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Speaker: The Audacity of Hype: John Key and the new National Socialism

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    In case you hadn't picked up on this already, the title of my speech tonight is firmly tongue in cheek.

    National Socialism, Finlay? Oh dear...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • KevinHicks,

    This is bollix, has nothing whatsoever to do with science communication and is just an example of how low even our science centres will go to be patsies for the government in order to keep the grant dollars flowing. It does you no credit to report it when it is no better than an emotional outburst you may read in a tabloid.

    Proof positive that universities are no longer the "conscience of society" but are the "conscience of the government"

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 67 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    This is bollix, has nothing whatsoever to do with science communication and is just an example of how low even our science centres will go to be patsies for the government in order to keep the grant dollars flowing. It does you no credit to report it when it is no better than an emotional outburst you may read in a tabloid.

    The Centre for Science Communication is funded by private donation, not by government science grants.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6147 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Torkington,

    Loved it, Finlay. It beggars belief that we're in April on an election year and we still have no idea what the Opposition's policies will be, other than bootcamps for truants. What does Key propose to do about the loss of skilled workers from New Zealand? The accelerating gap between house prices and household incomes? Crime? The balance of payments? Inflation? Will we find out before the election, do you think? Sufficiently far in advance that we can have a meaningful debate over whether they're sound policies before we vote on them?

    I didn't renew my subscription to the Listener. I was on the edge, nostalgic for the old days when both sides would get the sharp edge of the writers' pens, until I saw this cover: "The new psychology of LEADERSHIP - The surprising insights that could help John Key win" with, right under it, "Is David Cunliffe after Helen Clark's job?". It's become a spooge rag for the National Party, with the sternest remark aimed at the National Party being Jane Clifton's recurring "if only they were better able to capitalize on the failures, weakness, and craven excesses of the Labour Party, to show the voters the glorious strength and nobility that the Nats have in them! Shame on them for not being able to do so ... yet!" refrain.

    I'm a pro-market business person. I like capitalism, and I think it can do a lot of good. I'd be prepared to vote for the Nats if they were to simplify tax and employment paperwork so it was easier to run a business, improve the quality of schools and universities so I could easily hire smart people, and so on. I don't even see that. Go to the Nats web site and check out the policy areas: bare! The 2005 policy statements are terse and useless: the IT one doesn't mention broadband, or even "Internet", and under "Economic Development" there's a press release from 2007 that talks about a website the Nats set up to see how the government procurement process works--the opentender.co.nz site doesn't respond today and there's no followup press release talking about what they learned. It's a policy vacuum, not a platform, and it's bloody frustrating.

    Ti Point • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Torkington,

    My apologies for three incoherent thoughts bundled into one comment with no connective tissue. I blame the head cold currently dialling my cognitive faculties down to the level of a Big Brother contestant.

    Ti Point • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Annabel McAleer,

    Paraphrasing John Key speaking at the launch of Green Carbon: "**Climate change isn't a political issue**. Its up to individuals to change. If we all changed our lightbulbs to CFLs we would never need to fire up the Huntly power station."

    For one, that's not actually true. And if that's what he believes about the biggest political issue of the coming decade, I hate to think how his hands-off approach is going to pan out in other areas. Amateur.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    ok - I think this is a PR myth - I do run a small business - how could they make the paper work any simpler? Keeping my check register up to date is more work (it's a spread sheet - extracting the GST numbers takes a couple of minutes a month, same for PAYE - writing the checks takes longer)

    I've done the same in California it was a nightmare

    For those who haven't done this in NZ:

    - PAYE is every month (or fortnight) you have to write the gross income/tax paid/kiwisaver/student loans/child support (all out of your speadsheet of course, in my case most of those are 0) add up the tax paid column (also already in your spread sheet of course) and write a check

    - GST you add up your outgoing money, your incoming money - subtract them and (here's the hard part) divide by 9 then write a check (actually you do the divide by nine first but you get the idea - all of this of course happens in your spreadsheet and all you do is copy down the numbers)

    I can't see how it could be easier unless 'tax simplification' is simply code for 'doing away with taxes altogether' but the people who advocate that have obviously never had to balance the books in a small business

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2031 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    Firstly, thank you for clearly expressing several of the impressions wafting around, ill-defined, in the back of my mind as I have observed NZ political developments over recent months. There also is now a growing gap between the "Myth of Key" and the reality. I look at National today and see many of the same faces that cheerfully backed Brash. How different are they really? Is Key the leader defining National? Or is he the bland mask over the same neo-liberal faith-laden old face? History and recent events where Key has had to later retract his words suggest the latter.

    I tend to abhor unfounded faith and the belief among many that the policies of the 80s must be extended further smacks of the worst sort of religion. Your 'god' has not answered your prayers....so you pray HARDER. If it didn't work yesterday or any other day, maybe if you just believe MORE it will happen today. If the consequences of all this are contrary to expectations, the faith cannot be wrong, you must not be doing it right. ...and so on.

    As for immigration, my eldest daughter finds herself facing employment contracts that are utterly one-sided. Any hours, any time, for as long as required, on any day....for the minimum wage 9if you can coax them to pay that much). You're paid under the table until the "probation" period is over. No wonder young Kiwis are fleeing the country. Where is the future in that? Sure, she could take on a mortgage-sized student loan and be penniless until she's 30. She doesn't see a future there, either.

    Thank you for posting this. My own thoughts and experiences and questions to myself about "stuff" are now more integrated as a result.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    It's become a spooge rag for the National Party

    Thanks for that vivid image, Nat. Perhaps Russell and Fiona can give us some housekeeping tips on how they prevent Tory semen staining their pristine prose.

    Meanwhile, I was fascinated to read "It is based on a series of columns written for the Sunday Star-Times over several years." Ah yes, the fine organ where Matthew 'Salem Witch Trials' Hooten and Chris 'courageous corruption' Trotter continue their battle royale to pen the most stupid political pseudo-analysis ever committed to print.

    Might be interesting to see a 'distinguished communicator' like Macdonald examining the audacity of hype a little closer to where he eats.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Craig, that's kind of a weird argument: 'I do not like the newspaper in which these thoughts have previously appeared, because they publish works by other people with whom I disagree.' Therefore this particular argument is wrong, or...what...? I am confused.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3623 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Incidentally, groove is a term of art in music. You can adjust it in some sequencers - though us trance heads leave that stuff alone, mostly.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Paul: I fully agree. If you can't extract the simple numbers needed to pay your taxes, then your business is financially out of control.

    The US is supposed to be a land of fiscal freedom, but their system is far more complicated - city, state and federal government all have independent tax raising powers and mostly use them.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    It's not really confusing at all. If anyone wants to point at the elevation of style over substance - and the consequent degradation of political discourse -- perhaps Mr. Macdonald could go light on the crass Nazi dog-whistling and turn a little of his bile on his employer.

    I'd personally be happier if Fran O'Sullivan spent a lot less time churning out deeply weird and factually deficient columns, or recycling PR from Beijing and committing actual journalism. Then again, that might require The Herald to stop treating its newsroom as the first port of call for redundancies and budget cuts.

    If there really is a culture of spin and hype, it is really unreasonable to expect the likes of Macdonald to engage in a little honest self-examination around whether they're perpetrators more than victims?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I'm a pro-market business person. I like capitalism, and I think it can do a lot of good. I'd be prepared to vote for the Nats if they were to simplify tax and employment paperwork so it was easier to run a business, improve the quality of schools and universities so I could easily hire smart people, and so on. I don't even see that.

    Nat, I'm of a similar ilk. The party that would get my vote this time around is the one that can lay out a focussed, determined effort to lift NZ economic productivity in order to generate the wealth we need to make this a top class society. To my mind this involves enouraging a solid capital market, delivering national and international infrastructure that makes it easy for businesses to operate, encourage research to drive innovation and provide a talented pool of people to help drive all that. And to my commerce-degree'd-Takapuna-raised-corporate-jobbed-white-boy surprise, that ground (whilst not perfect) has been Labour's for the last 3-4 years (Kiwisaver, business tax cuts, R&D tax cuts, NZT&E, university reform, infrastructure spending etc) and continues to be so.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1717 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I've never been a columnist for a newspaper, but I'd imagine that MacDonald has no control over what other people write for that newspaper, or what they write in it.

    I'd imagine his only option would be, if he found them abhorrent enough, would be to not write for the newspaper at all.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6147 posts Report Reply

  • Eric Olthwaite,

    I look forward to the day when he likens them to the Israelites escaping captivity in a latter-day Egypt - with the subtle implication that he might be just the modern Moses to lead them home, parting the Tasman’s waters in the process.

    Moses didn't lead the Israelites home, he led them into the wilderness for forty years and was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, that prize went to Joshua (Gerry Brownlee?)

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'd imagine his only option would be, if he found them abhorrent enough, would be to not write for the newspaper at all.

    Well, far be it from me to suggest that Finlay become a kept man. I just think there's a little intellectual dishonesty in the room when anyone in the media -- let alone someone who is not only the "Best Overall Columist" according to the Qantas Media Awards, but has an extensive radio, television and print resume -- that he's somehow above and beyond the culture.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Much of National's support derives from anger at Labour, not support for National. For the past two years various right wing third parties have conducted campaigns straight from the Republican Party handbook designed to wedge blue-collar voters from the parties that represent their best interests. In the United States, gun control, gay rights, patriotism and abortion have been used to get the poor turkeys to vote for the GOP Christmas. In New Zealand, hysteria has been whipped up over so-called political correctness and the "nanny state". I think it is interesting that in today's Herald Colin James talks of the "renewal" in Labour. I agree with him. The (very) lazy media narrative of a tired third term government running out of steam while the nation frets for a change simply isn't squaring with the facts on the ground for Labour and its activists. Yet this climate of faux moral outage and false political narrative is largely behind the anointing of Key as the chosen one.

    Helen Clark, early in her leadership, clearly put a line under the 1980's Labour government and shed the baggage of Rogernomics. She promised the electorate that what she campaigned on would be what she delivered and her government has rebuilt some of the lost faith people had in our democracy. Reading Roger Douglas's lovingly and extensively (for a party polling at less than 1% and a has been ex-finance minister to get the column inches he got was extraordinary) reported recent musings and it is clear he is still a fanatic who commands much support in isolated but influential cliques. And that's the rub for Key. Whilst Key may be this new generation of politician you speak of, I see him very much as the prisoner of a media and business elite that is curiously out of step with New Zealand in 2008 and seem stuck in the last century. The ideological isolation of our business and financial elites from the mainstream realities of the consequences of Rogernomics is reflected in their mouthpieces in the media, who seem more concerned that the neo-liberal reforms of the 1980's and 1990's be defended at all costs than they are to discuss the future of New Zealand. John Key is the product of forces fundamentally flowing in different directions in National, between the Bourbons of the Ruth Richardson era and the need to modernise and move the party to the centre. National's - Key's - failure to draw a line in the sand and declare the neo-liberal revolution over means Beige is the colour of necessity for National. To do otherwise would be for John Key to sign his party’s death warrant with the electorate or his death warrant with the unreconstructed neo-liberals like Murray McCully, Wayne Mapp, Judith Collins and Lockward Smith in his own party and the hollow men who fund National.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1738 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Much of National's support derives from anger at Labour, not support for National. For the past two years various right wing third parties have conducted campaigns straight from the Republican Party handbook designed to wedge blue-collar voters from the parties that represent their best interests.

    And perhaps the plebs and the differently hued deserve a media giving them sound information to make judgements about their own interests as they determine them, rather than an ever so patronising commentariat -- still largely white, male and middle-class -- scolding them for being silly peasants who don't know what's good for them?

    Then again, that might require some recognition that journalism isn't two-minute noodles, and obstinate reality doesn't fit comfortably into anyone's preconceptions.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Smith,

    Being a little to the 'right' myself, I have been a little disappointed in John Key's approach to major topics such as 'global warming' and the recent 'Anit-smacking' Bill. There will come a time soon when he needs to stop being 'all things to all men' and actually believe in something that people can grab hold of. If National carrys on like this, it makes people, with simlar views to mine, forced to look at parties like ACT...hmmm.

    Since Jan 2007 • 150 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    There will come a time soon when he needs to stop being 'all things to all men' and actually believe in something that people can grab hold of.

    Well, wait a mo' Andrew -- both Clark and Key gave speeches at the start of the political year. I wasn't excessively impressed with either, but there was enough there to 'grab hold of'. What a shame most of the media couldn't really be arsed -- the preferred angle appeared to be either treat it like some drunken willy-waving exercise (who 'won' and who 'lost' -- advantage Key); or some farcical duel between compulsory military training vs. 'warehousing' students until they were old enough to draw Super (advantage -- Clark). Neither characterisation was quite accurate, but never mind.

    Sorry, but do media outlets actually have editorial staff who, well, exercise editorial judgement or not?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    Craig: Funny to hear you spending so much energy shooting the messenger and so little on debating the possibility that the vacuous nature of John Key's image should be considered.
    Some interesting stuff thankyou Finlay, and not really tongue in cheek.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    More than anything Key's political star has risen at the expense of Helen Clark's. Rightly or wrongly, she is perceived by enough voters now as the figurehead not only of a certain party, but of a style of politics – interfering, overbearing, feminist, socialist, politically correct, the nanny state embodied.

    For whatever reasons, a large enough chunk of the electorate has tired of her. This aversion to her style, personality, gender even, strikes me as irreversible. And while she cannot reinvent herself, others have been busy inventing John Key.

    I can't argue with what you've said but I offer the following prediction:

    The Global Economy will sink further into the mire (another crisis?) by election time and the NZ electorate will get cold feet. "Better not to switch horses mid stream" they say (no Yoda jokes please). Labour will just get enough votes to cobble together another coalition. Key will be shocked and stunned and gone by Xmas. English will prevail.

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Craig: Funny to hear you spending so much energy shooting the messenger and so little on debating the possibility that the vacuous nature of John Key's image should be considered.

    Ian: I think there's plenty of vacuity, egregious spin and outright deception to go round. In a weird way, I kind of admire Helen Clark for choking down a deep (and in many ways perfectly understandable) dislike of the media from the day she became leader of the Opposition; and she surrounded herself with people I'd say are intensely media-savvy and image conscious. Her public persona is as carefully constructed -- and deeply 'vacuous' and calculated -- as Key's or anyone else.

    Now, I'd love to see anyone in the media put their hand up and tell the truth: That the media are entirely complicit in playing this game -- and were when Labour was winning the "poll driven popularity contest" by a country mile. But nobody really seemed to care then, so pardon me if I don't feel that outraged about politicians engaging in "shameless marketing and spin" when the media are quite happy to eat shit and ask for more. Same old same old, as far as I'm concerned. And nothing is even going to start changing until people like Macdonald have the guts to stop pointing the finger and admit they're the problem.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    But to be fair, I Macdonald wrote a column a few months back containing a modest proposal that would lift the quality of political journalism in this country by a considerable margin.

    Finlay's prescription for recruiting and retaining skilled and experienced journos was elegantly simple: Better pay and conditions that make journalism a more attractive career path than being a ministerial spin doctor or public relations flack.

    Nor am I going to be surprised that detailed and thoughtful backgrounders are thin on the ground -- and more alleged news turns out to be lightly fluffed press releases -- after the latest round of budget cuts and redundancies are making it near impossible to do basic reporting properly. Sure doesn't help when you've laid off -- or driven away -- nearly everyone who's been around for more than five minutes.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

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