Dobell, an active and involved Australian voter, doesn't see Australian politicians succumbing to these measures to reach voters. The Australian campaigning systems stays close to the more traditional route of debates and public appearances simply discussing the issues, she said. "It isn't the Australian way…because we must vote, our politicians don't need to waste their time or money on entertaining us," she said.

Australian politicians, however, have begun to lean slightly toward our American friends with both John Howard and Kevin Rudd* creating MySpace profiles during the last election. YouTube has widely been used as a popular route for many politicians, including Rudd and Howard, to post advertisements and messages to young voters. I do also remember catching Prime Minister Rudd on an episode of Rove a time or two. With all of this tangible evidence, is it possible to argue against the long and windy road out of control that may lie ahead of us?

To be honest, I truly hope not. It has been incredibly entertaining watching the American politicians running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to entertain their voters; however, I will be satisfied if we just left that to the Americans. While our campaigns might not be quite as fun or interesting, the point of politics is not to entertain but to provide leadership and direction for our country. Right?

*Please note, the Kevin Rudd and John Howard MySpace pages could be fakes; however, I do believe they are their actual profiles.

YouTube Videos:

3003BG : Sarah Palin Rap Saturday Night Live Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler Rap!

m1media : Sarah Palin and Tina Fey Saturday Night Live Real Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live- Tina Fey Meets her Match

Mango77774: David Letterman- John Mccain-Prt1-Oct-16-2008

rp4prez: Barack Obama Dances for Ellen

barackobamadotcom: Barack Obama on Ellen

givesyouwings: Kevin Rudd on Rove Part 1 (of 2)


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Where are we going?

Today, on ABC's Grandstand - Lord, I hate sports and sports broadcasts - I heard Tracey Holmes  saying, along the lines of, "economy, economy, that's all we hear of...what about society?"

The zeitgeist is changing.

Values are starting to matter.  And quality of life.

Can this be sanity returning?

Corrupt and incompetent governments

There have been several corrupt, and several incompetent governments, Alan Curran, but not many that combined both failings.

The Howard Government's corruption, in that it led to many actual deaths of people in Iraq, must be judged more severely than those where robbery of money was the only consequence. What's the bet that Howard will bleat out some kind of an attempt at a whitewash of himself for invading Iraq, when the citizenry had more common decency, and opposed it?

Yeah - weapons of mass destruction. He will try to spin that. Reality is that, the evidence all pointed the other way, and the population knew it.

Howard saw an advantage for his son, and took it - as most parents will. Stuff everyone else.

And, what kind of government kept spinning the "you never had it so good" message, as this crisis brewed, sprouted, grew and bloomed during their administration? You regard that deluding of its citizens as "competency"?

The Howard government was singular in that it was both corrupt and incompetent. I expect that the program will demonstrate that.

As Al Jolson said...

"You ain't heard nothing yet," Lisa.

On Monday the ABC will commence their orchestrated take on The Howard Years. Performance or politics indeed.

I can only guess at the attempts that will be made to excuse the Bush-like aspirational nationalism advocated by the Howard "New Order". Otherwise, why bring the little dictator back into the public arena?

Even I guessed that the first thing he would do if he lost the election would be to go to America. He sure did and in his best mufti, he dutifully sang with his appreciative US audience God save America. Struth.

So why, just when Australia is trying to return some of the dignity lost under his regime, does the once even-handed ABC want to remind us of his term of office as an American puppet?

The robot-like obedience of his carefully chosen ones only served to feed his megalomania and increase the chances of his desire for white coolies in the Australian workforce.

I hope they also remember that, as I once wrote under the title of "Do you REALLY trust the Howard Government?". And I quote:

HOWARD, John, Liberal Prime Minister. Where do I begin? Liar; guilty of lying to the Australian public to go to an illegal invasion of another sovereign Nation; TAMPA; SIEVE X; Babies overboard; ultimate deceiver; enemy of 80% of the population; creator of euphemisms for deceit; inventor of core and non-core promises; holder of the record 21% interest rates as a Liberal Treasurer in 1982; proud architect of the GST which he promised would "NEVER EVER" happen; flagrant servant of the U.S. Military/Corporate and dedicated Foreign Corporation's representative in Parliament; degrading Parliamentary format; recipient of two Senate censures and survivor of several more in the lower House; removing basic Human Rights from Australian citizens; draconian WorkChoices and Anti-Terrorist laws; Sedition laws of "suspicion"; totally against any duty of care for Australians; involved in the AWB scandal - good heavens - a book would be easier to write! (There will be a lot more before the election). "Buyer Beware" indeed ! Wait for your "unsolicited" Howard phone calls, especially those of you who thought you had a "private number". Care of the CIA?

So how will this much-publicised serial play out?

I have a feeling that his personal appointees to the ABC Board may well make an effort to hide the Shakespearean suggestion that: "the evil that men do lives after them".

There will be for sure, the "New Order" method of making a joke out of any crime they have committed.

A government of the people, for the corporations and by the corporations.

A sleazy government of rorting, incompetence, lying and/or under threat of prosecution. Who said crime doesn't pay?


Don't watch it

Ernest William, I suggest you do not watch The Howard Years but get a copy of The Dismissal and watch that instead.

That way you will see what happens to a corrupt and incompetent government, and to think we are still paying for Whitlam's Gold Pass. As you would say, Strewth.

At least Howard was welcomed when he went to the USA, unlike Rudd who was snubbed today.

What an appropriate title

I believe that the perception of democracy is super-flexible.

I have watched the Howard "rabble" when they controlled Question Time for almost 12 years. Outside of the performance of Costello there were no genuine results to any questions.

I cannot believe otherwise than that the Howard "New Order" is still there undermining our parliament and that the residue of those neo-conservatives are still an active disease.

Performance or politics.

I must reluctantly concede that at a time of domestic financial problems, the opposition of a democractic nation would seize upon that opportunity to embarrass the elected government. But is there a limit?

However, let's sit back, think and reason.

What does it serve Malcolm Turnbull's political future to undermine the current government of our nation, in times of an international war of a military or financial nature? How does he profit by this? Or does he really control?

Is it the Australian way to take advantage of a political party when they are under abnormal trial, and take advantage when the nation is in peril?

I keep saying that this is a war of financial distress and is a problem which transcends the have and have nots of the last decade in Australian politics.

The blame game!

Here we are in the most critical financial crisis since 1929 and what do we have? A government desperately trying, consistent with the concerted efforts of every industrialised nation in the world, to create confidence in the economy of their respective countries and to believe in the future. And who opposes?

I do not believe that, in our democracy, the opposition is obliged to be obstructive without any consideration of the national interest.

Sure, I am against the Howard way of ingrained principles of aspirational nationalism which is as close to fascism as the title suggests.

But can we force the neo-conservative Liberals and their fellow travellers to put Australia's national interests before their desperate grasp for power?

I guess that the leader of the opposition should take responsibility for the radical behaviour of those who are responsible to his/her leadership.

Do the Liberals; Nationalists; Family First; Greens; and any other party which could be obstructionist to the Australian Government's efforts to resolve our universal problem really think that their "bi-partisan" agreement one day and dissolved the next is responsible?

You large L liberals out there - do you really believe that a merchant banker of the ilk of the extreme capitalism in America would really believe that his professional ability could resolve the enormous problems that face Australian in these trying times?

King Canute

Thank you, Lisa Knox, for raising an important issue.

Funnily enough, it has relevance to another Webdiary thread, that on Halloween and cultural swamping.

There is in fact, as you suggest, no doubt that where the US has gone, Australia will follow ... and, it raises the issue of how much style will triumph over substance.

An excellent thread, Lisa.  Generally it's just us oldies whining futiley about such.

I'm not laughing

Hey Lisa, I really enjoyed your article. As entertaining as it is to see the spoofs and parodies of the politicians, I am hoping that some of the important issues will be taken seriously.

I will not get into my personal feelings, but I do think that politicians should be held more accountable for things other than how likable they are or how much you feel like they are one of "us." Truth be told, I am extremely happy that they are not like us. Why should we want a Joe-six-pack running the country? That is terrifying!! I dont want someone likable, or someone I can have a beer with, I want someone honest, powerful, worldly, intelligent etc...

I wrote a similar story, but took a different angle - it's posted on the homepage of Webdiary for now. I hope you do well. Good luck with future online journalism endeavours.

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