The inauthenticity of the new political “authenticity”
At the South by South-West music conference in Austin, Texas, last Thursday, Bruce Springsteen let a brilliant cat out of the bag. He junked the supposed key to modern politics: authenticity. In a 50-minute address, Springsteen said it’s not real.
“There is no right way, no pure way of doing it,” said the Boss to a packed auditorium. “There’s just doing it. We live in a post-authentic world. Today authenticity is a house of mirrors. It’s all just what you’re bringing when the lights go down. It’s your teachers, your influences, your personal history.
“At the end of the day it’s the power and purpose of your music. It still matters.” Anyone who watches modern politics will recognise the profound truth in what Springsteen says.
The “doing theory” is key to successful politics. As the razor-sharp Coalition pollster Mark Textor tells politicians new and old: don’t talk about it, just do it.
Of even greater significance is what Springsteen says about authenticity. Everyone wants to be authentic - it’s the new faking sincerity, which used to be the ultimate and hardest trick in the politician’s bag.
They reckon if you can create an illusion of authenticity and you keep doing things that are on the right side of public tolerance and aspiration, you’ll get returns wherever you go especially at election time.
In this trip through the Queensland electoral badlands, the roles of Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman provide key evidence about the authenticity theory of modern politics.
Bligh is saddled with the spin label she’s supposed to be one of those backroom Labor creations, put together by the svengalis who usually come from Sydney and have a swagger to match their potty mouths.
In fact, the Bligh we see in public is pretty much the private Bligh (although anyone would excuse her for occasionally kicking the cat).
She is an authentically tough and compassionate woman driven by doing good things. Newman is supposed to be the authentic one the Can Do guy who does stuff.
There’s some truth to this but it’s a marketing artifice, created around some penny ante stuff while he was lord mayor, fixing potholes and cleaning gutters.
He also did some big things there’s that tunnel that someone drives through now and then. However, Newman is also a prickly, easily riled, sometimes angry man who doesn’t mind going to war with people and maintaining his rage.
As Springsteen said, a house of mirrors.
Dennis Atkins is the national affairs editor at Brisbane’s Courier-Mail. The Queensland Election will be held this Saturday, March 24.
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