16 February 2018

Parliamentary voyeurism

| John Hargreaves
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‘What’s the goss?’ – Why do you care?

There’s nothing like a good sex scandal to out the voyeurs in our community. This voyeurism actually raises some really ugly questions about our society in general.

I have always wondered why it is that there are two standards of behaviour for “celebrities” and by this I mean the entertainment industry, sport and politics, and the rest of us.

Why is it so that the ordinary folks in our community can get high as kites, drunk as skunks, behave like rabbits and have it off with anything warm, and no-one gives a hoot? Why is it that the condemnation of behaviour in commonland, is contained within a family or social circle but not spread over the airwaves and in print media? Because it is boring, that’s why.

According to the ABS, there were 118,400 marriages in 2016 and 46,600 divorces. That’s 39.3% offset. Nearly 40% of marriages are offset by divorces! The only good news, I guess is that divorces in 2016 decreased by 3.9% over the previous year.

You can bet a lot of these divorces came about because of infidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence and other potential scandals. I don’t reckon that many happened just because people got tired of each other and called it quits.

Well, where were the stories of these infidelities etc? Nowhere, that’s where. Only the newsworthy get a run! In the day of no-fault, Joe and Jane Citizen are not exciting enough to warrant a look!

So we have two standards of behaviour. One for ourselves and one for the ”celebs”. What is so?

Maybe it’s just pure voyeurism. Maybe it’s just us childishly putting celebs on a pedestal and when they reveal their human frailty, we love it and bring them crashing down.

We pay out loads of dosh to have people represent us in public office, to entertain us on TV, radio or sports field and does this give us the right to peep through their windows at their bedrooms and judge them? Do we confine ourselves to their professional delivery and judge only that and leave their private lives alone? No way, José!

Now I’m no fan of Barnaby Joyce and loathe his politics and pork-barrelling but really, his activities of recent times are issues he and his family have to deal with. I have no right to be privy to the gory details. I hated his pork barrelling in the move of the Vet Authority to Armidale and said so but what he does with his private time is none of my business.

Whether a sports star or TV identity bonked their way to glory with someone else’s partner or not is also none of my business.

What muddies the waters are the pontificating utterances of public figures on such moral issues as fidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence etc and behaviour which is the mirror opposite. We all hate a hypocrite. But it is the hypocrisy which should be the issue not the happening which led to that hypocrisy. Give us an overview to make a decision on whether someone is a hypocrite and whether we believe that this impairs their ability to deliver rather than the gory details which make the voyeur in us salivate. We all like to be the fly on the bedroom or bar wall.

But what gives us the right to delight in the human misfortunes of these public figures? I guess it depends on which type of public figure.

If it is a TV star or politician, it is Women’s Weekly stuff. Sensational gutter journalism pandering to the reader who lives a mind numbingly boring existence and needs to have their Peeping Tom proclivities satisfied. They get off on the suggestion, the innuendo, the gossip, and the promise of intimately detailed exposés. They lust after the luxurious lifestyle of those who are celebrities because they are celebrities. Check out the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, the Royal Family and ask yourself – did you see that bit about how [insert name here] cheated on his missus or her hubby? We all indulge in it, whether we buy the rag or read it in the dentist’s waiting rooms.

But if you read about how a woman in Belconnen was mistreated and left her husband because he was a wife beater, that story has a short shelf life. She’s just one of us so no one cares that much.

The voyeurism gets a further validation through the association of perks and lurks. The public does have a right to know if public money is misspent or if advantage is given because of an inappropriate liaison. But it should be confined to the misuse of public largesse, and not focussed on the titillating sexy bits.

I have always abhorred the double standard of the “community” and the conservative uber-right in their commitment to the notion that the elected few have to be “whiter than Caesar’s wife” while the rest have a lesser standard.

But let’s call the Barnaby Joyce “scandal” for what it is. There is smoke about in the stories of jobs-for-the-girls and the use of public travelling expenses and travelling allowance but the big stuff, the public stuff, the voyeuristic stuff is just Peeping Tom voyeurism. Plain and simple!

Interestingly, we all live in glass houses and should be a bit careful of rampant hypocrisy on our own part.

Finally, voyeurism always delivers victims. The object of the peep is the prime victim but there are secondary victims. The partner of an adulterer, the children of an adulterer are the secondary victims in a breakdown. By what right do we have to look through the curtains and salivate over their pain?

The “other woman/man”, whose only fault is the human emotion of attachment to the “wrong” person is also peep-fodder. By what right do we demand the gory details of their activities, sheltering as we do in the right to our own privacy? The short answer is that we have no such right.

I don’t know Mrs Joyce, or their four daughters nor do I know Ms Campion and I have no desire to make their acquaintance but my heart goes out to them for the pain they suffer from the salivation of public voyeurism.

Why should we be concerned about what celebrities do with their personal lives?

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justin heywood11:13 am 21 Feb 18

This entire article is based on a false premise.

It is not the infidelity that has caused the outcry; jeez, we live in Canberra, surely the extra-marital bonking capital of Australia. It is Barnaby’s behaviour outside the bedroom that is the problem.

ANYONE who behaved as Joyce has done (public and shameless hypocrisy, dishonesty, dissembling, refusing to accept responsibility) is correctly regarded as untrustworthy. If my work colleague or neighbour behaved this way, I would lose trust in them. If a public figure does this, of course the dishonour is public too.

If Barnaby had owned up to what he had done, acknowledged his failure, fallen on his sword and disappeared back to Armidale the whole scandal would have been forgotten in a week.

Capital Retro11:38 am 23 Feb 18

Now the “me too” brigade is after him.

People are furious with Barnaby because of his hypocrisy regarding privacy (SSM couples’ right to be left alone?) and “promiscuity” (the Gardasil outrage). He gamed the system regarding his mistress’s employment. He dissembled. This is besides the fact that Parliament had fallen well behind corporate standards regarding sexual relations in the workplace. The only affair between equals we know of was between a senior federal Labor minister and the leader of a minor party. No, ministers should not be sleeping with junior staff. The media were absolutely right in calling Barnaby Joyce out on his behaviour.

Capital Retro11:46 am 19 Feb 18

I don’t support what Barnaby has said and done either but why are we only hearing about his exploits?

How about the media gives equal time to those MPs on the other side of politics that are “lying low” at the moment knowing they have done exactly the same as Barnaby but are safe knowing the media won’t touch them.

I can think of two serving Labor MPs for a start and one very senior one (resigned from parliament) who had an affair and a child with another Labor MP before “eloping” with a media presenter on a taxpayer funded trip to Europe.

Would you like some links?

Blen_Carmichael11:29 am 19 Feb 18

“By what right do we demand the gory details of their activities, sheltering as we do in the right to our own privacy? The short answer is that we have no such right.”

Straw man.

We do not ‘demand’ the gory details of their activities. If a high-profile member of government is seen repeatedly socialising with a single attractive staffer, questions are going to be asked. If that same politician busts up with his long-term wife, you can expect rumours will get out. And finally, should it later turn out that this former staffer has a Barnaby bun in the oven, how can you not expect it to be news?

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