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Blogs and the Political Establishment

Written By: - Date published: 11:01 am, July 4th, 2018 - 43 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, blogs, internet, Media - Tags: , ,

On reflection my distain wasn’t in fact for blogs. My weekly presidents’ column was published online in a blog format, thus I was using the medium to attack the medium. My distain came from operating in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, where the political establishment operated in an isolated bubble. In student politics, I loved being in a position where I could be a voice for change or do good. What I despised was the irrelevant gossip and manoeuvring that inevitably follows when you are near the seat of power, ie parliament.

It wasn’t that I had a particular thin skin. Having had the record for being called a c%#t in the Salient’s letters to the editor one year, to then go on and get re-elected to the executive showed me that the (usually unanimous) comments from random dickheads mattered little. What annoyed me was the time wasted when others indulged them, or made random attention seeking idiots feature writers or gave them some other platform. If this were just student politics then fine. But I could tell then and still see today, that much of the political debate in Wellington supposedly at a national political level is little more than the gossip and nonsense of a club. This sadly, sums up much of the political journalism, social media and blogging from Wellington.

The Beehive – Wellington’s Capital, and a great big political bubble.

This is by no means unique to Wellington. I very clearly see similar such bubbles exist in London, Canberra, Washington, Paris, Ottawa and in most capital cities in democracies. And worse, people know this. They’ve known for years that politics is an elite club.

One of the reasons that the people in these clubs are still struggling to understand TrumpBrexit or even the relative rise of Corbyn and Bernie Saunders is that many people outside the bubble are sick of the bubble. In fact there are people who are quite happy to vote for extremes on either side of politics, just to wipe the smug look off people the smug establishment.

The fact is people who don’t live in the world of the political chit chat, or endlessly read the inane political blogs may view the world differently (The Standard is of course above all the others haha) . The world views of people outside the bubble are not only valid, they actually are often more informed than those in it. People in the bubble to will claim to know what is happening “on the ground.” Yet something like Brexit or the Trump election hits, and those in the bubble are shocked.

My experience during my student politics years was to be labelled mad, looney, extremist, idealistic and unrealistic. Many of those positions I took at the time such as free tertiary education are now government policy in New Zealand. Democracies work well when voters are given a genuine choices and can be part of serious debates about the future of our society. When this reverts to name calling and pettiness by those who would rather protect their position in the club, this undermines democracy.

Reposted from Nickkelly.blog

43 comments on “Blogs and the Political Establishment ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Democracies work well when voters are given a genuine choices and can be part of serious debates about the future of our society.

    No. Democracies work well when the state administration (much better word than government) actually asks what the people want and then enacts those policies rather than simply dictating them. Giving people choices is actually removing their choice and their freedom to govern themselves.

    To ensure that people have the necessary education to govern themselves well requires free, ongoing education. That people be taught how to think critically and how to do research from a young age. Finally that everyone be encouraged, and even required, to engage politically.

    • soddenleaf 1.1

      agreed but the principles are asking for an extension to get their homework in.

    • Bill 1.2

      Maybe you’d do yourself a service to look up democratic centralism and all the pitfalls inherent to it (hint: Bolshevism)

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1

        Good job I didn’t propose that idea then isn’t it?
        In fact, that sounds remarkably like Representative Democracy.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_centralism

        “The Soviet state is organized and functions on the principle of democratic centralism, namely the electiveness of all bodies of state authority from the lowest to the highest, their accountability to the people, and the obligation of lower bodies to observe the decisions of higher ones”.

        The exact opposite of what I proposed.

        • Bill 1.2.1.1

          No Draco, it’s precisely what you suggest.

          It’s just that you’re blind to “institutional capture” with your nonsense around a centralised admin “asking” people what they want (who decides what’s asked, and who frames the questions?) and enacting policy off the back of the answers (who sets the priorities?).

          Also quietly noting the suggestion of possible coercion inherent to your idea that people may be “required” to engage in the thoughtless mangled mess you imagine.

          • Enough is Enough 1.2.1.1.1

            Exactly Bill.

            So under Draco’s State Administration system, someone (I am not sure who) will ask the public how much money they want collected in tax this year, and how do they want it spent.

            As it will be compulsory for everyone to respond, I’m thinking they will get about 4 million different answers back. From there they will have to work out what the people want.

            This sounds like a system where absolutely nothing will ever get achieved.

            • McFlock 1.2.1.1.1.1

              I’m put in mind of California, which has binding referenda.
              So the legislature occasionally gets contradictory instructions like demands for increased expenditure and demands for tax cuts.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Yeah and when the two don’t meet a new referenda is made and the taxes went up.

                People can, and do, learn from their mistakes if they’re in a position to make them and then correct them. IMO, a major problem with Representative Democracy is that people don’t accept their mistakes. They just blame the government instead.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Could a majority of NZ voters learn to support ‘anti-smacking’ legislation, and how long might that take?

                  Our current system occasionally delivers good (progressive) legislation in a timely manner, but that requires a level of public trust that is difficult for all but the most charismatic (and ethical/moral) leaders to gain and maintain.

                  Power corrupts…

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Could a majority of NZ voters learn to support ‘anti-smacking’ legislation, and how long might that take?

                    More than likely. After all – the leading question that was asked was designed to get the response that it did and didn’t actually relate to the law that was being passed.

                    What do you think the answer would have been if the question had been:
                    Should adults be allowed to assault children?
                    or
                    Should the law be able to be used as a defence when a person has been found to have assaulted their child?

                    Our current system occasionally delivers good (progressive) legislation in a timely manner

                    No it doesn’t else we’d have legalised recreational marijuana by now. Abortion would be on demand and not in the criminal section of law.

                    Then there’s the other side:
                    Selling off our state assets against our will.
                    Signing FTAs against our will.
                    Lowering taxes – against our will.

                    It’s done better than an outright dictatorship but not by much.

                    • JohnSelway

                      Your questions are just as leading as assault is already a crime so basically you propose to ask if parents should be able to get away with a crime if leveled against their own children.

                      Given the question is whether it should be a crime or not your proposed question is not satisfactory and is leading.

                      Better would be: “should a parent be able to strike their child as part of behavior correction”.

                      Doesn’t lead, doesn’t assume a crime has already been committed.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Your questions are just as leading as assault is already a crime so basically you propose to ask if parents should be able to get away with a crime if leveled against their own children.

                      Smacking someone is assault. There were just legal outs if the one being smacked was a child. Those legal outs allowed many people who were outright abusing their children to get off scott-free.

                      And people would complain about it. They just didn’t seem to realise that it was the legal outs that allowed such immoral behaviour.

                      Better would be: “should a parent be able to strike their child as part of behavior correction”.

                      Doesn’t lead, doesn’t assume a crime has already been committed.

                      And allows abuse of children to continue. Why are you so determined to allow immoral behaviour?

                • McFlock

                  Whereas a representative government usually manages to identify and assess legislative incosistency before making the decision.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    There’s a difference between inconsistency and doing something that may or may not work and learning from the result.

                    Inconsistencies can be found, published and dealt with. The administration would be looking for such inconsistencies.

                    • McFlock

                      Found and published and dealt with. By whom? People sometimes demand contradictory things. Freedom and safety being the most basic.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Found and published and dealt with. By whom?

                      The computer program and the administration.

                      I see no way to get rid of the necessary administration that a country needs but I do see a way in which that administration does what the populace wants rather than what the rich want.

                    • McFlock

                      Take care: the Soviets thought they saw exactly the same thing.

              • dukeofurl

                “legislature occasionally gets contradictory instructions like demands for increased expenditure and demands for tax cuts.”

                Which ones do you refer to ?
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_California_ballot_propositions_2010%E2%80%9319

                of course not all propositions pass each year and yes some contradict each other but the voters didnt chose both

                62:’Death Penalty. Initiative Statute. Repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for murder.- fail

                66:Death Penalty. Procedures. Initiative Statute. Limits death penalty appeals and length of time for death penalty review. Invalidates Proposition 62 if passed by a larger proportion of the popular vote.-Pass

            • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1.1.1.2

              So under Draco’s State Administration system, someone (I am not sure who) will ask the public how much money they want collected in tax this year, and how do they want it spent.

              Nope. Once the people have told the state admin what they want that admin to achieve they get supplied with the bill. Of course, how that bill is paid is also dependent upon the wishes of the people discussing the tax laws.

              As it will be compulsory for everyone to respond, I’m thinking they will get about 4 million different answers back. From there they will have to work out what the people want.

              That’s what computers are for and are actually very good at it.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1.1.2

            No Draco, it’s precisely what you suggest.

            No, it’s the exact opposite.

            who decides what’s asked, and who frames the questions?

            There’s really only one question: What do you want the administration to do?

            And nothing gets done without the majority agreeing to it.

            Also quietly noting the suggestion of possible coercion inherent to your idea that people may be “required” to engage in the thoughtless mangled mess you imagine.

            Democracy requires that everyone participate in it else we end up where we are with the state representing the business class and not the people.

            • Enough is Enough 1.2.1.1.2.1

              What do you want the administration to do?

              There are approximately 567,876,546,345,243,119 different, but equally valid ways that question can be answered.

              Is your computer going work through each of them and decide which things take priority?

              • Draco T Bastard

                Is your computer going work through each of them and decide which things take priority?

                No, it’s going to read through them and find the similarities so although there are 567,876,546,345,243,119 replies there are far less actual policies.

                Priorities would be set by referenda.

                • Enough is Enough

                  Well it is certainly an interesting concept.

                  I’m going to throw a wild prediction out there though and say it will thankfully never see the light of day.

                  Running a country is not something most people concern themselves with. There are us political geeks, but the vast majority of people just want to get on and their own thing.

                  Then every three years have a say on whether the current mob is doing what they were elected to do.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Running a country is not something most people concern themselves with.

                    How can they expect to have freedom if they won’t govern themselves?

                    In a democracy it’s a requirement to be politically active else it will just turn into another dictatorship.

                    Then every three years have a say on whether the current mob is doing what they were elected to do.

                    Which just leaves us where we are with none of the political parties truly doing their job as we see increasing inequality and poverty.

                    • Enough is Enough

                      Being politically active is a right. It is not an obligation or something that people should be compelled to participate in.

                      People should be encouraged to participate and engage in the system, but if those same people are informed and happy for others to make decisions on their behalf, that is their right.

                      You can lead a horse to water but….

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      It is not an obligation or something that people should be compelled to participate in.

                      It is an obligation and one that people don’t have the right to abrogate. It’s what keeps a polity a democracy rather than allowing it to descend into a dictatorship.

                    • Enough is Enough

                      What are the consequences if they don’t participate?

                      Billy the kid doesn’t want to participate in the referendum on whether to immigration should be made illegal and refuses to vote.

                      What happens to Billy?

            • dukeofurl 1.2.1.1.2.2

              I think what Draco describes is the system that Athens used before direct democracy , rule by ‘archons’ or Chief Magistrate. Himself of course and his ‘Draconian Constitution’

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draco_(lawgiver)

    • Pat 1.3

      an idea that deserves further exploration.

      • Dennis Frank 1.3.1

        Indeed. Some of us were brainstorming this in the seventies, and formulating policy therefrom in the Greens economic policy working group led by Jeanette Fitzsimons in the early nineties. His approach is refreshing in demonstrating how to catalyse rapid consensus using the wisdom of the crowd.

        Several years ago I blogged on this method, in general outline here http://altaotearoa.blogspot.com/2015/12/how-to-solve-inequality-problem.html and in more prescriptive terms here: http://www.alternativeaotearoa.org/get-this/inequality-towards-a-solution

        Yes, I did send a paper proposing this solution to Metiria Turei’s GP inequality policy group. No, I didn’t expect them to support it. Any group of leftist politicos can always be relied on to head for the hills as fast as their wee legs can carry them when confronted with an actual solution to an endemic social problem. They see their social role as being to pretend to solve such problems – not to actual do it.

  2. soddenleaf 2

    blogs missed the big story… ..the jk was the worst… ..the national party love of lax or no regulation… …leaky housing wasn’t key… …shitty rivers, Fletchers happy govt contracting, now falling apart Waikato roads, whether the 29, or rebuild insurance flibuster, there is not one part of jk nine years that did nz any favors. geez housing in motels….

  3. SPC 3

    If the comments were unanimous, rather than anonymous, you would not have been re-elected.

    • The Fairy Godmother 3.1

      Actually I took that as the point. The comments were unanimous but did not reflect the feeling of the student voters in the real world so he one the election. In a recent election I was involved in in of the candidates was the target of a nasty campaign on neighborly. However on the ground noone was discussing the issues online and he won the election with a huge majority. Sometimes this negative online stuff says a lot more about the people generating it than those it is about.

      • SPC 3.1.1

        One the first and two in the second?

        There is probably a connection between the ease (time convenience) and safety of anonymous online comments that means they are less likely to be as active on the ground as those who use their real names.

      • james 3.1.2

        “Sometimes this negative online stuff says a lot more about the people generating it than those it is about.” – amen to that

  4. SPC 4

    What you overlook is that those in the beltway blog/media realm operate within relevant parameters – elected politicians, party operators, bureaucrats, lobbyists and commentators.

    They are constrained by party manifestos and which party/parties are in government – which change every three years. But during that period activists for change are marginalised from their world (apart from the party conference).

    To those outside of the estates of power networks involved, it will seem of another world, and the nature of the relationship with the governed is based to a degree on perceived fear (of it doing the wrong thing or not doing the right thing) or trust (in it not doing the wrong thing and in doing the right thing).

    And because of growing inequality, there is more partisanship thus more disquiet when the other is in government office.

    And the blogs of those of those outside of the beltway and posts on media sites reflect this – as well as providing an on-line means to express dissent (the convenience results in a certain tempermental nihilism/immaturity).

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    An accurate diagnosis, Nick. If you want to go deeper then ponder this question: what does the media mediate? Even deeper: why doesn’t the media itself answer the previous question?

    Our media mediates between govt & people (ie the powerful & the powerless), or between capitalists & workers (19th century frame) or employers & employees (20th century frame). Politicians pretend to represent electors (19th century frame). Bloggers try to be meaningful to readers whilst being captive to the narcissism induced by our culture (20th century frame).

    So the inertial effect of tradition can only be overcome by a radical progressive alternative. My suggestion for this millennium is a focus on our common interests instead of the entrenched polarising caused by the traditional focus on sectional interests. Obviously collaboration on climate change governance will drive this forward, but I’d prefer a concurrent renovation of the economy as well. However, at age almost 69, ain’t up to me or my generation, so what positive alternative is emerging from the millennials themselves? If any?

    • patricia bremner 5.1

      “At age 69 it aint up to me” paraphrased.

      But you could live to 89!! Another 20 years. So stay engaged!!

      • Dennis Frank 5.1.1

        Yeah, thanks Patricia, have attended a Greens conference & a permaculture hui in recent months. Gotta keep doing that social alchemy thing wherever possible. Still waiting for a social media forum for pan-generational application though. A few years ago I was involved with several others in getting one started (Action Station) but the design turned out to be flawed (skewed to lowest-common-denominator). We need something that operates at the upper level of competence instead.

    • Janet 5.2

      So wisdom accrued after 69 yrs has no value these days ?

      • Dennis Frank 5.2.1

        Interesting question Janet. Thing is, wisdom is a personal quality. One useful thing postmodernism taught us is that meaning is essentially subjective. Science attempts to objectify it via a group discipline, often successfully, but the culture of science breeds scientists full of knowledge yet devoid of wisdom. Gluckman, recently retired as our govt science advisor, actually did a surprisingly good job consistently in rendering scientific appraisals spiced with sufficiently wisdom that his advice always seemed appropriate. He’s an untypical scientist.

        In whatever field of social endeavour, you’re really only as good as your last performance – you get judged accordingly in the court of public opinion. Relevance as either blog commentator or political activist is limited by our affect on others. I’ve learnt from life at the leading edge of western civilisation; always a challenge to make such marginal experience relevant to others even in my own generation! We need a pan-generational transmission of wisdom, I try to help that process, but younger folk only get it if/when the time is right for them to do so.

  6. ropata 6

    s/distain/disdain/

    suggest a veto system rather than a plethora of referenda. put all new laws to the people for ratification first. we could have avoided asset sales, TPPA, all sorts of stealth neoliberal shit

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  • Speech to National Remembrance Service on the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake
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