Opposition Leader Peter Dutton's appearance on Kitchen Cabinet provoked outrage over the show's glorification of the man despite his crimes, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.
*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.
THE HOST of ABC TV’s Kitchen Cabinet, Annabel Crabb, took to Twitter/X at the weekend to denounce what she perceives as an ‘orgy of outrage’ from users at the appearance of Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on her show.
Crabb claims her series offers politicians the rare opportunity to do a “soft” interview in the kitchens of their own homes as they prepare and share a meal with her.
As Crabb points out, she can hardly go into the subject’s kitchen and be anything other than polite. The show wouldn’t last five minutes. Instead, politicians are guaranteed a safe environment to chat about who they are and how they got to where they are without being confronted or made to feel uncomfortable.
At this point, one can only ask: Why?
The premise is that we need to see “another side” of our elected representatives in order to appreciate their full humanity. It’s reminiscent of the “bring your whole self to work” initiative in which you express your “authentic” or “true” self in the workplace rather than cultivate a workplace persona.
It’s probably picky to wonder what an authentic or true self actually is and if you really want to flaunt it in your workplace when you find it, but that’s another story.
So, ‘orgy of outrage’ or ‘visceral moral outrage’?
For starters, there’s never been a monstrous human who didn’t have “another side” and Peter Dutton is no exception. The question Crabb ought to answer is why it is important that we see another side of a politician who has brought so much terror and misery to others, including children, and who will undoubtedly do the same again if given the opportunity.
At what point does a politician’s behaviour become so bereft of morality and humanity that showcasing their “other side” is nothing more than an effort to minimise their abuses while treating their victims with disregard bordering on contempt?
When does the focus on “another side” become an attitude that minimises the dreadful sufferings inflicted on others by suggesting that there is some quality in Dutton that is worthy of recognition, despite his monstrous behaviour?
In fact, there isn’t. Any politician who uses their power to degrade and torment the powerless has forfeited their right to display “another side”. The focus should be, always and forever, on their monstrous acts. This isn’t unforgiving. It’s respecting the suffering of their victims and holding the unrepentant perpetrator accountable.
During his conversation with Crabb, Dutton refers to the “viciousness” and “depravity” of people he encountered during his years as a Queensland police officer.
How many of them, one might wonder, incarcerated a family seeking refuge from persecution in a most vicious and depraved attempt to win votes and retain power?
As reported in The Guardian in 2019:
Peter Dutton has referred to the two children of the Biloela Tamil family as “anchor babies” and blamed them for costing taxpayers millions of dollars in incendiary comments defending the Government’s decision to deport the family.
In an interview on Thursday the Home Affairs Minister echoed anti-immigrant rhetoric from the United States, borrowing a term used by Donald Trump to justify a plan to end birth-right citizenship, to claim Labor, the Greens and refugee activists are attempting to “bully” the Morrison Government into allowing the family to stay.
Crabb also gives Dutton an opportunity to explain his racism, another viscerally disturbing interlude. A racist politician surely should be condemned for their racism, not invited to convivially explain it over a custard slice and a nice glass of Riesling. The incongruity of the setting and the subject matter apparently entirely escape Crabb, who seems unable to comprehend the reasonable anger it provokes.
There’s never been a monstrous human who didn’t have “another side”. As Crabb invokes Hitler, I’ll go there as well with a reminder that the Führer loved his dog and became a vegetarian because he hated to see animals suffer.
The point is that “another side” to a monstrous individual is irrelevant to their monstrosity. There comes a point where invoking it can only be understood as an attempt to make acceptable what is not and never should be acceptable. That the monster cooks a good chowder does not normalise his monstrosity.
At what point does a politician’s behaviour become so bereft of humanity and morality that they are not entitled to explain themselves in “soft interviews”?
At what point does offering a politician a soft interview cross over into a public relations initiative designed to conceal or normalise their abject moral inadequacy?
We know Dutton from his policies and their consequences, which are the only things that matter. They rightly overshadow every other aspect of his life and personality.
It is no wonder that many people react with a visceral moral outrage when his repugnancy is downplayed or ignored. Note that Crabb studiously refrains from asking any questions about the Murugappan family, despite Dutton’s vile treatment of them for political gain.
Kitchen Cabinet is the ruling class literally telling us to eat cake while they gaslight us. The ‘orgy of outrage’ is nothing less than our refusal to accept that.
There’s an argument to be made that politicians should not be involved in this kind of show at all. The celebritising of elected representatives is arguably one of the worst trends in our politics.
Sometimes we just need to stand up and turn our backs.
*This article is also available on audio here:
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