Reality TV and Politics: Not a Good Combination


Reality TV. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Its very name is a lie. Nothing in the whole world is further from the everyday mundanity of reality than putting a group of people in a simulated jungle environment, then making those people eat live insects in order to win their meal. In the real jungle, this isn’t how things work. The Tabajara Indians don’t have to deep throat a dismembered kangaroo, Jeffrey Dahmer style, in order to have a producer give them their lunch. If they did, their culture probably wouldn’t be worth protecting. In any case, the fact remains that only some kind of half-brained cretin entirely divorced from reality could ever come to the almost indescribably stupid idea that eating insects could provide them with a good platform for their political views.

And yet that is the position we found ourselves in, and, the exact specifics of circumstance aside, this is not a unique occurrence. Nadine Dorries may have made a miscalculation, a massive one, but she is not the first. Lest we forget that, not more than a decade ago, it was the current MP for Bradford West, George Galloway, who was parading himself around on national TV in a manner even more disgraceful and degrading than Nadine Dorries. She might have had to eat an insect (I didn’t see it, I don’t know what she had to do exactly), but she didn’t have to pretend to be a household pet in some kind of deeply disturbing, German sex-dungeonesque display of roleplaying. It could only really have been worse if he’d dressed up like a baby and insisted on being changed.

Why is it, then, that politicians manage to the come to the idea that their constituents, or future constituents, want to see them doing unspeakable things on national TV for money? What is it about the notion of prostituting themselves on television that makes them think it will win them votes, or respect, or credibility, or esteem or anything except derision? I can only surmise that they take the electorate for such a group of idiotic rubes that we need only see someone on the telly in order for us to vote for them. Maybe they think the bright lights and shiny images will trick our feeble, plebeian minds, through basic Pavlovian conditioning, into voting for them or supporting their proposals.

Nadine Dorries seemed to think that going into the jungle would give an appropriate platform for her to spout her conservative, right wing views. Now, I may not watch IACGMOOH (I’m a Celebrity…), but I reckon I can guess with considerable accuracy that those who do won’t be forming their opinions on late term abortions on the basis of what they hear while watching a programme, the main appeal of which is sheer mindless entertainment. No one watches the X-Factor for a sermon on the merits of the death penalty, and there are scarce few who tune into strictly come dancing hoping that Bruce Forsythe will express his opinions on social housing. Why then would she think that it would be advantageous to her politically to lower herself to the same level as Kerry Katona? I mean, the Conservatives are one thing, but Kerry Katona is a whole other bucket of shit.

Joking aside, yes, she’s a conservative, but she started out with a least a modicum of respect from certain quarters of the housebound, reactionary shut-in community. Her audience was already well defined; she didn’t need to do anything to cement her place as the poster girl for irrationality any further. Maybe it says something about the state of modern politics that these people feel that exposure, any exposure, is better than simply getting on with your job, performing admirably and serving your constituents with dedication and hard work. Maybe this is the ultimate expression of the downward slide that began with JFK, where image, spin, sloganeering and hollow publicity take the place of actual substance when informing someone’s decision. It’s something touched upon in many comedy sketch and piece of satire, but image is everything in politics, and competence seems to be taking an ever-increasing backseat.

I’d like to think that Galloway and Dorries, and any others I’m missing out on, are subverting the notion of the democratic process as it exists now. Are they, in fact, making an ironic comment on the pretty inescapable fact that politics is nothing but a popularity contest? That’d be nice, wouldn’t it, to have a politician so self-aware as to be able to reference their own ridiculousness? As it is, however, I sorely doubt it. No, I genuinely believe that they seriously thought that going on “reality” TV was the best way to gain credibility. It beggars belief that someone that thick-headed, that utterly unaware of the realities of the world, could ever win enough confidence from the public to win an election. If they were going to make a public exhibition of themselves to win votes, they may as well have stood on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square, bare-ass naked, and shouted their political positions through a megaphone at the terrified and bewildered populace. But then, I’d rather see pretty much anything than George Galloway naked on the fourth plinth, and that includes George Galloway in a unitard, pretending to be a cat.

In a way, this would be preferable to the current system. It’s pretty hard to disguise the fact that you’re an incompetent shit if you’re put under constant surveillance by the entire population for several weeks. What better way is there of judging someone’s character than by putting them under a microscope? Elections may have run their course, and Dorries’ kind may be the early harbingers of the new age of democracy where ITV holds the TV rights and charges 15p per minute to vote from a land line. No matter what happens though, no politician will ever be taken more seriously for having appeared on a reality TV show. Anyone who thinks differently has no place in politics, as they have a clear and demonstrable mental defect: a complete detachment from reality.


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