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

their own devices « Previous | |Next »
August 27, 2007

Two interesting points were raised by commenters on Matt Price's blog about Rudd and Roxon's hospital plan which, since late last week, seem to have converged and morphed into a handicap for the coalition.

First commenter off the block, Embrace the truth, thinks it's "a PR win" for Labor, and that Howard is "the author of his own dilemma" here. If he wasn't such an authoritarian he wouldn't have his health minister in the awkward position of having to attack his own idea. It's a good point.

Fourth comment down from Keith Gregg points out that Costello is sitting on "seventeen billion dollars of OUR money" while the health system goes down the tubes.

TripleJ's Roy and HG made a similar comment on the weekend - that the federal government is socking money into mysterious funds, but the states are borrowing to keep things running. Mind you, they also felt a series of plebiscites should be held on decisions regarding the sporting facilities, toilet blocks and tuckshop at an imaginary Don Bradman Primary School.

The thing that struck me about all of these is how easy people are finding it to ridicule just about everything the Howard government does. It's not that they're not being taken seriously anymore. The ideas behind aspirational nationalism alarmed many, but the term itself and the attitudes behind it were cause for much mirth.

That can't be good if you're trying to convince people you can effectively run a country.

Most comments threads at descend into slanging matches between a handful of regulars brawling over well-worn territory. By the third page of comments there's usually little original left to be said anyway. The news and current affairs nomads have made their point and moved on.

Price's blog is an interesting one to watch for a sense of who's winning the arguments. He's not overtly partisan and his style is hardly serious political commentary. That may not be what we expect from print media, but it opens up a space where his readers can make their own arguments and work things out for themselves.

Left to their own devices with Rudd's hospital announcement, Labor supporters located it in the Howard strategies of war against the states and federal surplus. There wasn't much the Howard crowd could do. Supporters can only work with the material their leaders supply and, at the moment, the coalition script is being read as slapstick.

| Posted by Lyn at 10:42 AM | | Comments (5)


Matt Price is not seen as a serious political journalist like Laurie Oakes or Michelle Grattan. He's seen as a bit of a joke, with a nasty edge by the serious political /policy wonk types. At least he's not a huckster like a Glenn Milne.

I read him Price differently--he captures the theatre of politics especially when he is flippantly reporting on what is happening in Question Time in Parliament. He often speaks like an old queen of the theatre.

Price locates this political theatre in popular culture---his latest blog post talks in terms of the terminator, thus:

Rudd shapes as The Annihilator, a baby-faced version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. Arnie’s best ever quote comes as Conan the Barbarian ruminates on the joys of war: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

Politcs as theatre is what Ronald Reagan political success epitomized, and what Karl Rove understands and applied rather successfully in the packaging of Dubya after 9/11.

It's why Fox has remained so popular: Its not the politics. It's the flair. It's the same with Murdoch's racy tabloids in Australia--they have a nose for 'showmanship', and sensitivity to the dramatic, which they understand to be a necessary component in the nexus of politics and journalism.

If Price's imagery indicates the shift from theatre to cinema, then his way of interpreting politics makes politics very accessible. He's not in the the public is so dumb mould.


I don't suppose you remember where you found Arendt's politics as theatre thing do you? I had the impression she saved the lighter side of things for her Agnes Heller persona.

On Matt Price, yes, that's precisely why I think he's a good thing. I've seen plenty of the tertiary educated, we are the public sphere, blogging aristocracy saying he's a joke, but he writes about the accessible bits of politics. He gives the lower end of the social spectrum something to talk about and somewhere to do their talking, and they're as deadly serious about their concerns as anybody else.

I'd argue that this shallow end "deserves to be respected as well as despised" with the emphasis on respected if we're going to use the word democracy in the same sentence.

I think that it was Arendt's The Human Condition as this text was concerned with action and speech amongst a plurality of individuals, the disclosure of ourselves (who we are) in action and speech, the emphasis on stories, its opposition to politics as instrument action and its conception of politics as performance.

It's a difficult text but a rich one as it is a fundamental critique of modernity and starts a thinking otherwise.

re your comment that "I'd argue that this shallow end "deserves to be respected as well as despised" with the emphasis on respected if we're going to use the word democracy in the same sentence".

The commentators on Price's blog are highly sophisticated. They know a lot more than me about the politics of health and I'm an interested citizen who reads the blogs.

These commetators read--as Gary pointed out in comments on another post--- like political staffers.

This isn't the the lower end of the social spectrum --it's the top end.

Thanks Gary.


It looks as though most popular blogs have been colonised by what seem to be political staffers doing their bit for the election. I think there have always been a few, but just in the last few weeks they've flooded the big end of the blogosphere.

The old regulars seem to be dwindling away, but that could just be an impression because of the volume.

Embrace the truth has been around for a long time, but Keith Gregg is a new one.

I'd love to see bloggers do something like the Wiki people did.