Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paul Howes' book not really a disappointment, because I didn't expect much anyway

I have been reading the recent book by the "faceless man" Paul Howes titled Confessions of a faceless man. Originality is clearly not a trait that defines Mr Howes. This claustrophobic book gives the reader the viewpoint of Howes during the 2010 election, and it is a visit to a world of power, but also a limited and personal world. Mr Howes displays a lack of self awareness and social awareness in that he does not seem to realise that the whole world doesn't care who he likes or doesn't like, and doesn't attach the same importance to social ties and group membership that he does.

This book has done nothing to dispel my fear that petty personal antipathies were an important factor behind what they did to Rudd. Howes makes quite a few unsupported derogatory claims about Rudd's character in this book. It is alarming that Howes has shown in this book how willing he has been to assume that Rudd was the source of the infamous leaks that damaged the ALP during the 2010 election, assuming the worst about a man. I have found no account in the book of Howes attempting himself to investigate the truth of this matter.

I find it interesting that a man who has assumed so many adult responsibilities at an early age (Howes is a married father of three and the head of a major union at the age of 30, and left home to live independently at the end of year 9, forsaking an education), is so fond of using the term "grown-ups" when taking a snipe at people. I think Mr Howes might have unresolved issues of some type with early origins, and I wonder how much trouble those issues might have caused for everyone to date. Howes is an unusual man - every bit as unusual as Rudd, and I am surely not the only person who has noticed that Howes and Rudd seem to be opposite types - Rudd the socially clunky academic star and Howes with his street-smarts but no education. David Marr should have done a job on Mr Howes, but who would bother to write an essay about a faceless man?

I think it is also interesting that Howes tends to favour using terms such as "bizarre", "odd" and "strange" in reference to things or utterances of others that seem to be mistakes or questionable. Howes seems to be a man who would rather drop innuendos about possible mental heath issues of others instead of stating plain judgements. In this book Howes shows his herd-mentality with his fondness of the mental health diagnosis du jour of Australian commentators - he speculates about narcissistic personality disorder in relation to Latham and Rudd. This says so much more about Howes than it does about anyone else.

I find it interesting how little there is written in this book about those troublesome people beyond the world of the ALP, the media and the union movement. I'm talking about voters, the public. They don't get much of a mention in this book, except for references to undefined people who sent Howes abusive messages through his Twitter account. Howes' term for Twitter is "the shit room" for an obvious reason. I've read much of the book but I still haven't found any bit where Howes tackles the big question about Rudd's relationship with the ALP - the question of why the voters were so very willing to vote for Rudd in 2007, but in other actual elections haven't shown nearly the same electoral enthusiasm for the rest of the ALP for a very long time. Mr Howes seems to be so very wrapped up in his tight and collegiate but limited and sharply defined world that he has forgotten that the business of political parties is courting and winning votes, and then governing.

Another thing that is noticeably almost absent from this book is mention of the other "faceless men". I find it hard to believe that this absence is a reflection of the reality of the time that was supposedly chronicled in this election diary. I guess Howes did not want to paint a picture that looks like an evil conspiracy.

In December 2010 the Australian newspaper reported that Paul Howes is one of the protected sources / US embassy informants named in WikiLeaks cable number 08CANBERRA609. Mention of this matter is yet another thing that is absent from this book, but this is hardly surprising.

I'm sure many people reading this book will be wondering how the people in politics and the media described in this book get anything much done while they spend so much time drinking or recovering from drinking, but I'm sure this will surprise no one, considering the long association that the ALP has had with alcoholics and drunken bonding. It's another world.

If you are really interested in Paul Howes this book is worth a read, because it gives an insight into the psychology of the man, who is probably typical of other ALP figures. Howes' passion for defending the rights of refugees is displayed prominently in this book. But if you are hoping to discover any major new information about the events of June 2010, you will be disappointed.

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