Why The Wiggles’ PR debacle shouldn’t make us squirm
The recent Wiggles interview on the Today Show is worth a look.
Now in these matters I am no polemicist. Although I am used to politics, I am neither Team Sam or Team Greg. I have two young daughters who fall into the Sam generation, but most of our Wiggles collections (DVD’s, CD’s, books, toys and even videos) are hand-me-downs from the Greg era.
In fact the yellow Wiggle is a source of considerable confusion at home.
I am not even going to comment here on whether Sam had a fair deal or not or whether the Wiggles can and should expand to a quintet. The interview above is what some experts might call a PR disaster. But while we wait for the dust to settle, I think it’s worth commenting on just how refreshingly awkward Anthony’s performance was on the Today Show.
He broke all the rules: hesitant when he needed to be confident, confident when circumspection was the order of the day, and defensive when the interviewer Richard Wilkins was trying to help. Yes, he could have been better prepared.
But one complaint we do hear very often is how public life, and especially political life, appears to be entirely scripted. “There are no Bob Hawkes these days, no Paul Keatings”.
I fully agree. The current Federal Labor leader is about as spontaneous as the noble gases, and that is when she is talking about politics - her passion. Did anyone hear her commentating on the cricket during the Sydney Test?
The question of microscripted public life was addressed by Lindsay Tanner in his book Sideshow- Dumbing Down Democracy. Tanner said two rules now dominated Australian politics:
1) Look like you’re doing something
2) Don’t offend anyone who matters
Perhaps the sterility of official public relations has helped drive the success of public figures in the sphere of social media. As social media commentator Tommy Tudehope recently said on ABC radio: “...sites like Facebook and Twitter should provide an unadulterated, unscripted, and personal window into who a person is and what they believe in”.
Should is the operative word. As many users of can attest, most politicians use the twittersphere as just another avenue for broadcast and spin driven PR. Should a politician make a virtue of the fact that he or she spent the last hour and a half handing out certificates at the local primary school? That’s our job.
What would be my dentist’s equivalent tweet? Finally finished that root canal. Messy stuff. Better change the gloves…
Surely we are more interested in what our elected representatives believe or feel about a particular issue. However I am not one to preach. The pressures to conform to the PR norms are weighty. Less than a year into the job and I observe my Facebook status becoming more mundane by the day.
The outcry against the Wiggles makes me wonder: would people have preferred a more boring and buttery performance from Anthony the blue Wiggle? Were his raw, off-the-cuff remarks offensive? Or doth we protest too much?
If politicians and entertainers are to be more authentic, we’ll have to be prepared to be less gaspingly scandalised. Their ways and words are not so different to ours.
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