Some politicians wear a larva of decency. There are always moments of exposure (Entlarvung) where something behind the larva comes out. These moments are often very comical (komisch) and of course revealing for the political observer, they have to be captured somehow, otherwise the two-facedness of un-decent again blurs behind the algorithm of the political industry.

In the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation’s summer interview of 6 September with journalist Lou Lorenz-Dittlbacher, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz[1] gets to the heart of his decency right at the beginning: “I actually always wanted to do something decent and not become a politician.”[2] Anyone who saw the interview, Lou Lorenz-Dittlbacher’s surprised, amused reaction: “Decency???” and the Chancellor’s embarrassed squirming that followed, immediately realised that this statement was not irony but a spot-on blunder. A comical moment of truth in Austrian domestic politics. The flash of a truth effect that was so powerful mainly because the journalist immediately reacted to it with an extraordinarily amused underlining of the signifier. Like the Witz, the blunder also needs a third person to laugh because it is only in the third person’s affect that the blunder comes into its own.

Sebastian Kurz, the first person, who produces his blunder in front of Lou Lorenz-Dittlbacher, became a caricature for a moment through the journalist’s affect. The decent Kurz encounters his Doppelgänger through his unintentional speaking. And perhaps he also felt a little unheimlich when his saying about the other came back to him. The blunder is an unintentional conceit of his psychic automatism, it is an exposure (Entlarvung) in the classical sense, the comical effect of which, according to Freud, lies in the disparagement of the sublime and its concomitant replacement by something lowly. The blunder here is an unmasking, a self-exposure (Selbstentlarvung). He is now what he never wanted to be: an indecent politician.

Image: The Double Kruz. Credits Austrian Press Agency. (APA Georg Hochmuth)

[1] At the time the text was written, Sebastian Kurz was still Austrian Chancellor. In the meantime, he has stumbled for exactly the reason that he expressed in his slip of the tongue: Decency. In the course of the investigations by the Office of the Public Prosecutor for Economic Affairs and Corruption, chat transcripts of the chancellor with his intimate colleagues have become public, which are anything but decent. The signifier decency has been virulent in Austrian domestic politics ever since.

[2] In German, the word anständig (decent) and its derived variations have multiple meanings. Here are some of them: In the noun An-Stand (decency), which refers to a ethical-moral claim, are several sexual meanings hidden like Stand (stand) when you are in love with someone, but also Ständer (pillar), which colloquially means the erect penis. The German verb Anstehen means that you have to queue up somewhere or that you cannot go any further, or that something is becoming and finally it means horny in dialect. The derivative verb anstellen in German means queuing up and doing something forbidden.