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Blogs and Activism

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, October 26th, 2016 - 63 comments
Categories: activism, blogs, uncategorized - Tags: ,

For me, internet based activism is primarily about shifting people’s thoughts and perceptions. Done well, people can find themselves asking new questions and entertaining new ideas. Done badly, people become entrenched and incurious.

Good activism always presents a pathway or avenue to walk down, or a door to walk through. Bad activism slams people and doors; burns bridges and leaves activists and their potential audience (which is where any future fellow traveller must come from) isolated and nursing antagonisms.

Good activism is always a two way street – a process of give and take – where the activist is as open to change as they imagine those they are out to influence are. Without that openness, the dynamic can, and often does, quickly become characterised by an off-putting air of superiority, or worse, an authoritarian call for unity – a subjective insistence that this way is the only way and that others must and will be choppethed up and stompethed down if they can’t see the self evident truth of…

Actually, there is no such thing as ‘good’ activism and ‘bad’ activism. What I have labelled as ‘bad’ activism above, isn’t activism at all but rather the antithesis of activism. And beyond that, I don’t readily know or really care what they should be called, or what they are.

Activism can only ever be more effective or less effective. In either case, doors are open, and paths presented. The only difference would be that the door isn’t opened as wide in one scenario as it is in the other – or the path isn’t as broad, as inviting, or as obvious in one as in the other.

Putting the above into a real world and possibly familiar context – if anyone was wanting to convince me of the merits of veganism, they wouldn’t get very far if all they did was bang on about how meat was murder and by extension insinuate that my moral compass was no better than that of a murderer, would they? Far better to extol the culinary delights of some vegan foods, or maybe point to some personal saving or gain, or whatever…anything that might give me a reason to ‘buy in’ – to engage or care.

Whatever the progress of any subsequent exchange, or whatever the result of any ensuing argument or debate, the alternative, of just repeatedly and self-righteously kicking me in my non-vegan nuts wouldn’t amount to any kind of activism at all and would likely only result in any potential worlds of interaction and learning being lit up by the flames of burning bridges.

And, in spite of and in full knowledge of that, some might walk way from ‘dishing it out’ to others feeling vindicated and righteous and a whole lot more determined to be tough, to ‘never give an inch’, and to ‘tell it to the bastards like it is’ etc, etc.

Or then again they might walk away feeling empowered and purposeful, reflecting on the progress to date of eliminating, neutralising or ostracising any potential source of discord from their idea of a perfect, but unachievable world of unity.

But on a good day, just maybe they’d reflect on what exactly it was they had achieved and what it was they hoped to achieve and conclude that it wasn’t really all that flash, or that what they hoped to achieve could only ever amount to dystopia. And maybe then, they’d decide that activism was a thing worth exploring and getting to grips with instead.

And imagine!

A disparate group of activists bringing their different ideas and thoughts and their spread of knowledge to a blog, and that blog becoming popular and, among other things, a go-to source for decent information and a place of inspiration, new ideas and challenging thoughts…

Aye. Dreaming.

But then, it’s a good dream, and one well worth nurturing.

63 comments on “Blogs and Activism ”

  1. TheExtremist 1

    “For me, internet based activism is primarily about shifting people’s thoughts and perceptions.”


  2. esoteric pineapples 2

    Some people argue that blogs etc are basically preaching to the converted but I think one of their effects is a sense of empowerment. Back in the early days of this government I regularly thought what the government was doing was wrong but there was nothing in the mainstream media saying what I thought which gave me a sense of isolation. Now I feel like I am part of a movement and amongst kindred souls. There is a reason that all authoritarian governments try to shut down social media. That alone, shows its power for strengthening movements. I also find my favourite blogs a short cut to what is going on that day. No need to trawl through Stuff or the NZ Herald site.

    • weka 2.1

      Me too – I learn from debating, it helps me think through my own ideas, and it definitely helps me to be around other people who are thinking things through politically. Ditto kindred souls where our politics match. And I like getting my news from here.

    • b waghorn 2.2

      ”basically preaching to the converted”
      I can only talk from my own experience coming to this blog , and it is this.
      my only beef with national two years ago was their filthy tactics to gain and maintain power, I would have said i was the center voter.
      While i’m not quite at the lets destroy capitalism and start again i’m very open to ideas of how we reboot the system.
      I’ve also changed from a ranting nutter when pushing ideas around this governments ideas to one of trying to frame things in a non confrontational way so they can draw there own ideas. (pretty much what the guts of bill is getting at)

  3. Siobhan 3

    The point of Blogs..like The Standard..well, its excellent in terms of not just preaching to the converted, as Lynn has explained to me in no uncertain terms it is NOT a Left Wing blog, so I guess that’s its strength, its different things to different people….where else can you go to find like minded souls, intelligent commentary on day to day news and events…and get called a ‘gormless idiot’ by the moderator.
    In that respect its a great place to hone your arguments…beats the usual awkward arguments at the family Christmas.
    Not nearly as fun as ‘posting bills’, but we won’t get into that….

    • Bill 3.1

      I really miss poster runs….

    • jcena 3.2

      WGS is full of shit (as usual). This IS a left wing blog as you know.

      • lprent 3.2.2

        The blog is what the About states.

        What’s your political ‘angle’?

        We come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement and we hope that perspective will come through strongly as you read the blog.

        Back in 2007, that was as close as authors of the day could probably agree. I suspect that these days it is about as close as the authors of today might agree. I’d add that there is a whole lot of green tinge in there as well both back in 2007 and now.

        Now if you delve into the history of the labour movement, what you will find is a vast range of opinions about what is relevant both in the period and for the future. It can go from everything from authoritarian to anarchistic. From chasing immediate benefits to chasing benefits for unborn grandchildren. From the knurled hands of workers to the immaculately groomed hands of socialites.

        It has also spanned a wide range of the political, social, and even the religious spectrum, and still does. Generally it leans left. But not always. Which is why you find that we tolerate a lot of crap from a range of people provided they can damn-well argue their position.

        So as Siobhan alludes to, part of my general purpose in providing tech, protective cover and anti-social support for this site is to use my talents. That is to make sure that both people have a site and that they can expect to have me clearly express my opinion if I think that they are trying to exclude anyone. Which is what the “robust debate” is about in the policy.

        After spending about 35 years around various versions of the net and more than 2 decades voluntarily helping out Labour, I prefer to be over-reactive and rather blunt. Actually usually sarcastic, caustic, and excessively over informed. It helps in sorting out those who can survive the net at their current stage in life from those who cannot (and who should go back to cat movies on facebook). Just be thankful that I have been pretty busy for the real world for a few years…

        Sure the moderators do control the site, but it is pretty much restricted by the policy to anyone disrupting the arguments of others on the site. They don’t try to constrain the debate. They mainly try to make sure that it doesn’t become boring, repetitive, lazy and ill-informed. And I and some of the other more experienced and largely inactive mods tend to keep an eye on the debates to help out when we can be bothered.

      • left_forward 3.2.3

        Not sure who you are referring to or why you thought it relevant, but useful illustration of Bills’s point about non activism – commentary that has no direction – a timely example of non activism.

  4. Anno1701 4

    IMO one of the reasons why real activism is dying

    ( excluding the NAP of course !)

    easier just to stay at home and red about , maybe click like if your really worked up !!!

    • Richard Rawshark 4.1

      Hmm real activism is alive and kicking, it just takes longer for the boiler to get to pressure AMO.

      and if they get 3 more, well I won’t financially survive I have nothing to lose, look out.

      • james 4.1.1

        If you need a change in government to financially survive – exactly what changes have Labour guaranteed they will bring in that will “keep you afloat”?

        • weka

          A whole range of things in fact, but your question is off topic and diversionary.

        • Richard Rawshark

          When you were posting on kiwibiker..,

          and you support National? are you a Black Powderpuff?

          Only Bikers I know that like National were Muldoons BP’s.

          • james

            I know you like to generalise, but I know many bikers – none of which would vote labour.

            Not a black “powderpuff” – whatever the hell that is.

            Just a normal bloke, who happens to like bikes as well.

    • Siobhan 4.2

      Don’t think that..real activism is alive, its just not reported in the Media. Even following a comparatively limited American source of News like ‘Democracy Now’, its amazing the number of protests and strikes and ‘actions’ that go unreported.

      NZ, well, maybe not so much, but then apart from a few highlights, anti apartheid, anti nuclear, we are usually fairly mild, and anyway, we are all at home fussing over our houses and kitchen renovations….wait for a housing price crash…then we might see some action.

      • Anno1701 4.2.1

        IMO it will take actual 3 day empty stomaches to get a rise out of Kiwis

        well that or no rugby …..

    • Bill 4.3

      I think there has been a problem in acknowledging the advantages and limitations of internet based activism and traditional modes of activism.

      Where blogs can be useful is in the promotion of conversations and in offering up counter narratives or alternative views to reasonably large and diverse audiences. They can do that much better and way more consistently or continuously than the likes of weekly meetings or monthly publications. Actually, I’d suggest that meetings, as traditionally understood and structured, are woeful environments for facilitating discussion or dialogue.

      Rather than blaming on-line activity for the demise of off-line activity, I’d suggest the problem lies with people in the off-line world resisting attempts to emulate the inclusive and participatory nature of on-line worlds.

      Who wants to go to some pre-organised march up the street (again) to, at the end of it, listen to the same old people spouting the same old lines at them (again) before going off home to the very same atomized situation as before (again)?

  5. ropata 5

    Thanks Bill, timely and thoughtful. Humans are prone to tribalism and “othering” people or groups that think differently (I am guilty of it too). This blog can be cool but also hostile at times, National voters are not the enemy…

  6. Adrian Thornton 6

    Maybe this should be on open mike…but it relates to peoples fear of being politically active..http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/85752421/Police-admit-using-checkpoint-to-target-euthanasia-meeting-attendees

    It doesn’t matter where you sit on this issue, if police think they can set up a road block to check on people attending a public meeting you have to assume they keep an eye on Blogs.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      I’ve always assumed that they do and that they keep checks on the people using them.

    • james 6.2

      Im am sure that they do keep an eye on blogs.

      And in some cases – if people are talking about illegal activities then the police are doing the right thing if they are able to stop them.

      Speaking from experience – when I used to post on Kiwibiker – there was a raid on a lot of the Thursday night ride guys. Much pain and suffering.

      In fairness – now I look back at it – it was good police work.

      However when it comes to things like euthanasia – I really just don’t know what to think. Its such a complex issue and I am fortunate not to had it in my life – so I will leave specific commenting on that to those who can.

      • Chris 6.2.1

        So for you, whether what the cops did in this case is a flagrant disregard for basic rights, or good police work, comes down to your view of euthanasia? Wow.

        • Bob

          Look at it this way, lets say these people were at a class on ‘how to grow dope’, should the police do something to track these people? What the people attending are doing isn’t directly illegal, but if they act on what is being spoken about, that is.
          It doesn’t come down to your view on the matter, it comes down to the current laws in this country which the Police are there to uphold.

          I think the way the Police went about it in this case (the meeting on euthanasia) was the wrong way to do it, but I don’t entirely disagree with their motives for doing it, especially if they are worried that someone attending was looking to take the discussion a step further.

          • Robert Guyton

            People reading books on horticulture at the public library should be stopped on the way home, have their details recorded and be eye-balled by the police, ’cause, you know, cannabis growing.

            • Bob

              Yes, that’s what I said, “people reading books on horticulture at the public library”. Either learn to read, “people were at a class on ‘how to grow dope’” or fuck off

          • Chris

            Sure, but James wasn’t judging the behaviour of the police on whether the attendees were discussing the possibility of committing an offence. He was judging the police behaviour on his own moral views about euthanasia.

            • james

              to clarify – ” He was judging the police behaviour on his own moral views about euthanasia”

              I have no moral view on this. Its not something I have a view on. I can see both sides and have no reason to judge one way or the other.

              • Stuart Munro

                If you could see both sides you wouldn’t be visiting your relentless rightwing nutjobbery on a leftwing site.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    It would be good to see some constructive activism – but websites have multiple functions – providing news, commentary and moral support are also important.

    The flaming annoys some people – but it may a necessary function. Think of trolls as hecklers at a meeting – if they are allowed to dominate, issues will not be explored much less debated and resolved. Other functions besides activism are also derailed by this.

    Discussion can get pretty heated among the left without the ‘contribution’ of insincere far right spokestrolls.

    • weka 7.1

      Arguing back against inflammatory comments also gives people, including those reading from the sidelines, a chance to hear alternative narratives to the one being trotted out by the flamer. Or not even flaming but just RW ideas.

      The problem is when that becomes the dominant way of being and where it takes up all the space. I think we get that wrong too much here, but we are a group of people that like arguing (myself included).

      • Richard Rawshark 7.1.1

        In a better society one would be heard proportionately and activism wouldn’t be nesc ness nesarsarilt… required.

      • Scott 7.1.2

        Don’t fear RW ideas Weka, welcome them. Remember, this isn’t a LW blog after all.

        I like discussing topics that interest me on here. Usually I have a different perspective from the posters or commenters, but through some of the discussions I learn more about my own perspective as well as more about theirs. That is something you don’t really get discussing things with the like minded.

        For my two cents though “discussion” on here too frequently degenerates into abuse, and does so quickly.

        Fair minded moderation is the key to fostering real discussion.

      • Stuart Munro 7.1.3

        There is another problem, that may partially explain the preference many on here have for at times being outspoken to the point of offensiveness, and that is that politics (except under a non-performing kleptocracy like Key’s) deals with the frustrations of individuals who may not have done the ekphrasic analysis to explain the heart of problems. Ranting is one way to surface issues that more measured or considered writing can obscure.

        The Greeks, you will remember, didn’t intend that rhetoric merely be used to enhance lying, the way Key uses it, but to make matters plain. A good recent example might be Elizabeth Warren’s:

        “We nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever,”

        It frames the problem and points to a solution.

    • Groundhog 7.2

      The problem with what you’re saying is how you define ‘troll’. On balance I think TS gets it about right, but there can be a fine line between outing a genuine ‘troll’ and shutting down debate because you don’t like what someone writes.

  8. Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 8

    The Standard has been good for me – it has helped focus my ideas in so many areas – not that I necessarily agree with everyone (on the left) who posts here.

    But what I want to see it a transition from posting to real effort to get rid of this appalling government. From passive to active.

    I worked to get John Minto elected mayor of ChCh – always a long ask, but I felt the need to be active in pursuit of a left-wing sort of thing. I shall join either Labour or Greens next year to do something active to change the government.

    But I would like to see all the posters here on the Standard make the same commitment – though I am sure many of you are far more active than myself.

    All the ranting and raving about how bad Key and his gang are is just so much hot air if we get another three disastrous years of the Nats!

    • To me, “disaster” means, “the stars fall from the sky”, as in “dis” – “aster (star). That’s a serious occurrence, disaster, stars plunging, falling from the sky – serious trouble. . Distress, means, (to me) “dis” “tress”, you know, “tresses” as in, hair. You lose your hair when you are distressed. Dismantle means to remove your cloak (mantle) from your shoulders… anyway, let’s not over-egg that pudding. The Key government isn’t a “disaster” it’s just a degradation, an erosion of what we had. Treating it as rust is a better approach, I reckon, than calling it the End of Days. It ain’t.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 8.1.1

        How to galvanise public opinion? The concept of ‘fairness’, backed by clear local examples of significant electoral unfairness (e.g. Social Credit’s under-representation in parliament), helped MMP across the threshold against considerable resistance from the deeply pocketed.

        Rust never sleeps – best to treat it while there’s still some iron underneath. Our governors continue to favour corporate welfare over socioeconomic equality and egalitarianism – hope it’s not too late to leverage fairness one more time.

      • Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 8.1.2

        In terms of semantics, you are probably right, Robert. Though, with rapid climate change galloping ever faster towards us, with the very real possibility of human extinction not so far away in the future, another three years of the Nats will be, if not a disaster, then something approaching it.
        Not that this country could do anything material to reverse the trend of the global economy, but at least, we could show the way for others not to follow.

      • Stuart Munro 8.1.3

        The Key kleptocracy certainly rates as a disaster to those living in cars, whose children are in poverty, or who are obliged to deal with the draconian nightmare of WINZ. In the past there was a degree of social mobility through work. Key has slammed that door and welded it shut.

  9. Muttonbird 9

    This is what Andrew Little sent to me today.

    Dear Matt,
    A decent job, money in your pocket at the end of the week, a warm, dry home, a good school for your kids, and a healthcare system that’s there when you need it.
    For me, these things are the building blocks of the Kiwi dream. But under National, they’re slipping away.
    Labour backs the Kiwi dream – and we’re committed to restoring it.
    Ahead of my address at Labour’s conference next week, I want to hear what your Kiwi dream is and why you want to change the Government.
    Matt, will you share your Kiwi dream with us?
    I’d like to share your stories in my speech and on Labour’s social media channels in the coming weeks.
    We’d also love for you to share a video of your Kiwi dream and of why you believe we need to change the Government next year. We’ll stitch them all together to show the aspirations and dreams of our movement at Labour’s conference, and on our social media. It only needs to be a few seconds long and can be filmed on your phone. Click here to send us your video.
    Ahead of the election next year, it’s important we highlight our aspirations for New Zealand — and why we need to change the Government to make those a reality.
    Click here to share your Kiwi dream.


    Andrew Little
    Labour Leader

    As I see it this falls into what Bill describes as good activism. Promoting a positive message about what the future look like under Labour-led government. A message about what fair, regular people want to achieve for the country.

    I’ll be sending Andrew Little my Kiwi Dream.

    • Manuka AOR 9.1

      Thanks for posting!

    • Skinny 9.2

      Yeah I got the Kiwi Dream blurb. The messaging is improving from Labour especially through social media. Mind you next years election campaign Natcorp have signaled a big budget for social media spamming.

      So in order to limit their campaign those that are capable should be banding together in the propaganda war online.

      Some of my friends and self are mooting the idea of a get together of people who want to organise a dedicated 2017 election campaign. Fortunate enough to already have the services of a slick cartoonist and a gun film production man. A graphics and IT guru’s would add strength if it floats beyond an idea. Will look to network at the LP conference early Nov, and at the anti warship protest in Auckland in a couple of weeks, recruiting basically 🙂

      • saveNZ 9.2.1

        Have you got an email to contact you by Skinny?

        • Skinny

          TPR has my email addy from here that I am sure he can give to you if ya refer him to this post. Ha don’t want any trolls from here spamming me 🙂

    • saveNZ 9.3

      Thanks Muttonbird. I also got it from Andrew Little and loved it too as social activism.

      The listening part and wanting to take messages from Kiwi’s was brilliant.

      +1000 Labour.

  10. UncookedSelachimorpha 10

    More than Pommer’s Law, Confirmation Bias is one of the toughest nuts to crack, both in talking to others and in being honest with our own thinking. This wiki entry is long, but well worth a read – it explains a lot:


  11. Observer Tokoroa 11

    . Thanks Bill

    . You are seeding thought. Something that wiil take root and grasp the day.

    . As I understand the past 140 years, we have progressed through Activists. Women achieved the right to own Property; the right to vote; the right to work towards equality.

    . Again, men formed Unions to match the Industrialisation of the modern world. They abhorred slavery which was spear headed principally by the English, but not by them alone. Housing; Health; Education; serious wages – and the right to eye ball the men of power. They had phenomenal success. They did it by the Picket method.

    . In the last 40 years as noted by several fine writers on this blog, the gains of the Unions have been trampled on by the greed of Corporations and share holders and the very Wealthy.

    . So Bill at the risk of being seen as a madman I would remodel the Labour Party. How?

    1) by renaming it: The Labour Egalitarian Party
    2) by stopping the grouping of people into the “homeless”; the Impoverished; the uneducated. And replacing our grouping with Egalitarian thought and language. In order to do this, I would deem the earnings of the upper middle class as the measure of wages to be given to all people.
    3) men and women, whether through laziness or addiction, who are not working or not working competently, would not be paid in money, but by voucher.
    4) The upper Middle class would not have a lower middle class. For that leads to a class society so loved by Britain and Indians.
    5) The high salaries paid to (or generated by Business wealth) would be used to pay the Egalitarian equalisation of income.
    6) The Corporations, including the Global ones, would be offered the privilege of contributing to the Egalitarian society. Should they fail in doing that they would be nationalised.
    7) The present Government did not want to see the horrible effect of their policies and has built no housing, while at the same time they have brought in many thousands of immigrants. INFRASTRUCTURE is the physical backbone of an Egalitarian society.

    The great value of an Egalitarian Society is that no one falls behind, through ill health or loss of Jobs. No one lacks good Housing and no one waits forever to get on a Health waiting list.

    But that is not all ….

  12. saveNZ 12

    Great post Bill. I think blogs are a great way to promote activism and interaction with ideas.

    I think the Standard in particular is one of the best blog sites because it has good writers, different ideas in the comments and the site is so well run technically and with peoples posts coming up immediately and with little censorship. I like the feeds coming in too, as if something catches your eye, you can easily click on it.

    I use to post at Granny years ago, but the site was too slow, the comments took sometimes a day to come up and towards the end was being censored so that anything anti national was not put up. Most people bother to put a lot of thought into their posts and reply, so if it is censored than you go else where.

    Would actually like a bit more political posts if possible from Labour and Greens on TS, if possible. The change of government hope, is one of the reason I take time to comment because this country under the Natz is turning to shit. It is not just about money, the environmental and social destruction they have caused is huge.

    I also really liked the Waatea 5th Estate. I thought that was one of the most innovative new blog videos and had fantastic content. It really made opposition politicians more accessible without being smeared in MSM and thus easier to engage with voters and understand where they were coming from. I also really like TDB site but technically they take a lot longer for the comments to show up, and therefore less accessible to engage with as TS.

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