Using music to fool the public Network Magazine
Sept/Oct 1993

Using music to fool the public

by Jean Ghomeshi

Wow! A political convention with fun, exitement and lots of rock music. Cool! right?

The use of popular music as an element in manufacturing a "favourable" image for politicians has become a common phenomenon. It is no longer surpising to see a rock of pop hit appropriated for a campaign, regadless of whether the song or the ideological leaning of its author(s) have any correlation with the respective users. But seldom has the exploit of any piece of contemporary music more pathetically pushed the limits of credibility than the use of INXS' "New Sensation" as the theme song for Kim Campbell and the June federal Tory Convention in Ottawa.

Before I am accused of singularly bashing the Progressive Conservatives there are, admittedly, other case examples. Audrey McLauglin certainly isn't "Talkin' "Bout a Revolution" as the use of Tracy Chapman's hit for her 1989 NDP leadership campaign would suggest. Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow" was used by Bill "Rock 'n' Roll" Clinton to convey an image of youth, progress and change. But less than a year later, it seems any change is superficial.

Still, it is difficult to imagine a more hopelessly contradictory case study than the music at the Tory Leadership Convention. There is not new sensation. Yes, there is a change. Kim Campbell is now leader (the first woman PM). But she was a high-level minister during the second Mulroney term and therefore played an integral role in federal initiatives including the Free Trade Agreement, the GST, cutbacks in social spending and $5.2 billian military helicopters. Further, she is supported by many of the main players of Mulroney's team - the decidedly male Establishment.

While televised images of former Finance Minister Michael Wilson boogying to "New Sensation" were amusing, I wonder if he and Campbell will be lining up early for INXS tickets next time the band is in town? (The Conservatives' commitment to any music is questionable. This is the government that presided over a 24 per cent decline in federal assistance to culture between 1984-92 while increasing defence spending by 38.6 per cent.

It was heartening to watch the Much Music coverage of the Convention. I will not forget the image of Master T looking so ridiculously out of place in a homogenous swarm of Jim Edwards supporters. Surely anyone who had the pleasure of catching this moment would recognized how "fresh" the "new" Progressive Conservative Party is.

Maybe I take this stuff too seriously. Who cares what the theme music was? Hopefully no one. Don't belive the hype.

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