Archives for posts with tag: Nicky Hagar

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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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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