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

who do you trust? « Previous | |Next »
November 20, 2007

One thing Australian Idol and Big Brother have over elections is that voter choices have consequences they actually get to see happen. If Les gets his way Natalie will win Idol within his lifetime. There's no such guarantee with politics. We may or may not see greenhouse gases reduced, health clinics built or the buckets of promised funding actually distributed.

Over at PollieGraph, Jason Wilson mentioned Stephen Coleman whose research on democratic participation explores ways politics could make itself more engaging for those he calls BBs, the audience who take their democratic participation in Big Brother very seriously, but don't care much for politics.

Wilson argues that Rudd did the right thing turning up on Rove, partly because that's where the audience is and partly because different people engage with politics in different ways. If voters feel the need to 'know' the candidates then so be it.

We've reached a point of tension here when convention dictates that politics is debased when it flirts with the personal, yet we still want democracy. There's an unacknowledged inference that BBs have a duty to absorb endless and complex debate over policy and vote rationally based on the knowledge they accumulated having read Hansard. Not only is this not going to happen, but as BBs rightly point out, those elected won't necessarily implement promises anyway.

Coleman points out that

for many disengaged citizens, it is precisely the impersonal abstraction of most political talk that they find disingenuous and alienating

and who can blame them when so much of that talk is the linguistic equivalent of pretzels?

The successful candidates on Big Brother are the ones the audience feels are the most genuine and the most like themselves. Trust is as important to them here as it is in their political choices.

We treat the serious and the frivolous as though they're mutually exclusive, but they're not. Reducing emissions by xyz percent by the year abc is the stuff of serious policy, but it means nothing if you don't trust the politicians in question to do it. On that measure the BBs and political junkies are all looking for the same thing, if not on the same TV shows.

| Posted by Lyn at 12:10 PM | | Comments (7)


Funny Lyn,

Yes Rudd's appearance on Rove was not as well received on the Fm's the next day as he expected. He was judged funny but was Pooh pooed for not actually picking a person he would turn gay for. So consequently one of the main stations dubbed him saying John Howard.
Yes Nat has something that all the other female winners of Idol haven't had. She is not fat or ugly! Which is a great benefit in the music business.
I like the analogy between the election and reality TV shows. These shows have programmed people to love failure. They watch their daily news to see the pollies look bad. They care little of policy or further than next week or perhaps further than their next delicious meal of KFC or whichever fast food ads accompany their news.
The thing is though that these people will desert Rudd after the election if he wins because then he will be the person they crave failure from. So the 55-45 will be immediately reversed

The successful candidates on Big Brother are the ones the audience feels are the most genuine and the most like themselves.

We're in a lot of trouble then judging by the Big Brother winners.


I didn't watch Rove but it was interesting to see how it was reported. It seems like he could have announced a new policy to kill all firstborn males and the focus would still have been the 'so who would you turn for' question.

I think you're onto something with the failure thing. It's like watching motor racing in anticipation of a really bad crash. If either Rudd or Howard don't have some major catastrophe, or a bomb doesn't go off, the whole country will be disappointed.


Haven't watched Big Brother since the first one so I can't comment on the winners, but the whole thing seems a bit tragic. I guess I'm a viewing snob. If they stuck a bunch of politicians in the house, that would be something I'd watch, sad as it is.

It is sad but I would do it too. Actually what little I have watched of BB, I get peeved when they do start talking politics in the House and then cut away to something else.

yes, exactly right: idol mimics democracy much more closely than parliamentary rule. but it's still not democracy since program producers control the process.

I've alway interpreted BB as the surveillance society gone crazy. That's the politics.

Brave New Brother

There is more than a touch of irony in comparing Big Brother with political entertainment like Rove. George Orwell would have seen so-called reality content as highly appropriate for a bread and circuses approach to keeping the masses sedated. Sorry I've slipped into Brave New World.
'Labor View from Broome'

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