At times all politicians need a well-placed blow to the ego

Share
Related Topics
I AM pleased to say that I live in a country governed by rogues, harlots and thieves; and that everyone knows it.

There has been a run of American films recently that are cynical about politicians almost to the point of revulsion. Wag the Dog brought us a world where inventing a war was the most reasonable way to conceal an "incident" with an intern in the Oval Office. Primary Colours showed us "Jack Stanton" as a flawed man with a manipulative wife who would do almost anything to achieve political power.

On its way across the Atlantic soon is Bulworth, which makes both of these seem like paeans of praise to the political system. Warren Beatty plays a senator who finally flips under pressure and starts telling the truth: politics is corrupt; no-one cares about anything but money; special interests control everything.

The conventional wisdom is that this is a sign of the times, and deeply disturbing. Americans have become cynical about politics and their leaders. Stung by a series of White House scandals, they don't believe in government, they don't believe in party, and most of all they don't believe in the President. Authority is ridiculed; the pillars of the temple are shaking.

I've been to plenty of countries where the ridicule of politicians is a crime. In Croatia, the satirical weekly Feral Tribune has been attacked in the courts and repeatedly closed down because it dares to take the mickey out of Franjo Tudjman, the sinister and authoritarian president. In Britain, Alan Clark was so affronted by a column in the Evening Standard which lampooned him that he took the paper and the author to court. In France, Canard Enchaine notwithstanding, a level of reverence in political coverage is de rigeur, ensuring that while the French continue to mutter darkly about their politicians in private, the public presentation is always dignified and often wrong.

I believe that a high degree of disrespect for politicians is not only healthy, it's downright necessary. The political process in America is in many respects deeply flawed - as it is in many countries - but Americans have no problem talking about it. Periodically, that results in a sudden and unexpected shock at the polls. More often, it translates into a continuing and scathing disrespect for the men and women who govern them.

American politicians are venal, and they are in the thrall of big money. I don't think they are that different from politicians anywhere else, and I'd rather that good people were elected. In the absence of that, a well-placed blow to the ego strikes me as being as good a way as any of getting even.

At times when official respect runs too high, where politicians and their media cronies connive at the cult of authority, bad things happen: think of the high points of Reaganism and Thatcherism. The deification of the elected - whether in life, or in death as with the cult of the Kennedys - is an unhealthy and dangerous phenomenon. Politicians should be ripe for attack, always and everywhere.

Total cynicism about politics itself is damaging and dangerous. In Croatia, the combination of a state totally aligned with a party, electoral shenanigans, and pressure on the media has helped to numb a nation to politics. In America, the fact that there are so many bitterly cynical films indicates a waxing of interest in what dirty little games get played behind closed doors, not a waning of it. That's healthy.

Ridicule is a democratic sanction. Warren Beatty uses it to devastating effect in Bulworth, daring to say that the party courts the rich, ignores black people, and is devoid of principle. As Newsweek puts it: "Beatty's thumbs up to the Democratic Party? Oops -that's his middle finger." Well, thank you, Mr Beatty; and to the politicians - sit on this.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Business Analyst, Retail Bank, £375-400p/d

£375 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Embedded Software Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + V. Competitive : Progressive Recruitment: Embedded...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Are we politely looking the other way when it comes to Kate, the ever-shrinking Duchess?

Grace Dent
 

The daily catch-up: art of the unapology, a bet on UKIP and printer ink molecules

John Rentoul
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game