Friday, August 20, 2010

The 2010 election and the illusion of reality

In this election, if there's one word that has really stood out for me in the sheer amount of its use by political parties of all types, it is this one: real.

The Liberal party slogan is "stand up for real action". In my local area, the blurb on handouts from the Greens in my area is "Let's really move Australia forward". The blurb on the flyer for sitting Labor MP for Grayndler (my electorate) is "real solutions". And of course there was the emergence of the "real Julia Gillard" a few weeks in after the Labor campaign was well under way, an open admission of the fakery that routinely goes on in election campaigns if ever there was one.

Why has the need to be "real" become so important in this election? It would be nice to think that this standing up for "real" whatchumacallits is a reaction to a public that's fed up with all the stage-managed spin and PR that is the basis of so much of what passes for political presentation these days. But it seems to me that what we're seeing in this election isn't a triumph of truth over political PR, but political PR that's trying to present itself as truth. As a very cynical aphorism puts it: "the key to success is sincerity - once you can fake that, you've got it made".

The act might be more convincing if so many of the political attacks by these clamants to truth weren't about things of highly questionable reality. Julia Gillard just claimed on ABC TV that if Abbott became Prime Minister on Sunday, WorkChoices would be back on the agenda on Monday. Um, not really: the Liberal party won't commit political suicide a second time, certainly not as quickly as within a single day, and the chance of WorkChoices-style legislation getting passed through what will probably be a hostile Senate is basically nil. Then there's the supposed "disaster" of Labor's economic record as claimed by the Liberal party, a record that's seen Australia get through a global financial crisis in a way that's the envy of the developed world. These exaggerated claims aren't the actions of people truly concerned with being "real".

So we have political parties insisting that they stand for something "real", but the behaviour suggests that this claim is just more spin. I guess that makes this the first truly post-modern election in Australia, where even trying to be real is just another illusion spun through the media. No wonder there's a feeling that this election isn't really about anything.

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