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

the shock of the Kevin « Previous | |Next »
August 8, 2007

There has been much ado about Kevin07 in the last little while as old and new media come to grips with the new communicative strategies in our political landscape, or Kevinscape, perhaps. We are now, apparently, on a first name basis with our alternative prime minister.

Way back, it seems like decades ago now, Kerry O'Brien asked Rudd "Do you think Australia's ready to embrace a prime minister called Kevin?" Chuckles all round. If the comments on the website and the polls are any indication, they've moved beyond a mere embrace. Nor do they seem bothered at the notion of a campaign called Kevin, and they seems to like having a more or less direct line to Kevin himself.

Brand name Kevin has pulled off one surprise after another. We've seen the Maxine McKew surprise, the broadband surprise, the MySpace surprise and, for the policy police among us, the ongoing absent policies surprise. In retrospect though, none of this is really all that surprising.

In October and November last year the leftish literati were granted a special preview of "Rudd the thinking person's politician" in The Monthly. In October we learned that the more humanitarian aspects of religion make a good philosophical framework for governance in the interests of all, emphasis on ALL. In November we were treated to an analysis of the relationship between "free-market fundamentalism" and Howard's culture wars.

In the process we learned that Rudd is reasonably well read, intelligent and articulate. On paper anyway, where he refrains from forks, bridges and mangled metaphors. But the clues to his unfolding campaign strategies were also there in his multiple references to Quadrant magazine and, right up front in the intro "the prime minister's more prominent cultural warriors - including Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun and Christopher Pearson in the Australian".

Bracket out the content and the combined effect is a nod to the informed left, a refusal of divisive strategies and a poke in the eye for a lot of prominent Murdoch political journalists. He's continued along the same lines ever since, giving nods to the electorate bit by bit, refusing wedges and engaging with alternative communications channels. Whether this heralds a new era of political communications remains to be seen, but so far it's served Kevin very well indeed.

| Posted by Lyn at 4:30 PM | | Comments (20)
Comments

Comments

I think that he is the clever one, when in fact clever means clever, not lying, mendacious, mean spirited, sly as he refers to our Johnnie.

His strategy has been very succesful and has effectively driven Howard and his cronies mad. All he has to do now is to remain patient.

Lyn,
I guess you are talking about the political persona of the politician and not the person that Mark Latham talked about in the Latham Diaries---the person who spend time and energy constructing the persona.

I have to admit that I saw the Monthly article as a selling of Kevin to the social liberals and intellectuals in the capital cities. The thinking person's politician as it were. It all faded quickly, did it not? It's rarely mentioned now.

Is KevinO7 similar--targeting a specific young internet audience? Or a new way of doing politics?

Do you think that the image is the real? Electoral politics is just the media surface?

It's probably a sin of some kind, but I haven't read the Latham Diaries. I was more interested in what its publication said about politics, the party and the public Latham narrative than in anything he had to say.

I've no doubt that the constructed Kevin would have presented a great opportunity for Barthes and Baudrillard to say 'told you so'.

The capital cities point is interesting. I know the Monthly's circulation was around 23,000 at the time, but don't know about its geographical distribution. Then again, to what extent is urbane a state of mind?

Gary,

I missed the most intriguing bit of your comment.

I wouldn't like to hazard a guess on whether it's a new way of doing politics, but it's certainly a new way of communicating. People who don't use the net get to find out what's going on here anyway through old media to the extent that old media cover the net. It's an increasingly weird loop.

I'm not entirely convinced that Kevin07 is wholly aimed at the junior market. Maybe it's a nod to the blogosphere, in which case, it hasn't done too shabbily.

Colin,
I guess Lyn's referral to the Monthly articles is an indication that 'Kevin' is not mere surface style and no substance as Alexander Downer, the Foreign Minister from SA, claims.

The Monthly articles showed that 'Kevin'--the media persona--- has substance, but his intellectualism is Christian and so he is not threatening. No Marxist or poststructuralist is he. He dislikes the brutopia neo-liberalism and loves the community of family values.

Colin,

I believe you're onto something there on the scores of both cleverness and madness.

It all seems so obvious from the luxurious distance we onlookers enjoy, but don't you think it emphasises the little bubble of unreality our politicians are accustomed to inhabit?

Lyn,
when I see 'Kevin' on national TV---ie., the 24 hr Sky News television here in Canberra----all I see is a constructed figure (talking head) that appears to live Second Life:----I see a virtual political world entirely built and owned by its political actors.

Maybe this perspective of avatars in a virtual political world arises because Sky News is on endless repeat and so becomes virtual.

Or maybe it is because Second Life is sometimes referred to as a game and politics can be seen as a game in the Canberra Press Gallery frame. It is is one of points, scores, winners or losers, levels, an end-strategy, or most of the other characteristics of games.

It can be thought of as a game on a more basic level.--a semi-structured virtual environment where characters undertake activities for the purpose of personal advantage and enjoyment.

Is this pushing your insights around Kevin07 too far?

Gary,
Something that has surprised me is the bookies prices on Bennalong. Howard $1.38 Mckew $2.70. Thats with Centrebet.
The coalition has drifted out now with the interest rate rise and is @ $2.40 and Labor @ $1.58

Gary,

Your comment looks munted partly because I'm so new to this blogging thingo and I didn't know how to fix it, and partly because, well, who am I to interfere with freedom of expression? But that raises an interesting point related to what you're saying.

Some people will see a munted comment and others will see the substance. I think Kevvie is walking a fine line between both with his early acknowledgement of the informed and his more recent adventures in Sim City.

'munted': --a mess, screwed up, broken or unusable, smashed on smack , intoxicated with alcohol and/or chemicals to such point where respectable levels of social and/or physical functioning become problematic, extremely tired, lethargic .

The fan on my portable computer is not working and the computer overheats quicks. I come on for a bit and have to go off again fast.

Being online is done in fragments. isn't that out pollies...bits and pieces in the media and online in video streams.

Lynn,
re your comment: 'the little bubble of unreality our politicians are accustomed to inhabit.' This is how i understand the bubble of unreality.

Reality is what is on the media for them. What happens in the media is the real. It's what is on the media that is watched and monitored.What the politicians do and say has significance or meaning in terms of its fractured or fragmented reflections (image/soundbites) in the media. They practice their carefully prepared lines for their moment in front of the media.

That happened to me once. Open the fridge door and put the laptop on the bottom shelf. Pull up a chair. No probs. Theres plenty of light!

Garry, wish I was as confident as you concerning the "brutopia of neoliberalism" attitude.

Paul,
Robert Dean in an essay entitled Betraying the Menzies vision in The Age addresses Howard's relation to the Liberal heritage. In a section entitled Economic Rationalism he says:

As the champion of the individual and the middle class, he [Menzies]was no blind supporter of capitalism's preoccupation with materialism. Here again Menzies would have parted from the present government's preoccupation with the creation of wealth over liberal principles of social justice. He believed in the fair distribution of wealth. For a liberal it is simply not enough to be secure, and wealthy. For a liberal that is just the base line - it's where you go from there that distinguishes one community from another

Dr Robert Dean is a barrister who served as a parliamentary secretary in the Kennett government and was a shadow minister with various portfolios.

Maybe Rudd stands within the Menzies Liberal tradition?

Gary,

I had no idea munted was such an interesting word. Thank you. I always thought it meant a bit misshapen.

Les,

Laptop in the fridge. LOL. With you of course, not at you.

Nan,

Things get really interesting when that unreality bubble merges with governance. I think this is where Howard has gone wrong since he's had the senate. He seems to have been labouring under the misapprehension that anything is ok as long as the packaging is shiny enough.

Gary,

I'm under the impression that Rudd locates himself within the Menzies tradition, but it's hard to see that underneath the election campaign. I guess we'll find out if he wins.

Thanks Nan- and Gary.
We can safely put aside the rumours concerning razor gangs during the spell with Goss government with realisation that these were just that; or, at worst, just an abherration early along the learning curve on a trajectory toward a more nuanced understanding of life.
Wheww!

Lyn,
some say that the internet is really a more sophisticated form of theatre: illumination, inspiration, but also entertainment. It's up to the user.

That underplays the internet I would have thought. It's looking at the new through the eyes of the old.

thanks for the link Gary. I really must figure out how to use Google reader.

I've been trying to work out how to conceptualise the endogenous and exogenous understandings of the net (not that it's that simple but it's somewhere to start) to work out where it fits culturally. Of course it has its own set of internal cultural logics, but that bit's easy.

I might start working through that on your philosophy page.

The first four pars of the piece made my eyes pop. All of the ideas there could have been lifted straight from a small selection of blogs. There's been so much focus on the blogosphere's dependency on MSM, but not much acknowledgement that it works the other way round as well.

Acknowledgement of sources is, among other things, an entrenched cultural practice in the blogosphere. A basic standard of civility. Monica Attard's there every week pointing out that the MSM doesn't bind itself to the same standards.

Puts me in mind of Norbert Elias derived from Freud, that only those comfortably above need can afford to indulge in codes of civility.

I agree that 'sophisticated form of theatre' underplays the net but so far journalists seem more interested in rubbishing it than understanding it. That's a shame because I think it's an attitude that works against journalists more than anyone else.

Lyn,
there is an article by Michelle Grattan in the SMH on the use of the internet by the two political parties.

By all means work out your ideas on the philosophy sites. They are hard for me to keep going in Canberra with a portable computer with a broken fan. I can only work for an hour or so at a time with a two hour break.