In these post election result days, the public can be forgiven for being cynical as sad party spokesmen and leaders interpret voting results with their versions of undisguised glee or carefully camouflaged disgust.
But cynicism does us no good.
We need lessons in scepticism to take it’s place, and then pragmatism to set ourselves on a more positive political path, seeing as we are all involved in the business of politics just by the act of living.
The first trick I spotted, and became annoyed about a long while back, was to do with how the typical politicians have been taught to speak to the public… from US presidents to UK political tricksters.
How many times have you heard Obama say, “Make no mistake…”? or Tony Blair say, “Look.. what’s important is…” or “Let’s be perfectly clear”?
The variant that Dave Cameron and Nick Clegg have chosen to over-feature is the rephrased and self answered tangential question…
so when an interviewer pointedly asks about the worst impacts of their latest policy change, for example: bringing in extra charges for student loans, they say, “Do I want to see universities thriving in this country?… yes I do, Am I determined to avoid an extra burden on tax payers?… yes I am”.
The interviewers try, day upon day, month on month, decade on decade, to squeeze a direct answer to their hypocrite-trapping questions from the politicians, and in turn, these elected people try and rephrase the questions back to suit what they want the public to perceive they have done.
I have some sympathy with the politicians…
and not so much with the latest generation of personality journalists. Why should Nick Robinson get to dig at a weak spot in what might be only a partially flawed policy (they nearly all are) and then afterwards get to comment without challenge on prime time news “Live” from Westminster about what is really going on?
When we look at the imagery of the politicians in the press we get selected lowlights with emotional impact built in. The digital media enable us to reshape our impressions and, via memes, such as the politician corn dog eater (left), and via a combination of these half-truths and lesser truths, we can create a subtly absorbed image of our politicians as either bumbling buffoons or hypocritical spawn of the devil.
If you wanted to change the world via democracy, which post would you be prepared to stand for?
…and what would you make of personality journalists who make their careers shine by shaping your worst mistakes to amuse the lowest common denominator?
I am not advocating that we suddenly start trusting our politicians in some 1930s style, very British, deferential manner. I am suggesting that we take more responsibility for our own political views and stances, developing an equally sceptical approach to the media as to the politicians they are determined to portray…
As a suggestion, try listening to radio 4’s “The week in Westminster” and on TV, watching the select committees at work. This is the way to see politicians and journalists in what may be their most human, and humane, form… this is a vastly different mood from the Radio 4 Today and News at Ten approaches.