The way WordPress works is that every time I start a new post, it saves it for posterity, regardless of whether they’re ever finished, or published, or intelligible. They, at this moment, include a lamentation for the left from 1900, past the end of history, till today, a piece about the privatisation of democracy, with – in part thanks to MMP – parties increasingly becoming political firms competing for market share, and a wee sidetrack about just how gosh-darn thrilled I am that Wills and Kate and wee bonnie babe George have graced us colonials with the privilege of their presence.
These underdeveloped skeletons are now lying safely where skeletons should lie, in the closet, away from the light of day, never to meet the scrutinous eyes of others. I am, of course, happy for them to stay there, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I would be profusely embarrassed if they were ever to be made public, lest they expose the truly chaotic and disorganised state of my mind, which has the habit of performing an emergency evacuation of all my conflicting, malformed ideas as soon as it is given paper and a pen (or a keyboard and a screen) and told to write, inevitably producing an unassailable roadblock.
I would be equally mortified if anyone found the social studies essay I wrote in fourth-form that started with a quote from Hitler (mortified not because it was from Hitler – it was about the Third Reich – but because I started an essay with a quote – yuck!), or uncovered photos of the less than savoury things I have gone to dress-up parties as. I’m sure that any one of these things would be enough to cause future professional embarrassment and harm to any career I eventually manage to bluster into. One would think this possible career would certainly not include politics, if one did not want such skeletons to be dug up, as scandals and past embarrassments, no matter how big, or small, seem to be the main currency in which the political economy trades. It seems that the main task of politicians or political journalists is to catch MPs with their trousers around their ankles, their hands in the till, or with their signature on a painting.
Chris Trotter published an article on The Daily Blog a couple of weeks ago examining our gutter politics, and concluded that:
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
And this is surely correct. Our politics, our political reporting is indeed part of a wider culture. One that, yes, for sure has always existed wherever fishwives have had wont of gossip, but one that has seemed to become magnified and twisted with our electronic culture. A culture which seeks to see everyone humiliated and objectified, caught on camera phones – from the mundane voyeurism of the paparazzo, to the much more disturbing phenomenon of extreme pornographic and gore websites, where snuff, suicide, torture and serious injury videos are shared for can-you-hack-it entertainment, where videos of rape, sexual degradation, and sexual humiliation – revenge porn – are shared for a laugh.
This truly gut-wrenching mindset is leaching on to our TV sets too, where mainstream television shows like Tosh.0, Rude Tube, and Destroyed In Seconds, treat real-life videos of death, serious injury, and sexual objectification, with a mixture of morbid curiosity and out-and-out jocularity, played over laugh tracks. It’s a mindset that creates a psychopathic cognitive dissonance, an inability to connect the depersonalised image of a subject, with the human person (worthy of human dignity) that they are seeing used and objectified effectively in the same room as them. It’s a mindset that creates a sentimental self-focuussed concern when images of suffering and death in Syria are overlaid with a sombre newscaster’s voice, but would surely provoke hilarity, ‘Facebook-sharing’ and ‘Snapchatting’ were they played over some Benny Hill music and some canned laughter. It’s something that has reared it’s ugly head earlier this week as a New Zealand Herald article reported that 30-odd people walked passed and saw a body floating in the Waitemata Harbour in a 30 minute period, with not one of them doing a thing about it. People apparently, walked by, took photos, took videos, laughed, and jogged up and down on the spot looking at this person’s body instead of trying to retrieve it, or calling for help, or calling the police. This is a culture that would see a camera phone shoved in the face of the drowning man instead of a helping hand.
It may seem difficult to see how this relates to political scandals, but it’s precisely this mindset that allows filth like Whaleoil (I refuse to use his human name) to operate. We’ve gone from having tabloids, to having a tabloid culture, a tabloid society. And of course that’s why the New Zealand Truth folded – because there was no need for it anymore. That odious, superficial mine of human muck has been outsourced, externalised to all of us. To anyone that has a camera phone. To anyone that has the internet. Snapchat, Instagram. More connected to, but further away from each other than ever.
It’s this tabloid culture, our tabloid society, the obsession with superficiality, dirty secrets, skeleton’d closets, and using these things to create a narrative to objectify the person that gives us a politics so superficial, so personalised, but at the same time so utterly dehumanised. Our politics is a reflection of what we want as a society. We, twisted inwards, towards the self, want depravity and scandal and superficiality, and so we get it. We get a politics focussed towards superficial personal scandal, depravity used to stir the mob. We get politicians whose goal is no-longer about social change, or social good, but is reflective of the selfish society. Self-serving, reductionist, about power and narrative. In focussing on mud they are focussing on their own interest, and not on society’s.
What’s the real scandal, 285,000 children living in poverty, or Len Brown cheating on his wife? What’s the real scandal, that 15,000-20,000 children are killed every year in this country because (mostly) they have been made economic impossibilities, or that Shane Jones bought some hotel porn? What’s the real scandal, that the Kōhanga Reo Trust (sleazily) misused a few thousand dollars of taxpayer funds, or that Allan Hubbard defrauded ordinary New Zealanders of $2 billion and the Government paid for it? What’s the real scandal, that Peter Dunne might have had the hots for a journalist, or that the Government illegally spied of 80 New Zealanders? What’s the real scandal? That not everyone are saints, or that we have a politics and a news media that systematically obfuscates social decay for their own personal gain?
Why don’t you report on that Paddy?