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Personality vs policy

By Ian Nance - posted Tuesday, 23 July 2013

During this present election campaign, it is my opinion that Australian politics has left behind those times when party policy was the main determining factor up for deep consideration, and instead has moved more to a focus on the personality of a party's leader, much as in the American style.

This is quite understandable because now we live in the era of image advertising where attitudes are shaped by presentation and brand. This means that very often, less thought is given to analysis of the full content or implication of what is on offer, not just for products, but also of choices about concepts - the 'quick fix want-it-now' mentality will often come to the fore..

This is particularly strong in news television coverage where the personality of the person speaking on behalf of a party can mould the overall national opinion about that group.


Despite the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover", or the logical caution not to form an opinion of people just on their appearance, a personality identified strongly with a political party can create an impact by that very appearance.

This can include things such as facial features including whether the face is lined, careworn, or smooth and healthy-looking, their hairstyle, chubbiness, eye shape and colour, any tendencies towards a shifty gaze, whether their voice sounds authoritative, knowledgeable, whining, or eloquent, and the general style of their clothing – whether it is passive, extroverted, fashionable, and also whether it truly suits the wearer (no pun intended)..

Much of this is really body language, which plays an important role in how a person's message is received. That has the overall effect of leading to how convincing that speaker may appear.

There is the factor of the credibility about a person's media image, for which Tony Abbott may be condemmned strongly during his numerous photo opportunities where he comes across strongly as 'The Great Pretender'.

One minute he is an assembly line production worker, the next a barista, then a fish processor, possibly a construction site worker complete with hard hat and flouro vest, or a truck driver.

All images which reinforce his lack of objective focus or dedication to any firm stance. He is a victim of the party's image manipulators (or possibly his own inadequacies?), but all of these give him a suitable platform for a short dogmatic verbal message.


Gillard was similar, tending to involve closely in pretentious 'photo ops'.

In truth, photo ops.bring strong overtones of falsity to any political candidate foolish enough to believe that such images will evoke symbiosis.

A "photo op." can be a risky propaganda element if it presents the candidate in anything other than their true lifestyle or does not reveal an attitude to various issues. It is not just a convenient tool for the manufactured message.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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