Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Simulacra: Gordon Brown and Peter Costello

Mark 'k-punk' Fisher brilliant, as usual, in seaming the political and the cultural together in what is a book review framing an analysis of the simulacrum that is British PM Gordon Brown's media vector.

If comparision of Australia's PM - Kevin Rudd - to Tony Blair in terms of empty (in the Australian MSN read empty as 'symbolic') spin-meister has any grip, then who might k-punk's portrait of Brown compare to in Australian federal politics? Oddly this line from Fisher resonates with Peter Costello's step-back from the opposition leader crown on election night, after defeat of the government in which he had been treasurer for more than eleven years:

The role he seems most fitted to play – glowering just off centre stage, plotting behind the scenes – brought with it the rich, heady jouissance of resentment. Brown could relish this jouissance only while his official goal was thwarted; just as he could exert power without holding it, the shadow of the man without a shadow, the black dog forever at the hollow man’s heels, supping on every misstep and mishap.
But now Brown has exactly what he always wanted,and what could be worse than that? The melancholy that follows from finally achieving what that he has coveted all those years, from at last having his newly manicured fingers on the holy grail for the sake of which he has spent thirty years constructing a new identity and a new set of values, must be profound. Especially when the grail so quickly become a poisoned chalice.

What Brown is might well have been what a Costello Prime Minister could have been.

Costello's memoirs could reveal something of this emotional portrait: although it seems unlikely that Costello was pursued by the Black Dog of depression, or that he glowered when next to John Howard. Costello had a different affective register to that which k-punk paints for Brown. But Costello's affective relationship to Prime Ministerial power, when it was within his reach, is what resonates.

His memoir should make for interesting reading, although the suggestion from one wag in the oz blogosphere that it be titled Almost Whatever it Takes probably won't make the shortlist.