Desperation of a (Gruen) Nation

Are some things too important to be left to the marketing department? That’s the kind of question you won’t hear asked on Gruen – the series where the sales team is king and all of human behaviour can be reduced to a shonky hustle from a second-rate scam artist. So of course, the ABC has wheeled it back out to cover the current Federal election. Because what could be more politically important in 2022 than sales techniques?

Same host, same jokes, slightly different panel but don’t worry, Neo-Nazi enabler Todd Sampson is still there telling us he doesn’t care about who wins the election. Because why would he? Oh right, the Nazi stuff.

After close to a decade of sticking to a good thing, there’s no real point examining the Gruen format. Which is ironic, because examining formats while having zero interest in the content is the entire rationale of the Gruen series. And look where it’s gotten them!

Unfortunately – well, in theory at least – in turning their attention to the current federal election they’ve foolishly taken on a subject where their audience actually do care about the steak as well as the sizzle. Worse, they’re now competing with the rest of Australia’s media when it comes to ignoring the substance of the election. Yeah, we’ve got a real intellectual Clash of the Titans going on there.

The problem with Gruen Nation is that everyone’s coverage of the election – and politics in general – is focused on the marketing. That’s because Australia has a massive disconnect in the media: most of News Corp’s product is aimed at working class types, but News Corp’s product is 110% about propping up the LNP, who are actively opposed to treating workers as anything more than serfs.

That means most of the political coverage in Australia can’t focus on policies, because they’re supporting a side whose policies work against their audience. So everything you get out of News Corp is focused on marketing – personalities, gaffes, whatever – because if they talked policies their audience might possibly think “hang on, giving poor people more money is… bad? But I’m poor and need more money!”

Gruen Nation might be of some use to its audience if it talked about that. But of course not: it’s just a lot of political anecdotes from fixers providing insights like “the general public don’t help with election campaigns” and “jingles work if they’re catchy”.

If they had people on who were actually passionate about their side of politics, then it’d just be a news program. So instead we get a collection of slightly creepy, totally cynical types letting us peek behind the curtain, delivering the central plank of Gruen‘s platform: letting their viewers think they’re smarter than everyone else.

Sadly for us, their version of “smarter” means “too smart to give a shit”, which is kinda bullshit when we’re talking about the political direction of the country for the next few years. Worse, these are the people who’ve been telling us for three years that Scott Morrison – a man who, let’s be honest, is widely loathed and largely speaks backyard gibberish – is a campaign genius.

No real surprise then that Gruen Nation seemed to largely be a fan of the Liberal’s campaign ads (which really do need to be pretty good considering the record they have to defend). And if the LNP lose the election? These “experts” continue on their merry way, their abject failure to get it right doing no harm whatsoever to their highly-paid careers.

Basically, Gruen Nation is once again presenting us with a collection of upper middle class types telling the rest of us we’re suckers, only this time the assumption is that we’re too stupid to vote for our own best interests. And maybe they’re right. But why waste half an hour of your time being told you’re an idiot?

After all, The Weekly‘s on next.

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