The following is a list of 11 rules of politics I learned from watching television. Once I understood this, interpreting why our politicians behave the way they do was easy.
1. Give people what they want, know and expect
“Clever things make people feel stupid and unexpected things make them feel scared.” Fry, Futurama: When Aliens Attack
Don’t talk down to people, you will come off as elitist, but don’t talk above them either, you will come off as patronising. Relate to people as equals.
When people feel scared – budget emergencies, terrorist attacks, invasions by boat people, random crime – they retreat. This is why sales of comfort food soars during national crisis, people crave the familiar.
2. It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission
This is Gibbs’ Rule 18 from NCIS.
This is how Australia is being governed at the moment, politicians see what they can get away with (new taxes, travel rorts, closing manufacturing), and if that doesn’t work, they apologise. Or, rather blame the voters for not understanding the governments pre-election promises, or say it wasn’t really policy… or just straight up lie about and take credit for defeating their own bad policies.
We are being governed by screaming front pages and opinion polls – if you can’t generate outrage and publicity, Abbott will bleed you dry then grind you into dust.
Abbott will go after the most vulnerable and unloved because if you can’t hurt him in the polls you are defenceless and an easy target ripe for the picking.
Australians can no longer expect a government to do what is right but unpopular, or do what is fair and just – we have to fight for it, and fight hard.
Those who want to destroy our way of life stay up late nights (or pay people to do so) thinking how to rip off every last dollar and every means to stop them – we have to build our response to that.
3. People want to be lied to, it makes them feel better
“People like being lied to. They just don’t like finding out they’ve been lied to.” Barney, How I Met Your Mother
Don’t believe me? Ask Julia Gillard, (There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead but I am determined to put a price on carbon), look at the endless publicity that “broken promise” received – which was actually an election promise fulfilled. We are going to destroy our own future, our own environment and the planet our children will live on because “She Lied” got Abbott into Government.
4. Follow The Money
A phrase that became associated with the 1972 Watergate Scandal, but is actually from the 1976 movie of that scandal All The President’s Men.
Politicians are motivated by money, greed and power. If a politician does something that makes no sense or hurts a large segment of our communities and you are wondering why: follow the money.
5. People watch the news and read News Limited publications not to be informed of new things, but to have their prejudices reinforced
As any evening current events television show demonstrates. Unemployed teens, dodgy plumbers, shonky mechanics, gay single mothers who arrived in this country by boat who want your job – all of them are the reason your life sucks.
It is classic distraction so you don’t look at the real cause of inequality in this country. You are not to blame. It is not because politicians are giving their mates tax breaks while cutting your wages.
Our budget emergency is caused by the disabled, the unemployed, the single parents, and the old aged pensioners – not the hundred of millions in subsidies and tax breaks given to big miners, 80% of which are foreign-owned. No, it’s not the miners, it’s the immigrant woman who cleans your offices at 3AM on $28,000 a year who is responsible for all this nations problems.
6. Calling people ‘dumb, racist rednecks’ might make you feel better, but it is not going to make them listen to anything else you have to say, and sure won’t change their vote
Watch Bolt, SkyNews, any news show on Foxtel, Insiders, or breakfast television. You will see an endless parade of rich, white men claiming how victimised they are.
Attacking right-wingers feeds their power, they get to play the victim, they get to scream how the Left are being mean (in right-wing speak, standing up for yourself and speaking the truth is often portrayed as ‘mean’ and accusing the Left of being mean is a very effective weapon, it gets them to back down).
It is better to ignore the racist, redneck trollumists and commentators, that diminishes their power.
7. You can get away with anything if you are cute, funny or the loveable rogue… or give good headlines
Any television show where viewers vote off the other contestants, for example Big Brother or various talent shows. If you are the only thing the viewers are talking about, even if you are the player they love to hate, expect a twist that will keep you in the game, until your shock exit will get the ratings.
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Even if everyone hates you, as long as they are talking about you and not your opposition, then you win.
8. Lie to others, but not yourself
Any reality show where the contestants vote off the other players, such as Survivor or various cooking shows. In this case your audience is the other players, they are the only ones you have to play to. In this case, tell the viewing audience your strategy, that way even if you are portrayed as unpleasant, the audience will be on Team Villain since you have already let them in on your strategy, you have invited them onto your team.
In politics, sometimes the audience is not the voters, but the cabinet, or a particular business. In this case appealing to the media mogul or mining magnet is the only thing that counts, not how much you are despised by the rest of the country. Once the voters can see through that strategy, it loses some of its impact.
9. People prefer someone they can have a beer with, someone they can relate to
As almost any sporting show will demonstrate – it’s not about skill, or winning – this is why male sport gets airtime. If it was just about talent and winning, the Australian women’s cricket team would be all over television and netball would be prime time.
This is one reason smart people are demonised as ‘inner city elites who sip chardonnay’, usually sneered by shock jocks with an income greater than all the teachers in a public school put together and a mansion with harbour views.
10. If they’re shooting at you – you know you’re doing something right
The West Wing, The Midterms
Another way of saying that “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill
If they are coming after you, whether the social media trolls or the front page of a News Limited publication, it means someone, somewhere is worried about you.
Similarly, if you are being ignored, it might also mean they are worried and are denying you the oxygen of publicity.
11. Marionettes only dance if you pull their strings
Related to this: Puppets don’t speak, their mouths only move when the puppet-master puts their hands up their ah… and they just mime what the puppet-masters say.
A marionette is a puppet which is controlled by strings from above, such as The Thunderbirds.
If our politicians are puppets and marionettes, we need to shine the spotlight on the puppet-master. Once you see who is pulling the strings, the act loses its illusion of reality.