Indonesian President Joko Widodo was in Sydney over the weekend to attend a summit of ASEAN leaders and their Australian counterparts. While many serious regional issues, such as terrorism and the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, were tackled by the politicians, Jokowi lightened the mood up and earned some big laughs by dropping some millennial friendly pop culture references into one of his speeches.
Addressing a lunch meeting of business leaders alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the main message of Jokowi’s speech was to persuade Australian companies and banks to invest in infrastructure throughout the region, but he spiced up that dry topic by telling the crowd he wanted to share his theory for why politics had become so “colorful” in recent years (you can skip to 0:47 of this news report to hear this part of the speech)
“In one word, the cause is Netflix,” Jokowi joked. “We politicians now have to compete against Netflix to get your attention. Since the arrival of Netflix, we politicians have no choice but to turn politics into reality TV because if we don’t, all of you will watch House of Cards and Stranger Things instead of watching us.”
We’d love to know if President Jokowi actually watches “House of Cards” (perhaps that’s where the former furniture maker learned the political savvy to not only survive but thrive in the country’s highest office) or if he simply has a speechwriter who knows how to keep a western audience’s attention, but either way we’d say there’s more to Jokowi’s politics-as-reality-TV theory than just a simple joke.
Beyond the most obvious example of a guy who hosted multiple seasons of “The Apprentice” becoming the president of the most powerful country on Earth, there is no doubt that the reality-TV paradigm of politics has affected countries all over the world, including Indonesia. Jokowi is certainly hip to this, having positioned himself as one of the country’s most popular social media stars (which has no doubt had some impact on his generally high approval ratings).
As a side note, Jokowi’s English language abilities have certainly improved since his early days in office when he received some flak for his less than precise diction during international speeches.
While in Sydney, the president also dined on crab at the home of Prime Minister Turnbull, further cementing the “batik bromance” between the two. After leaving Sydney he jetted off to New Zealand for further diplomatic talks.