The two biggest stuff-ups of the political year to date have said little about the conduct of our politicians and everything about the judgment of the advisors they employ. Given that 2012 is not yet five weeks old, these two remarkably stupid episodes confirm the extent to which the black art of media management has become an unchecked cancer on modern politics.
The irony is that in both cases the very people who were hired to make life easier for our politicians, ostensibly with their capacity for crisis management and flair for finessing a message, have in one case created the crisis and in the other mangled the message.
This should not be of interest solely to political tragics and Canberra insiders. The punchline to the joke is that the mugs who are footing the bill are, of course, the taxpayers, who over the past two decades have funded an ever-increasing number of spin doctors, speech writers and media advisors for politicians of every hue at both the state and federal level.
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A couple of years ago in one of his excellent machine-gun sprays Paul Keating lamented the emergence of a new class of political leaders who wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning unless they had focus group research telling them to do so.
The jibe was aimed at the thinness and timidity of what was then the Kevin07 juggernaut. This new political glibness was again in evidence during this year’s campaign, reaching a low point with Julia Gillard’s “moving forward” slogan, a catchline so dead in meaning that The Real Julia had it euthanased.
The debate over the rise of focus groups, spin and message management in modern politics is now being conducted vigorously within the ALP. Labor heavyweight John Faulkner used this week’s launch of the excellent book by former NSW Minister Rodney Cavalier on the shambles that is NSW Labor to take aim at what has been called “the NSW disease‟.
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