March 9, 2009
As published on EurActiv.com…
Works of fiction have always dealt with political issues and institutions, “but the last decade has seen a much more concerted trend in this direction,” argues Conor McGrath, an independent scholar and deputy editor of the Journal of Public Affairs, citing an upsurge in the number of novels, movies, TV shows and songs featuring lobbyists.
“We could intuitively expect that there is some connection between what the average citizen watches or reads in popular culture and what he or she thinks about politics,” writes McGrath in an essay for the European Centre for Public Affairs publication ‘The Future of Public Trust’, edited by Tom Spencer and McGrath himself and introduced by EurActiv.
“While fiction aims to entertain, the creators of fictional work are doubtless not unaware that they also inform and educate,” the scholar continues. “Public views about politics are formed – at least in part – through the ways in which politics is represented in fiction.”
Sounding a cautionary note, McGrath warns that “lobbyists are rarely treated in fiction with much subtlety, while gross characterisations of their personalities and misrepresentation of the role of lobbying are commonplace”. “Lobbyists present too easy a target for writers wanting to include in their political fiction a cardboard-cutout despoiler of democracy,” he laments.
Tales of lobbyists in novels “tend merely to provide full accounts of the sexual and/or financial and/or political greed and lust of lobbyists,” the scholar argues, asserting that “most novels which have lobbyists as characters show them as relentlessly corrupt, unethical and predatory”.
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