EDITORIAL TUESDAY 23.02.10.
I wonder what it is exactly that prompts politicians to appear on television shows. Not the nightly news, or the serious current affairs programs, but light entertainment and variety programs or even game shows. Politicians from both sides of the divide do it, sometimes even together as Kevin Rudd and Joe Hockey used to do on Sunrise, which might just claim to be a serious news program, but really is bordering light entertainment. Last year we saw Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard appearing on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” Perhaps that was seen as appropriate because she is also the education minister. And who can possibly forget that memorable appearance all those years ago by the then Treasurer Peter Costello dancing the Macarena with Kerri Anne Kennerly? Clearly this is not a new phenomenon.
Obviously, there is a view that any publicity is good publicity, and the more we can see our politicians the better for their re-election chances. If that means that we get to see them acting like ordinary human beings then so much the better. The idea presumably is that if we can relate to them and even find them likeable, then we are more likely to vote for them. But is it really true that any publicity is good publicity? Surely, it doesn’t take a great deal of cynicism to see through the phony frivolity of some of the stage managed appearances that are designed to sell us the idea that such and such a politician is a decent chap and a nice guy. Surely, there comes a point when it might actually all backfire and start to show up the shortcomings of our elected representatives.
Apparently not. This week we saw the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appear on the satirical comedy show “Good News Week” which lampoons current news events. He certainly wasn’t there to make serious policy announcements so the only possible explanation for the appearance is that it was intended to allow the public to see him in a different light. The Prime Minister smiled and laughed a lot, and even managed to crack a few jokes himself. Whether it made him seem endearing or otherwise is a matter of opinion. My own observation was that he had come across as being a bit of a “dork”. For my trouble I was roundly castigated by a caller on my show who told me that he had worked for a series of Prime Ministers between 1954 and 1969 and that he was appalled that I had failed to show the appropriate respect due to the Prime Minister’s position.
Now, “dork” is a slang word which is usually defined as a person who is “quirky, silly, or socially inept, or out of touch with contemporary trends,” and is sometimes confused with the similar terms “geek” and “nerd”. The thing is, most of us are dorks, to some extent. Only a handful of people get to be genuinely considered “cool”. In that respect, perhaps the Prime Minister’s appearance has actually achieved the desired effect and shown him to be a regular person just like the rest of us, even though he is a bit geeky, nerdy, and more intelligent than a room full of Mensa members.
My point, however, was to ask whether appearing on a satirical program and engaging in trivial games was in itself an act which fails to show the appropriate respect for the office which the Prime Minister holds. After all, shouldn’t he have more important things to do with his time?