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Pauline Pantsdown    


Above, Pauline Pantsdown, Simon Hunt, and Pauline Hanson            




from Sept 1998:

Australian election satire Many lessons can be drawn from l'affair Lewinsky, but an important angle is completely overlooked: How the story illustrates our great American narcissism.

We've come to assume that we'll naturally control any debate in which we take part, and that everyone on the globe is utterly fascinated with all things American. Thus if the Lewinsky story captures headlines in The New York Times, it should also be a top story in their own country. But for the most part, the world has shown little interest in our President's sophomoric sex scandal. Why not? Our media pundits are baffled.

Our narcissism also keeps us from caring much about the world outside our borders. We generally don't know much about other nations and other cultures, and foreign news rarely gains our attention -- a frequent topic of these 404 reports. This is particularly sad now, because recent events in Australia give new perspective to our own sex and politics tussle.

As Australia's October 3 national election neared, many there worried about that the hard- right "One Nation" party would continue its 1996 gains, when party leader Pauline Hanson won a seat in the Australian House of Representatives.

Hanson is best known for her complaint that Australia was being "swamped" by Asians, and for her hatred of single mothers and homosexuals -- although she also claimed to be the "mother of all" Australians. Her campaign platform contained racist themes, such as cutbacks in public assistance for Aboriginal people ("preferential treatment," she called it) and limits on Asian immigration. The One Nation party has strongest among the growing number of unemployed workers. In June, polls in the state of Queensland predicted that her party might receive 1 vote out of 4 -- enough to make them an important third national political party.

Then Pauline Pantsdown entered the news.

Pantsdown -- really Simon Hunt, a a 36-year-old lecturer in multimedia studies and son of a former Supreme Court judge -- ran for the Senate in a different state, dressed as an outrageous drag parody of Hanson, complete with falsetto voice, arched eyebrows, red hair, and brightly colored dresses.

Pantsdown told IPS that by mimicking Hanson his message was serious. "I wanted to send a message that she is not real," he said. "I wanted to send an anti-racist message with a funny- comical character. Anyone can have a bad red hair day and bad dress sense."

Pantsdown says Hanson's strategy is to give the people an enemy, establish that the country is under attack from outside and inside. For Hanson, he says, the outside enemy is Asia while inside, it's a dehumanization of the foe. "She is a populist politician," said Pantsdown. "A figurehead of rightwing extremists. She probably doesn't understand."

Pantsdown said his work was clearly political satire, and described himself as a keen watcher of the prevailing prejudices in society who tries to make political statements through his work, including using his art to fight for gay rights in Australia.

To Hanson's dismay, Pantsdown -- now legally his name because Australian law requires real names on the ballot -- did more than just campaign in ugly dresses. He also recorded "I'm a Backdoor Man," a rap song ridiculing her anti-gay views using audio samples from Hanson's own speeches. The recording zoomed to the top of the Australian pop music charts.

Calling Pantsdown "a disgusting little pervert," the One Nation party quickly obtained a court injunction against radio broadcast of the song. In response, Pantsdown wrote another song in the same manner: "I Don't Like It." This also quickly became a Top 20 hit.

True to form, Hanson sought someone to blame as her ratings fell. She decided that the press were responsible, and banned media from her public appearances. This gave all the more attention to her opponents, of course, as well as more publicity for Pantsdown, who was busy autographing copies of his CDs.

When the votes were tallied on October 3, Hanson and her party were routed. Not only did she lose the party's only seat in Parliment, but the One Nation pulled only 8 percent of the national vote -- less than one-third of their June prediction. No small measure of thanks for her defeat should go to Pantsdown, who's brilliant guerilla theatre probably went far to help voters understand what was wrong about her ideas.

Pantsdown lost as well, collecting only 1,582 votes, or about .05 percent. But remember that he was running for the Senate in a different state. In that race, there were two other spoof candidates just targeting One Nation party Senate candidate David Oldfield. Besides Pantsdown, "David Mouldfield" was on the ballot, as was "Handsome Handpuppet."