|"Peter Harvey ... Canberra."|
Hence the incongruity. Momentarily, the newspapers turn aside from the routine business of holding the powerful to account, or furthering a policy campaign, or advancing an agenda dear to the hearts of senior editors, proprietors, parts of the electorate. For a tiny space of time the machinery of public debate averts its face and bows its head. The effect can be nothing other than mannered, hyperreal, saturated with primary-toned emotions. Unlike the music, there is no subtlety in such transactions between audience and producer, between politicians and voters, between journalists and readers. The tenor of the conversation belies the complexity of the soundtrack used. Certainly, classical music fits the bill, but the overriding meaning - beyond the sentimental tear that might slip unbidden down the viewer's cheek - is one of order and form obeyed. In such cases we are meant to emote in this knee-jerk fashion. The tear is obligatory. The sigh is mandatory. And once these votive tokens are delivered we can get back to the routine business of tearing a new one in the hated enemy, the member of parliament from the opposite side. Making ourselves plain.
We can get back to the important business of democracy sure that we are all singing from the same scoresheet: pollies, journos, voters, readers, taxpayers. The primary colours that dominated the brief moment of emotion do not change as we resume our engagement in the public sphere in our various unchanging ways. The pattern is the same but instead of red and blue, or red and yellow, we had for a short while endowed the conversation with the colour of sorrow and death: with pure black. And then the magician's sheet is lifted up and everything returns to the way it had always been.