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Our political public image

you never listen to a word that I said, you only seen me for the clothes that I wear, or did the interest go so much deeper it must have been the colour of my hair…

The image that we each choose as our avatar is our public image in the internet  and its one of the first things that I think about when interacting with people both here and elsewhere. So when someone chooses a particular avatar image I can’t help but wonder why.  I think about the conscious  reasons a particular image may have been chosen and I also think about how said image may have a deeper meaning . For instance consider what using this image may say about someone:

mushroom

It could have been chosen for entirely innocuous reason like the user having a fondness for mushrooms (which I admit are delicious when sautéed in a little butter and garlic) It could be that they just liked the nice curved shape of the thing  or even just the subtlety of its colouring. However if that user turns out to be a teller of many lies it should be entirely unsurprising that a recipient of their many  falsehoods might find such an image a source of much merriment because it invoke the old  aphorism about mushrooms  “being kept in the dark and fed bullshit” and seems oh so apt for a purveyor of bovine excrement.

Now that all switched on politicians have a presence on the social media those of us who are interested in their use of the medium can’t help but notice the sort of images that they choose lets look at a few, from both the left and the right and consider just what  they may say about the people who use them:

Twitter_Background_headshot

 3011313f0c625d911dc1ef5862b2a6cd Tanya-Housing-Summit-low

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  And opposition members as well:

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Of course they are all trying to present themselves in the best possible light so each of them is presenting an image of themselves  with a smile and in a way that says ” I’m an OK person”.  Some like Scott Morrison go for informality and a candid  shot  which shows him involved in a charitable event.   Craig Emerson likewise goes for the candid and informal  and he is clearly alluding to our egalitarian  traditions and our belief that every pollie  is of the people. Wayne Swan on the other hand seems to be in search of gravitas with his very formal head-shot, Joe Hockey  is likewise trying to suggest  that he is both  competent and business like Julie Bishop gives us a rather conventional formal portrait shot that exudes both warmth and professionalism to be frank I would describe the picture  of Tony Abbott the same way. Which brings us to our current PM Julia Gillard. Readers will note that hers is the only picture here  that includes  another person, in the form of a little girl. Now knowing as we do that Gillard is both  unmarried and deliberately childless I find this image  choice rather contrived and I can’t help thinking that this is a deliberate attempt to suggest that her own lack of progeny does not make her unsympathetic to  the issues of parenthood.  Its not an unreasonable thing to suggest when it comes down to it but I can’t help feeling though that its laying the message on rather thick to use such an image  as a twitter avatar.

Oh and finally a small disclaimer  to explain that a few days ago I tweeted to our beloved leader asking about her choice of avatar image and sadly she, and her minders, have not answered my question.

Cheers Comrades

My ownavatar is a self portrait painted a few years ago

My own avatar is a self portrait painted a few years ago

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36 Comments

  1. Craigy says:

    Yes, I can imagine that her PR people would be trying to counter the childless smears used by those who live in the gutter on the opposition benches….That’s their job….In the same way that Tony’s PR team are trying desperately to make him more appealing to woman – who see his 1950’s view of woman as just a tad out of touch…

  2. Craigy says:

    And is it just me, or does Tony look like the kind of Catholic you wouldn’t let near your kids…..just in that photo….I’m not saying he is….He just looks sleazy and with a false smile….just sayin’…..

  3. Iain Hall says:

    Well Gillard has said several times that she deliberately chose career over having family and as much as you lefties may dislike the suspicion that such a choice brings it what it is when it comes to asking people to vote for you. As a media person do you agree with me that its a bit heavy handed though to use an avatar image like this one?

  4. Iain Hall says:

    I am no fan of many formal photo’s to be honest Craigy they are often rather contrived and stylishly airbrushed. Despite his public position I get the distinct impression that Abbott is rather uncomfortable about having his picture taken.

  5. Brian says:

    I think you’re reading too much into it Iain. Politicians have been kissing babies and having their picture taken with children for generations. Yes, there’s a degree of PR in it, as there is in most things politicians do.

    As for Gillard’s personal circumstances, I don’t see how they are relevant to her politics. Just because she doesn’t have children or has chosen not to have children does not mean she doesn’t like children; she just has other priorities. These snide digs and innuendo about childless female politicians come from the gutter.

  6. Craigy says:

    What Brian said….

  7. Iain Hall says:

    Oh I know that pollies have been kissing babies for ever Brian, that is a given but that is not the reason that I find Gillard’s choice of avatar so darkly amusing.The obviousness of it is what makes me laugh.

    As for Gillard’s personal circumstances, I don’t see how they are relevant to her politics. Just because she doesn’t have children or has chosen not to have children does not mean she doesn’t like children; she just has other priorities. These snide digs and innuendo about childless female politicians come from the gutter.

    Back in the real world Brian no prospective or serving politician is immune from scrutiny about the way that they live their lives or for the choices that they make and it does not matter what gender they are, their sexual orientation or any other defining characteristic that they may have all will be considered with the common rubric of “are they like me and can they understand my life” by every voter. On that measure any pollie who has no children because they have chosen not to is going to be considered suspect. Just as deliberately childless people in the wider community are considered suspect.

  8. Brian says:

    I’m not sure what world you inhabit Iain, but to suggest that “deliberately childless people in the wider community are considered suspect” is a profoundly stupid thing to say. Considered suspect of what? Of being impotent? Of being gay? Of being a pedophile? Of conspiring to stunt population growth?

    Being a parent certainly gives you a different perspective, and it might make politicians a little more saleable to the public. But it doesn’t raise your IQ or your political acumen one iota. Some of the most profoundly stupid people in the world have had children; some of the most brilliant minds of our time never considered it.

  9. Iain Hall says:

    Of course they are considered suspect because the biological imperative to reproduce is central to every organism and if you choose not to go with that imperative you are either pitied or scorned, just look at the way that Helen Mirren has been criticised of late. Personally when it comes to Gillard I pity her and the profoundly empty old age that she faces due to the choice that she made. But then my wife and I faced the same prospect before we managed to have our children so maybe I’m projecting a bit here.

  10. Brian says:

    Oh Iain, that is such twaddle. Just because you are concerned with “the biological imperative”, do you really think everyone else in the “wider community” is too? Most people couldn’t care less who has children and who doesn’t. I’m not sure who is criticising Helen Mirren for being childless, I’d bet London to a brick it’s journalists or pundits with inflated egos, looking to fill columns.

    Did you also pity Isaac Newton for his “profoundly empty old age”? George Washington? Andrew Jackson? Ben Chifley? TS Eliot? Walt Whitman? Condoleeza Rice? Jane Austen? All childless. I’m sure the list is much longer.

    Seriously mate, people will do what people want to do. Human beings have elevated themselves above simple procreative urges; we are not just the sum of our genitalia. This second-guessing of people’s motives and judging of their lifestyle choices is really just a form of emotional blackmail.

  11. Iain Hall says:

    Brian
    I am just telling it the way that I see it and reiterating the things that I have experienced. While there have certainly been many childless people who manage to find meaning and purpose I don’t think that changes the despair and regret that thy may have felt at their failure to produce progeny.

    Human beings have elevated themselves above simple procreative urges; we are not just the sum of our genitalia. This second-guessing of people’s motives and judging of their lifestyle choices is really just a form of emotional blackmail.

    No Brian we are just animals like all other animals and to think otherwise is just hubris. Admitting our animal nature is very liberating because it frees you from so much pretension and self delusion about humanity and the society that we have made.

  12. Brian says:

    While there have certainly been many childless people who manage to find meaning and purpose I don’t think that changes the despair and regret that thy may have felt at their failure to produce progeny.

    Whatever “despair and regret” people may feel about not having children is theirs to ruminate on. It not your place or mine to tell people how they should or shouldn’t act, on the basis of what they will or won’t feel if they don’t follow your conventions. That, as I’ve said, is emotional blackmail and a quiet form of totalitarianism: wanting everyone to behave as you think all humans should behave.

  13. Craigy says:

    “No Brian we are just animals like all other animals and to think otherwise is just hubris. Admitting our animal nature is very liberating because it frees you from so much pretension and self delusion about humanity and the society that we have made.”

    That statement seems to fly in the face of your views on gay marriage Iain.

  14. cornlegend says:

    Ian, you really do prattle on.
    I really don’t care whether you have children or not, thats your business.
    Some people make personal choices.
    Who are we to disagree, or judge.
    It seems you look for the smallest detail to attack the Pm.
    Do you judge Julie Bishop, Kelly Dwyer etc with the warped reasoning

  15. Ray Dixon says:

    Unless that kid is related and/or somehow emotionally attached or close to her, Gillard’s choice of avatar is plain contrived and, quite frankly, weird. Mind you, I’d rather look at that one than one of Sophie Mirabella, with or without her two little Mirabellas. Maybe Soph should have an avatar of Colin Howard’s grave … as a sort-of ‘thanks for the $s old man’.

  16. Iain Hall says:

    Brian
    How many people unable to have children have you got to know during your life time, I don’t just mean known as casual acquaintances but as close friends who will tell you what they really feel about the subject?
    In any case I am telling NO one how to act its always been my practice to endorse personal autonomy even when I offer an opinion about the consequences of the decisions that they make that they don’t want to face. Frankly if there is any “emotional blackmail on the issue its from the deliberately childless who get indignant when their decision is queered.

    Craigy

    How is my position on “gay marriage” at odds with my views on human nature?
    cornlegend
    Firstly welcome to my blog I welcome all civil comments here, especially when they come form those who want to challenge may opinions

    It seems you look for the smallest detail to attack the Pm.
    Do you judge Julie Bishop, Kelly Dwyer etc with the warped reasoning

    Well I happen to think that the PM is not much chop at the job so naturally that colours the way that I write about her. Nop apologies from me on that point.

    As For Julie Bishop and Kelly Dwyer as far as I know neither of them has an unnamed child in their twitter avatar, and neither of them have played for sympathy with the sexism/mysogeny card.

  17. Iain Hall says:

    Ray
    even if the child is related to her its still a rather contrived choice of avatar image If you look at the girl’s nose and mouth shape there does seem to be some similarity to Gillard’s own facial features so the girl could be her sister’s kid.
    as for Sophie’s kids well at least they are not being used as political props which is a tick for Mirrabella in my book.

  18. Brian says:

    How many people unable to have children have you got to know during your life time, I don’t just mean known as casual acquaintances but as close friends who will tell you what they really feel about the subject?

    A few, as it happens. Not that that has anything to do with the price of eggs, since we’ve been discussing those people who make a conscious decision to remain childless.

    In any case I am telling NO one how to act its always been my practice to endorse personal autonomy even when I offer an opinion about the consequences of the decisions that they make that they don’t want to face.

    That’s just dishonest Iain. You’re hectoring people with claims that they will suffer despair and regret if they don’t follow their primeval instincts and have children. It’s not telling people what to do but it comes pretty damn close. And as I’ve said, your opinion, as mine, has little or no place in how other people live their lives.

    Frankly if there is any “emotional blackmail on the issue its from the deliberately childless who get indignant when their decision is queered.

    You mean when they defend themselves from busybodies telling them what they should do, based on ridiculous theories about biological instincts?

  19. cornlegend says:

    Fair dinkum,
    If thats the best you can do, to get your knickers in a knot over an avatar,
    you must lead a boring life.
    I think Brian has pretty well got you summed up.
    Brian,= an educated, reasoned response.
    Ian = a try hard, but failing

  20. Iain Hall says:

    Brian

    A few, as it happens. Not that that has anything to do with the price of eggs, since we’ve been discussing those people who make a conscious decision to remain childless.

    Well I happen to think that its most relevant, so If you will indulge me can you tell me how those friends feel about their plight.

    That’s just dishonest Iain. You’re hectoring people with claims that they will suffer despair and regret if they don’t follow their primeval instincts and have children. It’s not telling people what to do but it comes pretty damn close. And as I’ve said, your opinion, as mine, has little or no place in how other people live their lives.

    I’m hectoring no one at all Brian I certainly would not offer such opinions with out some type of invitation to do so I am making some abstract observation about life and society and we are all entitled to have any opinion that we please on the subject.

    You mean when they defend themselves from busybodies telling them what they should do, based on ridiculous theories about biological instincts?

    Please credit me with a few more social skills than that Brian, I know very well how to explore such issues with tact and kindness and I am rather good at reading people’s comfort levels when discussing such things and I know when not to push things too far.

    Cornlegend
    The very last thing that I am suffering from here is knotted underwear, read again what I said in my post about our PM’s image choice:

    Which brings us to our current PM Julia Gillard. Readers will note that hers is the only picture here that includes another person, in the form of a little girl. Now knowing as we do that Gillard is both unmarried and deliberately childless I find this image choice rather contrived and I can’t help thinking that this is a deliberate attempt to suggest that her own lack of progeny does not make her unsympathetic to the issues of parenthood. Its not an unreasonable thing to suggest when it comes down to it but I can’t help feeling though that its laying the message on rather thick to use such an image as a twitter avatar.

    I have added some emphasis here for your benefit because I want to point out that I am looking at this in terms of the message that this avatar choice sends to the public and that its the total lack of subtly that I find funny/strange when you consider that as PM Gillard must have the benefit of some of the country’s top PR people

  21. Brian says:

    Well I happen to think that its most relevant, so If you will indulge me can you tell me how those friends feel about their plight.

    They felt miserable, of course. But it still has no relevance to the issue of people choosing not to have children. It is apples and oranges.

    I’m hectoring no one at all Brian I certainly would not offer such opinions with out some type of invitation to do so

    I hardly think Julia Gillard invited you to discuss her choice of avatar, a child in her photograph or her decision not to marry and have children. Sure, as a politician she’s fair game for some scrutiny of her personal circumstance, but I do think you’re stretching the bow too far.

    Please credit me with a few more social skills than that Brian, I know very well how to explore such issues with tact and kindness and I am rather good at reading people’s comfort levels when discussing such things and I know when not to push things too far.

    Fair enough. I just think these blanket judgements about people’s private lives are both meaningless and mean-spirited. Every individual situation is different and people make these decisions based on their own experiences, values and interests. If Gillard doesn’t want to marry and have kids, that’s her look-out; I’m sure she can make an informed decision. It’s not up to the likes of us to tell her why she should or shouldn’t.

  22. Iain Hall says:

    We both know Brian that when someone puts their had up for our highest public office that there is no such thing as a “private life” and as such Gillard putting that image up as her twitter avatar, being a political choice is open to questioning as much as is anything else she chooses to do for the sole purpose of improving her electoral chances.

  23. Brian says:

    Well whatever else we’ve disagreed about, we can certainly agree on that Iain.

  24. Brian says:

    BREAKING NEWS: Ted Baillieu has resigned as premier of Victoria!

    They called him ‘One-Term Ted’ but it seems that even that was optimistic.

  25. Ray Dixon says:

    It’s just another Gillard mistake – she hardly does anything right. In fact, has she done anything right since becoming PM? I don’t think so. Hard to think of anything.

  26. GD says:

    It’s just another Gillard mistake…..has she done anything right since becoming PM?

    Well, no. However you should include the rest of caucus, including ‘dancing man’ Emerson, ‘borders’ Bowen, ‘censorship’ Conroy, ‘free speech’ Roxon, ‘carbon tax scam’ Combet, ‘batts are burning’ Garrett, ‘platitudes R us’ Plibersek and ‘you wouldn’t say that to me if I was a woman’ Penny Wong.

    The list is a smorgasbord of failure. Replacing the leader is pointless. The party itself is in disarray, their policies are now far removed from their original charter.

    While much of their traditional voter base has moved on to become aspirational voters, Labor has tended to slip-slide to the left with an increased focus on reviving union control of the work force, at the same time wasting money on ‘pie in the sky’ green schemes which can only hamper productivity. The combination of a union dominated workforce and out of control green legislation is a recipe for economic suicide.

    It’s no wonder that aspirational voters no longer listen to Labor.

  27. Ray Dixon says:

    Replacing the leader is pointless

    Agreed – Napthine will be just as inept as Baillieu.

  28. Iain Hall says:

    A post on the subject would be appreciated Ray because I know bugger all about Victorian politics.

  29. Ray Dixon says:

    If I write one, Iain, it’ll be brief and along the lines of how one weak leader has been dumped for another weak ex-leader (of more than 10 years ago) proving beyond a shadow of doubt that the Liberals in Victoria have no real leaders among them.

  30. Iain Hall says:

    I would expect nothing less Ray but as we both know a brief post of any leaning can be a good jumping off point to some interesting discussion. So please go for it ;)

  31. Ray Dixon says:

    It’s not a big priority for me, Iain. Victorian State politics is far less interesting than even local council issues – eg. I think the Wangaratta feud is far more interesting.

  32. Iain Hall says:

    Fine Ray good if you do, no biggie if you don’t feel inspired to write about it.

  33. Brian says:

    I would write something for you Iain but I feel the same as Ray. One non-entity has been replaced by another non-entity. And if the ALP had taken government, it would be no different, because they are non-entities too.

    The lack of political talent in our country at the moment is quite depressing.

  34. Iain Hall says:

    Well I am always open to a guest post from someone such as yourself Brian even if it takes a line opposite to the one I might take

  35. Ray Dixon says:

    It’s done, Iain. Didn’t take long …. *yawn*

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