With our Prime Minister and Opposition Leader both getting rather emotional recently while talking about close family members with disability or health issues, the question arises: how do voters react when they see their leaders showing such basic traits of decency that you could think they’re almost human?
Is it good for a nation’s leader or wannabe to blubber on camera? Are there votes in it for them? Or do they in fact pay a price if a cynical public thinks it’s all fake based on the pollie’s past history of statements and actions? To answer those questions, The Bug contacted leading Australian political sociologist Professor Ima Diepfinker from the University of Adelaide’s department of human studies.
Professor Diepfinker said she had been astounded by many suggestions on social media platforms that the PM’s tears had been faked for squalid political gain.
“I have no doubt that Prime Minister Morrison’s teary performance the other day in launching the royal commission into the treatment of people with a disability, given he has a brother-in-law with multiple sclerosis, was heartfelt and genuine,” Prof Diepfinker said.
“Especially given that the PM is also a devout Christian who espouses decency and kindness and always being truthful and upfront in everything he does.
“But, yes, research does show that uncaring, unemotional, self-centred, soul-deadened sociopaths can also conjure up displays of high emotion showing genuine tears and indeed heartfelt sobs when the occasion calls for it.”
Asked if voters viewed such displays of emotion as a plus or a minus, Professor Diepfinker said: “Oh, my goodness, yes, being able to cry openly is a valuable asset that any politician can use when they want to appear as if they care about people.
“Sincerity is essential to any politician’s success and that’s made all the harder if, as I say, you are an uncaring, unemotional, soul-deadened sociopath.”
Asked by The Bug if the percentage of Australian politicians who were uncaring, unemotional, self-centred, soul-deadened sociopaths could be as high as 80 per cent, Professor Diepfinker said: “Oh, it’s much higher than that!”
“And that’s why our nation’s most successful politicians over time have had to rely on clever little ruses to bring on the waterworks at will.
“And believe it or not, the humble onion that brought Tony Abbott all that ridicule a few years back when he ate an unpeeled one is the most common trick pollies employ to make the tears flow.
“Remember all those images of Bob Hawke rubbing his face and bawling on camera whenever he talked about child poverty in Australia, his druggie daughter, a big loss on a sure thing, his never-ending unfaithfulness to Hazel or the fact that Paul Keating was stalking him? His fingers around his chin but with one finger up near the corner of one of his eyes? That finger was always dipped in onion juice. Worked every time. You get one eye tearing up, the other always follows.
“And Queenslanders in particular will remember all those appearances where a solemn Peter Beattie confessed to his electorate that he had indeed been a very naughty boy and deserved a very big spanking either at the ballot box or in their homes?
“His premier’s lectern had these tiny jets on either side that sprayed a fine but undetectable mist of pure onion essence towards his face.
“Add that to that really contrite face he could pull only moments after grinning broadly at something he said that he thought was funny and no wonder he remained Premier for so long.”
Asked if there were other signs that an uncaring, unemotional, self-centred, soul-deadened sociopath of a politician was trying to pull one over a gullible voting public, Prof Diepfinker replied: “Of course there are.”
“Look for anyone who can’t laugh or smile normally. That’s a sure giveaway.”
“Or anyone who professes to hold decent, caring Christian beliefs yet who couldn’t give a flying fuck about people suffering hardship, especially children in detention, especially if there’s a vote in it.
“Or someone who knew his entire life that he would one day be prime minister for as long as he wanted, even if he proved an absolute fizzer in the job.
“And, of course, anyone that looked anything remotely like Kevin Rudd.”