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2005-04-01

Who are they talking to? 

I know almost nothing about the matters I discuss in my blog. If I did, I would have to write a scientific paper if the issue is a factual one, or attempt to draft a convincing essay if it is a matter of opinion under insufficient information. When I blog, I do so because I lack the time, motivation, or skills for either the scientific or the literary method, and so instead I settle for the frequent semi-valid short text that can serve to fix ideas. Mainly for myself, although it's hugely intriguing that others occasionally read my little texts too. Roughly, then, I know what I'm doing here.

Can the same be said about Austrian parliamentarians when they give speeches in federal or local parliaments? I have recently read session protocols from the Vienna city parliament [DE], and I have watched some live coverage from the federal parliament [DE]. It would make a nice scientific paper (hehe) to analyse who these parliamentarians are addressing with each of their remarks. Some, basically the faction leaders, address the mass media most of the time, whereas backbenchers seem to speak mainly in self-justification towards their constituents, or for their peers in their own party. A speech to celebrate public servants. A speech to celebrate a recent football victory.

How often do parliamentarians address the opposite political opinion, how often do they attempt to develop a novel argument or to defend one against its critics at the level intended by the criticism? Rarely, it seems. Is this deplorable? From the perspective of an observer it certainly is, as one is faced with a mosaic of half-sentences addressed in all sorts of different directions, except those of the argument at stake. But presumably debate occurs elsewhere, not under the scrutiny of the public. If that is so, on the other hand, what do we need the public debates for, except as dogfood for the mass media? Maybe for no other reason, and the parliamentarian of the future will thrive on the qualities of a media star, physically attractive, pleasant voice, entertaining.

Then again, parliament does not seem a very important place. The result of voting is predetermined anyway by elections, for that alone one wouldn't need a building employing hundreds of politicians. Plus, as we saw, convincing the opponent does not seem to be intended. What's more, other channels of political communication are becoming ever more important, and are not contingent on parliamentary debate: coverage in the mass media; advertising campaigns; even the internet. After all, the parliamentarian of the future might be as incompetent and unattractive as today's creed, as long as he or she performs well in some of those other channels. Don't despair, my dumb and ugly friend, just keep on looking for a political medium that suits you.


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