Put on your red dress


The previous post caused me a lot of difficulty in writing. Most of the pieces I post here flow easily, write themselves almost. I rarely re-read and almost never edit. It probably shows, although I tend to disagree with Sheridan when he said “You write with ease to show your breeding, but easy writing’s vile hard reading”. I find the opposite, although I should say that I get the post more or less sorted out in my head before I ever put one finger to keyboard, so I am not quite doing automatic writing.

But the previous post was one where the flow just didn’t flow, and I had to keep hacking about, adding bits, removing bits. Eventually I needed to stop before it became unwieldy and unreadable and you, dear Reader, lost patience with it.

I think part of the reason was that I was trying to pack several different things into it, and, although that is often the case on this blog, the trouble here was that each thing was quite large and unwieldy in its own right. So I thought I had better have a go at a follow-up post to explain what I was trying to do (indulge me for once, I never do this).

Should say hastily (and guiltily) I wasn’t really concerned with the details. Hence my egregious mistake with dress colour (and the spelling of “Kernot”, D’Oh), but good to know you guys paying attention. My purpose was three-fold:

First I have long been interested in the turning points of history. A silly phrase, in one way (rather like “transitional fossils” in evolution, every point in history is a turning point), but one widely used. Three options – the inevitable march of ideology and events theory; the Great Man theory; the horseshoe nail theory. I have always preferred the latter, and the Lewinsky-Clinton affair is a classic example. If Monica had not joined the White House Intern Program, if she had not been in contact directly with Clinton, hell, if she had taken the red, sorry, blue dress off first, or washed it, then history would have been different. “For want of a dry cleaner the White House was lost” perhaps.

Second I was trying to subvert the whole “Great Man” thing in another way too. Here was Bill Clinton, mover and shaker, most powerful man in the world, leader of the free world, nuclear codes in satchel, all that crap. And there was a young girl just out of college. Power disparity? Of course. But in another way she proved far more powerful than he did, or, at the very least, she affected his world as much, or more, than he did her’s. Strikes me that this has probably been the case on far more occasions than we ever know about.

Virginia Woolf said that “Anon” in British literature was usually a woman. The women behind the scenes of the captains and kings (and queens, possibly, in case of Queen Anne) were often (though of course not always) “Anon” too. Their roles just as unknown to history as those of anonymous writers.

Finally, something touched on, but not expanded, in the post, the use of private matters as weapons in political discourse. This seems to me, while always a possibility in the past (especially where homosexuality or adultery involved), to have grown much more prevalent since Lewinsky. It seems to me that what politicians do in privacy, what their sexual preferences are, is of no relevance to, should not be a part of, political discourse.

The only exceptions to this would be:
1 where the activity is illegal, eg, most obviously, paedophilia, or rape
2 where the activity could certainly lead to blackmail with security implications, or
3 where the politician concerned has made a political career on a platform of “family values”, or anti abortion, or anti gay, and so on.

Apart from that, the fact that politics makes strange bedfellows is of no concern of mine or anyone else. It does not, as is often said, go to “character” (except in the three examples I gave above). Someone’s sexual preferences and partners go less to “character” in a politician than do, say, being an evangelical, or receiving payments from lobbyists, or being a vegetarian.

But these days the media has convinced the public that the reverse is true. In recent times there has been the horrid case of a Gay Club being “staked out” by a tv camera crew in order to film a NSW politician leaving and run with the footage for days until his resignation was forced.

More recently of course has been Peter Slipper, where, to put it even at its simplest, private sexually-charged text messages between adults were splashed all over the Press to force the resignation of a Speaker of Parliament and the collapse of a government. The former succeeded, the latter, just, not.

This stuff shouldn’t happen in Australia, or indeed anywhere else.

There, have I cleared the water, or muddied the pond?

7 comments on “Put on your red dress

  1. Iain Davidson says:

    It always seemed to me that the high point of Australian appropriateness in response to details of personal lives of political figures was the quiet way in which no one said anything about the speed with which John Kerr’s first wife died, his second got divorced and the two got married. All of this in 1974-5 when you might have thought someone would have wanted to draw attention to it.


    • David Horton says:

      Had totally forgotten that, and that supports your point.

      I think it would have been considered, in spite of Kerr’s bastardry, unethical to explore this.


      • Don’t agree, had more been made of Kerr’s facility in switching wives the government may have been forewarned, and less naive about the implications of the GG’s previous ALP alignment. I’m not interested in nude pics of royalty or tabloid coverage of politicians’ personal lives (yik!), but putting aside charged concepts like character, I think past actions are a pretty good gauge of a public figure’s reliability.


  2. Eric Snyder says:

    If President Clinton hadn’t lied and committed perjury, the issue wouldn’t have gone as far as it did. And then, there was the obstruction of justice charge.

    Those were the issues that moved President Clinton into your #1 category; illegal activities.

    IMO, character does matter. If a candidate fails to honor their commitment to their spouse, why would they honor any commitment made to a constituent?


  3. We are merely trudging behind the good ol’ US of A, where one must not muck around in the ‘downstairs department’ on TV (remember the ‘bared-breast-at-the-ballgame’ furore?) but where a constant diet of violence is both served up and lapped up and considered perfectly normal.
    Am I wrong?
    Are we actually some way ahead of the States – still floundering along in a bit of a mess (cos we’re human and subject to silliness) but at least not bogged down like the toppling former Leader of the World now looking dowdy,somewhat past its use-by date and riddled with hysterical evangelists trying to hold back the tide of sense and secularism?


  4. Don says:

    It is curious when opposing sides in politics, and the media in some cases, do not overly exploit love nest liaisons etc that could inflict damage. It does happen – I remember how John Hewson copped it from the media spread in one of the women’s magazines from his ex-wife on how the family had been thrown on the heap by his desires that led to his new partnership. That lost him a lot of votes from umbrella wielding ladies that championed “family values”. Strangely, a media that is so hell bent on bringing down Julia Gillard, as David often points out, has largely left the past Gillard/Emerson affair (which was a factor in his marriage/family break-up) off target? Like David, I couldn’t care less about these things unless the exceptions listed are exposed. I’m more intrigued by why some openly cop it and others are left alone, no matter what side of politics. Still I may speak too soon. Perhaps we will see Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt run with this in September!?


  5. Buff McMenis says:

    Your penultimate sentence says it all!


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