Farewell to ‘gut politics’: changing realities of modern media

Not sure I agree with Chris when he says the Irish don’t indulge in ‘bullshit’, but, for once he has a kind word for what Tom McGurk describes as Michael McDowell’s ‘gut politics’. It echoes John Lloyd’s analysis in the weekend FT Magazine, “Why ideology left the party”:

In a recent book, The Broken Branch, the US policy wonks Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein argue that US politics is one long campaign. “The campaign never ends,” Mann told me recently. “Politicians cannot allow the public framing of their agenda to be given to either the mass media or to their political opponents.”


What Mann and Ornstein describe is, rather, politicians adapting their act to the new audience – an audience aggregated by the media into huge masses, or (increasingly) broken down into smaller interest groups, in either case no longer moved by the grand old ideologies, with attention wandering over a mass of attractive distractions, among which news of the ideas, actions and policies of those who administer their governments is only occasionally as interesting. This is the sea in which democratic politicians swim; and they must acquire new techniques of navigation. Or get wrecked.

And finally:

Politicians now have to yell, every day: “I’ve got a better idea than the other guy! Just listen to this!” It’s not the invocation of the grand ideas of freedom, or equality, with which right and left have sought to organise their masses in support. It’s materialistic, practical, anxious to be understood, always agreeable, desperate to get feedback, easy to caricature. It’s not magnificent, but it is the way the war for the public’s ear is waged.

Last word to Chris:

We constantely hear about the need to encourage more people, especially young people and women in to politics. In my opinion we are far less likely to do that when our politicians keep engaging in stage managed media performances that don’t address the issue at hand.

We need to start cutting the crap from politics, call a spade a spade and stop worrying about appealing to all the masses. When you try to be all things to all men you fail, that is the nature of politics.

People like Charlie Haughey and indeed Pasiley were loved and loathed but you can’t describe them as anything other than thought provoking. They didn’t engage in media groomed politics; you knew what you were getting with those two.

Time to cut the bullshit!

  • mickhall


    It ıs thıs attıtude that power ıs all, no matter ıf you leave the stage ın a worst state than when you entered. I was once told by a wıse old baggage handler at a mıd west aırport ın the USA that the reason Clınton was okay by hım was when he left offıce, the USA was no worst off than when he was fırst elected Presıdent.

    Can we say the same of Bush or Blaır?

  • Greenflag

    ‘Can we say the same of Bush or Blaır?

    Yes for the latter and probably a decisive NO for the former I’d guess . By your mid western standard our Bertie will be returned for another term 🙂 Sensible people those mid westerners .

  • aquifer

    There is a fundamental problem with the media model. Too often the price of reporter access is publicly presented civility when politicians deserve contradiction and worse. Allowing politicians to present on their own terms lends importance to whatever banalities they chose to utter.

    But allowing them to argue publicly amongst their own kind again presumes that their ideas matter, and they may well chose to draw or keep playing to their sectarian home crowd rather than risk defeat away.

    Maybe we need a jury of their supposed peers, real governing politicians from other jurisdictions to decide who makes the grade.