Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Short memories

Over at the Holden Republic, Lewis asks whether Jordan Carter's bid to represent the Labour Party in Hunua is a first for the blogosphere. Hardly. Those with longer memories may remember that the 2005 election saw several bloggers contesting for public office, including Michael Wood, Joe Hendren, Nigel Kearney, Peter Cresswell, and at least one other.

This is of course just one example of a wider problem in political commentary: short memories. The focus on "scandal of the week" and the effort to scoop one another and be first to an issue turns everything into ephemera. At the end of the week, everything resets and its on to the next scandal. And because they tend to follow the media rather than create their on content, bloggers are as prone to this systemic distortion as anyone else.

Thi sis a problem because many policy issues (as opposed to scandal and gossip) go back far longer than a week, and understanding the history of an issue is often vital to understand the current policy. And of course if we are to have any hope of holding our politicians accountable, then we need to remember what they actually did, rather than being trapped in the eternal now. Yes, a week is a long time in politics, but that doesn't mean that anything older than a week (for example, National's previous stance on climate change, or Labour's on PPP's) has to be treated like ancient history for the archaelogists.