My experience is that politicians really do believe that the role of media is to help publicise how good they are.
Politicians get frustrated and angry when their comments don’t make it into print, when policies don’t get enough coverage, or when attitudes and questions from media are skeptical.
It’s personal really: every one of these journalistic decisions is effectively a decision against the professionalism, relevance, capability, and honesty of the politicians.
It’s rare though that a politician speaks publically about this attitude.
But it came out in the comments of Maori Party leader Tariana Turia, when she criticised Maori Television for pursuing the Kohanga Reo Trust for misspending of public money. Instead, she said Maori TV was expressly set up to;
promote[d] mauriora, the things that were important for us as a people, to paint the side of a picture so you wouldn’t get the impression 90 percent of our people were mad, bad or sad,
You can understand her frustration. Even when politicians use public money to create a media outlet for the purpose of promotion, journalists won’t do what they’re told.
And that’s why politicians are not, and should not, be the judge of what makes good or bad journalism.
If you keep your family out of politics, you must be consistent.
In a recent political ‘sex scandal’ Auckland Mayor Len Brown admitted an extra-marital affair early, and asked for the media to lay off his family as he, his wife, and children, worked through the personal side of the matter.
It’s a tactic that has worked for politicians before. Admitting early reduces the more severe fallout of a latter admission or revelation of undeniable evidence.
The request for ‘family time’ is also powerful. It reaches out to the public with the human side of what has happened. It infers that the politician has put his family first. It places the media into the position of getting on the bad side of the public by wronging the politician’s family if they delve deeper.
If the call is made, it must be stuck to. In Len Brown’s case his daughters issued a statement a few days later, defending their father’s political career and claiming the fidelity issue was a personal matter.
While the message was heart-felt, it dealt the kids and the personal life back into the public sphere. You cannot have privacy only when you want it, and publicity only when you want it.
A call for privacy in tough circumstances is hypocritical when the family has been part of the political campaigning in the past. It seems to me better to leave the family out of campaigning right from the start. Firstly, it reduces the potential for family issues to become a political issue. Secondly, being a politician is bad enough for the politician - it seems cruel to make your kids part of it as well. Less so the spouse, who can make a better judgement on it being part of their personal identity, or whether the political career is a shared enterprise (which it very often is).
The message from Brown’s daughter also introduced a little possibility that they, or their father, thought the statement would help the political situation. The idea that they were playing a role in his political salvation was unpleasant to contemplate.
They made their role a public and political one. They should have kept it private, as they and their father had asked of the public.
A nervous ruling class is claiming the private lives of our great and good are not fair game.
But they are fair game. I’ve argued that what people do is evidence we use to judge their character. And character carries across all facets of a person’s life.
What the elite really mean is that their judgement is that people who cheat on their partners can still ‘do the job’.
What they really mean is that Len Brown CAN be judged, but the judgement is ‘meh’.
Either way, they ARE making a judgement on Brown.It’s not that his personal life doesn’t matter, but they don’t think that an affair matters enough.
I happen to agree, but some voters have different standards (even hypocritical ones) and will judge that it does matter.
To prove my point that personal lives are not on principle excluded from politics, let’s imagine that it wasn’t just one affair, but he had three on the go at the same time. Does his personal life matter to his political job? No?
Okay, then let’s imagine one of those women was the wife of his best friend? Does his personal life not matter to his political job? No?
I could keep going; somewhere along the line and still within the bounds of legality, most people are going to hit a point where they will think the personal life indicates a character that can’t do the job, and/or they won’t vote for.
Keeping personal lives separate is vitally important to the power elite because they think they need to maintain their apparent superiority to run the lives of the public. If it is revealed that their lives are as messy, and probably messier, than the public, their moral right is undermined.
I’m not sure this is a good basis from which the power elite ought to lead, because it is so fragile. Maybe we ought to work on the premise that each of us is flawed, especially the ruling class. The public won’t expect too much of them, and they won’t be given too much control over the public.
Appreciating that no one has moral authority is key to avoiding forms of authoritarianism, even in a democracy.
An Australian politician, Victorian MP Geoff Shaw, got into a scuffle with taxi driver protestors on the steps of Parliament.
It sounds like a case of mutually willing participants after the MP was surrounded by the aggressive protestors.
Perhaps Shaw should not have got himself into the situation, especially since some allowance misspending controversy has probably frayed his demeanor. But I’m not sure why elected MPs should be any less able to to be involved in ‘street politics’ than anyone else.
Being politically untouchable incentivises hubris.
Spending of public money by staff of the Kohanga Reo trust has been uncovered.
The situation is the result of the political elite’s creation of a privileged position for the trust. Protected by its own success and subject matter, the Trust appears to have become slack in its treatment of the public funds which prop it up.
An interesting blog from Maui St contrasts the misspending with a fall in numbers of kohanga reo and their tight budgets.
Misspending of public money is more likely the longer people hold positions and their institutions continue without change or question.
In these situations good people convince themselves that they are synonymous with their organisation, and that they deserve more benefit from the work they’ve put in.
The next test of these good people is what they do when their misspending is discovered. In this case the Trust members appear to have been belligerent, litigious, and evasive.
They will have bound their personality and professional lives so firmly with the institution that they will perceive criticism as a threat to the institution. In their minds this would have justified the defensive reaction.
Good people will see how they have been changed by their privileged position and will resign.
Politicians and bureaucrats create these situations. No one, and no issue, should be beyond question.
What each of us does is the evidence by which others assess us.
Politics covers ethical and practical components of human life.
Politicians represent us in making decisions on these matters.
Many voters therefore judge the ability of a politician to represent their views, based on what the politician does in their life.
This is different from the judgement made on say, someone who works on a factory production line. The way they conduct their personal life is probably not much use in assessing their ability to do the task (though it might have a bearing on their wider capability as an employee).
If a politician has an extra-marital affair, then people have evidence to assess that the politician has the capacity to deceive, not to fulfill commitments, and to be side-tracked.
The insight an extra-marital affair offers into these traits is not significant nor conclusive. We simply learn that the politician is as flawed as the rest of us.
I’ve previously blogged that “normal” sexual transgressions, and normal sexual interest itself, is almost never a catalyst for the end of a political career. Because the insight into the person means they don’t differ markedly from the people they represent.
The further the type of sexual interest, and intensity of its pursuit, varies from ‘normal’, the more likely voters are to assess that the politician varies from their expectation of the sort of person who best represents their interests.
So the sexual activity of politicians is a perfectly legitimate voter interest, but the scale of its disclosure, if at all, depends entirely on the scale of its difference from societal norms and professed values.
Yes. By fighting back he blunted Campbell’s own attack plan.
Simon Bridges on Campbell Live talking about drilling plans in Kaikoura got the twitteratti going, and sentiment was that Bridges failed.
The sentiment was ideologically-based, not a strategic assessment of whether Bridges succeeded in his objective.
John Campbell would have intended to show that Bridges is allowing dangerous drilling practices by unreliable companies, against the wishes of local people. Campbell asked questions designed for answers that supported his narrative.
So Bridges’ objective would have been to stop the attack and get a physical draw. The benefit of a draw is the viewers will pick out from the interview material that fits their view on life. Bridges’ will hope that he got out one or two lines that will satisfy waverers.
There’s a couple of ways to get your own message across in these situations, and none of them involve simple answers to leading questions.
Bridges chose aggression, and he carried it off without any readily apparent anger (although his body language indicated great tension).
He could have chosen a calmer and relaxed way of doing a similar thing, but it might not be a natural approach for him.
It was disingenuous for Campbell to feign astonishment that Bridges would come on his show prepared with messages and a destructive approach.
If Campbell takes crusading approaches to issues, then he has to expect that others will refuse to walk into his attempts to make them the bad guys.