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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

too much about nothing much « Previous | |Next »
September 13, 2004

I missed the headline event on Channel Nine apart from the last few questions on education, and the summing up by 60 Minutes crowd and Annabel Crabbe. So thankfully, I missed all the performance stuff about national security and economic management. I reckon that would have been rather boring with the absence of cross talk (arguments).

But then again the media event is all about how the performers present themselves despite the built-in stiffness stuctured into this show. It is about a look not about substance.

The little that I saw was enough. It was all too packaged, controlled and corporate. It was about spin and marketing the package for specific audiences within a media that stifles policy debate for sound grabs and appearance.

However, political surface is everything in television.

What I saw was a reality televison show with lookalikes. Latham looked good at the expense of Howard, he had better lines and more personality. But Howard looked safe and comforting. Different strokes for different folks. As for the audience you can have some laughs by reading the 'we wuz robbed, its all been rigged ' comments here.


Over a third of the show was devoted to the war on terror. We do have the worm's interpretation of what this meant in terms of its effects. But who knows what is going on with the worm, without us having an indication of the composition of the swinging voter audience. Is the worm an expression of our deepest fears and anxieties? How does it compare to this kind of survey? I do not know. What we have is surface, surface, surface.

So what does the spectacle mean in terms of reversing the ALP's drift of momentum? Who knows. That way of understanding what is happening is the interpretation of the Canberra Press Gallery. Yet more coded surfaces, images and desires that often bear little relation to the lived experiences and desires of the suburbs.I don't know much about either.

So how did the media event play in the diverse marginals around the nation? I haven't a clue. How would people in the marginals critically read the media spectacle? Few people really know.

But the ALP crowd just loved it. Their guy did well.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:58 PM | | Comments (19)


If we are "the ALP" crowd - what, pray tell, are you representative of Gary? The "supercilious crowd"?

c'mon. You doth protest too much.

I had read and re-read all of the comments on Back Pages and Tim Blair re their respective Great Debate posts.

The former is mostly ALP supporters talking to one another about their desires, what is happening and assessing the media events significance for them; the latter is mostly Liberal Party supporters doing pretty much the same thing.

By supporters I mean both weblogs are virtual places where party political gatherings take place. Some of the individual posts by the authors are designed to keep both the conversation and the chaotic flow of political desire flowing.

Far from displaying arrogant pride or scorn as you suggest, my post was a poor effort to come to grips with, and to understand, the media form within which the point scoring between Howard and Latham took place.

The post is anything but indifferent. Its concern is political desire as expressed in the extensive comments.

I do not have the language (concepts) to make sense of that media form, other than simulacra ---appearances in themselves----rather than appearances of something (interests) lying behind the appearances.

This is a line of thinking that suggests these weblogs produce political groupings from the coding of their political desire. Both the above weblogs are groups of bodies connected to expanding their power (desire), both form an image of themselves, and both express flows of experience with their different perspectives.

You can see a similar flow of political desire producing another grouping at Margo's Webdiary that expresses other kinds of flows of desire and experience.

We have coded political gatherings produced by desire.

Once again I'm struggling to find the concepts to make sense of the formation of weblogs from a process (flow) of political desire.

Well I think the truth is that the majority of commenters are anti-Howardians, rather than people who could be described as "the ALP crowd". There are some ALP, some disgruntled ALP, some Greens, some left of Greens, some former Liberals, some non-disclosing commenters, most of whom are probably only fairly described as anti-Howardian citizens. Your political pigeon holing, that declines to politically pigeon hole yourself, reminds me of Ken Parish's faux-centrism, and strikes me as a patronising double standard.

Gary doesn't decline to pigeon-hole himself, does he? I thought you were an avowed green or Democrat or some thing, aren't you Gary? And both of those parties are much more accomplished at seizing the spurious high moral ground than us faux centrists. And patronising!? I haven't been so insulted in ages. Well, minutes anyway.

What are you doing over here Parish? Is nowhere safe?

As you know, I've frequently bridled over your manic determination to political categorise everyone and sundry while trenchantly refusing to politically categorise yourself. Indeed, I believe I might have bridled against this very characteristic again this morning. In any event, allow me to recall one of your ealrlier replies to my objections:

"I also don't intend to lay claim to any superior position for centrism in terms of balance, lack of bias and the like"

To which I juxtapose this further Ken-quote from this morning's faux-centrist Troppo thread, in your reply to John Quiggin:

I somewhat arrogantly assert that I was able to adjudicate it in a detached, unbiased manner


We large spirits are able to encompass a multitude of positions that more limited beings would wrongly regard as contradictory. And I say that in a deeply civil and utterly unpatronising way.

And anyway, I DO happily categorise myself as somewhat to the right of centre on economic issues (though with a faintly social democratic tinge), but a little to the left of centre on social and civil liberties issues (although the latter positions are equally consistent with libertarianism or classical liberalism). What you seem to regard as a failure to politicall categorise myself is merely the fact that I'm not a welded-on supporter of either major political party. But that's simply because they're fairly difficult to distinguish clearly these days ideologically. I think Latham is likely to be marginally closer to my own above preferred positions, and he also isn't yet mired in dishonesty or divisiveness. Now I know that's a bit more complicated than being a Life Member of the ALP Supporters' Club, but that isn't the same as "refusing to politically categorise yourself".

What you seem to regard as a failure to politicall categorise myself is merely the fact that I'm not a welded-on supporter of either major political party

Who is a welded-on etc of a major political party? I thought your categories were left/right etc? All I bridle at is the apparent hypocrisy in annoying others by applying categories from which you exempt yourself (and with Gary, in his case he does imply others are welded onto actual political parties, but, in a similar double-standard, not himself). Is your switch to political party categorisation a straw man defence? Perhaps it's all too spiritually large for me to see how the dots join up here.

We large spirits move in mysterious ways.

More seriously, there isn't actually a contradiction between asserting that I don't lay claim to superior morality or intellect through being a "centrist", and also asserting a superior ability to adjudicate a debate between partisan political leaders (albeit only in a very limited way - see below).

In part it's really just an application of the bias rule in administrative law. A partisan follower of either major political party would certainly be disqualfied from sitting on a tribunal that was adjudicating politics-related questions where the litigation parties were the two party leaders, due to a reasonable apprehension of bias. Someone not affiliated with either party would not be subject to such a reasonable apprehension. That says nothing at all about the morality or intellect of either the partisan or the non-partisan, nor about whose policies are best, nor whether the partisan or the non-partisan is better qualified to assess them.

Even on judging a head to head contest, I wouldn't necessarily claim superiority per se, although the admin law bias rules would suggest so. But what I was dealing with in the passage you quoted was JQ's suggestion that a 67/33 split was what you'd expect in a situation where Latham had won clearly but narrowly, and where 1/3 of the audience were left-leaning swingers, 1/3 right-leaning swingers, and 1/3 leaning in neither direction. I was simply asserting that, even though I DO lean slightly left (or rather slightly towards Labor) for the purposes of this election, my leaning is sufficiently slight, and sufficiently carefully considered and analysed in terms of the factors leading to it, that I reckon I'm a pretty reasonable proxy for one of those non-leaning swingers JQ was postulating. It's a tough life being a large spirit.

You write:
"Your political pigeon holing, that declines to politically pigeon hole yourself.... strikes me as a patronising double standard."


This weblog has made no secret of its environmental agenda, its criticism of the Coalition and the ALP for not being sufficiently environmental, its support of the Australian Greens, and its celebration of a future Green Senate. It's the greenest political weblog around and it advocates more power to the Senate.

Go the Greens. If that is not a political pigenohole I do not know what is.

What more do you want?

I have also argued for a political perspectives on political debate, dialologic rationality and perspectivism over at I have argued for an interpretative approach to politics and a tough federalism.

You are whistling in the wind on this one about double standards.

But it does not politically represent.

Your "here" does not appear to be there. Could be my limited technology again I suppose.

But it does not politically represent.

By what telepathy do you therefore understand others to represent and not yourself? Why can't I call you "the Greens crowd" (and BP, incidentally, where Greens often comment, should hitherto be known as the "anti-Howardian crowd", if you are unable to break your habit of presuming my place to larger categories).

Ken, you spin a nice line you big spirits, but the context is completely different. I would argue that the non-engaged is just as liable to completely stuff up a judgement as the engaged in a case like this. Take the rugby analogy instead of the law comparison. The dedicated Wallaby fan is just as likely to be critical, and more likely to be knowledgeably critical, of a failed Wallaby performance, than someone who doesn't care who wins. This is at least as much an 'engaged/disengaged' 'insider/outsider' argument, imo. Each has a capacity to bring light the other will be blind to.

As a large spirit I can graciosuly embrace your rugby analogy. But it only qualifies my first point, not the second one abour being a proxy. I reckon I AM quite a bit closer to being a proxy for the hypothesised non-leaning swinger than you. And don't forget that's what we're debating here, not the question of whose judgment is superior in any absolute sense (assuming such a thing exists).

But neither of us is in reality all that close to the hypothesised non-leaning swinger, because neither of us has anything like the lack of detailed knowledge of or interest in politics that one would expect the typical n-l s to exhibit. And our respective claims are unprovable in any event. My sole point was to demonstrate that my two positions you initially derided as inherently contradictory aren't in fact so at all as a matter of logic.

not only are you thinned skinned for someone who has spent many years in the political life, you are also an obtuse fellow.

you write: " By what telepathy do you therefore understand others to represent and not yourself?"

Two points.

I do not have 100 comments a post on this weblog talking about the election campaign. Public opinion is more a solo voice, than an organized form of a variety of coded (political) desires gathered in a virtual place.

Secondly, I do not "understand others to represent and not myself."

I described what I was trying to do in my first response.

Instead of a weblog 'representing' a political crowd or gathering I talked about the coded flow of political desires producing political groupings; different kinds of desires and experiences; and the formation of a weblog from the 'organization' of the chaotic flow of desire.

It is the word 'represent' (as in representing a political interst welded onto a political party) that I am refusing. I am trying to see weblogs, such as Back Pages, Tim Blair, and WebDiary, in terms of being produced by the chaotic flow of political desires.

It is the effects of the chaotic flow of political desire gathered in the comments that interests me, not a particular weblog 'representing' a particular political party.

If you do not like 'crowd' how about 'assemblage'?


You lose me. What does 'Your "here" does not appear to be there.' mean? Blowed if I know what you are getting at.

OK, Parish and Sauer-Thompson simultaneously is too much for this little bear. I concede nothing, of course ... and will continue to lodge my humble protests whenever my blog is incorrectly politically categorised (or is presumed to be in an 'organised form' or that I don't have a solo voice, or that I'm welded onto some political party or interest), and particularly when it is politically categorised (etc) by people who don't themselves submit to political categories. So there, big spirit and chaotic flow master.

Real bloke humor for us ALPers.

It's time.

That desire to get your hands on the levers of power is very strong. It overrides everything eh.

Then you can sort things out and put your enemies in place. Its time they were shown the right and proper order of things: the ALP running things in a no nonense manner.

Well I hope you don't get control of the Senate. Some institution needs to temper that desire.

A dominate ALP executive controlled by the ALP right that only cares about power evokes the historical shudders amongst those of us who want a more democratic Australia.

You cannot say that the practice of the ALP right indicates that he has much interest in making Australia more democratic.

"As for the audience you can have some laughs by reading the 'we wuz robbed, its all been rigged ' comments here."

Apologies. This link is not connected.

It was a link to Tim Blair's post on The Great Debate between Latham and Howard.

The link has been fixed. I should have checked it.