Sunday, 5 October 2014

Porn Politics, McNulty and the Commentariat

There was something almost pornographic in watching the commentariat and politicians work themselves into a orgasmic lather over the appointment of John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum Of Modern Art. Pornography stages a ritualised travesty of sex for the sexually challenged, this was a ritualised travesty for the politically challenged. Politicians make political appointment, SHOCK

IMMA is, in the scheme of state boards, an irrelevancy, to voters and politicians, carrying nothing in reward or benefit.  McNulty's appointment was merely a piece of risible incompetence. As the government candidate in a seanad bye-election in which only TDs and Senators can vote, McNulty would have to murder a drag-queen while brandishing a papal flag and reciting the Nicene Creed to even dent his majority. Appointing him to the board of IMMA,either to fulfil the constitutional requirement of “professional interest” or to increase his electoral saleability was pointless and risked just the political fallout it created.


The manufactured outrage from Fianna Fail's rump was particularly ironic: the party's strength was its plundering of state appointments for its sixty one years in power, right up to the last days before the 2011 election but irony has no place in politics. For democratic politics to work we must ignore the irony of oppositions holding governments to standards of which they are incapable themselves. 


Sadly, in this case, by misdirecting their faux outrage, the opposition missed a real scandal. Paudie Coffey's appointment of a director of Irish Water, Hillary Quinlivan, as his driver was a serious matter of corporate governance. To turn a director of a company for which one (nominally at least) is responsible, into a kept creature no much better than a catspaw was disgraceful. Mr Coffey professed to see nothing wrong in such an action, a stance which either is utterly dishonest or marks him as too stupid to be in office.


For some in the commentariat art, particularly modern art, has a holy and moral significance. They are its guardians against the barbarian ignorami, they keep it as a sacred trust for the time the proles will appreciate it. These are the ones who say the word "Beckett" with a reverence Opus Die members reserve for "God". Their horror was particularly poignant, for them this was bodily violation, a statue of Caligula in the Holy of Holies.

A large amount of the outrage was based on the Fine Gael election manifesto, the promise of “ A New Politics” and various commendations to “transparency”. Anyone gullible enough to have voted for or believed such should have their voting rights rescinded. Nobody but the entirely dishonest promises honesty: an honest man does not think of it. An honest politician is unelectable and therefore, by definition, non-existent.
The proper response to the short lived appointment of Mc Nulty (six days as IMMA's rules preclude running for election as a board member) was peals of laughter at the stupidity of those involved. Instead we have been treated to a feast of flagellated outrage and staged swooning as if it mattered except as a demonstration of incompetence, stupidity and pettiness. It is not that incompetence, stupidity and pettiness should not be exposed, they should, but the artificial hysteria in which the commentariat indulged was as big an issue because it was based on politics most enduring and damaging fiction: the Myth of Better People.
This is the lie that that any failed system would work if only better people were in charge. In various forms this mendacity pervades politics. Socialism would work if the right people were in charge, the Euro-Boom would not have bankrupted Ireland if Fianna Fail had been kept out of power.
A Dail committee to examine appointees to state boards would put some politicians, and by dint of it being a public process, some journalists in charge. Any proposed appointee will have their abilities, history and stated attitudes torn asunder by publicity seeking clowns under the guise of transparency. ESB directors would be quizzed on their attitude to transgenderism, no useful person would put their name forward. Journalists would report this farago with the breathless intensity of teenagers talking of their nascent romantic entanglements, Twilight meets the Sopranos in a badly drawn cartoon.
There are no better people. Political decisions are what you get if you leave the decisions to politicians, appointing untouchable commissioners is an even worse solution.

There is a way of cutting corrupt patronage but the professionally outraged would hate to see their sole sales tactic ruined. Cut government. Cut quangos. Cut the amount of boards that government has to reward party hangers on. Return potentially productive economic assets to the vitalising private sector, cultural institutions to not for profit trusts. This would have doubly virtuous action of cutting a large army of hangers on off AND putting assets into good, unsubsidised use.

The lesson that should be learned from Mcnulty/IMMA is that there is no new politics, merely politicians looking for votes. When a politician promises a new politics and decries the past we should know he or she is a liar and a charlatan. The recent past was no more scandalous than the present or the future, just past. Waging a fictitious war on it may con the gullible but is no substitute for freeing us to make our own decisions, away from the dead, corrupt hand of government.


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