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!

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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