Posts by Caleb D'Anvers

  • Hard News: The Hager saga continues,

    I’ve said this elsewhere already on the internet, but I don't know if I can phrase the sentiment any better:

    People confidently pronounced the one-term nature of Britain’s spectacularly awful current Tory administration. It’s doing just fine, thanks to a corrupt and compliant media and the stubbornly low information threshold of most voters. Same in New Zealand, Canada, and other places. Corporate-friendly governments have a habit of entrenching themselves, thanks to money’s ability to purchase public opinion. As far as they’re concerned, this is the new dispensation and the rest of us can go hang.

    The Global Financial Crisis has also horribly exposed the paper-tiger nature of all political parties of the mainstream “left.” Since First World labour parties sold out the socialists in the ’30s, they’ve all really been about preserving capitalism. Social welfare, the widening of educational opportunities and healthcare: these policies were always about ensuring that there would be a competent and healthy workforce available for the factories rather than offering another political dispensation. Now that capital has decided that the vast majority of working people in the First World are superfluous—production can always be automated or offshored—social democratic parties are obsolete. Capital no longer needs them and they have spent the last few decades so thoroughly disavowing whatever residual Left ideology they had left that they’re completely unable to offer an alternative.

    To me, the Left isn’t just “in trouble” or having difficulty finding a leader. It’s over. Everywhere. And when a supposedly left administration does get voted in, like Hollande’s in France, it immediately adopts the right-wing agenda it was voted in to replace and destroys its legitimacy straight out of the box. It’s almost like the medium of politics has become so attuned to supporting the right that anything genuinely “left” cannot no longer survive in that environment. The oxygen of change—the very possibility of it—has been sucked out of the system.

    We’re seeing the End of History, politically speaking, and pacé Fukuyama, it’s not liberal democratic capitalism, it’s Putinism. A strong (male) leader in power perpetually, his political opponents gas-lighted by a state-supporting media and driven to the margins. The leader that embodies this newly assertive one-party system of the right just takes different forms according to local culture. In the UK, it’s a born-to-rule blue blood, with a direct line of descent going back to William IV. In Australia and Canada, it’s a defiantly anti-PC “man’s man.” In New Zealand, it’s a smiley guy who hangs out with star-struck rugby players and gives the strong impression that he likes barbecued meat.

    If you want a vision of New Zealand’s political future, imagine JK phoning in a jokey, “apolitical” chat session on News Talk ZB. Forever.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Sunlight Resistance, in reply to Fran O'Sullivan,

    I think it’s a matter of who is doing the releasing of official documents and why, Fran. Snowden released files that governments didn’t want released. That in itself says something about their content – that there’s something there they didn’t want the public to see. There’s a different power dynamic at work when governments themselves do the releasing, however.

    I can't help thinking that the arguments about the causes of the First World War made in the conflict’s immediate aftermath provide an analogy here. Now, all the belligerent powers were extremely anxious to avoid being tarnished with war guilt, so in the years after 1918 they released huge tranches of their previously secret official documents to prove that other states were at fault. But it’s pretty clear that those publications weren’t neutral events: what was released was carefully edited to provide evidence for one side of the story only. The words of a German historian are apposite here: “whenever contemporary documents are being published, one does well to suspect political ends” (quoted in Wilson, ed., Forging the Collective Memory: Government and International Historians through Two World Wars, Providence, RI, 1996, p. 11).

    As the historian Keith Wilson puts it (op. cit., p. 2): “governments are well aware of the fact that both the withholding and the releasing of archive material gives them scope for ‘historical engineering’”. Releases like those Key made are political and we should be intensely suspicious of governments’ underlying motives when they perform such acts. So I would say, no: no hypocrisy. Snowden has his own politics, yes, but Key’s declassification is no less politically motivated and almost certainly hides much more of the truth than it reveals.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Sunlight Resistance, in reply to Creon Upton,

    I think Jon Stewart is a better model.

    I think it's interesting in retrospect that one of the first consequences of reduced TVNZ funding under the new National government in 2008 was the permanent cancellation of Eating Media Lunch. It was almost like the Key administration and actually incisive political satire couldn't co-exist.

    What I think we're seeing here in the public's apparent refusal to take allegations of corruption seriously is a taste for authoritarianism. (Which may well be the same thing as the postmodern condition of the NZ voter Creon Upton diagnoses above.) Certain Left commentators initially didn't want to believe the indications that #MoT and #DirtyPolitics actually increased support for the governing party, but I think it's clear now that they did. Some have interpreted that as a cack-handed symptom of New Zealanders' inherent taste for fairness -- a desire to defend a beloved political brand that voters believed was being attacked unfairly. I don't think it's that, exactly. I'm reminded of the kinds of conversations that used to unfurl around back porches in the '90s when staying at certain family members' houses and the drink had been flowing all night. At some point, these family members (now to a man/woman all staunch Key supporters) would start talking about Maori and how they had too many rights and the poor and how they had too much money. But the complaints wouldn't stop there. Eventually -- and this would happen every time -- someone would opine that it was a pity Maori were still around. And criminals -- why can't we just shoot them? Much cheaper than building prisons, surely. Lots of New Zealanders talk like that when they think no one else is listening. They want a firm hand. An authoritarian leader who will hurt people. (The right people, people weaker and more powerless than them.) So the revelations that the government is actually prepared to bully and shut people down, well -- they like a bit of that. Finally, they say, someone's prepared to walk the walk.

    What a large proportion of New Zealanders want, in other words, isn't 'fairness', it's a war against the weak.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Legal Beagle: Election 2014: The Special…, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    let us as a country get moving, there is plenty to do

    And no one even think about taking a tea break!

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Decision 2014: Where to watch…, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Your comparison doesn't stand up, Craig.

    We now know from documentary evidence that media attack lines on the Left are directed and coordinated by the Nats and their funders. Those documents reveal only a tiny part of the story, from one narrow time slice, and presumably this has been going on for much longer. This is in no way comparable to the 2002 result for National, for which no corresponding evidence of media collusion exists.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Time to Vote, in reply to bmk,

    Seriously, what don’t people like about Cunliffe? He’s (apparently) literate? Occasionally speaks in complete sentences? Doesn’t have John Key’s face?

    For me, though, this is making the decision to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK and move on later this year much easier to make. What Mark Taslov says in the other thread about the 700,000 New Zealanders who have left the country really resonates. Why are New Zealanders so politically naive? So easily lied to? It can’t just be the media, surely?

    Ah well, I guess if I ever get homesick, I can always Google pictures of Wellington seascapes. :/

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Time to Vote,

    The number of Labour list MPs is dropping lower and lower. Who’s going to miss out? Jacinda?

    Yeah. This is looking like our very own version of the 2004 US presidential elections. Keep the voters distracted, keep them ignorant, don't let them get a sight of the real issues, and they'll happily vote for corruption and malfeasance. I bet the Nats and their loyal retainers in the media are loving this.

    Also: where's the Green party vote?

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Decision 2014: Where to watch…,

    The advance votes look very strongly Blue. Can we assume that early voters tend to skew elderly or more financially secure and are therefore unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole? Because if they are representative, this is looking a bit bleak for the Left.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Time to Vote,

    This is my 8th election and I’ll be voting on the day like I have on the last 6. My first, in 1993, I really couldn’t wait and so cast a special vote a day early on a whim.

    My first election since 1993 I won't be able to vote, thanks to the 3-year rule. Which is ironic, since I don't think I've cared as much about an election since maybe 1999. Do us proud, NZ. We'll be watching.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Vision and dumbassery, in reply to WH,

    how is it that a US journalist can speak more intelligently about our political landscape than our own media personalities? At the end of the day, Patrick Gower is still on TV and it does not appear to be satire.

    Well, it's pretty obvious how that happens. New Zealand these days has a branch office economy. It's all owned offshore and the decisions are made elsewhere, by someone else. The point of the staff in the branch office is to implement those decisions without rocking the boat or doing anything the owners wouldn't sign off on. So the actual job of a local journalist is precisely not to do the kind of thing Greenwald is able to do. Greenwald's from an entirely different economy altogether and doesn't answer to head office, exactly. Patrick Gower, on the other hand, is on TV because he has a proven track record of being vapid, incurious, and obedient to the diktats of power, and this is his real job. To prevent actual, independent journalism happening in his stead. Chomsky put it best, almost 20 years ago:

    When you critique the media ... they get very angry. They say, quite correctly, "nobody ever tells me what to write. I write anything I like. All this business about pressures and constraints is nonsense because I’m never under any pressure." Which is completely true, but the point is that they wouldn’t be there unless they had already demonstrated that nobody has to tell them what to write because they are going say the right thing. If they had started off at the Metro desk ... and had pursued the wrong kind of stories, they never would have made it to the positions where they can now say anything they like ... They have been through the socialization system.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

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