Archives for posts with tag: democracy

I’ve spent the last few days in reflection, contemplation and conversation. My reaction to the results of the election was not anger or sadness predominantly, but a form of numbness. Watching the election coverage on Saturday, I felt a surreal sense of déjà vu.

I am worried.

But perhaps not about the same things as some.

One of the things that has become increasingly clear to me is how partisan we have become. It’s difficult to see how things could be any other way at the moment. (For those who don’t know, partisanism is “the term is used for [those] who strongly support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents”, and if you observe U.S. politics, it’s typically not ideal for a healthy democracy.)

After the release of Dirty Politics, the revelations about mass surveillance revealed by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald … for those of us who were predisposed to believe these things, it was already hard for us to trust the current government, and it just got harder. This is especially galling given that John Key’s position on mass surveillance is simply that: “Trust me, don’t worry what the letter of the law means”.

For those who do trust the Prime Minister, or don’t trust people like Greenwald, Snowden and Hagar, or simply didn’t believe there was any substance to the allegations … Well, I suppose it came down to much simpler questions for them.

But here’s the problem. For many of us on the left (or even the centre), who believe Key is not to be trusted, it’s very difficult to see how others could ignore what we see as pretty substantive evidence of wrongdoing. And it is conversely very easy to write off those who gave National their renewed and strengthened third term as selfish, ignorant or much worse, based on some of the stuff I’ve seen flying around social media.

I urge you all — please do not limit your relationships with people based on their voting preferences, and please do not attack them for their position. (Though if you feel they are resorting to damaging rhetoric, of course I believe you should be clear that you do not see things that way.)

When we all retreat into our ideological corners, it becomes very difficult to discuss issues, and near impossible for us to agree upon anything. And one of the big things I am discovering post-election is that people cast their votes for a number of different reasons. No, not all of them make sense to me. But they are what they are and you won’t change anyone’s mind if the conversation is accusatory or altogether absent.

This election campaign was one of the weirdest ones New Zealand has perhaps ever had. And I can’t really hold it against people if they retreated from the chaos into something that presented itself as stability. And for many people, I think it did come down to that.

For others, it was the same problem as the 2011 election — what they perceived as “negative campaigning” from the ideological left. (That it mostly came from third parties was clearly beside the point for those people.) And I guess I can’t hold it against those people either. There certainly was a lot of “change the government” talk, and some of it came courtesy of persons who simply were not trusted by a broad swath of New Zealanders. (And this one doesn’t fall along ideological lines. Many progressive “lefties” didn’t like Kim Dotcom either. I think that is well evident now, looking at the election results.)

The problem is, although Labour did try to run a clean positive campaign (even going so far as using the word in their motto, as though we might not realise otherwise) it didn’t really look that way to many people given the kind of external stuff that was going on, especially given that Key kept saying it was a left-wing smear, and since all the parties on the left bought into the allegations, I suppose for some that was all the confirmation they needed that he was correct.

For those who do trust Key (and I might not be one of them, but I must acknowledge their point of view), they saw the left campaign as not just accusations against him, but accusations that there was something wrong with New Zealand. And the National campaign said the opposite — New Zealand’s great, we’re headed in the right direction, don’t you worry, National’s got your back. Also, we’re stable as fuck. Don’t you like stability? Yeah you do.

Perhaps the left parties could have looked a lot more stable if they had co-operated with each other more. I was pleased to hear such sentiments from David Cunliffe post-election. I hope Labour have learnt from this election, because they didn’t seem to learn an awful lot from their 2011 defeat. (Obviously I don’t have all the solutions to Labour’s problems. I wish I did.)

But here’s my point. Those of us on the political left might well spend some time in contemplation at our loss. But more than that, contemplation at National’s win.

I urge you — talk to people who voted for National. Keep your cool. Find out why. They have their reasons, and I promise you, they aren’t all selfish or stupid. It’s infantilizing and arrogant to assume that.

Believe it or not, many people who voted National in this election care just as much as you do about New Zealand. They just have different ideas about what’s the best thing for the country. And I know it’s difficult, given that many of us who are socially progressive feel like we see something National voters don’t (or won’t) about the state of inequality, poverty, environmental damage, media manipulation, mass surveillance and the economy, but I wonder if we need to swallow that attitude occasionally and try to hear people out a bit more (though I hope you realise I direct these comments at those of us who have the luxury and privilege to be a little more removed from the hardships many are suffering).

Maybe if you can have the right conversations, you’ll find out something that surprises you. Maybe not, but if we can try to have respectful conversations now, my hope is we can build something more constructive for all of us. Even if that is entirely limited to mutual respect and nothing else, that would be a pretty massive achievement in my mind. After all, no argument ever got resolved without mutual goodwill.

Now, more than ever, we need to find the middle ground.

And yes, that means the political parties on the left need to negotiate their own middle-ground and be more co-operative with each other, but I also think we as citizens need to try to find middle ground with our fellow citizens. We need to try to find the room to understand each other. We need to try to find a way to live with each other.

I know that none of this addresses what many of you perceive as violence towards the poor, or beneficiaries, or the school system or a multitude of other issues, and I’d like to assure you that I do share your concerns.

I just am not sure that we actually help those things by attacking or outright rejecting that which we do not like or understand fully. If we do that, aren’t we the same as those who refuse to read Dirty Politics because it’s a “left-wing smear”, or those people who didn’t think there was any substance in “The Moment of Truth” solely because it was associated with someone they didn’t like?

I am not suggesting that we take the high road. I am suggesting we take the middle path, and perhaps along the way, we might find some wisdom.

None of us are perfect. But one thing is certain — we are all human, and many of us care deeply about the future of this country, no matter who we voted for or what simple or complex reason we had for doing so.

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Hi New Zealand,

National cares about you guys like soooooooo much. Not even kidding. I mean, I’m really relaxed about it, but we’ve been working for New Zealand heaps. You’ve seen me on the news working at denying allegations for New Zealand, working at falsifying crime stats, for New Zealand, working on loosening New Zealand’s labour laws for New Zealand, kicking people off benefits for New Zealand, ignoring scandals for New Zealand.

I think New Zealanders know that we really have New Zealand’s best interests in mind. I mean, when Paula Bennett gets the stats put to her about the number of people living in poverty who are also working (40% of those in poverty are working), compared to those on benefits, it drives her to look for ways to make changes, and drive even more people into working poverty. It’s just better that way — poverty we don’t have to pay for.

I think most New Zealanders agree with me when I say poor people should all get jobs. Because you’re 60 times more likely to be a poor if you’re not working. I know, because I am super good at maths, that’s how come I know that trickle down economics is pretty much the best kind of trickle that there is.
 

 

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And rich people are definitely the right people to run economies. No conflicts of interest have arisen at any point, and definitely not in my cabinet. Not at all. If you hear any different then it’s a left-wing smear campaign and it’s all lies and I don’t want to talk about it, but I’m probably still pretty comfortable about it, you know? (Also, maybe tax cuts? Yeah, you like that don’t you, New Zealand?)

Paula knows that the best thing for the poors is work, and that’s why we’re forcing them off benefits and into work. I mean, two or more jobs at unliving wages taxed higher than everyone else with one job is at least 40% better than being a poor on the benefit, that’s just maths and junk.

I mean, at least they get out of the house and away from those hungry children they’ve got.

(Also, possibly there’ll be tax cuts if we get the benefit claimants right down. Don’t worry about homeless people, they’ll mostly be living in people’s garages where you can’t see them, and your local councils will ban the ones who turn up outside Smith & Caugheys smelling funny and making you feel uneasy and guilty about buying things — you have a right to feel as comfortable as I do about everything.)

And you really shouldn’t worry about poors turning to a life of crime to support themselves and their families. That won’t happen on my watch. And if it does, don’t worry, because I’m tough on crime. And criminals. Little known fact about my government: criminals aren’t allowed to vote anymore! Cool eh? Oh, I mean, it was on the news, but I mean, hardly important if you consider that David Cunliffe might’ve bought a bottle of wine that one time. (No new taxes!)

Yeah, tough on crime! But a sensible level of toughness. I mean, I like to call it tough love, because we’re going to make them work full-time jobs for free because we love money and privatisation, but it’s tough, because we’re making criminals work which is tough for them because they turned to crime because they were lazy and just didn’t want to get one of the many, many jobs available in our rockstar economy! After all, prison isn’t a holiday camp, it’s a business.

Anyway, as I was saying. The other thing that we really know is gonna help people find better jobs is a more competitive market place with greater flexibility. Sounds choice as eh? At the end of the day, New Zealanders just want to drink a beer and watch the All Blacks win the rugby and think about one day maybe being lucky enough to have a selfie with me. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters? A Prime Minister who will front up to the hard work of PR?
 

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Hey, did you see me on the cover of Rugby News? I’m pretty much an honorary All Black. It’s thanks to me they won the World Cup. Really, I’m just like Richie MacCaw. Except richer obviously.

Right, like I was saying before I interrupted me, the marketplace needs competition and what better way to add that than by introducing mandatory 40-hour work weeks for prisoners, to compete with the working poor for the absolute cheapest labour possible. I think most New Zealanders agree that everyone should have to work and earn their living here. And actually I think that most prisoners will find that they’re at least 40% better off under this scheme than that other one. And I guess if they’re not then that’s cool too, because it’s not like they can do anything about it in the end. 

Oh hey, did I mention tax cuts? We’re definitely going to give you tax cuts possibly in a few years time if the economy is still rocking like the rockstar it is (and by extension also me) and maybe if Bill English isn’t a meanie. I mean, we might end up increasingly GST, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lied, because we never promised no tax increases, just no new taxes.

Anyway, you better get used to all this, because as my friends in the media like to say, it’s all over bar the shouting (I affectionately like to call them “glove-puppets of Cameron Slater” — it’s kind of an in-joke, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it — most New Zealanders don’t even care about glove-puppets).

We’ve already won. You can tell, because Kate Middleton’s pregnant again, and if that’s not a good omen for me, then I don’t know what is. Have you seen all the pictures of me with Kate and William and stuff when they came last time? We had a barbecue and some beers, right out of the bottle, roughing it, y’know, just two manly men with giant hunks of meat the size of a baby. ‘Cause I’m not sorry to be a man — in fact, if anything I’m not sorry not to be a not-man. I think I’ve made myself clear on this issue and I won’t be taking more questions unless they’re about rugby or royals, or having a beer with me, Honest John Key.

 

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Judith will be back after the election to be tough on crime again, since this has been something she’s allegedly been working on with Serco for ages. I mean, they might have had so many dinners over this plan, you wouldn’t believe how much Serco probably donated to our campaign as a result. But if there’s any unwisdom going on with Judith I will be sure to root it out and be publicly disappointed with it while pretty much doing nothing about it actually, you can count on me!

Don’t listen to what Winston says about Royal Commissions of Inquiry, because there’s nothing behind the curtain! It’s the same thing as a regular old Commission of Inquiry, except who appoints people, which you know, I mean, I think most New Zealanders agree that should be me. If I can’t be trusted to run my own inquiry into my own cabinet’s actions and self-regulate my own cabinet, then what does that say about self-regulation? That it doesn’t work? Another smear!

Winston’s such a liar. He lies all the time. I never lie, and I especially never lie about not lying. It’s all a left-wing smear anyway, they’re just threatened by how great I am.

Threatened by how great New Zealand is under National. I mean, it has been great hasn’t it? We’re all so much better under my fudged crime stats, my fudged employment stats and my glove-puppet media machine that helps expose important, sexy penis-in-vagina corruption like the Len-Brown type, not boring old bureaucratic political corruption like Official-Information-Act-request type. Sex scandals, not paperwork scandals unless they involve eleven-year-old letters! That’s one of National’s primary campaign promises. Also maybe tax cuts.

Obviously, we believe in working for New Zealand (especially if you’re a New Zealander in privatised prison), and trying to scare most New Zealanders about left-wing alliances.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what most New Zealanders want? To be scared and rich, trapped in their heavily defended homes, while those nasty poors get put into privatised slavery one by one? (Oh yeah, we’re increasing military spending too. It’ll be sweet, promise.) I’m pretty sure that’s what most New Zealanders want.

Yours knowingly, confidently and totally comfortable with that,

John Key

 

PS, Here’s a picture of me with a kitten from the Whale Oil website, which you should definitely check out because it’s pretty swell.

 
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PPS, Here’s a picture I drew of my beehive. It’s got an arrow to “my office” so Jason Ede and OIA people can find it. But I think most New Zealanders understand that when I say “my office” it means I’m in Hawai’i.

 
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PPPS, I mentioned tax cuts eh?

 

So, Pam Corkery had a go at Brooke Sabin. And didn’t we all find it amusing? Course we did. It was amusing.

But it was also something else: it was the words that a lot of us have been thinking. “Hand-puppets of Cameron Slater” is such a funny insult because it’s true. And I personally kind of wanted to cheer for Pam (bad judgement on her part aside).

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Pam has illustrated something excellently for me. People are angry right now. And we have every right to feel angry. The media have been complicit in Dirty Politics. They have repeated Whale Oil muck-racking. They have seen the blog as a leaping off point for political “commentary”. They have allowed themselves to be used.

You wouldn’t actually know much about the contents of the book if you hadn’t read it but were getting all of your information from the media. You’d certainly understand the media were angry at what they saw as unfair treatment via issues like OIA requests. And they should be. They were played.

But you know who else has a right be to angry? Every. Damn. New Zealander. Because we were played too. By the media. By their inability to ask the right questions, get the right answers and follow the right story.

So don’t be too shocked if a lot of people sympathise with Pam Corkery’s words. Because we have a right to be angry. But, unlike members of the media, we don’t get a lot of chances to express it.

And while I think it’s a shame the coverage became all about Pam Corkery and not about Internet-Mana policy (a zero-unemployment aim, free tertiary education and no to the TPPA), I personally want to thank Pam for what she said, because she voiced the exact thing I’ve been thinking since this Dirty Politics furore started. The media has some explaining to do over this, and their focus on OIAs (and hackers) is distracting and confusing for people who don’t have the bigger picture.

And here is the bigger picture: National and Key were able to use Cameron Slater to set the tone of “debate” in media political discussions. They were only able to do this because members of the media let them do it, by repeating ad nauseum the same limited and one-sided views that pretty much came straight from Slater’s proxy lips, right to your doorstep via lazy reporting. Some journalists clearly forgot that the media is supposed to be a public service.

Now they are focusing coverage of Dirty Politics on the areas that interest them in the story, like how it wasn’t fair that some members of the media got OIAs first. Sure, this matters. News organisations and reporters have every right to be angry with the National Government about their actions. And we have every right to feel angry at the media for theirs.

They were complicit in repeating Whale Oil stories without criticism or thought.

Cameron Slater, with much distain, refers to reporters as ‘repeaters’. Perhaps his distain is justified. Perhaps it’s a distain we should all share.

Thank you Pam Corkery for saying what I have been thinking.

Now here’s our challenge: regrouping and making this into something positive come election time.

I just finished reading Dirty Politics. What can you say?

Oh dear.

Regardless of the outcome of this situation, I personally feel somewhat relieved and grateful that Nicky Hagar has uncovered the answers to a few questions, even if while doing so he has shone a light on a lot more questions.

On p.119 of Dirty Politics Hagar writes:

Many ordinary people began to feel that something was not right, that a dirty kind of politics was at work.

He’s right.

My own growing concern over the oddly intimate relationship the Key National Government has had with much of New Zealand media was sparked several months ago. It is clear now that the driving force behind this was the manipulation by the Party via proxy attack-dogs Whale Oil and Kiwiblog, alongside other organisations. It also eventuates that their influence on the mainstream media was hotly contested in under-staffed newsrooms and based on a not insignificant amount of fear.

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The media’s (then) strange complicity in selling the National message was clear even when covering Key’s blunders. In many instances, the framing of a story alone made it borderline propaganda. Other times, journalists failed to press the Prime Minister, and allowed him to repeat pre-written party-political broadcasts — failing to confront the issue that he doesn’t answer questions. (Although there have been a few noteworthy exceptions to that, which are somewhat illuminating if you are media-savvy.) Other times, the story is dropped altogether, worn-out by the Prime Minister’s tired repetitions.

Or instead — BANG! — a sudden scandal involving the left, seemingly out of no-where (not actually no-where though! From Slater&Collins&Farrar&Key): a misrepresented letter; an Official Information Act request of little relevance but ingenious timing; who visited Dotcom how many times when; whether someone has a copy of Mein Kampf … But never a story about anything that seems to matter, and never in any great depth — just more one-liners and tired, tired, oh-so-tired accusations of corruption that never quite add up to anything but providing ample ammunition for accusations of untrustworthiness for politicians and partisan political commentators alike. (And fun-time accusations that “the left doesn’t want to talk policy”, which the media reinforces by failing to report policy! )

And oh! the talking heads do talk, don’t they? Cameron Slater and David Farrar are one thing, but don’t forget Key’s other partners in the embarrassing politics-blogosphere-media three-way handshake! Our long-time friends, the World-Infamous-in-New-Zealand Paul Henry and our “impartial” upcoming moderator of the Leader’s debate, Mike Hosking — with his NewstalkZB radio show where he chums it up with the PM about anything but politics. (But the Left don’t want to talk politics!)

They talk a lot, don’t they? But do they ever say anything worth listening to? Do they ever listen to themselves talk? Do they listen to the answers to their questions or are they just waiting until it’s their turn to talk again?

Coverage of recent politics have made it hard to figure out what’s going on in New Zealand politics. There’s so much blame and accusation, you’re hardly to be blamed if you were put off.

Voter disengagement and political fatalism is exactly what they want:

‘There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continue to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people simply stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point: election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether. We should not assume that everyone thinks low voter turnout is a bad idea. (p.132, Dirty Politics)

Please don’t let them put you off. A healthy democracy is dependent upon participation from the people. That’s you. Our politicians need you. And not just every three years when an election’s on. All the time.

Politicians need you to question them.

Need you to critique them.

Need you to keep them honest.

Push them for the answers and don’t let them put you off with trivia or spin.

Make them talk about the things that matter. Like policy, which I’ll spend a little time on, because I’m not trying to avoid it.

All of the political parties are trying to get their message out right now, but you might not get at it yourself if you don’t do a little digging around. Check out political websites and social media. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how we communicated these things in the past, but in this pocket of time, the internet’s always going to be your best bet.

What’s their plan on child poverty? What do they plan to do about environmental issues? What about climate change? Do they even believe in climate change? What about public transport? Health? Education? Tax? What do they plan to do about NZ’s growing inequality? Welfare? Employment relations? International relations issues and agreements like the TPPA? Government transparency and accountability? Do they even mention some of these issues or brush them aside?

Think carefully about who you vote for in the upcoming election. This is our chance to evaluate our politicians, and for me at least, one section on John Key (Prime Minister)’s report card is headed “Ethics and conduct”.

You make your own evaluation of course. I’d recommend you take into account all the current available evidence, personally. I think you should know what kind of politics our government is engaged in.

The fallout from the book, and National and Key’s fates, are still undecided at present. This is worthy of note, because there are some in the media who are saying the decision is already made.

But unfortunately for National, I do not think these allegations are “dissolving”, “what ifs” or “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theory”. And I do not think people will be pleased with what they read in Dirty Politics.

And the decision about this is not made by talking heads in the media. It’s made by us.

The media will have some very different decisions to make.

 

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