By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy
By Lindsay Tanner (Scribe, $32.95, softcover, 232 pages)
There are many painful truths about journalists and politicians in Sideshow which expose the deterioration in both political reporting and conduct – as witnessed by the former MP.
Lindsay Tanner admits to be being distressed at what politics is becoming after spending much of his life “dedicated to the serious craft of politics”.
“Under siege from commercial pressures and technological innovation, the media are retreating into an entertainment frame that has little tolerance for complex social and economic issues.”
He quit in Julia Gillard’s first Question Time as Prime Minister last year and writes: “Whether I like it or not, I have spent much of my adult life in an entertainment industry. My craft as a politician was swamped by such values. Modern politics now resembles a Hollywood blockbuster: all special effects and no plot.”
Part-memoir, part-analysis and part-critique, Sideshow underlines the inescapable inadequacies that are intrinsic in the relationship between politicians and the media.
Remarks about former colleagues are disguised and assessed critically as “shallow” media coverage: PM Julie Gillard’s earlobes and her red hair dye, Kevin Rudd’s earwax, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s Botox and Mark Latham’s “man-boobs”.
Is it fair to say that trivia is sometimes cleverly produced by media outlets to gain free publicity, with walk-on roles by politicians?
With no miraculous way to solve the “sideshow syndrome”, Tanner says that we can all start to push back against the forces of entertainment colonising our democracy.
After 18 years he resigned in 2010 as the ALP’s Federal Minister for Finance and Member for Melbourne, with his reputation for integrity intact.
Even though his personal views were organised into a “coherent”, properly researched “argument”, Sideshow is a work of opinion and scrutiny.
He also makes no secret of his bitterness.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.