I’ve only watched one and a half episodes of the ABC TV series Kitchen Cabinet, a program in which the public broadcaster’s chief online political writer Annabel Crabb, “cleverly uses food as a vehicle to humanise her interview subjects.”
I’ve never doubted that politicians are human. No other species so vilely manipulates its fellows in the blind pursuit of power. Watching them eat, drink, and pretend they’re revealing their real selves does nothing to “humanise” them for me, given that “humanise” means to make more humane, humane being a state characterized by “tenderness, compassion, sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed.” Of course no politician is entirely bereft of all of these qualities, and some have many, and even Hitler loved his dog and Eva Braun.
But the bottom line with all politicians is winning government, and it’s the rare specimen indeed that will put humanity before that goal. In this they remind me of the religious right who put God before humanity, in fact between politicians and fundamentalist religions humanity doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Aside: I refer to Hitler only as an extreme example of how even our most monstrous monsters have tender moments, not to imply there is any resemblance with any of our politicians because clearly there isn’t. I shouldn’t have to say this, but people sue for less.
The idea that a sanitised dinner party with media savvy politicians recorded for public consumption by four cameras is going to humanise anybody, suggests that the ABC thinks we’re brain-dead suckers, unable to tell reality shows from reality.
Plus, it sounds rather too much like Auntie has ventured into offering free public relations services for select pollies, who must have been beside themselves with delight at being offered the opportunity to put on their human masks and spin themselves silly, all for free.
That this carnival was created and facilitated by the chief online political reporter causes my stomach to lurch. I have nothing against Ms Crabb and I want her frocks, but there is something viscerally awry with this combination. I do not want to see my public broadcaster’s chief online political reporter engaged in intimate food and wine consumption with my politicians. I just don’t. I want boundaries. I do not like this blatant fraternising.
I would like to believe that the ABC is on my side, that is, an independent, unbiased as possible link between me and the politicians. When the chips are down, I want an ABC that will ask the hard questions without fear or favour, because its journalists are working in the public interest, not those of the politicians. I want the ABC to intercede for humanity. What else is a public broadcaster good for?
Instead, we have an ABC that aligns itself with the pollies, creating a dyad that excludes the public. Occasionally we are invited in to vicariously experience the lifestyles enjoyed by both, rather like a virtual tour round the palace, afternoon tea with the Queen chucked in to keep us slavering and curious in a Jerry Springer kind of way, about what we can never be part of. It is an us and them situation.
Considering that the public pay for both the broadcaster and the pollies, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.
What will humanise politicians in my eyes is when they treat asylum seekers with respect and decency. When they just get on with legalising same-sex marriage. When they turn their attention to the homeless, especially children, most of whom will never get to eat watercress soup and Persian love cake washed down with a nice red. In short, when politicians stop making everything a political power struggle and put humanity first, then I’ll think of them as humanised.
As Immanuel Kant put it “ all politics must bend its knee before human rights, and only in this fashion may politics ever aspire to reach the stage where it will illuminate humanity.”
I’m sorry to say this series has done it for me. Ms Crabb has no credibility as a chief political journalist left, as far as I’m concerned. That is not to say she didn’t succeed as the anchor for the series. I think she did it very well. However, I am left with the image of Ms Crabb in far too cosy culinary congress with the pollies, and this image will, I fear, override all others.
That the ABC should produce a series such as Kitchen Cabinet indicates that the grumblings and protestations about Auntie are firmly based in reality. Just last week a website was set up to accommodate complaints of bias that have been doing the rounds on blogs and Twitter for some time now. Kitchen Cabinet has convinced me like nothing else has thus far, that there is a great need for a coordinated public protest against the increasing alignment of some ABC journalists with politicians, an alignment that excludes the interests of the public who pay both their wages. This time, I think, the ABC has gone too far.