||Issue No. 199||10 October 2003|
Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Unions: National Focus
Industrial: Fools Gold
Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
History: The Gong Show
Politics: The Hawke Legacy
International: Sick Nation
Economics: Closed Minds
Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
Poetry: One Size Fits All
The Locker Room
An Honest Job
Letter From America
Remember the last time an expatriate Austrian came to a position of power?
This week California elected a condom full of walnuts to the position of Governor.
Arnold Schwarzenegger brings with him the ability to learn lines and stand around looking like a more sullen version of a Chesty Bonds commercial. How this is supposed to help California's economic crisis is not apparently clear.
Just when the world was coming to terms with George Dubya's Wild West view of the world, US Politics has decided to throw up another crazy white supremacist.
Much has been made of our Tool Of The Week's rise from the cave in Conan the Barbiturate, but that's where it seems Der Gropenfuhrer left his attitude to women - boasting in a magazine interview of the jolly good time he had pack-raping a woman back in his seventies heyday.
When Schwarzenegger was married in 1986 he made a very lavish and glowing toast to one time Waffen SS Nazi, Kurt Waldheim. In the past he has also praised his fellow Austrian Adolph Hitler and the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
He's also an admirer of that contemporary Austrian right-wing nutter, Jorg Heider.
Our Tool Of the Week may have to entitle his next movie "Triumph Of The Will".
Black former body-builder and Mr. Universe Rick Wayne has spoken of the racist comments he said were made to him by Schwarzenegger in the 1970s.
The election of Schwarzenegger is a victory of style over substance. It's the difference between a man standing at a rally with a straw broom promising to "kleen haus" up against an incumbent who has done more to alleviate the position of California's low paid than any Governor in living memory.
It comes as no surprise that trade unions in California campaigned heavily to save Arnie's opponent. They know that this lunatic spells bad news for anyone who doesn't shop on Rodeo Drive.
US Unions have copped this before - when ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura became the spectacularly disastrous one term Governor of Minnesota. Just because it sounds good on a late night chat show doesn't mean its good policy.
What does Arnie stand for? A glib populist fascism that will see the working conditions of California's state employees run into the ground. The interests of Texan power moguls protected; a green light for the big end of town to go on a bender.
And the media have lapped it up with all the critical engagement of a carnival spruiker.
It may prove to be the high water market of politics of spin.
As the poet Richard Rodriguez said, Los Angeles was a Mexican city long before it became a blonde American city. Now the Aryan master race is ensconced in a smug position of power while democracy is hung out to dry as a beauty contest and real ugliness is hidden under layers of dross and spin.
To see popular culture junkies lap this sort of stuff up is enough to make any thinking person throw up. We are a culture so star struck that we give credibility to people on the strength of their ability to remember a prepared script. It's not about ideas. It's not about policy. It's about a big smile and an acting career.
If this is the future of western politics then we are all headed for hell in a taxi.
Could it happen here? Probably.
We are as captive of the cult of celebrity as anywhere else in the western world. The Tall Poppy Syndrome isn't popular in some circles, but it's an important check for a society being led down the garden path by showmen, egomaniacs and Malcolm Turnbull. Its about making people realise that famous does night necessarily mean right; and that we have good reason to be suspicious of people who think that they're superior to us.
Bad news loves company. The one redeeming feature of Arnie's election was his ineligibility to follow in Ronald Reagan's footsteps and run for the presidency. Now even that hurdle is being challenged by US lawmakers.
While Arnie may have been all over our TV screens and newspapers last week the truly scary thing is...
...he'll be back.
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