Puppets of populism – a note… with the pleasing pictures of Walton Ford, which are not intended as in any way illustrative

– Walton Ford, here

What do they believe that they can act the way that they do? I would not ask about the motivation of the action. I would ask what they have to believe about themselves in order to act, to make the actor, in the broadest sense. Fine to say ‘a cog in the machine,’ but reductive, since the actor is also a machine, even as it or he or she plays a part. Even as it or he or she plays a part both part and the performance of it are brought together in the action. A subject and subjects are produced. An object and objects are produced. And there in the exchange of objects and subjects, at the moment of the contagion and of their mutual interpenetration, both action and interaction are confused, subjects objectivised, objects subjectivated. That is, the actor combines, in the best alchemical sense, elements.

– Walton Ford, here

So it is with politicians. But with politicians the press have given up questioning or describing the dramaturgy, let alone identifying the elements of a production, in an action. What am I saying? The press have long ago given up doing the same for theatre: critique is generally missing. And a knowingness is brought to bear on film critique that tends to hide the object, being, in this case, the action. To clarify: the subject of the spectator produced in the reviewer or critic by the film – and TV show – gets in the way of a critique, in that part of the object of the film – or TV show – is also to confuse object and subject in an action. David Byrne sings it like this, I can’t see, cos my head’s in the way.

– Walton Ford, here

So it is with politicians in the era of the popular press. They dematerialise into the media at the same time as the media pretend to the function of a critical press. There is an internalisation, a metabolism of populisms. The Rt. Hon. John Key’s putative populism is metabolised critically in the populism of the media in general. This is not the old-fashioned ‘feeding on itself’ of the media; or that phenomenon whereby the saying of a thing made it so, like the Führer’s repetition’s compulsion to generate in the populace compulsion: repeat the lie often enough and they will eventually believe it. No. The fact of popular media, the populism of a medium like Twitter – which in the aforesaid way may be seen to be cannibalistic, or self-insistent – is a mirror for the Prime Minister’s populism on the same surface. There are no second or third degrees here. There is in fact a sense in which representation has been surpassed in the immediate effectuation of the image, where effect equals affect. Given the immediacy of ‘as it happens,’ a Prime Minister flourishing in a medium which imbues him with its magical powers, what parts are installed, swapped, lost, broken, repaired or replaced where there is no interaction? The action lies elsewhere than in the interaction between the Rt. Hon. John Key and the popular press where these parts will be put into play. Hence the question: Who do they think they are? These politicians. And: Who are they to think they are? How are they able to act? Since the power of puppetry and the puppetry of power have become unequal.

– Walton Ford, here