Post 106: Hating the election campaign

I’m hating this election campaign, for the same reasons that PR gets up my nose so much.

I have long felt that PR is a corrosive influence on society because its stifles debate. By teaching people who encounter the media to stay within a narrow band of content without appearing totally disingenuous, it restricts the amount of information that enters the public domain and debases debate. This in turn restricts the information people can use to inform themselves.

The Leaders’ debate on Sunday night was a great example of this stuff at work. Rudd mentions ‘working families’ at every available opportunity. Howard mentions ‘economic management’ and in what I am sure was a planned tactic to create a sound bite said ‘Labor governments= high interest rates, Liberal governments = low interest rates’.

It’s debate via sound bite, rather than any engagement and discussion of the ideas that fuel the respective leaders and how they might actually govern!

And it was tosh.

No wonder the worm got all the coverage the next day.

For me, PR’s fingerprints were all over this. The need to manage messages and implant very simple propositions in voters’ brains may be the way to win votes, but I think it debases society by simplifying things abominably.

I also think it bites the feeding hand because when the media does not have a lot to work with, coverage of the campaign gets awful dull.

Of late, I find political commentary terrifying because it relies on increasingly futile attempts at divining trends from recent events, which serves no-one because writing descends into hackneyed analysis of the latest new thing and leaves analysis of actual policy well in the background. Some very good writers (Annabel Crabb, Matt Price) have to be employed to make this stuff readable. But we all know that MSM are struggling to retain audiences.

Seems to me that when they let the people they report on resort to sound bites and key messages we get the media we deserve AND the government we deserve, neither of which is optimal.

Of course I am also part of the problem here – seeing as I contribute to the media. But one of the reasons for this blog’s existence and some of my grumpier moments is my conscious attempt to step outside of the massaged messaging that goes on and try to do a better job.

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One thought on “Post 106: Hating the election campaign

  1. “It’s debate via sound bite, rather than any engagement and discussion of the ideas that fuel the respective leaders and how they might actually govern!”

    I agree wholeheartedly. The political landscape and styles of election are changing (and not for the better). Another development that irritates me no end is the fact that our elections are becoming closer and closer to the American system, where the personal habits of politicians are increasingly put under the spotlight. Case in point: Rudd and strippers (which, if leaked by the libs did backfire spectacularly).

    The personalities of the party leaders are becoming much more a point of focus. When Rudd and Howard talk about Labor and Coalition policies, they use “I” a lot. Not “the Liberal party believes”, or “the Labor party feels”. I’m not saying that previous leaders haven’t been the same (Keating, Hawke, Whitlam are great examples – and that’s just the Labor party), but Kevin ’07 T-shirts? Oh, puh-lease!

    As for the worm, I again agree. The contents of the debate were mostly predictable, but I think the media really focused on the wrong point when reporting on the worm.

    If – as is suggested – the Channel 9 debate feed was pulled because of pressure from the Coalition, I think this is something far more worrying than who’s trying to one-up each other via sound bites or even who won. Controlling what the media is allowed to report – and how they choose to report it – doesn’t sit well with most Australians. Or is it just me?

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