A small plea to Kevin Rudd and everyone else in the country: can we restrict the term “faceless men” to people who are actually unknown?
Today I see a reference to “Crean and other faceless men”. For pity’s sake, Simon Crean has been in public life since 1979 and in Parliament since 1990. He has spent years as a minister. He served two years as Opposition Leader. He’s been photographed, televised, caricatured. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a bronze of him somewhere.
Faceless? Really? This is what you get for two decades of public service?
Simon Crean’s about as much a faceless man as the PM.
For that matter, “faceless men” like Senator Don Farrell have web pages and are fairly well known to a lot of people in Adelaide. Farrell has been elected to Parliament; you can go in and watch him at work most sitting days in Canberra.
The term “faceless men” was also applied back in 2010 to AWU head Paul Howes – one of Australia’s best-known union officials – in the wake of Rudd’s original ousting. Bizarrely, the term “faceless” seems to have been applied as a result of Howes’ appearance on Lateline. And yes, Lateline showed his face. They do that all the time. It’s a television program.
Robert Menzies invented the term “faceless men” in 1963 as a reference to the 36-member all-male ALP executive of the day, most of them genuinely unknown outside ALP and union circles. The story is well told by Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Bolt in The Australian. Menzies went on to describe the ALP executive as men “whose qualifications are unknown, who have no elected responsibility to you”.
In 1963, “faceless men” was hard politics, but legitimate politics. It was also a great phrase. But its day is long gone. Today it’s not mere cliché – it’s idiocy.
Post-challenge update: Elsewhere on Troppo, Derrida Derider argues – and I think he’s right – that the 2012 challenge has been remarkable for the fact that factional warriors were less important than ever before:
“In fact the trouble with the 2012 [challenge] is that, far from being an unaccountable process by unknown factional warriors, it was all too open. Both opposition and support for Rudd cut right across all factional lines. Quite simply there were no backroom deals here …”