By REBECCA SPARROW
Yesterday a menu made my head explode.
For those who missed it because you were perhaps LIVING YOUR LIFE, a photo of a menu taken from a Liberal party fundraiser in March was leaked to the media.
The issue? On the menu Prime Minister Gillard’s body was likened to cooked quail and referred to in the most utterly crass terms. The description of her breasts, thighs and vagina left me sick to my stomach. And I wasn’t alone.
Social media went into meltdown with claims that this latest low act by the Libs was precisely what Prime Minister Gillard was raging against. And so, in the wake of the vile menu being made public, the Prime Minister called for the disendorsement of Mal Brough for whom the fundraiser was held. And I, for one, whole-heartedly agreed with her. My feeling is we need zero tolerance for this type of sexist filth whichever side of politics it comes from.
And then the truth came out.
The menu and those remarks were not written or sanctioned by Mal Brough or his Liberal National Party cohorts. It was a mock menu created by the restaurant owner Joe Richards and his son as an in-joke for the kitchen staff and was never distributed. The menu in turn was photographed and Facebooked by a restaurant staff member (sigh) and subsequently seen by a gleeful ALP member.
Because while I’m inclined to believe this is true (it was all a bit convenient for that March menu to surface yesterday as the perfect “I told you so” from the PM) … I can’t be 100% sure. How could I?
Both sides of politics have about as much integrity and credibility at the moment as those ads for Sea Monkeys I used to stare at wistfully in Archie comics. (But mum, they have crowns! We could have an underwater Royal family! And did I mention the crowns!).
In 2013 truth and policies mean nothing. Australian politics is now entirely about mud-slinging and gotcha moments.
Political commentators will tell us that this frenzied hatred from both sides stems from the fact Gillard is leading a hung parliament. Compromises are made. Policies watered down. Deals broken.
Tension is high between both parties. Disillusionment and disappointment – whether justified or not – is even higher amongst the voting public.
But my malcontent with the current state of politics is about more than the vulgar and childish mud-slinging from both sides. It’s about the fact politics has been completely reduced to half-truths and spin and lies. I mean it’s always been a part of politics but now, well we’ve reached a new low.
My Direct Action Plan will be cheaper and more effective than the carbon tax! says Abbott.
The NDIS will be fully funded by a Medicare levy increase, says Gillard.
Sure it will.
Abbott will banish women from the political landscape, scream the ALP.
Gillard and her government have screwed our economy, screech the Libs.
When comedian and former Obama speech writer Jon Lovett gave the recent graduation address to the Class of 2013 at Pitzer College, he said something that has stayed with me ever since: One of the greatest threats we face today is bullshit.
“We are drowning in it,” said Lovett. “We are drowning in partisan rhetoric that is just true enough not to be a lie; in industry-sponsored research; in social media’s imitation of human connection; in legalese and corporate double-speak.
“It infects every facet of public life, corrupting our discourse, wrecking our trust in major institutions, lowering our standards for the truth, making it harder to achieve anything.”
Lowering our standards for the truth.
Nail. On. Head.
When was the last time you really cared if what you were posting on Facebook or Twitter (and I’m talking mostly about political rants) was actually true? Credible?
We, you see, are the problem.
We buy it. We run with it. We Facebook and tweet and email the screaming headlines and one-liners that fit neatly with what we want to believe about ‘the other side’.
My ALP voting friends post the most vile, demeaning and blatantly untrue crap about the Liberal party without a second thought.
My Coalition voting friends do EXACTLY the same thing about the ALP.
Why let truth get in the way of a good whipping, right? It’s more fun to sink the boot in.
We’ve stopped being critical thinkers. We’ve stopped taking the time to investigate the claims we so desperately want to believe. We can no longer be bothered to find out the truth for ourselves underneath the layers of highly skewed facts and dodgy research. And the political parties know that.
We are the ones who want the 10-second sound bites. Entire policies or rebuttals reduced to mere grabs. Why? Because we care about the issues, we’re just, er, busy. Too busy to actually, you know, research the issues for ourselves. To find out if we’re being played.
Newsflash: we’re being played.
I’m fed up with Abbott and Gillard, make no mistake about that.
But I’m also fed up with us – the public – for taking over the mud-slinging where our political leaders leave off.
We want better behaviour from our pollies? Then maybe, just maybe, we need to start with ourselves.