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Can Ben Mack please make his mind up

Written By: - Date published: 7:35 am, November 12th, 2017 - 83 comments
Categories: climate change, immigration, jacinda ardern, jobs, journalism, labour, making shit up, nz first, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, winston peters, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Herald lifestyle columnist Ben Mack has had published a couple of interesting columns on New Zealand politics.  He is an American who has lived here for two years and thinks that we are really friendly.  Fair enough.

But over the past couple of weeks he has posted these opinion pieces that when considered together make no sense.

On October 30 he said that Jacinda Ardern would not change a thing.  He set out the problems that he thought we were facing and they included these:

• A patriarchal system that rewards sexual abusers and punishes victims.
• The systematic oppression faced by women, LGBT+ people, and everyone not a cisgender white man.
• A mental health crisis made worse not by our healthcare system (though that could use improvement), but the fast-paced, high-pressure world in which we live.
• Our polluted environment.
• Climate change.
• That genderqueer people like myself don’t have the same basic rights as other people do, such as being forced to write “female” or “male” on official forms when we don’t identify as either.
• The xenophobia immigrants face daily.
• The continuing rise of fascism and the far right, including here in Aotearoa (hello, neo-Nazis who might be reading this. Thanks for plastering pictures of me on your websites recently. Gave my social media accounts a nice traffic bump).

And on. And on. And on. Ad infinitum, seemingly.

These are enormous problems. Too big for one person to solve, no matter how committed they are or if they’re the leader of the Government. As long as those things remain problems, I could care less if the Prime Minister was an actual raccoon that had acquired human speech and the ability to walk on two legs.

Again, there’s nothing wrong in hoping Ardern can fix things. But believing she’ll fix everything all on her own is naïve at best, incredibly dangerous at worst.”

Fair enough although I don’t see the design of official forms as being of the same magnitude as climate change.  And a claim that the new Government may not be sufficiently sensitive to gender issues and environmental issues seems rather strange.

But then he came up with this doozie of an article posted by the Washington Post which suggested that New Zealand had lurched to the right.

A shadow is poisoning Middle-earth.

On the surface, New Zealand’s new government sounds like a progressive dream: a young, energetic prime minister reminiscent of Barack Obama or Justin Trudeau who not only discusses the importance of feminism but calls people out for misogynistic comments on the spot; ministers for climate change and child poverty reduction; and the fact that the heads of the three branches of government are all women.

But for all the excitement around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new government, the real power lies with the far right. And, more terrifying: The far right seized power by exploiting the very system meant to be a fairer version of democracy.

Led by veteran politician Winston Peters — who has made racist comments toward immigrants and people of Asian descent and Trumpian abuse of the press — New Zealand First has traditionally been an afterthought in New Zealand politics. That all changed this past September, when the two largest parties finished close enough in the general election that whichever party New Zealand First decided to enter a coalition with would control enough seats in New Zealand’s German-style MMP (mixed-member proportional) parliament to govern. In other words, a far-right party that received just seven percent of the vote had the power to decide who would rule.

If that wasn’t appalling enough, Peters and New Zealand First held the country for ransom, repeatedly delaying the announcement of their decision for several weeks as they extracted more and more concessions from suitors. When Peters finally declared on Oct. 19 that New Zealand First would go into a coalition with Ardern and her Labour Party, it was only because Ardern had kowtowed the most to his increasingly extreme demands.

The effects of the far right’s influence are already being felt. Amid pressure from New Zealand First, the government has vowed to slash immigration by tens of thousands by making it harder to obtain visas and requiring employers to prove they cannot find a qualified New Zealand citizen before hiring a non-citizen. They’ve also put forward legislation banning non-citizens from owning property, the new minister for immigration has equated increased immigration with increased unemployment (while also failing to denounce his party’s claims that immigration is a factor in New Zealand having the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world) and proposed a plan that would require people receiving welfare to work.

Cutting down on historically high immigration numbers is evidence of fascism?  Preventing overseas entities from buying local property shows extreme right wing tendencies?  And referencing Mike Hosking to say that Shane Jones (who is not the Minister of Immigration) thinking loudly and badly that people receiving the dole should also work is evidence that the Minister proposed a work for the dole plan?  Please …

And what is missing is any analysis of what the Government has set out to achieve.  As noted by Duncan Grieve at Spinoff the list of policy proposals are decidedly progressive.  No sign of fascist tendencies anywhere.

To Ben Mack.  I hope you enjoy your time here.  We are a friendly nation and our communities are strong and dare I say it there are many socialist groupings amongst us.  But telling us one day that the left will not be strong enough to create change and the next that the extreme right has taken over is just naff.

83 comments on “Can Ben Mack please make his mind up”

  1. Stunned mullet 1

    Don’t sweat it..lifestyle editors, opinion pieces, etc just a bit of fluff designed to fill columns on the internet or newsprint, just like breakfast TV or the stuff at 7pm don’t be expecting any serious journalism or analysis.

    • tracey 1.1

      I suspect he rants at a fast food chain for saying his fries will be 2 mins. No ranting in writing, he will hold up the queues demanding to speak to the Manager, haranging them and after 20 minutes and his free fries off he goes, a champion of human rights

      • Psycho Milt 1.1.1

        My daughter meets a great many of these in the pizza business: “The web site said 15 minutes. I don’t care if it’s 6pm on a Friday and you have 150 orders right now, it said 15 minutes.”

  2. Sanctuary 2

    Ben Mack is an idiot, but he is a useful idiot insofar as he provides us all a glimpse into the liberal identity politics mindset of the US culture wars. it is a pretty bleak, polarised and hysterical place replicated in kind from the right.

    New Zealand society has (thank goodness) always not really cared to much about the stuff Mack seems to spend his every waking moment obsessing about. Jacinda Ardern would never get anywhere in the USA – she doesn’t believe in God, dosn’t wrap herself in the flag every five minutes and (gasp!) isn’t married to the man she lives with. Our minister of finance is gay, the speaker burps a (Maori) members baby while she gives a speech, another member breastfeeds in the house, etc etc none of these thing really bother the vast majority of New Zealanders enough for it to be an issue they’d change their vote over.

    The bottom line is NZ simply isn’t in the hole the United States is in their fruitless, fratricidal culture wars. The never-happy identity politics hard liners of both sides simply lack the numbers in NZ to create the critical mass to poison our public discourse and MMP works to exclude their extremism anyway. The likes of Ben Mack exist on fringes, along with their right wing counterparts like Logan Robetson and Brian Tamaki, and both sides rail against each other and society with fantastical claims and outrageous untruths.

    • Stunned mullet 2.1


    • Jilly Bee 2.2


    • Carolyn_Nth 2.3

      And, yet, many of the LGBTI and gender policies that BM wants, do seem to be supported by the Ardern government.

      So it is not about the whackiness of (so-called) “identity politics” per se, but BM’s whacky and contradictory assessment of the Ardern government.

      • Nic the NZer 2.3.1

        The class of academics who typically use terms like ‘cisgendered’ have emerged from a philosophy which fundamentally rejects that there can be scientific truth. Is it any wonder that these classes of authors often seem to have merely a tangential grip on reality?

      • tracey 2.3.2

        Thanks for saying this.

      • Sassi 2.3.3

        I think what Ben Mack displays is actually the disconnect between identity-politics-as-fashion-statement from, well, actual politics.

        Mack’s seeming cluelessness about NZ politics actually reveals a lot that’s problematic from a progressive perspective.

        It’s significant that Mack’s focus in WaPo was to attack a Maori man, and one of New Zealand’s more diverse political parties – and it’s worth noting that NZF disproportionately draws support from Maori and came into Parliament in the first place via the Maori seats. The other focus of the attack was the MMP system that allows minority voices to influence Government.

        It’s also significant that this attack was made in an American forum by an American citizen with a history of complaining about lack of privileged access to Aotearoa.

        While Mack may identify as genderfluid, their name and the profile picture that appeared in the WaPo -a full beard and traditionally male attire – mean that they were still speaking from a position of privilege – the tone was very much one of speaking to other Americans about “Middle Earth”, a destination of holiday, fantasy and escape for the Peter Thiels of this world who feel entitled to use it.

        A complete lack of expertise or even basic knowledge of politics was no deterrent to Mack from taking full advantage of this privilege to appeal to fellow Americans via the WaPo.

        So what we see here is a privileged white American citizen, using the full weight of that privilege to castigate a coalition government that was overwhelmingly voted in by Maori, accusing it of being anti-democratic because of fears over Maori and pakeha putting restrictions on American access to New Zealand land.

        In other words, not only is this ethnocentric, it’s also blatant Neo-Colonialism.

        • Muttonbird

          While Mack may identify as genderfluid, their name and the profile picture that appeared in the WaPo -a full beard and traditionally male attire – mean that they were still speaking from a position of privilege.

          Ouch. Mack will be kicking his/her gender fluid cat down the hallway after reading that.

    • he likes of Ben Mack exist on fringes, along with their right wing counterparts like Logan Robetson and Brian Tamaki…

      Except for the fact that they get very large pedestals to declare their views from and some people will agree with them.

    • weka 2.5

      “The never-happy identity politics hard liners of both sides simply lack the numbers in NZ to create the critical mass to poison our public discourse and MMP works to exclude their extremism anyway.”

      Lol, the PM of NZ is a feminist. And according to the anti-identity politics crowd, the Labour Party was captured long ago by identity politics. Hardly fringe politics.

      There are some things to not like about Mack’s politics for sure, but comparing them to Brian Tamaki says more about your own politics than anything.

      • tracey 2.5.1

        “according to the anti-identity politics crowd, the Labour Party ” – that was the big irony for me too.

    • veutoviper 2.6

      … and (gasp!) isn’t married to the man she lives with.

      LOL. On that score, I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago with one of those odd thoughts that sometimes happen in the half light of semi consciousness that:

      – Our NZ Ministerial Team to APEC is made up of Jacinda Ardern, David Parker and Winston Peters. They cover a range of ages, backgrounds and possibly ideologies etc and all have (heterosexual) partners but are not married to them as far as I know. (Happy to be corrected if I am wrong. )

      As well as Trump and other US social conservatives, this would not go down well with some other cultures also represented at the APEC talks (and the ASEAN Summit yet to come in the Philippines for the next two days).

      Our Ministerial team’s partners do not seem to have gone to the talks, but the rebel in me almost wishes they were – along with our Finance Minister and his partner who I understand are legally joined via our formal civil union law.

  3. ianmac 3

    Don’t read the rubbish by Heather du Plessis-Allan today. The woman is quite mad in a similar way.

    • Ed 3.1

      Yes the usual right wing tripe and rant by hdpa.
      Sound like the Soper household is not a happy place to be.

    • Heather Grimwood 3.2

      to Ianmac at 3; frighteningly so……..asks serious questions as to why allowed to be in print.
      I’ve just read Patricia Grace’s “Chappy”, bringing back memories of the jibes to us as the Labour -voting teacher’s family in a farming community. Dad laughed it off though I remember his striding home from hay stacking (one of his voluntary wartime jobs } when paddock talk was of the ‘Hun of Oamaru’, the Natz name for Nordmeyer. At school we were called fifth columnists which worried Mum immensely, and us because we didn’t understand the term.
      All this is mild compared with what Patricia describes from same era, and what the placid German seaman father of my friend experienced by being ensconced at Sommes Island as was her character Chappie.
      I have long felt uncomfortable that the government of the time imprisoned harmless folk on Sommes, and feel incredibly unhappy when I read such rubbish as in Herald above. One would think attitudes would have moved on, and such columnists rejected.

      • greywarshark 3.2.1

        It is obvious that there are lurking attitudes that will rise in society given certain conditions. They probably are set in place in early toddler years before speech and the personality is being formed in the early baby and toddler years.

        If a child does not receive love and interaction in those years what will happen presumably is the child learns to be wary and aware and looking for personal opportunity as a practice for coping in the world.

        Even those coming from clean homes and well-dressed families can have this problem, because all their love and interest goes into material and practical matters. The life of the mind that builds the personality can be starved, though the body is fed, the physical needs are provided for in the simplest way, the mind is amused and titillated by commercial media – videos, music, mass manufactured product. The specialness of the individual does not get the chance to flower, to understand themself and that other people are similarly amazing and individual and are appreciated as such. This goes beyond society and country.

      • greywarshark 3.2.2

        Matiu/Somes Island was where many German men were plucked and sent to. I remember one chap saying sadly that he moved away from Germany to get away from Jew-hating Nazis and to be sent to the Island and have to live with Nazis there with this foul attitude was hard to bear.

        The whole of the 1930’s in Germany seems to have been traumatic for the citizens who were trying to stop this destructive, acidic thinking and violence was used against them before it was unleashed against other countries. In NZ we were emotionally charged against all Germans here. My great-grandmother was isolated by NZ relations because of a chance remark of compassion for the young Germans in the war.


    • Here here to that.

      As nutty as a fruit cake, she is.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    They’ve also put forward legislation banning non-citizens from owning property…

    Had they done that I think he would have legitimate cause for concern, so it’s a good thing they haven’t done that.

    Why is anyone ever surprised when a journalist cannot get basic facts right? Especially when they start believing their opinion is worth something other than as a means to sell advertising.

  5. cleangreen 5

    “Go home yankee” was a term of NZ easyspeak most of us spoke to show during the 1950/60s our rejectiion of USA south pacific expansion during that time, so do we possibly need to resurect this model again?

    • Sanctuary 5.1

      No, thats racist! “Your a bigoted fool” will do.

      • mac1 5.1.1

        That’s not racist! It may be discriminatory but it’s not racist.

        From Wikipedia

        1. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

        2. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

  6. Ad 6

    Being critiqued by Ben Mack is like having your toes nibbled by lambs.

  7. Jesterso the court unite 7

    New Zealand is a nice place full of happy go lucky fools wise enough to think the politics of the Northern hemisphere is a model they’d rather eshew.
    Historically, National has served New Zealander’s poorly -largely due to a steadfast refusal to engage with reality, due to habitual ideologies that are based more in fiction than fact. Unfortunately, National’s supporters prefer the devil they know and can’t be bothered understanding to the alternatives.
    Labour on the other hand has served New Zealander’s less poorly, but poorly none the less. Due to the largesse of National’s incompetence Labour Government’s typically spend their entire first term in damage control trying to repair the damage done by National’s Ministers of arrogant whim. Their second term focuses on delivering some of the benefits of a government that pays attention to the facts. Their third is damage control and consolidation of those benefits in expectation that the electorate in a fit of madness will give the other guy a fair shake of the stick. The damage control is generally targeted towards legislation passed in their first term that was heavy handed ( due to poor bureaucratic systems and knowledge base left by the preceding National government). In this term Labour applies the evidence collected as their policies came into effect to fine tune legislation in a vain attempt to ameliorate the next onslaught of National nonsense.

    Unfortunately the population by the third term of a NZ government ( National or Labour led both) get restless, and swing towards the opposition which has done nothing constructive for 9 years ( noterecent Bill English’s avowed intent to make the machinery of government unworkable while in opposition). Other parties spend most of their time in opposition trying to point out to the idiot farmers that National truly does nothing to support farmers, but the habit driven farmers continue voting National without realising the only folks National support are wealthy bankers and financiers who are ripping farmers a new one at every intergenerational opportunity.
    If only the new immigrants had the wit to do a careful strategic analysis of NZ governance over the past 100 years, those that can vote, would not choose to vote National.

  8. David Mac 8

    As more and more of us click pages rather than turn them media outlets are able to accurately determine what stories, features and journalists make them money; Expose readers to advertising aligned to their browsing history etc.

    It’s a situation that throws up hand waving sensationalism. We’d rather look at a pictorial tour of a starlet’s lingerie drawer than look at a schematic map of a TPP breakdown. We get what we deserve, alas, we click up the vaudeville journalists.

  9. weka 9

    Micky, Ben Mack is genderqueer and prefers the pronoun ‘they/their’ (they tweeted about this). It would be good if the post could be amended with that.

    • Sanctuary 9.1

      If Ben Mac can’t get his facts straight and bad mouths the new government and NZ politics in the Washington Post, why should he get the courtesy of being accurately described?

      He doesn’t deserve the respect IMHO.

      • weka 9.1.1

        Because even if you think it’s ok to for any individual, it harms other people.

        • marty mars

          + 1 there are no good reasons for not addressing people the way they wish to be addressed.

          • tracey

            Absolutely, once you know how they want to be addressed…

            It is like the notion that a statement is a compliment even if the person on the receiving end does not feel complimented. EG wolf whistle “great tits!” and so on.

            • marty mars

              Yep we use the same approach with validation at work. We offer various levels of validation but if the person doesn’t feel validated then it isn’t validation.

              The interaction is transactional.

      • tracey 9.1.2

        So lack of respect is bad. But treating a bad person with lack of respect is good? The rules are quite hard to follow

    • The English language has existing excellently functional pronouns to refer to a guy with a beard, and it isn’t incumbent on the rest of us to figure out how the guy with the beard would prefer to be addressed – that’s the whole point of a language.

      • rhinocrates 9.2.1

        Languages are constantly evolving. It’s up to no-one to determine what they “should” always be.

        • Psycho Milt

          Indeed. It’s the very essence of democracy, in that it comes down to what each individual speaker of the language prefers to use. I don’t see an overwhelming majority of English speakers having no use for male or female pronouns anytime soon.

    • Matthew Whitehead 9.3

      Am glad you caught this Weka- I missed this initially on Twitter too, but having been informed of it I think it’s reasonable to refer to someone with their chosen pronouns. After all, we refer to people who change their names with their new names without making any political or moral judgement about whether they had a “right” to be identified how they choose, so I don’t see how pronouns should be different.

  10. veutoviper 10

    Re Ben Mack’s preposterous”Far Right” article in the Washington Post, a number of people were suggesting on Twitter etc that the Washington Post should be asked for a right of reply and this has now happened in the form of an article by Tim Watkin:


    A pretty reasonable response IMHO and I was delighted that Tim quoted Winston Peters’ wonderful response that the column reads like it was written by someone who had “escaped from a lunatic asylum at 2.30 in the morning.”

  11. greywarshark 11

    Thinking about deeply held attitudes in No.3 above that become excessive, which really amounts to madness to my thoughts. I looked at the way Lord of the Flies shows how some attitudes come to the surface on an island where castaway boys have to confront their demons which overwhelm them, and result in them killing one of their number. The summary of Lord of the Flies characters from wiki.

    First Ralph in brief:
    Ralph is the athletic, charismatic protagonist of Lord of the Flies. Elected the leader of the boys at the beginning of the novel, Ralph is the primary representative of order, civilization, democracy, and productive leadership in the novel….
    Ralph sets about building huts and thinking of ways to maximize the chances of all the boys. Ralph remains determined not to let this savagery overwhelm him,…

    When he attends Jack’s feast, he is swept away by the frenzy, dances on the edge of the group, and participates in the killing of Simon. This firsthand knowledge of the evil that exists within him, as within all human beings, is tragic for Ralph, and it plunges him into listless despair for a time. But this knowledge also enables him to cast down the Lord of the Flies at the end of the novel.

    Ralph’s story ends semi-tragically: although he is rescued and returned to civilization, when he sees the naval officer, he weeps with the burden of his new knowledge about the human capacity for evil…

    Then Jack:
    Jack was the leader of the choir at the boys’ old school and competes with Ralph for the position of “alpha male” on the island…. He is the leader of the hunters and fights Ralph. Eventually, more and more of the boys defect from Ralph’s ordered society to Jack’s tribal one and turn against Ralph, Piggy and Simon.

    In short, Jack is the exact opposite of Ralph. From the beginning of the novel, Jack desires power above all other things, and he carries a large knife as a symbol of this. He is furious when he loses the election to Ralph and continually pushes the boundaries of his subordinate role in the group and continually bullies Piggy (first by calling him names then later punching him).

    Early on, Jack retains the sense of moral propriety and behavior that society instilled in him—in fact, in school, he was the leader of the choirboys. The first time he encounters a pig, he is unable to kill it. But Jack soon becomes obsessed with hunting and devotes himself to the task, painting his face like a barbarian and giving himself over to bloodlust. The more savage Jack becomes, the more he is able to control the rest of the group.

    Indeed, apart from Ralph, Simon, and Piggy, the group largely follows Jack in casting off moral restraint and embracing violence and savagery. Jack’s love of authority and violence are intimately connected, as both enable him to feel powerful and exalted.

    By the end of the novel, Jack has learned to use the boys’ fear of the beast to control their behavior—a reminder of how religion and superstition can be manipulated as instruments of power. The extent to which he controls his tribe can be seen when he beats one of his tribe member and the other boys do not object.
    Jack is used by Golding to represent fascism.


    Looking at the present political battle against Labour, isn’t it Lord of the Flies deja vu, with NZs as trying to get a grip but still many easily led? The paragraph I have put in bold really spells out our experience now – Jack is National Party and Ralph is Labour, trying to hold onto some principles, and overcome the past loss of humanity and the lawlessness.

    • tracey 11.1

      It actually feels like we are in NZ post a rugby world cup loss. A number of people just cannot comprehend that the team that should have won has lost and now they look to denigrate the winners or report the ref, or change the rules or… or… or.

  12. carlite 12

    How can you tell this person’s column is nothing but a trolling exercise? Because they obviously haven’t bothered to actually read the commitments Jacinda’s government has made to the rainbow communities. These commitments are the greatest advance for the rights and welfare of the rainbow communities since homosexual law reform and, considering how broad these commitments are (advancement of the rights and welfare of genderqueer, trans and intersex people), would have to be the greatest advance of ‘the rainbow agenda’ for any political party going into government, ever.

    Here they are:

    “implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission’s To Be Who I Am: Kia Noho au Ki Toku Ano Au Final report of the Inquiry into Discrimination experienced by Transgender and Intersex People. This includes (but is not limited to):

    amending the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995 to allow the Registrar General to amend birth certificates on submissions of appropriate declarations and evidence (rather than medical examination or family court processes)

    ensuring fair access to justice for trans people and fair treatment by law enforcement and corrections staff and facilities to avoid misgendering and risk due to gender identity

    develop and implement a child rights-based health care protocol for intersex children so that no one is subjected to unnecessary medical or surgical treatment during infancy or childhood.

    modernise the law relating to the care of children to ensure that the widest possible pool of suitable adults, including same-sex couples, is available to provide care (being foster care, short-term guardianship and other forms of custody) to children in need

    accurately collect statistical data on Rainbow communities so that we take an evidence-based approach to policy formation and programme development in areas such as health, social development, and justice

    fund research on the health and well-being of rainbow communities, for example, research on adolescent youth and on sexual health

    engage trans, gender diverse, and intersex persons and communities to support a ‘whole of life’ approach to their well-being when developing policy and laws

    maintain and grow strong New Zealand participation in international bodies dealing with Human Rights, especially at the United Nations level

    oppose the criminalisation of consensual adult same-sex activity, and other instances of discrimination against rainbow communities

    use refugee and asylum seeker policy as a way to address humanitarian needs of rainbow global citizens

    review laws and policies that interfere with the right to be free from discrimination under section 19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

    include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993.

    support initiatives which ensure Rainbow New Zealanders approaching retirement can continue to live safely and openly in supported living environments like retirement homes and aged care facilities.

    ensure the needs and specific circumstances of young Rainbow people are actively addressed in our strategies to reduce homelessness

    help achieve the goal of ending HIV in New Zealand by 2025 by: increasing access to sexual health services, testing, and early treatment; funding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); and supporting education, research, and community groups which help achieve this goal

    improve access to affordable primary care based on the informed consent model, particularly for younger, trans, and intersex New Zealanders. This also includes training and resources for health professionals about sexual orientation and gender diversity

    provide targeted suicide prevention funding to build capacity of rainbow community support organisations and mainstream crisis support and services.

    increase resourcing for youth mental health

    support and ensure all district health boards reduce barriers for trans and gender diverse people to access gender affirming healthcare, transition related medical support (including hormones, social support and other cosmetic interventions), and an assessment of the need for gender reassignment surgery as an elective service

    ensure fair access to publicly funded gender affirming surgical options for trans and gender diverse people based on need.

    ensure intensive intervention and adequate levels of support for Rainbow youth in the compulsory education system

    support schools to develop comprehensive policies and actions to deal with bullying on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and intersex status

    implement the Ministry of Education’s Sexuality Education Guidelines as part of the Health curriculum

    strengthen the Education Review Office’s remit to include looking at Rainbow student well-being and anti-bullying reporting requirements as indicators in their review of schools.”


  13. Incognito 13

    The reference to Germany was a real little gem; framing is to influence.

  14. Kat 14

    This guy Mack is just another National party lightweight mole dredged up and encouraged to muddy the waters around Winston Peters. Anyone promoting the notion that Winston is “far right” has to be very ignorant or confused. Heather du Plessis-Allan just continues to prove how incompetent she is at putting any kind of coherent material together. But then these two are just increasing examples of the pathetically low standard of journalism the Herald and Stuff have sunk to.

  15. Bill 15

    So Ben Mack reckons NZ might be on the same trajectory as the US – ie, from Obama to Trump will be echoed here by way of Ardern to who-ever?

    There’s no basis to that. Ardern can absolutely and quite reasonably be seen far more as NZs Obama than NZs Corbyn. And in that respect, his first piece about “nothing changing” might be accurate enough.

    His second piece about Peters is ill-informed tosh and hyperbole. But it does dovetail into the prediction of his first piece.

    He doesn’t have to “make up his mind” more, he simply needs to “get a grip”.

    Peters is old school conservative – not ‘far right’. And the fact that Peters didn’t actually have to pressure NZ Labour on immigration only underscores the fact that Ardern is no Corbyn. I’ve pointed before to NZ Labour’s immigration policy chiming with UKIP immigration policy and, more lately, being a straight up “cut and paste” from UK Tory party immigration policy (ie – including student numbers in immigrant numbers).

    Go back to Milband in terms of the UK Labour party and you get the same bullshit “tough on immigration” coming from them (they sold election mugs proclaiming how tough they were going to be) as you get from Ardern’s NZ Labour today.

    NZ won’t “lurch to the right”. But then, I can’t see how it can shift left a la Corbyn either given both the internal structure of NZ Labour and the electoral dominance of NZ Labour on the leftish side of politics.

    So NZ’ll continue to trudge through the swamplands of 19C Liberalism, while much of the rest of the world hits drier and higher ground. At some point then, global economic circumstance will drag NZ out and wash it down. Sooner would be preferable to later, but hey…

    • tracey 15.1

      If anyone, you’d think the pony tail puller would have got this treatment having more similarities with trump 😉

  16. Et Tu Brute 16

    Mods; I didn’t read the whole way down but Ben prefers pronouns “they” etc… as per Twitter profile.

    • mickysavage 16.1

      I have had a go at changing it but it really mucks up the grammar.

      I must admit that I am really bad at identity politics. Class politics is way more important to me.

      • rhinocrates 16.1.1

        Race, gender, sexuality, medical and and neurological state often determine class. It would pay to incorporate them into an honest ideology.

      • weka 16.1.2

        “I have had a go at changing it but it really mucks up the grammar.”

        It can sound odd but it still makes grammatical sense.

        “Can Ben Mack please make up his mind?”


        “Can Ben Mack please make up their mind?”

        Consider if the person’s name was weka and we didn’t know their gender. We could quite easily say “Can weka please make up their mind?” and no-one would even notice. I do it all the time here where I don’t know what someone’s gender is.

        I’m used to it from feminist approaches to language where it’s been important to not use masculine pronouns where gender was unknown.

        e.g. “I wish the doctor would make up their mind”. In the past people would have said ‘his’ because doctors were assumed to be men. It’s inaccurate and it reinforces stereotypes.

      • NZFemme 16.1.3

        Hi Micky,

        Using “they/their” in the singular when writing can feel a bit odd at first I know. (But one does get use to it, and it’s fairly common in spoken English – though it still makes the grammar prescriptivists quite grumpy) If it does your head in too much, sometimes a few small tweaks can avoid the issue:

        “Herald lifestyle columnist Ben Mack has had published a couple of interesting columns on New Zealand politics. An American who has lived here for two years, Ben thinks that we are really friendly. Fair enough.
        But over the past couple of weeks, the Herald contributor posted these opinion pieces that when considered together make no sense.
        On October 30 Mack said that Jacinda Ardern would not change a thing, listing the following as problems facing NZ:…”

      • Psycho Milt 16.1.4

        I must admit that I am really bad at identity politics. Class politics is way more important to me.

        And so it should be. There’s way more important shit than men who’d rather they weren’t men. If they tell you to your face they’d rather you didn’t call them men, all good, but in other social situations some cunt that looks like a man is a man as far as the general public is concerned, and good so.

        • marty mars

          Offensive idiot – you have no argument just bluster yet if someone was standing on your metaphorical toes you’d cry out the loudest – you are just another fundamentalist bigot who just wants things your way, including the use of English and how people choose to identify themselves. Doesn’t affect you one iota yet you cannot tolerate it.

          • Psycho Milt

            That’s pretty rich – “you have no argument just bluster” in a comment consisting entirely of blustering assertions.

            • marty mars

              Sorry, your argument of ‘just cos’ and ‘that’s what I like’ are bluster.

              • My comment consisted of assertions rather than an argument, so you’re paraphrasing an argument that only exists in your own head. Here are my arguments:

                1. Language is based on shared understanding, ie a word only means something if it’s generally accepted to have that meaning. Everyone’s free to make up their own meaning for a word and try to spread that meaning’s use, but others are equally free not to participate in the project.

                2. Because language is based on generally-understood meanings, anyone looking at Ben Mack is going to see a man and use male pronouns for him. There’s nothing offensive or intolerant about that.

                3. If Ben Mack asks you to not to use male pronouns for him, it’s a matter of courtesy to comply. However, it’s an imposition to ask that other people discard the generally-understood usage of their language and adopt irregular usage of your preference, so the courtesy is only going one way.

                • 1. Language is evolving and is never static. Yes shared meaning creates understanding but the meaning moves and evolves often from the edges. It is impossible to justify non evolution of words even ones we like or want to stay the same. The reason meanings change is because people change including gender identification.
                  2. Today what you see is only one way of generating understanding. Other senses such as hearing can be used. This is pretty basic and I’m sure you are aware of this – you just don’t like it, it offends you it seems.
                  3. An imposition – oh dear better have a lie down. Life/society is impositions isn’t it?

  17. R.P. Mcmurphy 17

    What is a ‘lifestyle’ columnist doing writing about politics? It is not a game and not to be trivialised by some dubious scribbler writing crap to order from his masters. The Herald continues to sink to new lows of objectivity and probity when they publish this sort of horse manure.

  18. seeker 18

    @ mickysavage
    Can we please have a different (better) photo of Winston on this post … and on other posts that photos of Winston are needed. Thankyou.

  19. It beats me how this guy manages to continue finding NZers friendly. I recall an OP in which he proudly described how he instructs taxi drivers not to call him sir because he has no gender, and how he pulls them up on it until they stop calling him sir (wouldn’t take more than the once in my case, because I’d have a way better term than “sir” for him). He really is a living testament to our level of tolerance.

  20. Sparky 20

    The CPTPP as the TPP turd is now known is a pretty good barometer of whats happened to the mainstream left. Its no different in the US and other countries too where the left as people like myself knew it growing up is more or less gone and has been replaced by a watered down right with leftist bunting and slogans.

    So yes I would agree NZ has lurched to the right. And the average US citizen should know when you consider the neo liberal antics of the Democratic party. Lets remember people its the supposedly left wing Dems under Obama’s leadership who pushed for the TPP .It was also the Dems lead by Bill Clinton who followed through on ratifying NAFTA back in the 90’s.

    In my opinion Labour look a lot more like National but try telling that to die hard supporters even when facts are offered up and listen as the angry excuses start to roll.

    Time we got over “inconvenient truths” people and started looking at what can be done about this. Developing new parties are a good place to start as is refusing to vote for parties that don’t keep their promises or adhere to the philosophy they claim is their bedrock.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 20.1

      The Green Party already occupies the political space you describe.

    • tracey 20.2

      We didnt lurch… we lurched in 84 to 90 and been graudally sidling over since. All those folks bemoaning this but voted Labour…

  21. Gabby 21

    He’s a genderqueer man though, right?

  22. Keepcalmcarryon 22

    Identity politics. Why are we surprised?
    My tribe/ subset is persecuted by your tribe/subset rinse and repeat. The navel gazing art of breaking politics down to little pieces instead of trying to be inclusive. Ironic in its very nature.
    There are a few here that play this game on perceived gender issues.
    This is what it looks like when those identity chips on someone’s shoulders make mainstream media.
    Bryce Edwards sums up the revulsion nicely :

  23. Tanz 23

    NZ First is a far right party, they always were, which is why they do not fit in with the Labour/Greens ideals. This new govt is already shaky, as predicted. The first day in the House was a shambles. Winston never entered the coalition talks in good faith, this has now been proved. It’s all very comical so far, but very bad for the future of NZ, which National have left in pristine condition. Now the socialists are tearing that apart, and with no true mandate…sigh. Labour gave so much to Winnier for power, hope it was worth it. Roll on 2020 or less, this govt has no wide mandate, and they know it.
    So much for not ‘lying in politics’ eh.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 23.1


      Keep telling yourself that.

    • Anne 23.2

      But you said you were going to vote for Winston Peters and his party. In fact before the election you were so glowing about Winnie I thought you were in love…. oops did he reject you. Never mind Tanzy there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.

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