Monday, September 26, 2022

Book Review: Sean Kelly’s The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison

“How can you tell if a politician is lying?” This is my grandpa’s favorite joke, and the punchline is quite clear: “His mouth will move.”

The joke gives brief expression to the cynicism that has shaped Australian politics since the beginning of self-government in the 1850s. The implication of both the joke and the culture that informs it is that politician’s lies reflect entirely on their kind and reveal nothing about the rest of us.

In his newly published profile of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Sean Kelly turns this kind of thinking on its head. The Game provides many powerful and revealing insights into Morrison’s career and the difficult political tactics that characterize it. But the most important revelation in this book is about the society that made up our prime minister, and the structures and cultures that facilitated his path to the lodge.

Kelly points out, for example, that Morrison probably worked hard to become a “blank canvas” in the public eye until 2015, at which point he became the more recognizable suburban “good jerk down the road.”

The man, nicknamed “Scomo”, has since characterized his public appearances. But the performance matters only because it finds “an interested audience” in the Australian community, which until recently, at least, novelist EM Forster in his newspapers and in his parliaments “flat characters” (or instantly recognizable “types”). “) is called.

Formerly a self-described “spin doctor” to both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, Kellie Morrison’s public persona is studied not only through the eyes of a Canberra insider, but also through the lens of a cultural critic. In this “extreme land”, they say, there are Australians

Always divide yourself into two parts, then ignore the half that makes us uncomfortable.

For Kelly, this mentality explains why the so-called “cool Aussie” has included the “game” played by Morrison, while others have dismissed him outright (“I’m completely different”). .

Given Kelly’s labor relations, cynics can expect a partisan hit-job at the prime minister. This picture is no hit-job, but it is surprisingly unflattering.



Read more: Grattan on Friday: if government is re-elected it may not be because of Scott Morrison but because of him


Kelly gives Morrison the benefit of the doubt with regard to the early stages of the pandemic, “a situation unlike those previously dealt with”. The burden that Jenny Morrison and her daughters bear in the service of public life is also recognized. But Morrison’s painting itself is a study of doubleness and hollowness.

There are criticisms of Morrison’s more deafening and morally questionable performances, none other than reluctant bushfire survivors and forcibly shaking hands with firefighters during that dark summer of 2019-20.

But the most important conclusion about Morrison in this book relates to his way of thinking. Kelly suggests that Morrison’s mind thinks not in fiction, but only in images or snapshots (think of the tourism ad’s punchline, “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?”). This, Kelly’s reason, is why he can say one thing today with such unequivocal confidence, and the opposite with equal enthusiasm tomorrow.

For a public figure, this dissonance would be impossible “if it were not a central aspect of their experience of the world”. The psychological analysis here is extensive, its conclusions disastrous.

Kelly’s study has several admirable merits. Adequate coverage is provided on serious issues ranging from asylum seeker policy to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine roll-out. But this is no traditional biography, and these debates are not its central concern.

The main theme of this book is the display of politics itself, and the narratives that mediate the public’s relations with their representatives. The idea of ​​”demonstration” appears to have resurfaced in political theory and history, and its revelatory potential is rich.

In some ways, Kelly’s book draws on an old tradition of political profiles that took performance as their main theme. Graham Little’s Strong Leadership (1988) and Judith Brett’s Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People (1992) stand tall in that tradition, using psychosocial theory to open the hearts and minds of Australian liberals from Menzies to Malcolm Fraser has gone. Don Watson’s Memories of a Bleeding Heart (2002) is equally important, part-memoir, part-meditative and part-psychological study of Paul Keating as Prime Minister, written from the intimate point of view of a prime minister’s speechwriter. has gone.

In each case, the biographer’s goal was to reveal not only who the prime minister was, but how his way of thinking was related to the world around him.

Kelly does not try to find the “real” Scott Morrison, a task that is made nearly impossible by the emptiness of the prime minister’s performance and the media’s role in presenting him to us.

Instead, it evokes the divided community to which Morrison performs, and the social and cultural processes that allow those performances to happen and, at least sometimes, leave their mark. Kelly’s method is to house public speech, its sounds and rhythms, as well as the often elusive messages and impressions that Morrison seeks to convey with his words.

The main limitation of The Game is that, relying largely on public content, it cannot lead us into the institutions that empower Morrison other than the media.



Read more: ‘I don’t think, I know’ – why Macron’s comment about Morrison is so extraordinary and worrying


We don’t learn much about the Prime Minister’s Office other than that it failed to properly respond to the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in Parliament House.

Here Parliament is a forum in itself, but it is hardly recognized as a law making body. Public service is invisible. According to Kelly, the National Cabinet is little more than an “aesthetic transformation” of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) that preceded it.

It says something about the state of contemporary politics that it is difficult to say whether this absence is a flaw in the author’s approach, or whether it is so subtly anatomized in view of the inevitable leadership style.

Finally, the game invites us to look forward to the next election. That poll, Kelly implies, will reveal something more about himself, or at least the “cool” Australians who are believed to have voted for Morrison in 2019. Like most of us, Kelly is unsure who will have the last laugh.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

Nation World News Desk
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