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

conduct unbecoming « Previous | |Next »
August 17, 2007

Last night's Lateline interview with Kevin Rudd started to consolidate some of the more symbolic behaviour behind Rudd's Labor.

There's no point trying to get around what has become the institution of Prime Minister John Howard. Traditional Labor voters didn't start voting in 1996 for the Liberal philosophy which brought them Workchoices. They've been voting for Howard, which works splendidly until somebody points out the distinction between the office and the man currently holding it.

The Labor Party disappeared into the Christmas break last year with a new leader, and emerged from that with a whole new bearing. They seem to have spent the break at charm school. There was, and still is from time to time, a bit of fuss over Julia Gillard's new look, but there's more to it than that.

Labor have been performing the dignity of office. Even on the odd occasions when Labor have taken a blow you'd never know it from looking at them.

All of the more memorable outbursts, tantrums, indignant snortings, smirks and various other explosions have come from the government side. Howard has been visibly rattled. Downer, Hockey, Turnbull, Costello and occasionally Abbott slouch in their chairs through interviews and question time. They're not far away from chewing gum, flipping the bird and scratching their armpits.

If you weren't paying attention you could easily get the impression that Labor had already won, which is precisely the point. Rudd's Labor have been conducting themselves like office-bearers and Rudd behaves like a man to be taken seriously. He's already assumed the conduct of the office of prime minister.

It's only natural then for him to point out, as he did last night, that the government is behaving like an opposition and that's not the way to govern a country.

| Posted by Lyn at 1:02 PM | | Comments (18)


Your planning to vote Labor then are you Gary?

that is Lyn's post, not mine. I'm going Green after Rudd's Tasmanian forest policy that was about development and not conservation. That was bridge too far.

Sorry didnt realise....I will have to look more carefully...

BTW I think nicholsons latest animation nailed it...very funny

so do you expect the greens will win? does your vote move on to labor? does the laboral party even notice? what a cushy deal they've got, and no end in sight. meanwhile the nation goes into the dust bin.

We'll all look like this in 3 years time if Rudd gets up.

I'm rather modest. Liberals lose control of the Senate. Accountability returns.

I prefer this version They do have a tendency to sound like the Dubliners though.

I never watch TV or listen to the "news" of "news" commentary programs on the radio. I just like dont like the ratta tat tat tat of it all. I prefer the relative distance of reading

Perhaps the ALP has taking some cues from the concept of "framing" developed and promoted by the Rockridge Institute. And thereby changed the parameters of the shouting matches altogether.

There is a superb essay by George Lakoff at the Rockridge Institute on how the carefully cultivated and framed concept of the "centre" stifles the possibility of any really intelligent alternatives even getting any real attention.


I've often thought the same, that Labor's strategists have read up on Lakoff.

I hadn't thought of this before, but their new dignified bearing probably amounts to a kind of behavioural framing.

It's hard to argue with Lakoff on the stuff about the centre. It's seen to be inevitable. Looking back though, so has everything else.

Is this the Lakoff work you are referring to? Nope. You refer to one about the political centre.

In this 'Frame' article Lakoff says:

Every word comes with one or more frames. Most frames are unconscious and have just developed naturally and haphazardly and have come into the public's mind through common use. But, over the past 40 years, conservatives — using the intellectuals in their think tanks — have consciously and strategically crafted an overall conservative worldview, with a conservative moral framework. They have also invested heavily in language — in two ways:
#Language that fits their worldview, and hence evokes it whenever used. "Tax relief" is a good example.
#Deceptive language, that evokes frames they don't really believe but that public approves of. Saying "Tax relief creates jobs" is an example — or referring to their environmental positions as being "clean," "healthy" and "safe."

Isn't 'frame' another word for rhetoric, classically understood?

I've found the centrism article.

Is this the Lakoff work you reckon the ALP strategists have read? I'm reading them as technocratic Labor at the moment.

Haven't read that one Gary, but it's on the list.

Metaphors We Live By, Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant are all steps in his thinking which I have read.

The way I understand it, it goes beyond rhetoric. Rhetoric is usually for short term purposes and has some catchy little jingle element. It's similar insofar as a sliver of rhetoric like "They hate us for our freedoms" or "latte sipping elites" has a cluster of concepts associated with it, but Lakoff's version runs a lot deeper. It's more Durkheimian and very American.

It's also my understanding that when Lakoff talks about the centre, he's talking about claims to the centre rather than an actual centre. To my knowledge he's working on the assumption that the centre is where most people sit, but that extremists link centrist language with outlier ideas.

You have to admire Lakoff for making his work freely accessible. Should be more of it in my opinion. In the interests of democracy and all that.

What do you mean by technocratic Labor? At the moment they seem totally focused on the election, which makes it a bit hard to work out exactly how they might govern. I'm reading them as purely election strategists with Lakoff-style framing one of a whole bag of tricks.

Lakoff is a cognitive linguist - words can shape perceptions. I should have thought of him when I wrote the post because I'm arguing a similar thing for imagery, or body language.

Will Kevin Rudd's strip club admission affect your vote?
91602 YES

84723 NO

Nine news poll....from msn

And here's me claiming Kevin is a picture of dignity. Had a good laugh at myself over that.

It's interesting which bits of politics make the public stand up and take notice.

Yeah well you cant blame the bloke really. Looks like his missus would know where they make good hamburgers.

re your:

What do you mean by technocratic Labor? At the moment they seem totally focused on the election, which makes it a bit hard to work out exactly how they might govern. I'm reading them as purely election strategists with Lakoff-style framing one of a whole bag of tricks.

A technocratic politics classically means that politics becomes the art of experts administering policies etc for the functioning of capitalism.

It could also mean that politics becomes the art of administering policies etc for the pulling of the levers of power.

Political reason is concerned with the calculations of power in a tactical sense, and has little time for the public sphere it is opposing or for democracy which no longer counts for much.

It's become like a bad game of chess, everything reduced to move and counter-move with no concern for the ends to which the instrument is put.

I wondered how they could be technocratic when they're not in a position to be practicing technocracy. (Is technocracy even a word?)

OK, I understand what you mean now. Isn't that inevitable since the industrial revolution, and even more so since Thatcher? Probably stick the rise of America in there post WWII?

On the surface you have the manipulative stuff of political theatre and shiny gestures at democracy, underneath you get the power/capitalism arrangement thought to be permanent after Fukuyama declared the end of history?

In real life the distinction is probably more a reflection of a division of academic labour (she said, making a Marxian argument), but at the dovetail where reality meets an election, the shiny stuff gets you the opportunity to practice being technocratic and tactical.