Archives for posts with tag: Dirty Politics

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.
 

 

111019_Trickle-Down_t618

 

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?
 

key_hawaii

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?

 

The following is a non-exhaustive list of various debates and interviews available online. If I have missed any, or there’s anything you’ve seen that you think should be added, tell me in the comments.

The comments with each piece are my own personal opinion and should not be taken as gospel.

Will be updated as new debates are aired — Added Native Affairs Maori Electorate debates link 10th Sept, TV3 Leaders’ Debate Decision ’14 links 11th Sept

 

One News First Leaders’ Debate

http://tvnz.co.nz/one-news/s2014-ep1-video-6066764

Host: Mike Hosking

Attendees: David Cunliffe (Labour), John Key (National)

Hosted by Mike Hosking, the big surprise of the night was Hosking’s unexpected success at neutrality. Who’da thunk it? Cunliffe performed well, and by most accounts was deemed to have won, despite the fact that the online/text voting on the night said otherwise. (Admittedly, TV3s online system broke down halfway through, so hopefully they work that out if they plan to use it again.) Key seemed a little on the back foot, kind of looked tired and even gets called out by Hosking on the practical inadequacy of National’s housing policy. Cunliffe actually in his element somewhat.

Best line: National is our past, Labour is the future (Cunliffe)

Cringe line: The land is our birthright (Cunliffe — awkward, dude, awkward.)

 

The Green Room

https://www.greens.org.nz/greenroom

Host: Russell Brown

Attendees: Metiria Turei and Russel Norman

Filmed at Golden Dawn (Tavern of Power) in Ponsonby, the Green Party’s companion piece to the first Leaders’ Debate, meant to be played in the ad breaks. I went to the filming, loads of fun. It’s nice the Green Party are taking a constructive and fun approach to the media still behaving like New Zealand has a two-party political system and making their own platforms.

 

The Christchurch Press Leaders’ Debate
or the Second Leaders’ Debate

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10449997/Press-leaders-debate-2014-Live-tonight

Host: Joanna Norris (editor the Press)

Attendees: David Cunliffe (Labour), John Key (National)

I personally found this debate a little hard to watch — I found myself turning the volume up and then down and then up again. The hosts are often quite quiet and Key and Cunliffe are quite loud. The debate properly starts about 30-40 mins into the recording. Highlights for me included the host telling the audience they could “nip to the loo” in the break. Only in New Zealand, eh?

Key performs more strongly in this debate but general feeling seems to be that it was a tie. Fans of either politician will probably disagree. National still haven’t released their economic package, so some aspects of the debate feel overly focussed on criticising Labour as a result. Lots of talk about the Christchurch rebuild, naturally.

Cunliffe fails to articulate Labour housing policy clearly, giving Key an in to mislead people. Key continues to try to make “Five new taxes” a thing, but sounds shrill, annoying and looks a bit hypocritical when you consider the fifteen new taxes National have introduced. Keep shouting it though, John — maybe 60th time’s a charm?

John Key also accuses Labour of “buying votes” in the same breath he talks about possible tax cuts. It’s all about timing, John. Work on it.

Best Line: Cameron Slater can get an OIA request approved faster than I can get a pizza (Cunliffe)

Keyism: That’s a just wish list

 

The Campbell Live Minor Parties Debate
or Dinner with the Deciders

http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/campbelllive/dinner-with-the-deciders-2014090321

Host: John Campbell

Attendees: Te Ururoa Flavell (Maori Party), Winston Peters (NZ First), Metiria Turei (Green), Jamie Whyte (ACT), Laila Harré (Internet-Mana), Peter Dunne (United Future), Colin Craig (Conservative)

This online version is about twice the length of the version aired. It was initially supposed to include Key and Cunliffe, but as they both pulled out, Campbell went ahead with airing a slightly less formal event.

There’s a lot of discussion about validity of the Maori Electoral Roll (which is interesting and all, but I had to say I agreed with Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party when he points out it’s essentially ten minutes they could have been speaking about well, anything else), and a lot of talk about the Greens plan for child poverty — a strong performance from Metiria in my opinion.

It definitely does make you realise the extent of the stark ideological divide between the parties — essentially Conservative candidates Colin Craig and ACT’s Jamie Whyte on the right with their neoliberal nonsense, the parties like Internet-Mana and Greens, who argue (correctly I might add), that many of Whyte’s claims are untrue and ideological, and the who-knows-quite-where-they-sit-are-they-centrist United Future and NZ First. Basically all of them think that Craig’s tax plans are silly and unrealistic.

Winston performs quite well, although there were a scary few split seconds at the end where it looks like he momentarily forgets what he’s about to say in the middle of speaking. Being Winston, he recovers well. Phew! I felt nervous for him for some reason.

 

The Great Climate Debate

Host: Samantha Hayes

Attendees: John Minto (Internet-Mana), Russel Norman (the Green Party), David Parker (Labour), Tracey Martin (New Zealand First), Tim Grosser (the Minister for Trade and Climate Change, National), Nancy Tuaine (the Maori Party).

Held in Auckland’s Q Theatre and live streamed at various locations (as well as online obviously) around the country, this debate features some party members we don’t alway hear from.

Samantha Hayes ably hosts the evening, and I was quite impressed at the forthrightness of a lot of her questions. She says at the outset that the debate is not around whether climate change is happening or whether people are causing it, that that is taken as consensus, and follows it with a quip about it being good luck that neither the ACT nor Conservative parties accepted an invitation.

Great audience and online participation, a well-planned and executed event.

 

One News Multi-Party Leaders’ debate

http://tvnz.co.nz/one-news/s2014-ep2-video-6073852

Host: Mike Hosking

Attendees: Te Ururoa Flavell (Maori Party), Winston Peters (NZ First), Russel Norman (Green), Jamie Whyte (ACT), Hone Harawira (Internet-Mana), Peter Dunne (United Future), Colin Craig (Conservative), Brendan Horan (Independent)

First, and most obviously, what a sausage fest. Anyway, that’s out of the way now.

So, was I the only person who’d completely forgotten about Brendan Horan? I’m thinking not. Let’s ignore him now. He won’t be back.

For me this debate went some way to proving what I’d already been thinking — the Green Party, whether you like it or not, should be part of the main Leaders’ Debate. Their policy is well-defined, clearly thought out, smart and economically viable. I can’t think of any other minor parties who have policy that articulate or encompassing. In fact, it’s kind of embarrassing how focussed on ideology or the past some of the parties are. Can we have the Greens in the main debate yet? Russel Norman outclassed the other dudes on the stage, and rose above the random insults the other politicians slung at each other.

Not at all surprising: Jamie Whyte thinks that Rogernomics “saved New Zealand in the 1980s” (And thinks his children could do better than working at McDonalds, but dubiously tries to save it by claiming McDonalds is nutritional. Okay, weird guy.) A bit surprising: He believes ACT represents the middle-class. Is it too soon after the last time to call him weird again? But hey, who cares, he’s really there to prop up National.

Everyone wants to talk about Kim Dotcom except Hone.

Colin Craig… That guy! I get the impression the other MPs are gonna pool together to buy him a dunce cap for Christmas.

Peter Dunne didn’t set out to be spectacular, which I think we’d all assumed by now right?

Best Line: I don’t know, I couldn’t hear them since they were talking over each other all the time.

 

The Nation: The Deputies Debate

http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/thenation/debate-economy-and-coalitions-2014090613

Host: Lisa Owen

Attendees: David Parker (Labour, Finance Spokesperson), Bill English (National, Finance Minister)

Bill English and John Key just don’t seem to agree a lot at the moment do they? To raise GST or not, how much their maybe-we-hope-so-no-definitely-we-mean-it-this-time-or-do-we tax cuts will be or whether they can even say. That’s okay, “voters know the style of the government” so no sweat.

When the hell will National release their fiscal policy and how long can they put it off for? Honestly, this is getting a bit silly. Did I hear Bill say Monday? Oh, no sorry, only “a bit more detail” on Monday.

Bill English helpfully encourages Parker to clarify that Labour defines a family home as the home your family is living in. Thanks for clearing that up guys.

Cool news! Bill English doesn’t answer “hypotheticals”. Sad news! Bill English doesn’t understand what a hypothetical is.

Best Line: I call it the “Collins Tax Cut” (Parker)

 

Native Affairs Maori Electorate debates

https://www.maoritelevision.com/news/reporters/native-affairs

Host: Mihingarangi Forbes

These debates cover each Maori electorate, with appearances from top candidates for each electorate. I’ve just discovered these tonight and haven’t had a chance to check any out yet, but I’ve heard they’re great. I’ve always liked Mihingarangi Forbes, so it’s promising.

 

TV3 Leaders’ Debate Decision ’14

http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/decision-14-leaders-debate—part-1-2014091021
http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/decision-14-leaders-debate—part-2-2014091021
http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/decision-14-leaders-debate—part-3-2014091021
http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/decision-14-leaders-debate—part-4-2014091021
http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/decision-14-leaders-debate—part-5-2014091022

Host: John Campbell

Attendees: John Key (National), David Cunliffe (Labour)

 

Other useful things to watch/listen to

The Hot Seat

Election panel interviews with Newstalk ZB‘s Rachel Smalley and NZ Herald‘s Audrey Young, Toby Manhire and Fran O’Sullivan.

I can’t say I thought every line of inquiry by the interviewers was exactly what I wanted to know, still, nice to hear a party get a real opportunity to discuss some issues in a little depth. Each conversation is around an hour long.

The Hot Seat: Russel Norman and Metiria Turei (Green Party)

The Hot Seat: Jamie Whyte (ACT)

The Hot Seat: Colin Craig (Conservative)

The Hot Seat: Peter Dunne (United Future)

The Hot Seat: Laila Harré and Hone Harawira (Internet-Mana)

The Hot Seat: David Cunliffe (Labour)

The Hot Seat: Te Ururoa Flavell (The Maori Party)

The Hot Seat: John Key (National) This was recorded before the release of Dirty Politics which is why the topic isn’t mentioned.

Anyone find Winston? He appears to be absent.

 

Newstalk ZB’s Leaders Breakfast

http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/election/ondemand/333450484-mhb—leaders-breakfast–david-cunliffe—part-1
http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/election/ondemand/1529609465-mhb—leaders-breakfast–david-cunliffe—part-2
http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/election/ondemand/850630494-mhb—leaders-breakfast–david-cunliffe—part-3
Video links here: http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/shows/breakfast/highlights/mhb-election-leaders-breakfast-sep2014

Host: Mike Hosking

Attendees: David Cunliffe

Enough Capital Gains Tax conversation to shake a stick at. Cunliffe seems to be going from strength to strength! What is happening? It’s gold. Talk about polls, which as you can imagine Mike “Team Key” Hosking is happy to focus on given their current readings (which you can make a strong argument are nonsense, but that’s not for here). They talk about coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First, and what that might look like, whether he trusts Russel Norman and Winston Peters. (Hosking strangely ignores Metiria Turei. Interesting Hosking, very interesting.) Internet-Mana comes up again. Bored with this now, he’s been clear, move on, new questions.

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).

pam_corkery_N1

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.

Dirty_Politics_Oh_dear

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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