In our second teaser before the launch of Kill Your Darlings Issue Seven on October 3, Ben Pobjie casts a satirical eye over Australia’s first female prime minister.
Julia Gillard is a divisive figure. Some believe she is a hopelessly incompetent moron; others believe she’s a pathologically dishonest harpy. The breadth of views is startling, and through the fog of our modern political and media landscapes, it is almost impossible to discern just which assessment of our national leader is accurate. It goes to show how tough it is to make an exact assessment of a public figure, to separate fact from fiction, to determine whether the problem is a complete lack of moral fibre, or just an ordinary everyday mental disability.
We must, nevertheless, address the issue. Is the picture we see of Gillard in the papers and on TV, and in libellous ‘chain’ emails, really a truthful one? Should we accept the mass media’s superficial skating over the ice-thin veneer of reality, or should we dig deeper into the freezing water of policy substance to get a decent grip on the leopard seal of truth? Rather than trust the shallow assessments of the ravenous media beast, perhaps we should form our own, based on our values, on our own deep-seated prejudices, as our fathers did and their fathers before them. Or should we instead outsource all decisions about political matters to a clever computer program that rates politicians on the number of times they use certain keywords, or do something unflattering with their hair? I doubt we even have the technology for that.
It will always be easier to read the papers or watch TV. And it’s even easier to develop unreasonable prejudices based on ignorance. Which is why hating the prime minister is the path of least resistance, and science tells us that path is definitely the way to go. But then, if we believed scientists, we probably wouldn’t hate Gillard so much in the first place. This is what is known as a paradox.
Julia Gillard is hated even more than your average prime minister, and your average prime minister – John Gorton – was hated quite a lot. It is the way of things for prime ministers to be detested by most people. Even those of us who vote for prime ministers hate them deep down – in fact, we hate them even more for making us vote for them. I remember well when Kevin Rudd was elected; my feelings of almost homicidal rage that this nasty little ferret of a man had been so repellently self-interested as to canvass for my vote and, even worse, had been so calculating as to get it. ‘BASTARD!’ I screamed to the heavens.
Nevertheless, it came from the heart. I had similar feelings towards John Howard. Not that there weren’t objectively rational reasons to hate him, I just didn’t know any of them at the time. I hated Howard simply because he was prime minister, and the very act of becoming PM is an attempt to lord it over ordinary people.
But there’s something different about Gillard, isn’t there? It’s like the difference between hating the snake that lives in your backyard and hating the evil clown who killed your parents.
What has Julia Gillard done that is so bad, so worthy of hatred?
– Ben Pobjie is an author, comedian and columnist for the Age and New Matilda. His books Superchef and Surveying the Wreckage are out now. He lives in Melbourne with his wife, three children and a burgeoning sense of paranoia.