Friday, 22 May 2009
The Hold of Reality TV and the Legitimacy Crisis
Q. How do I know this expenses thing ain't going away?
A. Because the non political people around me keep voluntarily raising the matter for discussion. Normally any one with a political bent, be they activist or simply someone used to viewing the world through that particular prism, has to work out a modus vivandi with other folk. They'll make allowances, sure, but at the end of the day you're just another person with a particular bee in your bonnet to them. Matters political might be endlessly fascinating for you, but to them it might as well be West Bromwich Albion or Clarice Cliff teapots. They'll talk to you about your obsession, but only if there is a unstated agreement on your part not to always keep banging on about it to the exclusion of anything they want to talk about. But, right now, they do want to talk about the expenses fandango.
Q. So what are they banging on about then?
The TV news seems to have got this about right: there seems a huge degree of disbelief at the apparent excesses of Westminster culture, and a general 'plague on all their houses' feeling - which seamlessly merges into a 'just string the lot of 'em up' mood at extremes. But there is one other factor I think worth mentioning. There is a undercurrent of disbelief that they can't immediately vote these people out. I don't mean they want a general election - though a few do. But general elections are a part of the very package of 'politics as normal' which many people are reacting against. No: I have a very real sense that the apolitical public is so used to 'reality' TV shows like Big Brother and the Apprentice that they can't believe you can't just ring someone or click on a website and get these shysters booted out.