Written By: - Date published: 7:09 am, August 2nd, 2015 - 39 comments
Categories: accountability, class war, journalism - Tags: , , ,

An excellent piece by Graham Adams – well worth reading the whole thing in Metro, but here are some extracts:

How bizarre

Is New Zealand becoming the Absurdistan of the South Pacific? Graham Adams reflects on the slow unravelling of a small democracy.

Absurdistan was first used in English in the Spectator in 1989, to describe the bizarre life of Czechs in Czechoslovakia. … Lately, I have begun to feel much the same about New Zealand – that it is becoming an Absurdistan: an odd little South Pacific nation where many things have stopped making sense to many of its citizens, even those normally enthusiastic about its idiosyncratic traits and national character, which has long been marked by tolerance, egalitarianism, a sense of fair play and a willingness to protest against injustice and inequality.

Perhaps what brought it to a head was the strange election in 2014 that saw voters mightily indignant that a trio of famous foreigners came to warn us (in person or by videolink) that we were being spied on by security organisations. Instead of being grateful, many were outraged Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange were meddling in our domestic affairs.

Or perhaps it was the Dance of the Seven Hats later performed by John Key in Parliament, where he claimed to be several people at once and accountable to no one when Opposition politicians wanted to know what contact he’d had with blogger Cameron Slater. It’s possible this approach would go down well in Colombia or Argentina, where there is a tradition of magic realism, but New Zealanders are known to be a nation of pragmatists. However, in Absurd­istan you can assert anything you like, apparently, and make it true.

Increasingly, we are asked to believe a multitude of things we suspect (and sometimes know) to be untrue. These include: there is no bubble in the Auckland housing market; overseas Chinese buyers are not pushing up house prices; anyone can benefit from a university education; education standards are not falling; the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be good for us (but we can’t be told what’s in it, even though 600 mostly business representatives in the US get to examine its proposals); nothing can be done about overseas tourists driving on the wrong side of the road and killing themselves and us; voluntary euthanasia can’t be adopted as a government measure because it is too “divisive” (even though more than 70 per cent of us support it in opinion polls).

Something over the past few decades has happened to New Zealand to dull our spirit for protest and political reform and engagement in our democratic process. … part of the explanation no doubt lies in the news media’s willingness to trivialise important news and indulge in what Britain’s Daily Telegraph recently described as a tendency to prefer “froth to facts; nit-picking to policy”. It doesn’t help that newsroom staff numbers have been repeatedly slashed, with senior journalists laid off in favour of cheaper juniors (and many good journalists being lured into better­-paid PR), with an inevitable drop in editorial stan­dards, including human-interest stories too often replacing analysis. There is also the relentless, senseless noise from parts of the mass media, including by “personalities” such as Mike Hosking, who brings to mind those intellectuals Lenin dubbed “useful idiots”. …

Go read the full article for plenty more!

39 comments on “Absurdistan”

  1. Rodel 1

    My favourite expressions in Graham Anderson’s article are:
    ‘useful idiots’
    ‘ distinctions in John Key’s mind as suddenly wondrously elastic’

    A good read. Thanks.

  2. les 2

    its now reality T.V politics endorsed and promoted by the MSM.

  3. Charles 3

    Metro is geared towards a certain type of mind/socio-economic group. In order not to blow a foo-foo valve, I have to remember it’s just that kind of magazine, with all that it entails. Not only does his “Cuba doesn’t make sense to tourists!” spell it out in the opening paragraph, but his unexamined list of “…a multitude of things we suspect (and sometimes know) to be untrue…” demonstrates his lack of logical/critical reasoning/ ability and the worldview he holds and promotes. If he was a general commenter here, I wouldn’t bother saying anything about it. Hell, my opinions are as crazy as his but in the alternate extreme. For someone so against “mantras” and ambiguous waffle, he sure lays out a few good kilos of it himself – failing (for whatever reason) to distinguish between (situational) truth and his (and his type) preferences.

    If he wanted to prove the dominant voice/mindset in NZ media/society is absurd, he did it via self-parody. It reminds me of the last Metro article I read, where a writer interviewed his lawnmower and dreamt of picking up litter in the local mangrove estuary. I guess I’m just not well-heeled enough to appreciate the subtle “social conscience” of such allegories.

    So my question is, how do I get a good paying side-line job writing tripe/opinion like his for a well-known magazine? Sounds like fun.

  4. Wayne 4

    No doubt this is how the Hard Left views New Zealand. The clues being the anti-TPP rant and the comments on ISIS.

    Of course in the eyes of the Hard Left it must be really weird that we rank so highly in just about every international indicie around corruption, quality of government, and most important of all quality of life. Most of the measures have New Zealand in the top ten.

    Of course it could be that the Key govt is so cunning that it has successfully perpetrated a giant con, not just on centre-right voters, but on the rest of the world as well.

    • Clemgeopin 4.1

      “Of course in the eyes of the Hard Left it must be really weird that we rank so highly in just about every international indicie around corruption, quality of government, and most important of all quality of life.”

      What do you have to say about the police decision not to prosecute Slater in relation to his behaviour regarding the Labour party website? Do you think that it was not a criminal misdemeanor?

      • hoom 4.1.1

        Those indexes are dependent primarily on News coverage and actual Police prosecutions.

        This means those indexes are incapable of detecting a Dirty media & Police who don’t prosecute with apparent political bias favouring one side of the political scale.

        I do expect those indexes to show rapid reduction of NZ ranking over the next few years though & I believe we already started to slip in most recent releases.

    • freedom 4.2

      “The clues being the anti-TPP rant and the comments on ISIS.”

      Are you suggesting the ISIS mess is not as complicated as the situation on the ground appears to be?
      Are you suggesting Saudi money is not funding ISIS?
      Are you suggesting ISIS did not arise from the detritus of other countries’ disruptive foreign [military] policy in the region? Policies that for over a century have been largely driven by a greed for oil reserves and shrouded by the belief it is the unquestionable responsibility [&the right] of the west to preserve strategic trade and military control of the area?

      More importantly though…
      Are you attempting to promote some perverse idea that people opposing the TPPA are somehow supportive of ISIS?

      As for “Most of the measures have New Zealand in the top ten.” well in case you forgot, we didn’t get those standings by selling out our people every chance we got. If you haven’t noticed we are slowly losing ground in most of the indices that you put so much stake in.

    • Lanthanide 4.3

      Have you noticed that on stuff.co.nz (and I assume theherald.co.nz) the overwhelming majority of comments on any TPPA story have been against the TPPA?

      Do you think the commentators on those sites represent left-wing NZ, or the mainstream every-day NZer? Because there are certainly a lot of stories on there where the majority of comments would fall squarely on the right of the spectrum of comments here at The Standard.

    • RedBaronCV 4.4

      Okay Wayne according to you we are a minority with severely deluded views about everything you hold dear. ( or James Shaw’s speech must have struck a positive note with people).
      Oh and about TPPA – we are told by the leader that ” nothing to fear nothing to hide” so where are the agreement details again?

      So remind me why do you want to come here to hang out with us?
      Why don’t you want to be with those who think you are great? Or once again is this a job for you? Are you being paid to be here and if so how much and by whom?

      • Lanthanide 4.4.1

        “Or once again is this a job for you? Are you being paid to be here and if so how much and by whom?”

        Ah, this old tired chestnut. I’m pretty confident that 99 times out of a 100 that this accusation is made, the person being accused of being a paid shill, is simply expressing their own opinion for their own purposes and there’s no employment going on at all.

        Basically it’s a form of arrogance – our website is so important, that the opposition is *paid* to come and spread their lies and sow dissent!

        In NZ it is even more woeful a claim to make, because clearly anyone on the right who was willing to spend money to get their own perspective out into the blogosphere, would be paying Whale Oil to do it (and we know that many have).

        • RedBaronCV

          I’m sure most of us who do come on here are not paid and are just expressing an opinion sometimes for and sometimes against and sometimes just discussing.
          But we have some people who appear here the minute certain topics are raised, whose views are repeated without any attempt to qualify or really engage in the discussion ( maybe trying out certain spinlines? to see the reactions engendered – using the site as lab rats essentially) but who also promote the view that this site is a tiny minority – which may be correct – do we really know?

          But the point is – that the attitudes and comments feel discontinuous – either TS is small and insignificant, so why bother to comment at all in a relatively ideas hostile enviroment or there is some other less obvious agenda. ( money being one of them). And yes of course WO takes paid content but why confine paid discussion only to that site? Bear in mind that Wayne has a well paid day job so why bother with this site?

          But I take you point maybe I should have asked – what is the hidden agenda ? Not whether there is payment involved.

          • Lanthanide

            I don’t think there has to be a ‘hidden agenda’ either.

            • RedBaronCV

              I struggle with the idea the an avowed right winger comes over here out of the goodness of his heart to help a bunch of people -whom he seems as generally deluded- find a better intellectual place.

              • Lanthanide

                “I struggle with the idea the an avowed right winger comes over here out of the goodness of his heart to help a bunch of people -whom he seems as generally deluded- find a better intellectual place.”

                I agree, because that would be an agenda.

                I expect people come here to argue and have fun. Some might be to try and expose themselves to other opinions.

                I doubt (m)any of them are coming here with an expectation that they’re going to change other people’s opinions, or sway their opinions in a particular way.

                • RedBaronCV

                  “I doubt (m)any of them are coming here with an expectation that they’re going to change other people’s opinions, or sway their opinions in a particular way.”

                  Which brings me back to the original point – why does he come here?

                  What is the agenda?

                  • I suspect with Wayne it’s because he reads the standard sometimes, and occasionally he thinks “God dammit!! They’re wrong! And I’m going to tell them why!!

                    Which is pretty much like the rest of us.

                    I am glad he comments here. It’s good to have opposing viewpoints (and oblique ones as well!).

                    One thing that often surprises me though, is the shallowness of his arguments and dearth of evidence to support them.
                    But then again, he was minister in a National government so the bar is pretty low 😯

                • ianmac

                  I strongly suspect that some “stirrers” do so because they do get a kick out of throwing molotov cocktails into the discussion and then watch the angry reaction. Rather fun I expect. Puckish Rogue for example has a sense of humour lurking and I can almost hear his chuckle. So does Matthew Hooten though he usually ignores the taunts and insults. Sometimes genuine commentary but he must be amused out the outbursts.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.5

      Of course in the eyes of the Hard Left it must be really weird that we rank so highly in just about every international indicie around corruption, quality of government, and most important of all quality of life.

      Measured as perceptions – perceptions that are driven by a biased MSM and thus not to be taken as truth.

      • Anno1701 4.5.1

        +100 to this !

        its all about “perception” when these indices are put together

        quite often the “quality of life” index is based on the opinions of ex-pats living in said country , hardly your average citizens !

    • What do you mean by hard left?

      My understanding of that term would describe the folks at Redline, but not any of the current political parties in power.

      New Zealand politics run from Far Right (pure laissez faire) in the form of ACT (Nationals very own political sock puppet) through to the Centre Left (Social democrat) of the Greens.

      If you could be so kind as to explain why your understanding of that term differs so much from what it actually means?
      It just looks like you are trying to create an insult by using a term which means one thing to describe something it is not.

      • swordfish 4.6.1

        “What do you mean by hard left ?”

        Wayne’s just very lazily employing the sort of banal rhetorical device much favoured by various Right-leaning media commentators like Jane Clifton, Hosking, Ralston, Leighton Smith etc

        Anyone even remotely to the Left of Phil Goff is instantly labelled “Hard Left” – as in cold, unfeeling, robotic, extreme, unreasonable, dogmatic, doctrinaire.

        Normally, I’d assume that former Cabinet Ministers like Wayne wouldn’t be quite so dishonest or intellectually-lazy. But, then again,…….how to account for Paula Bennett ?

        • Colonial Viper

          Wayne does seem to be letting himself down here.

          John Michael Greer contends that a major problem with the western elite now is the “senility” of their leadership. Basically, an inability to connect with reality and a preference to immerse themselves in their own imaginary constructs.

        • Naturesong

          It’d be nice to have a couple of Tony Benn’s in parliament though wouldn’t it.

          Make for far more compelling viewing of question time I reckon.

    • emergency mike 4.7

      Wayne, you’d be even more persuasive if you capitalized all the letters in HARD LEFT. Use the caps lock it’s easy.

    • newsense 4.8

      Nothing more hard left than John Roughan and Fran O’Sullivan. And Metro, the magazine of Auckland’s affluenza.

      Wheels coming off. Like McCully talking about 5th columnists all those years ago.

    • newsense 4.9

      Also have talked recently to a centre right voter who I don’t think would ever vote Labour who has a very large sense of betrayal about us not having any reporting or checks on foreign ownership. Used the words ‘I trusted Mr Key’. First time I’ve seen them remotely perturbed about politics.

      • Tracey 4.9.1

        cue a vote for NZF

        • newsense

          A loss of innocence, but I think in this case that if they have lost so much faith (and I don’t think they have quite) that they would rather not vote

    • Tracey 4.10

      Don’t be bitter Wayne.

  5. red-blooded 5

    Hey, those rankings aren’t just a product of the last few wondrous years, with our amazing Mr Key. NZ has ranked highly in those lists for decades, spanning both National and Labour led governments. Having said that, we also rank highly in domestic abuse rates (5th in the OECD), levels of imprisonment, obesity, murder rates… Perhaps all of these should also be attributed to the inspiring leadership of the current government?

    In fact, of course, these sorts of complex problems also span across governments of different leanings (although it’s worth noting that many of them are exacerbated by increasing levels of inequality, which as we know is also a measure that NZ loses out by scoring highly in…). As I understand it, inequality rose sharply from the late ’80s on, dipped with the intervention of Working For Families, but is now rising again, especially when the impact of housing costs are factored in.


  6. Pat 6

    …in addition the corruption index is a measure of the perception of,not demonstrated acts of …I would bet a couple of bottles of plonk to a tug on a ponytail that the domestic perception of corruption over the life of this current government has changed significantly…and not for the better

  7. newsense 7

    Also I do think it is absurd to compare Julie Christie and Goebbels.


    Goebbels was elected.
    Also hated cooking shows, a-not-commonly known fun fact.

    (I of course couldn’t ever tell this joke. Frankie Boyle of NZ where are you?)

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