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Human Nature and Propaganda

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, December 17th, 2010 - 62 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, equality - Tags: , , ,

In 1989 the Berlin Wall collapsed. Instead of  this ushering in a period of vigorous growth for the left, the energies of the visible left in Western Europe and elsewhere dissipated.  Not for the left to celebrate with people who had newly freed themselves from the chains of state oppression. Not for the left to help forge a leftist reality that rejected both market and state forms of authoritarianism.  No. See, it transpired that many on the left were apologists for the tyrannies of Eastern Europe. And so their memberships and organisational efficacy collapsed in concert with the collapsing of the East’s political dictatorships and command economies.

In line with the collapse of the extra-parliamentary left,  the representative left  in Social Democracies reacted to the apparent crisis of ideology by jettisoing all leftist pretensions.  And so, just as a financial crisis had allowed the Labour Party in New Zealand to be hi-jacked and used to inflict Rogernomics, the more widespread crisis of leftist  ideologies in the late 80’s was the trigger for the adoption and development of so-called ‘third way’ policies and a general unleashing of neo-liberal reforms.

With the wholesale abandoning of the left by the left, and subsequent aggressive attempts to discredit all aspects of leftist thought, avenues for genuine leftist aspirations were choked. Of course, the sentiments that had led to the development of much leftist thought in the first place didn’t just go away. But there was no articulation for those sentiments.

And 20 odd years on, we are being told that  “British people are more Thatcherite than when Margaret Thatcher was in power.  Thus claims a Guardian headline in reaction to the ‘British Social Attitudes Survey’ that’s published by the National Centre for Social Research.  (The raw data can be downloaded from here.)

A casual observer might conclude that this represents a natural ( if unfortunate) evolution in attitudes, and that British people are all ‘rationally optimising economic units’ now, who don’t believe in society and who, further more, embrace ‘individualism’. And insofar as it is reasonable to assume that British attitudes aren’t too far removed from NZ attitudes, that same observer might conclude that the NZ public has grown up and progressed to the point that we too embrace the wisdoms of neo-liberalism.

But something very obvious is not mentioned in the news pieces written off the back of the survey.   There is no consideration given to the impact of  20 odd years of incessant and unchallenged propaganda claiming that There Is No Alternative to neo-liberalism. It has taken an enormous propaganda effort to impact on attitudes. But that impact is by no means total. And certainly not deep rooted. Even after 20 odd years, there remain revealing contradictions in the attitudes people hold.

According to the survey, only 27%  (58% in 1991) of people think that benefit levels are too low. And this  is in spite of benefit cuts over recent years. And only 36% (51% in 1989) of people think the government should implement measures to distribute wealth more evenly.

But sitting alongside these figures there are other, contradictory ones. These contradictory figures pertain to matters that any neo-liberal propaganda model has to be more or less silent on.  The model can’t really spin an acceptable line to rationalise a minority of people getting ever higher incomes in relation to the majority. And the model can’t spin an acceptable line on the working poor.

So, in these areas of silence – these gaps in the propaganda – we find that 78% of people think that poor/rich income gaps are too wide and that 54% of people support increasing the minimum wage.  That’s worth spelling out. 54% of people support a government initiative to redistribute wealth through increasing the minimum wage when only 36% of people think that a government should redistribute wealth!

Here’s how the Guardian presented it.

In 1991, well over half (58%) thought the government should spend more money on benefits: this has halved to only a quarter (27%) by 2009
• The public also has concerns about redistributing income from the better off to the less well off; only one third (36%) think the state should do this, down from a half (51%) in 1989
• But 78% think the gap between those with high and a low income is too large, up from 73% in 2004. More than half (54%) now support an increase in the minimum wage.

This apparent disconnect in our attitudes is where  the opportunities for the left reside. If the left  articulates alternative visions stemming from these fundamental and persistent attitudes, then the left will find  fertile ground to grow support for genuine left programmes. The neo-liberal propaganda model has no re-joiner to a political articulation of our natural predispositions. None.

To clarify what I’m saying here,  consider the impact of targeted propaganda in relation to attitudes towards war. Most people are against war. But opinions and attitudes can be shaped to support specific wars or deem certain war efforts acceptable. It’s a wood and trees scenario. If you are maintaining an anti-war stance in the face of war propaganda, you place the specific propaganda effort in the wider moral or historical context of war.

But on neo-liberalism, it seems that much of the the left has mistaken the narrowly defined and manufactured attitudes on specific isues (such as those highlighted in the survey) for the whole picture. And as such, much of the left renders itself  impotent. Arguably, the current parliamentary left is  ‘too gone on it’ to see the wood for the trees. And as a result it competes to be tougher on criminals in lieu of debating and tackling the underlying causes of crime. Or it favours employers over genuinely struggling  beneficiaries who propaganda demonises (e.g. working for families abandoned the children of the unemployed and essentially created an employer subsidy and a downward pressure on wage levels).  And ultimately, the parliamentary left unwittingly aids and abets the parliamentary ‘right’  in marginalising and silencing the natural support base of the left and any natural opposition to neo-liberalism.

I’m being kind here. I’m assuming for the sake of argument that the parliamentary left has forgone it’s enchantment with neo-liberalism.

If that is so, then the time has passed for those on the parliamentary left to get their heads around the limited and misleading reality of focus groups and surveys. They merely reflect back the shallow efficacy of propaganda on specific issues.

But we operate from a different space than the one created by survey responses. Our every day actions and behaviours are determined by far deeper and more persistent undercurrents of decency and morality. And those undercurrents not only often contradict, but will outlive any fashionable attitudes that are shaped by any propaganda effort.  It’s time to see the big picture and inject a little context into politics.  The basic sentiments and moral imperatives that we hold in common, and that have previously provided the building blocks for leftist thoughts and ideologies, haven’t gone away. Thankfully, the previous flawed articulations of our shared moral imperatives and sympathies that the left pushed and that stupidly and covertly endorsed state oppression have been silenced.   But 20 odd years is a long enough pause to reflect on previous shortcomings.  Time to once more articulate visions that resonate with commonly held core sentiments.  Such undertakings would cripple the ongoing efforts of  neo-liberal propaganda and reverse its gains of the past few decades.

For the parliamentary left, at the very least, it’s time to jump away from the amoral, astro-turf territories that have been laid down by the neo-liberals. Nobody lives there.

62 comments on “Human Nature and Propaganda”

  1. mcflock 1

    A thought I had a few days ago meshes nicely with this. I had just finished listening to a national MP say that child poverty is contributed to by “welfare dependency”.

    The phrase “welfare dependency” has bothered me for years, and now I’ve managed to articulate why: it is a made-up condition with no medical basis, imagined solely for the purpose of denigrating an subjugating a large sector of the population. An equivalent condition is the 19th century’s “female hysteria” – an imagined concept to paint women as irrational and inadequate.

    The dream of “welfare dependency” is pure propoganda.

    • Bill 1.1

      Welfare = addiction = disease? And as we know, the root of disease resides in the individual.

      • mcflock 1.1.1

        … and “addiction” isn’t really a disease, it’s a weakness in the moral fibre of the individual. So only bad people claim a benefit.

        But I also love the way tories appropriate liberal ideals and then warp them: for example one guy claimed that compulsory student union membership is “discrimination” against rwnjs who don’t want to be in unions. Lefties were probably supposed to say “discrimination? Of course, you are right! I will now join ACT”. And, of course, helping people be “cured” of “welfare dependency” sounds much better than abandoning people to live (or die) in abject poverty. It almost sounds like they’re making up for stuffing hundreds of people on ACC out of healthcare.

    • Vicky32 1.2

      Exactly, and sadly, very effective propaganda! Many people seem to take ‘welfare dependency’ for granted as a real thing..

    • Bill 1.3

      Came across this relevant and interesting Why the ‘Lazy Jobless’ Myth Persists article by David Sirota…

      If, as the myth suggests, the jobless are really out of work because they “are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities,” then it stands to reason that the employed can avoid catastrophe by simply choosing better behavior.

  2. Awesome post Bill – I agree that the ‘left’ has to articulate its vision and that vision is based on core values that don’t go away. It is time for the ‘left’ to create a position in the publics mind that captures their hopes and dreams and exposes the deliberate inequality the system runs on. The inequality that many pretend we don’t see every day.

    • Bill 2.1

      Couldn’t fit it in the post, but since you present me with the opportunity….any worthwhile leftist vision would necessarily have to disavow previous articulated visions of the left that excused and practiced authoritarian means in attempts to achieve certain ends.

      And I’d suggest that as a part of any strategy aimed to avoid any subtle introduction of ‘state capture’ type policies or prescriptions, that any new articulation for the ‘Euro’ left would have to be a part and parcel of a larger package that included indigenous politics.

      And that to avoid subtle influences of patriarchy making unfortunate inroads, that the new articulation for the left that was Euro leftism and indigenous politics would itself need to be a part and parcel of a larger package that included feminist politics.

      I don’t mean to word all that in a way that might convey a hierarchy of importance.

      My point would be one of complementarity; where the politics of each different discourse informs and strengthens the others and results in a cohesive whole that has no dominant constituent part. (I picked indigenous, feminist and ‘euro’ leftist politics to illustrate the example. There are other politics too that would constitute the mix.)

      • A 2.1.1

        ….any worthwhile leftist vision would necessarily have to disavow previous articulated visions of the left that excused and practiced authoritarian means in attempts to achieve certain ends.

        But in the past you’ve offered nothing realistic as a response, only vague, utopian dreams of a completely untested and unrealistic economic and social order that reeks of bong water. That’s all right for academic discussions, but that sort of stuff won’t fly as a practical political program.

        Every functional human society of significant size has required one group to exercise political authority over the others. Even the purest democracy involves the representatives of one part of the population imposing their will on the remainder. If anything is a universal in human political organisation, it is this.

        If you want to rule out all forms of political authoritarianism, then you will not even pass go, nor collect your $200. You’re ruling out by fiat what are needed for realistic prospects for any political movement.

        • Bill

          A. You are an authoritarian. I get that. And you maintain, in spite of being provided really existing examples to the contrary, that any proposition for a society that embraces the concept of equity is ‘bong water’. So there’s no point in engaging with you on the matter, is there?

  3. just saying 3

    I agree Bill.
    I’ve often found that if you scratch the surface of many an apparent supporter of neoliberalism and ask specific questions a somewhat different picture emerges. As you say, one of those questions is “do you think the minimum wage is sufficient? Another is: Do you think the average workplace is better for the lack of unions? – often quite anti-union people agree that it is worse, not to mention more dangerous, and will be able to cite their own examples of how this is so, compared to when unions redressed the power imbalance a little.

    This dissonance is all the more remarkable for the almost complete absense of any public left wing discourse, as you say for twenty years now. Any exceptions to the rule have been deemded mad/and or bad. I think the political centre underestimates the extent of basic decency in much of the electorate, and in its ignorance unnecessarily panders to its basest instincts when it could successfully appeal to its goodwill and sense of justice.

  4. Carol 4

    Good post, which raises improtant issues, and points to a new direction. I agree that there are contradictions in neoliberalism, that maybe can point the way to a new articulation of left politics. I’m not sure how much it can be put down to <i.human nature, except that humans tend to be social beings, while morality can differ from culture to culture.

    IMO, the contradictory elements, at least in part, is due to the way neoliberalism piggy-backed on some successful left policies related to democratic rights. Some of this goes back to the values of the enlightenment, and post French & US revolution approaches to politics and society. In US capitalism, this tended to follow the liberal line of individual rights that had a long and strong tradition in the country, rather than the approach of collective rights and politics favoured more in Europe.

    The right elites could not have sold their neoliberal values and policies so widely and successfully, without framing them within the discourses of democracy and human rights. And I think this is their weak point, because those beliefs, as Bill inidcates, still have a lot of currency at the core of the social values in western countries like NZ. So, IMO, it’s necessary to on, the one hand, highlight the way neoliberalism fails to live up to those ideals of democracy, fair play and equal rights. But, at the same time there is a need to reclaim and recast those values in the more socially responsible, just, caring and collaborative terms of the left.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      while morality can differ from culture to culture.

      No it doesn’t. Murder id murder every where, trust is essential to the functioning of any society and all societies actually need to support their members.

      • Carol 4.1.1

        Murder id murder every where, trust is essential to the functioning of any society and all societies actually need to support their members.

        Is it? I think there are differences around when and where killing of others is considered a crime. War for instance? And there are some hazy areas in between war and murder. In earlier times in Britain it was considered more of a crime to kill one of the aristocracy. Peasants/commoners killing each other wasn’t given much attention by the ruling class. In fact, the word “murder” comes from the word used to designate it a crime to kill a Norman ruler/conqueror:


        After the Norman Conquest, to deter the local communities from a continuing habit of killing Normans, a heavy fine was levied on any village where a dead body was discovered, on the assumption that it was presumed to be Norman, unless it could be proved to be English. The fine was known as the ‘Murdrum’, from which the word ‘murder’ is derived and, as the system developed, many of the early coroners’ inquests dealt with the ‘Presumption of Normanry’ which could only be rebutted by the local community, and a fine thus avoided, by the ‘Presentment of Englishry’.

        Some cultures and subcultures consider the appropriate response to kill in revenge for one of your group being killed. But in other cultures this is considered to be murder and a crime. France has that category of crime passionnel, which is an accepted defence against a murder charge, whereas in other countries it is regarded as a crime.

        • Vicky32

          I had always assumed that the word murder derived from the German (and by extension, Old and Middle English) word for murder! : Dictionary –

          1. noun
          1. Mord
          2. Ermordung
          3. Vergewaltigung
          2. verb
          1. ermorden
          2. morden

        • Draco T Bastard

          Peasants/commoners killing each other wasn’t given much attention by the ruling class.

          Pretty sure you’ll find that it was taken seriously by the peasants though.

          • Carol

            Vicky, I think that the German word and the Old French & Old English words for murder are linked. There was a Anglo-French influence, where the “d” introduced into the spelling meant concealed slaying, whereas other related words had the less negative “slay” meaning.

            Anyway, it indicates a ong history of differentyiations between unlawful or immoral killings, and ones that are more acceptable, depending on the culture of the time.

            Back to the original topic, I think there are some human qualities that are “natural” but as we get inducted into human communities and societies from a very early age, it\’s hard to tell exactly where nature gives way to nurture.

            I agree with DtB that, in relation to morality/ethics, trust is essential to the functioning of any society . But this has to do with social relations, rather than some “natural” tendency to all have the same ethical/moral values.

            Killing is a good example. There is a general tendency for most communities to see killing of its members as a threat, but there are different ways this plays out in various communities. A lot depends on which group or community a person feels/is most allied to. So crime syndicates in the US commit killings, regarded as crime by the US authorities. However, such killings are often considered by the syndicate to be in keeping with their morality/ethics, when they kill people in their own or other syndicates that have threatened their trust and/or security & stability. Some communities sanction euthanasia, some don\’t…. etc. Often the belief that a specific murder is a crime/immoral relates to whether the victim belongs to an in or an out group.

            Yes, peasants may be more likely to have seen the killing of another peasant in feudal England as immoral. However, it may depend on whether the victim was considered part of a specific peasant\’s trusted community or in group. This is why the law provides sanctions against unlawful killing in contemporary nation states. Some people will try to get away with killing people who they feel no allegiance to.

            The laws against murder in contemporary western society are based on the nation state as the main community of allegiance. This is a social construct that arose at around the same times as capitalism, the enlightenment & the rise of the notion of “human rights”.

            Now, back to neoliberalism: the contradiction in it is that neoliberalism drew on human rights discourse, related to benefits to the whole of society, democracy, the common good etc.. This more humanist discourse was/is used to justify measures that, in practice, benefit the wealthy elites across a range of countries, and disadvantage others. So this contradiction needs to be exposed more widely: the claim to benefit all, while really benefitting the elite and powerful.

            Of course the wealthy and powerful elites continue to pay lip service to human rights, democracy and egalitarian discourses. However, they undercut this by designating some people as being an out group. They thereby claining that their liberal ideals can’t support some people because they are characterised as harming the “greater good” in representative democracies. Thus they use their propaganda machine to label some people as the “undeserving poor”, the “dole bludgers”, “welfare dependents”, “un-American”, “communist”, “not mainstream”, the “lazy” and the “weak” etc., and to re-brand legitimate protesters (against neoliberal policies) as violent, irresponsible troublemakers and criminals

            These false labels also need to be challenged, and the rights for the whole of society need to be foregrounded again by the left. Because, underneath all the neoliberal propaganda (and smears through falsification), the human rights, democratic, egalitarian and social justice discourses are more in keeping with the values of the majority in contemporary democracies.

            So maybe I am thinking its more about Human Rights and Propaganda

            • Bill

              I remember listening to one of the wee Napoleons (Act Party) speaking back in the 90’s and was struck by how, well, sort of anarchist the rhetoric sounded. (Freedom from this freedom to that etc)

              Of course, they forgot to mention how their concepts of freedom entailed total subjugation to market diktats…how remiss of them!… and that their vision of the stripped down, subordinate state would see it retain it’s powers of coercion to better ensure that the intended freedoms remained firmly the freedom to be subject to the market.

              I believe that Lenin used the same rhetorical ploy, and well, we know how that all ended up.

              Funny then how anarchism is conflated with chaos and unaccountable violence then, innit?

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    Agree with the WFF comment, mid income workers should join unions and organise to obtain wage rises from employers rather than the tax payer money go round.

    Dunno about the rest of your comments Bill, identity politics elevated again, and a dash of retrospective anti communism. Unlikely to get the neo libs to back off or attract voters from the tory camp. Perception and satisfaction gaps are a worry and an opportunity perhaps. Collective action, civic participation and political party membership are low following decades of reinforcement of the neo lib world view-its all about ME.

    75% of kiwis receive under 50k per annum and there are several hundred thousand self employed and contractors, so self delusion must be the kiwi psyche of choice for people to vote in such an ‘aspirational’ yet ultimately self disadvantaging manner. National was elected on A4 bullet point policies that few read. Reams could be employed to show how the Natz have dealt to the majority in NZ in just two years, but who would be interested? The mining issue grabbed people, but ultimately the parliamentary left just needs to persuade around 10% of voters in an electoral sense. I maintain roughly 35% of New Zealanders are dark sadistic tory bastards, but the rest can be reached some of the time on some issues.

    The parliamentary ‘left’ (social democratic) needs to cough up a social policy in one syllable words that can be grasped as a pack like Kiwibank, or Kiwi Saver, dumb it down and go for it, but the content would have to be well, left. $15 minimum wage, stimulus, jobs, NZCTU economic plan etc.

    • Bill 5.1

      Tiger. Anti-authoritarianism isn’t anti-communism.

      And I’m not elevating identity politics, but merely acknowledging that the left has been both racist and sexist (resulting in or because of?) the subordination of indigenous and feminist politics to Euro centric leftist ideologies, Elevation would give primacy to one or the other of them at the expense of the other two. Not something I argue for. I’m arguing for these three things being integral components of the same political phenomenon.

  6. RedLogix 6

    A remarkable post Bill and superb discussion so far. So far I’ve read with much interest.

    My interpretation of the overall theme here comes at things from a different angle. For all their obvious, deplorable and unforgiveable shortcomings… the organised religions of the world did serve one crucial purpose… at core they exposed people to the idea of values other than mere survival, dominance and the successful propagation of our genes. At core there was the idea, “for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?”

    If history teaches us nothing else, it is that if selfish motives wholly dominate, we humans decend to the most astounding ruthlessness and brutality towards each other. Indeed even now in parts of the world where society has seriously unravelled, we are witnessing these horrors. The basic truth is that it is ONLY as members of a functioning, stable and capable society that our behaviour as individuals rises above that of brute depravity.

    Even in a senile, degraded, ossified state, corrupted by the cancer of fundamentalism, the religions of the world were, until the last few decades, still able to credibly assert core notions such as justice, equity, dignity, trustworthiness, compassion, modesty and decency…abstract ideas that compose the fundamental nexus lying at the heart of any coherent society. But decades since the 1960’s have now seen at least two generations almost wholly divorced from any real engagement with religion, except perhaps in rather transient, superficial ways. For most, religion has become a matter of scorn and mockery, sneering references to our ‘invisible friend’ and outright hostility.

    There is no question in my mind, the deplorable record of many, if not most, churches is indefensible. I am not for a moment suggesting anything remotely like a ‘backward looking return to faith’, most certainly nothing like the conservative, authoritarian churches our grandparents knew. But I am willing to suggest that however imperfectly, those churches DID serve an essential social purpose we are now lamenting the loss of.

    And that the peoples of the world will become more self-centered, more right-wing and more greedy … more Thatcherite if you will… just as long as we allow this higher purpose to remain neglected.

    • Bill 6.1

      You seem to accept a Hobbesian viewpoint on the human condition, Red. But I’m not at all convinced that life was ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ in the absence of ‘a common power to keep us all in awe’. I mean, let’s face it. Hobbs was peddling a political line to justify his penchant for sovereign rulers…for authoritarianism.

      I attempted to articulate a fairly comprehensive response to your comment. But it kept running away on me. So in the interests of brevity, I’m opting for an analogy instead in the hope that its adequate to convey my thoughts.

      Seems to me that imposed orders hold within them the seeds of dis-order. And that these will sprout and find expression (apparently chaotic violence etc) during the period when the imposed orders are collapsing.

      Like a compressed spring with built up potential energies, when the coercive forces applied to it fall away, that ‘falling away’ unleashes all types of forces that act in a broadly predictable, yet chaotic manner.

      And just like an uncompressed spring does not exhibit chaotic behaviours, neither would a society free from coercion.

      As for higher purposes. Why not? As long as there is no system of imposition for said higher purpose. Which kind of brings us full circle back to Hobbs, who (as far as I’m concerned) played the fear card to excuse the imposition of his version of a higher purpose.

      • RedLogix 6.1.1


        Thanks for that… it’s a valid and useful answer. In summary you say:

        And just like an uncompressed spring does not exhibit chaotic behaviours, neither would a society free from coercion.

        Clearly the main thought you have in mind when writing that revolves around the word ‘coercion’, a word that implies the external imposition of force or regulation of human behaviour. In that I agree with you entirely, the least amount of coercion, of any kind, that a society impliments the better. We are in agreement here.

        But neither am I comfortable with the idea that this means everyone simply gets to do whatever the hell they please, and can get away with at the time. Humans, unlike animals, have a highly developed ability to think in the abstract, which means that for instance when an animal kills in order to eat it does so for reasons we can understand and respect. While humans are capable of forming perverse notions and desires leading to mass cruelties and killings of an utterly more rapacious order. (History is replete with gruesome examples…).

        Equally humans can choose to employ that same abstract capacity, the rational soul if you will, in the service of justice, compassion and dignity. In doing so they support and nuture the capacity of the society they live in, and mutatis mutandis. If you desire any degree of civilisation there must be rules.

        Ideally the desire to abide by those rules comes from within every person, prompted by a deep and sincere conviction of what it is to be truly human. For most people in history it was not philosophy or politics that informed them of this, but the religious institutions of their time. And even in these modern times, we are no different in that need.

        • Bill

          “But neither am I comfortable with the idea that this means everyone simply gets to do whatever the hell they please, and can get away with at the time.”

          Neither am I.

          But rules can be drawn up freely by and between all members of a society, and be enforced by those same fully empowered members of that society. That’s not coercion, insofar as the police and the policed are one and the same.

          (I’m using the term society as a designation for actual human interaction btw. So, ‘New Zealand society’ doesn’t exist. Rather, these islands have thousands of societies…some transient, some permanent… that are all connected in a variety of ways (distantly, intimately, fleetingly or whatever) . And I’m saying that any given person is a member of any number of different societies at any given time depending on their interactions .)

          Anyway, there’s a fairly simple rule of thumb for determining when rules or agreements need to be reached. If what I am going to do will impact only on me, then fine I can just get on with it. And if what I am going to do impacts on others, then those others would have a legitimate input into whatever the proposed action is. And in a coherent society, familiarity with its institutional memory would negate the need to constantly seek agreement or permission for actions or behaviours.

          As for potential punishment for transgressing social rules…lets talk extremes like murder for example, well…that’s up to the members of the society affected to determine. The person might be killed…or maybe imprisoned for life…or maybe put in a collar that prevented them from reaching their own mouth or from being able to lie down; rendering them utterly reliant on the good will of others, their erstwhile victims, for water and food and to sleep and therefore to live, or maybe they’d just be ostracised. Or whatever.

          I throw that in because their is nothing that says societies cannot resort to blunt measures to ensure their integrity.

  7. SPC 7

    I take issue with the idea of WFF as an “employer subsidy” (that line is promoted by the neo-liberal right to get bi-partisan support to dismantle it) – without it, there would have been across the board tax cuts at greater cost (the National alternative in 2005) to the government budget revenues and there would have been less money to families – to the extent that there would still be children of working families in poverty (pre 2005). And certainly no money left to help children of beneficiaries …

    Even English says that the security afforded by interest free student loans, WFF and the promise of no changes to Super allows the government to propose reform elsewhere. That same fact also applies to Labour proposing reforms elsewhere – as it should.

    Such as borrowing to build state houses in an economic downturn – creating jobs (and easing pressure on housing stock levels when the private sector is not investing). It’s easy to justify – the houses can be sold to pay back the debt afterwards. It’s more sustainable than roads to holiday homes north of Auckland.

  8. Bored 8

    Fantastic Bill, great article. I liked the line about being kind to the parliamentary left and their atachment to neo lib shibboleths, damning by faint praise. They needed a bloody big kick up the jacksey, well delivered.

    About a year ago I wrote about the language of engagement, that it framed the debate and that to be effective the language of what you oppose must be replaced with another language. You commented at the time about this being valid. It is good to see your comment on limited and misleading reality of focus groups and surveys. They merely reflect back the shallow efficacy of propaganda on specific issues. followed by Time to once more articulate visions that resonate with commonly held core sentiments. Such undertakings would cripple the ongoing efforts of neo-liberal propaganda and reverse its gains of the past few decades. A clarion call, again , well said.

  9. jbanks 9

    The objective process of natural selection is pruning less valuable ideologies.

    So the truth does hurt . . . particularly so for destructive leftist ideologies trying to erode personal responsibility and dehumanize society.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      So you have no personal objection to me applying the ‘laws of natural selection’ on you then? If I’m bigger, meaner and faster than you logically you will simply get “pruned”.

      Tough if that hurts. Or is there more to life than the “laws of natural selection”?

      • jbanks 9.1.1

        THINK before you post please.

        Biological reproduction is now disconnected from survival, and ‘values & beliefs’ are the new form of information in the fight to be reproduced.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Biological reproduction is the main component of ‘natural selection’. If you meant something else, you should have said something else.

    • just saying 9.2

      Actually jbanks, the “objective” process of evolution, prunes on the basis of individual survival-to-propagate. ‘Value’ doesn’t come into it at all.

      The evolution of cultural beliefs can, quite efficiently, lead to the extinction of humanity.

      Course, whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing is a value judgement too.

      • jbanks 9.2.1

        Again. Context. Get some. Sheesh, it’s like a 1st year Pols tutorial around here.

        • just saying

          “Again. Context. Get some.”

          And your argument is?

          • jbanks

            That in modern society – biological reproduction has nothing to do with being fit. The people doing the most reproducing are arguable the least ‘fittest’.

            So when we talk about natural selection, we’re talking about the new form of information in the fight to be reproduced – ‘values & beliefs’. Of which, the ‘weak’ ones (ie ones that work against our human nature) are dying.

            But you can blame the demise of left ideologies as being due to ‘propoganda’ if it makes you feel good.

            • Pascal's bookie

              Sounded better in the original german.

              • jbanks

                Godwin’d? Yeah, you got nothing.

                • Bored

                  Banksie, you mention the demise of left wing ideologies. So here you are arguing against left wing ideologies which are quite obviously (from the fact that left wing ideologues respond to you) not in a state of demise. Engage gear before releasing clutch.

                  • jbanks

                    You think that an insignificant little website like thestandard shows that left wing ideologies aren’t on the demise? Hahaha, now THAT’S propaganda.

                    • Pascal's bookie


                      Using a rhetorical question to misrepresent someone’s position in order to avoid addressing it, is a propaganda technique.

                    • Bored

                      Hop hop judder judder re engage clutch, hell too few revs, no horsepower. Why am I not surprised?

                • Pascal's bookie

                  nah, I got plenty. f’rinstance:

                  That in modern society – biological reproduction has nothing to do with being fit. The people doing the most reproducing are arguable the least ‘fittest’.

                  This is just abject nonsense. Those doing the most reproduction are by definition the most fit it terms of natural selection. God alone knows why you brought up natural selection, but I suspect it is because you think it means ‘evolution’. You seem to think you are using it literally, when you are using it (poorly) as a metaphor, or an analogy.

                  If you want to use evolution as a metaphor for this question, which is fine, you might like to think about what would be analogous to what. What is the genotype? What is the phenotype? What is mutation? What is natural selection? What is sexual selection?

                  Which, if any, of those aspects of evo thinking would be analogous to propaganda?

                  Thinking about these things might require applying actual knowledge about both propaganda and evolution. We’ll see how you go, but bringing your arsehole to a brainfight is not a start.

                  • jbanks

                    “This is just abject nonsense. Those doing the most reproduction are by definition the most fit it terms of natural selection.”

                    You’re a bit slow eh? In what way is the ability to reproduce considered ‘fit’ [HINT: a comparative term] when the welfare state ensures that ANYONE can successfully reproduce? Biologically speaking there is no survival of the fittest anymore.

                    Tbh I’m not surprised that you are too daft to comprehend this.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      As suspected, you don’t really understand the concepts. You think you do though, and have run up against the problem of being too ignorant to recognise your ignorance.

                    • jbanks

                      Just as I thought, not educated enough to answer my question.

                      And this ladies and gentlemen, I mean gentlemen, is why my beliefs and ideals are doing A LOT better in the global informational survival fight.

                    • felix

                      It’s all a bit Gervais & Pilkington, this discussion.

                      Hint for banksie: Natural selection & evolution, they do not mean what you think they mean.

                    • lprent

                      Jbanks: I suspect that you have been watching too much Fox ‘news’ or some such nonsense. Untangling your half-arsed tangle is too much work for a warmish Saturday afternoon. I think a nap would be more productive than attempting to educate you.

                      BTW: you’re getting close to the pwned heresy. Just a gentle warning. Ah summer. It even mellows sysops.

                    • Descendant Of Smith

                      My observation would be that Catholicism encourages breeding far more than welfare does. Both on a national and a global scale.

                      Of course most people aren’t on a benefit for a long period of time – does that mean that this biological imperative to breed occurs alongside their benefit application and subsides again when they are back in work – or are they sullied for life – never to be the same again?

                      Interestingly enough there is some research that shows when a population is under stress such as disease or famine or starvation – then the biological imperative to reproduce does increase. This makes sense – the lower the life expectancy the greater the need to reproduce in order for the species to survive. Conversely as populations have sufficient resource numbers of children usually reduce.

                      Taking away the welfare state might have the reverse effect – with even less support the urge to procreate may become even stronger – after all if you need to look after yourself in your old age then having lots of children is often the best way to do that.

                      That’d be cool eh jbanks – loads of little street urchins running around making your life miserable, selling matches on street corners, begging you for a shoeshine, cleaning your chimney.

                      Of course they’d be disposable – we could send em down coal-mines.

                      The trouble with some people is that they are so obsessed with thinking that everything is aligned to money – that if you have no income you will logically have no kids – cause you know you can’t afford em.

                      It’s particularly stupid though to think that a short-term political ascendancy of neo-liberal polices can have any impact on millions of years of evolution – the classic mistake of thinking that things that seem significant in your own life-time are big on the overall scale of things.

            • just saying

              Just as an aside,
              So, biological natural selection has led to “the least fittest” people doing the most reproducing, whereas cultural evolution necessarily leads to the ‘most fit’ values and beliefs prevailing….
              Cultural evolution more pure or what?

              • RedLogix

                Nah…. all banksie is doing is taking a valid biological principle …natural selection… and with no justification whatsoever he’s mapping it onto a completely different domain, that of principals and values.

                Yet as I suggested above, if I actually attempted to apply the principle of natural selection to him personally, he’d be most upset. Selective alright, just not in the way he’s thinking of.

                • Bored

                  Actually, if it were applied rigorously to him there would be six feet of soil between him and a keyboard. Personally I think iit is a load of bollocks applied to society, so he is safe from me shooting him for now.

              • jbanks

                Yes. With cultural evolution, over time only useful ideas and beliefs will survive. This is not the case with biological evolution atm.

                Of course with biological evolution ‘least fittest’ is only true if you agree with the premise that less intelligent, less productive, less self reliant people are unfit.

                • mcflock

                  In evolutionary terms, they’re only “unfit” if their population diminishes overall.

                  “Fittest” isn’t a morally qualitative term – if one group is reproducing more than another (and this isn’t offset by a much higher mortality rate), then it is more “fit” for the circumstantial niche both groups are trying to fill.

                  So your statement “That in modern society – biological reproduction has nothing to do with being fit. The people doing the most reproducing are arguable the least ‘fittest’” is nonsensical bunk. Even if you provided evidence that beneficiaries were “doing the most reproducing”.

                  And as for suggesting that “less fit” ideologies are being culled … well, that’s just the tory propagandist method of taking a scientific fact and applying it in a pseudo-scientific way to sound rational, mixed with the constant claim that left wing views are no longer held in any great measure by society becoz de wall dun cum down.

                  • jbanks

                    “In evolutionary terms, they’re only “unfit” if their population diminishes overall.
                    “Fittest” isn’t a morally qualitative term – if one group is reproducing more than another (and this isn’t offset by a much higher mortality rate), then it is more “fit” for the circumstantial niche both groups are trying to fill.”

                    *sigh* it really must be school holidays. In the context where there is a process in which the organisms with the best or most favorable genetic adaptations out-compete other organisms in a population, then yes.

                    But for the THIRD TIME we are not talking about a situation where reproducing at a greater rate makes you better-adapted.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      But for the THIRD TIME we are not talking about a situation where reproducing at a greater rate makes you better-adapted.

                      You’re the one that brought up natural selection. If it isn’t appropriate to whatever point you are failing to make, then you shouldn’t have brought it up.

                    • mcflock

                      “But for the THIRD TIME we are not talking about a situation where reproducing at a greater rate makes you better-adapted.”

                      No, it’s overall population levels that imply how well a particular population has adapted to its environment. While mortality might increase slightly with deprivation levels, it would have to increase at a higher rate than the birth rate to lower the population.

                      If this doesn’t apply to your argument, then “evolution” doesn’t apply. So you are using a shovel to tighten a bolt. And all the tradestaff on site are laughing at you.

                    • jbanks

                      “You’re the one that brought up natural selection. If it isn’t appropriate to whatever point you are failing to make, then you shouldn’t have brought it up.”

                      It is relevant to what I’m saying about the survival of ideologies. The best ideologies are out-competing the other ideologies and these less valuable ones are being weeded out over time. It’s not rocket science you imbecile.

                      Also it was redlogix who naively tried to apply NS to modern reproduction.

                    • mcflock

                      Nope, RL just wanted to apply it to you:

                      So you have no personal objection to me applying the ‘laws of natural selection’ on you then? If I’m bigger, meaner and faster than you logically you will simply get “pruned”.

                      Tough if that hurts. Or is there more to life than the “laws of natural selection”?

                      You applied it to wider society in an incorrect way:

                      That in modern society – biological reproduction has nothing to do with being fit. The people doing the most reproducing are arguable the least ‘fittest’.

                      That is the comment that really shows how you don’t know what you are talking about. Without a corresponding increase in mortality, a large reproduction rate means a larger population increase, no? So the population is expanding fast than its “competitors” (if this term even applies to demographic subgroups). So it is actually MOST SUITED to the current situation.

                      It seems Big Bruv has a friend just as delusional.

  10. just saying 10

    So your argument is that if an idea survives and is propagated it does so because it is ‘correct’ and ‘good’. There is an almost infinite number of examples that show this is factualy incorrect.

    So when we talk about natural selection, we’re talking about the new form of information in the fight to be reproduced – ‘values & beliefs’. Of which, the ‘weak’ ones (ie ones that work against our human nature) are dying”

    Could you be more pompous?

    So the cultural beliefs and values held by the last remnants of humanity before we die out (and if there are enough people these will be conflicting) will be the ultimate winners. The most true and the most good?

    • Bored 10.1

      Spot on JS, Banks is starting off down that road toward self justification, might is right. The natural corollary to this odious ideology is that those who cant compete and are therefore unselected are “unfit”. Eugenics works this way, it leads to killing off the retarded and disabled, then any other group those with power see fit to “unselect” from “fitness”. We can leave it to Banks to fill in the dots to find examples, if he is honest he willl find the extreme ends of materialist ideologies of both the left and right will fit the bill.

    • jbanks 10.2

      “So your argument is that if an idea survives and is propagated it does so because it is ‘correct’ and ‘good’. There is an almost infinite number of examples that show this is factualy incorrect.”

      No ‘correct’ and ‘good’ are only relative to particular subjective premises. More a pruning of beliefs that are less useful to society.

      • just saying 10.2.1

        Don’t want to continue a crappy side issue in an otherwise valuable discussion. So just a final few words.

        Quote jbanks: “…That in modern society – biological reproduction has nothing to do with being fit. The people doing the most reproducing are arguable the least ‘fittest’”

        Personally I think this is bollocks, but regardless, in saying it you claim that natural selection can get it wrong that – less “fit” is prevailing over more “fit”. Then in contradiction you maintain that the “natural selection” of ideas and values, for some unspecified reason is infallible. Maybe you should have picked a different metaphor, but I suspect you were trying infuse your narrow and bigoted little mindscape with the lustre of “scientific” credibility.

        btw. you can’t get around the problems around truth and value by switching to the word ‘useful’ midstream. The same arguments apply and what constitutes a ‘useful’ idea is just as subjective.

  11. jbanks 11

    Jbanks: I suspect that you have been watching too much Fox ‘news’ or some such nonsense. Untangling your half-arsed tangle is too much work for a warmish Saturday afternoon. I think a nap would be more productive than attempting to educate you.


    If you can’t support a child, don’t have one. It’s that simple.

    You’re so cripplingly blinkered and bound by your online obligations that when it comes to intelligent debate . . . you can’t not come across as a n00b.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      If you can’t support a child, don’t have one. It’s that simple.

      Wow as if everyone about to become parents for the first time actually planned it like simple clockwork.

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