Lefty book reviews: Don’t Buy It

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, August 7th, 2016 - 98 comments
Categories: books, campaigning - Tags: , ,

Cross-posted from Boots Theory.

It’s more Post-It than book, at this stage.

It’s more Post-It than book, at this stage.

Where to start with Anat Shenker-Osorio’s Don’t Buy It: The Trouble With Talking Nonsense About The Economy?

This review seems redundant, because literally every person I’ve encountered in the past year has been subjected to my near-evangelist recommendation of it. I don’t know every lefty in New Zealand (despite what Matthew Hooton might think); I just feel like I’ve said this all before.

And I have. Even before I read Don’t Buy It, or developed my slightly unhealthy adoration of its author. If you’ve read many of my posts about narrative and language and rejecting centrism, you’ll hear a lot of the same themes. I flatter myself that great minds think alike.

That’s my bias: I agree with pretty much everything Anat Shenker-Osorio has ever said, and firmly believe that unless the mainstream leftwing movement starts doing things differently, we’re not going to build the mass support we need to fundamentally change our world.

Anat Shenker-Osorio is a strategic communications expert and research from the USA, who’s worked with American and Australian trade unions, our own CTU, and a range of progressive organisations in the US. In October 2015 she ran workshops in New Zealand with commsy-type people from the CTU, trade unions, and the Green Party. That’s where I first met her, and the rest is fangirl history.

The book is fundamentally about language. The messages we send, not just with our policies or campaigns, but the metaphor and subtext of every slogan, speech and press release.

The point is we’re doing it wrong.

Look at the global financial crisis of 2008. A tremendous opportunity to highlight the basic problems of capitalism. A time when practically everyone on Earth was ready to do things differently because the system was clearly broken. What happened? The banks got bailed out. The world kept turning.

Why? Because the content of our messages might have been bang on, but the delivery wasn’t. As an example, Shenker-Osorio addresses the “global financial crisis” itself:

We often think about crises as sudden, unpredictable turns of events. Think of the common usages of this concept, like midlife crisis and identity crisis. These are generally unanticipated alterations of behaviour. … We never saw that coming.

We don’t necessarily look for a solution to emerge … nor are we out looking for someone to blame for what happened. In fact, we might be tempted to believe the situation will right itself …

Thus, our frequent reliance on the phrase “economic crisis” most likely does not establish the necessary idea that this was a long time coming, people in power made it happen, and we need to act deliberately to change course.

It seems pedantic. It’s very word-nerdy. And the kinds of people who always get up in arms when progressives start critiquing language may ask “who even cares?”

It’s true. Most people don’t think this deeply about the language they hear. But they’re still picking up the subtext, and if the subtext is reinforcing the right’s way of thinking about how the world works – that the 2008 crash just happened, that nothing’s fundamentally wrong, that no one could have seen it coming – they’re never going to find our solutions credible. We’re fighting “that’s just the way things are.”

Think about the naturalistic ways we talk about “the economy”: it grew. It shrank. Jobs were lost. Wages sank. All this just happens for no reason. There’s nothing we can do about it.

Think about “the top 10%”. How strongly we associate “top” with “good”. It’s much easier for the right to say the wealthy are more hardworking and deserving when we reinforce the idea that they’re better than us.

It’s not just metaphors. The left loves the passive voice – “inequality must be addressed”, “reforms are needed”, “the policy will need to be reviewed”. We feel like we’ve taken a real stand – yet said nothing. We don’t name the villains – we paint people as victims of a terrible faceless system.

At the end (because language is vital, but it isn’t the only thing) Shenker-Osorio presents a set of four powerful policies to redefine key parts of the economy – and re-set our expectations of how it should work and who it should work for. They’re US-specific, but the idea of putting forward audacious, groundbreaking strategies backed up by strong, coherent messages is immensely important.

Because we’ve been afraid for too long. Buying into the language and framing of our opponents has felt lovely and safe. We want to sound grown-up and mature like those serious businessmen politicians. But that’s why we’re losing, and that’s why we have to change how we do things. As the book concludes:

Progressives must stop humming in a blandly nonoffensive alto. Regardless of what we do or say, our opponents will call us wildly out of touch and wacky, so we might as well have some fun and say what we actually mean. It’s shockingly difficult for us to speak from our worldview, accustomed as we’ve become to walking the fictional middle line. We’re losing so much ground in every battle, it feels scary to “go out on a limb” and come out swinging for what we believe. But make no mistake: continuing to do the same things and expecting different outcomes is a madness we don’t have the time to indulge.

dont buy itFor such detailed and challenging subject matter, Don’t Buy It is an immensely readable book. It’s optimistic, even as it tells us that we’re doing things wrong. It offers a clear path forward. I hope progressives here and all over the world choose to take it.

Bookdepository link here; also available from Unity Books.

More about Anat Shenker-Osorio at her website. Watch her address to the 2015 CTU conference on Youtube.

98 comments on “Lefty book reviews: Don’t Buy It”

  1. ianmac 1

    Have ordered on the spot, though for a moment puzzled by the Don’t Buy It name.

  2. Anne 2

    Progressives must stop humming in a blandly nonoffensive alto. Regardless of what we do or say, our opponents will call us wildly out of touch and wacky, so we might as well have some fun and say what we actually mean. It’s shockingly difficult for us to speak from our worldview, accustomed as we’ve become to walking the fictional middle line. We’re losing so much ground in every battle, it feels scary to “go out on a limb” and come out swinging for what we believe.

    Truer words have never been spoke…

    Many of us have been pleading thus with our respective political party heavies for years, but it’s like banging one’s head against a brick wall. In short, stop acting like scared rabbits and tell it like it is.

    • ianmac 2.1

      Anne. That is what Burnie Sanders is saying and doing. How true. Lets do it!

      • Anne 2.1.1

        Yes, and look how it resonates!

        • AmaKiwi 2.1.1.1

          + 100

          Wake up Left NZ MPs. Every time you use the Right’s terminology you lose.

          Check out Bernie’s ads on youtube. He reframes the issues superbly.

          • miravox 2.1.1.1.1

            “Every time you use the Right’s terminology you lose”

            This can’t be said often enough.

            Sometime the terms are so innocuous that it’s difficult to see that framing in conservative or neo-lib terms is happening. The language around the Auckland housing debacle is a example of that.

            • AmaKiwi 2.1.1.1.1.1

              @ miravox

              +1

              No working person has any idea what “negative gearing” is. Speak plainly. “Our tax laws let the rich get millions in tax breaks that the rest of us can’t get.”

              Bernie would say, “Our country is wealthy enough that no family should have to live in a garage.”

              “We need a WOF to have a car but this government has decided it is 100% legal for landlords to rent us damp, cold, rat infested dumps.”

              “It is a national disgrace that our farms produce 12 times more food than we can eat but the government wants the rich to ship it overseas and let 30% of our children go hungry.”

              Speak plainly, Labour and Greens.

              “Most of us are getting royally screwed by the rich few.”

    • Chris 2.2

      And the difficulty trying to even discuss the insidiousness in the belief “at least Labour’s better than National” and how destructive those kinds of approaches really are.

      • Leftie 2.2.1

        Like the following, you mean Chris?

        Draco T Bastard2.1.2
        10 August 2016 at 2:51 pm

        “And yet it’s always been Labour that paid off government debt and grows the economy while National blows the budget and destroys the economy.”

        Not sure if you understood the article, but what’s insidious and destructive about stating a fact anyway ?

    • Leftie 2.3

      Completely agree with you Anne.

  3. I hope my library gets it, I will ask them to because it sounds like essential reading. Thanks Stephanie.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    Progressives must stop humming in a blandly nonoffensive alto. Regardless of what we do or say, our opponents will call us wildly out of touch and wacky, so we might as well have some fun and say what we actually mean.

    Pretty sure I’ve got that bit down pat. Especially considering how the RWNJs keep calling me rude when I call them lying, psychopathic fuckwits 😈

    It’s shockingly difficult for us to speak from our worldview, accustomed as we’ve become to walking the fictional middle line.

    That’s a good description. The ‘middle’ is most definitely fictional. In fact, capitalism itself is completely delusional in that it requires, and acts, as if all resources are unlimited and that rich people are more important than the environment.

    • Reddelusion 4.1

      It’s a badge of honour to be called a lying pathological fukwit by you Draco, no offence taken 😀

      • Murray Simmonds 4.1.1

        Yep, no doubt Reddelusion. But IMO, its an even better badge of honour to find that (at least sometimes) you actually AGREE with what Draco T stands for.

        And for that matter, CV, as well.

        When I’m short of time and therefore have to skip over most comments, I somehow seem to find the time to at least have a closer look at what either Draco T or CV are saying. That, plus “Afewknowthetruth”. These few at least appear to me to be “clued in”. Dunno what that means in general – – but its certainly interesting (to me anyway).

      • Stuart Munro 4.1.2

        RWNJ mistake notoriety for fame – http://www.taleswithmorals.com/the-mischievous-dog.htm

  5. weka 5

    Thanks for posting this over here Stephanie, very interesting and great to hear that a range of people did her workshops. Does she offer solutions? eg what does she suggest to use instead of ‘economic crisis’?

  6. RedLogix 6

    Very welcome and timely Stephanie. I’ve had similar ideas bumping around in the back rooms of my mind for some years, but never had the skill nor time to bring them to a proper form. I’ll definitely obtain a copy.

    The dark side of the coin is a bullying PC language police which alienates and polarises. We win these battles by example, and demonstrating that what we are doing works.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Just observe how Clinton has revived the “reds under the bed” languaging against Trump, while Trump rages against the ‘PC gone mad’ Democratic Party.

  7. Murray Simmonds 7

    A brilliant review – and yes “linguistic framing” is currently fashionable.

    But I don’t think language or framing or “linguistic stereotyping” is the answer.
    “Its the economy, stupid” . . . . . Whoever said that was on the right track.

    And that Rothschild sociopath who said “I care not . . . . (whatever, whatever) . . . whoever controls the economy (etc etc)” unfortunately got it right.

    Forget language and linguistic framing. “What the world needs now is . . . ” NOT “love sweet love. . . . .”.

    What the world needs now is a BRAND NEW ECONOMIC SYSTEM. Linguistic framing will not deliver it. We need a WORKABLE alternative to the current con-job that calls the shots on the global economic system.

    Thats why I’m reading Tim Jackson’s “Prosperity without growth – economics for a finite planet.”

    OK, so I’m a slow reader and I’m only half way through. But, so far at least, I think it is at least HEADING in the right direction, and maybe, just maybe in the long term this kind of approach, built upon, might just happen to deliver the right answers.

    Linguisitic framing won’t.

    Sorry about my laziness in sourcing and correctly quoting above, . . . . (getting OLD. Its a GREAT excuse!).

    • weka 7.1

      Once you have a brand new economic system, do you need linguistic framing to deliver it?

      • Murray Simmonds 7.1.1

        Well yes, of course, Weka.

        But its all about getting it right first . . . . then “broadcasting” it to the world at large.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      https://prof77.wordpress.coThe International Bankers–famous quotes about international bankers

      “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” – Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild, 1744-1812

      That is the reason why the capitalists always tell us that the government shouldn’t create a nations money and the reason why the government should be the sole creator of that money supply.

      By keeping the creation of the nations money in the hands of the private banks as we do we’ve passed control of our country to the banksters.

      Thats why I’m reading Tim Jackson’s “Prosperity without growth – economics for a finite planet.”

      Yep. We can, and must, have prosperity without growth because growth is unsustainable. Our farming sector and the damage that it’s done and continues to do to our waterways is a great example of growth gone too far.

      • Chuck 7.2.1

        “Yep. We can, and must, have prosperity without growth because growth is unsustainable.”

        Which will also mean a cap on how many humans are on the planet. How do you suggest we achieve that Draco?

        • Draco T Bastard 7.2.1.1

          Have you noticed that well educated nations with good access to birth control usually have declining populations?

          But you do bring up a serious question: Do people have the right to have as many children as they please?

          The answer has always been NO! That, IMO, is why most cultures have huge restrictions on female sexuality. Tribes in the Arctic used to use infanticide to prevent over population.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 7.2.1.1.1

            In a nutshell: empower women, educate kids.

            Oh, and make sure to keep an eye on the powerful authoritarians.

          • Stephanie Rodgers 7.2.1.1.2

            It’s well documented that increasing women’s education and access to birth control, in any nation, leads to families having fewer kids, more spaced out.

        • weka 7.2.1.2

          “Which will also mean a cap on how many humans are on the planet. How do you suggest we achieve that Draco?”

          Countries like NZ generally have a declining population growth rate. See if you can figure out why.

          • Chuck 7.2.1.2.1

            “Countries like NZ generally have a declining population growth rate.”

            weka countries like NZ are not the problem re – population growth rates.

            You need to look at developing countries…anywhere from 2% to 9% annually.

            As for NZ it was +0.83% (2014). Don’t know why you say “a declining population growth rate”?

            Especially since we have a positive balance of migrants entering NZ.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 7.2.1.2.1.1

              developing countries…anywhere from 2% to 9%

              Ah, so let’s get this straight – the “problem” is that there are too many poor brown people. The significance of the spread in the figures escapes you, and your opinions date from the early 1980s.

              Weka said “declining growth rate” because the growth rate is declining. Do you need to have that explained to you or would you prefer to think very hard until you get a headache first?

              • Chuck

                Hmm OAB…please do your self a favor and see what Draco wrote and my reply.

                Draco – “prosperity without growth because growth is unsustainable”

                Which would also need to include limiting the human population to x.

                But somehow I think you know that, and are just trying to muddy the waters with the race card.

                BTW It does not mean I supports Draco’s idea…I asked how he would control it.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Chuck, do yourself a favour and forget the notion that you have any insight into how left wingers think.

                  When the Right can be persuaded to notice population sustainability issues, you propose ‘solutions’ like sterilisation, euthanasia, and war. So fuck off sweety.

                  • Chuck

                    “When the Right can be persuaded to notice population sustainability issues, you propose ‘solutions’ like sterilisation, euthanasia, and war. So fuck off sweety.”

                    Oh my back to form OAB…insult and lies.

                    I won’t give up on you though buddy 🙂

            • weka 7.2.1.2.1.2

              We’re talking death and birth rate over time, immigration is a red herring.

              My point remains, what are the relevant differences between the countries you are concerned about and the others?

              • Chuck

                “My point remains, what are the relevant differences between the countries you are concerned about and the others?”

                You are going round in circles weka…that was not your point.

                Further you said – “Countries like NZ generally have a declining population growth rate.”

                Which is not correct as I pointed out. Maybe you meant “just” birth verse death rate? and NOT population growth rate?

                In the December 2015 year:

                “61,038 live births and 31,608 deaths were registered in New Zealand, resulting in a natural increase (live births minus deaths) of 29,430.”

                “There were 3,796 more births and 545 more deaths compared with 2014.”

                http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/births/BirthsAndDeaths_HOTPYeDec15.aspx

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Growth ≠ rate of growth.

                  Before you try and figure this out, make sure you have some painkillers handy.

                • weka

                  In the context of your reply to Draco that stopping perpetual growth would require capping global population the only thing that matters is the death and birth rate (unless you think that there is immigration from off planet).

                  For a long time most human cultures had fluctuations in their population but basically didn’t outgrow their resource base. In more recent millenia, many places have had a perpetual increase in the rate of their population increase (births over deaths). Now in some countries that rate is declining. This means that instead of increasing exponentially, the rate is decreasing. This doesn’t mean we’re at steady state, or declining population, but it does mean we are heading in that direction. Looking at a single year won’t tell you that, you need to look at the trend over time.

                  The reasons for that decrease are pretty well known. Stephanie commented about it above, so if you want to know how to cap the global population try engaging with people who already know this stuff instead of just arguing.

                  • In Vino

                    I suspect Chuck’s surname also begins ‘Ch’.

                  • Chuck

                    weka please do read what you replied to me in the first instance. You brought up”NZ population growth” (then after added you meant JUST birth and death stats…which by the way shows an increase between 2014 and 2015!).

                    As far as “It’s well documented that increasing women’s education and access to birth control, in any nation, leads to families having fewer kids, more spaced out.”

                    That’s called common sense…but does not address “growth” unless you also limit the number of kids.

                    • weka

                      I have zero interested in having an argument about who said what. If you want to talk about how to cap population growth, let me know.

                    • b waghorn

                      oh come on chucky ,it’s obvious you’re fishing for someone to come in and suggest government enforced birth control, try the whale spew it’s more likely you’ll get what you want there.

                    • weka

                      He certainly doesn’t want to have the conversation about free birth control and education.

                    • b waghorn

                      I’ve had more than one nat voter mutter things like “it’s the wrong people breeding” I’d imagine chuky is one of them

                    • Chuck

                      b waghorn and weka you both do understand it was Draco whom said we need “Prosperity without growth”.

                      I asked “Which will also mean a cap on how many humans are on the planet. How do you suggest we achieve that Draco?”.

                      Draco replied…End of story.

                      weka then started down a tangent re NZ pop growth.

                      Now weka if you want we can have a conversation on this “He certainly doesn’t want to have the conversation about free birth control and education.” Maybe start a new thread??

                      But come on guys…is this why the left has been sh*t for the past 8 years? 🙂

                    • weka

                      We can’t afford perpetual growth, and yes we need to have a stable population as part of degrowth and/or steady state economy. And we know that nations with good access to birth control and education (amongst other things), already have a declining population growth rate. What’s so difficult about that?

                • miravox

                  I suspect you’re arguing a red herring Chuck. The measure you’re all arguing over (in terms of what to do to reduce population growth) is the fertility rate, not the population growth rate (unless you want to talk about denying people medical treatment). I think that has been pretty clear in the thread.

                  As has been pointed out to you, countries where there is of education and empowerment of women, the fertility rate falls to around 2 births per women. So Western Europe, North America and Australia decades earlier than in other regions. The trend lines pretty much show this happening everywhere, although Sub-Saharan Africa is a standout and Middle-East & North Africa and South Asia seem to have plateaued at a higher rate despite recent economic development. Is there a connection with education and empowerment? I guess there will be some data (obviously not on this graph) about that somewhere.

                  The politics of fertility is, however, sometimes evident if you drill down to the country level – Romania being a particularly interesting example in post-war era, and it’s pretty clear why Germany is politically willing to accept loads of well-educated, young refugees from Syria. Also interesting is why NZ and Australian rates diverged around 1985…

      • Murray Simmonds 7.2.2

        Thanks Draco T.

        and . . . “and the damage that it’s done and continues to do to our waterways is a great example of growth gone too far.”

        Inadvertently, you’ve hit a personal “nail on the head” fairly and squarely here, where I’m concerned.

        About 20 years ago I mortgaged myself and my family to buy a 25 acre block of land for forestry planting in Canterbury. I chose that particular block ‘cos it had a ruddy great water race running through it . . . and that seemed important to me. And also – because “I believe in trees”. That water-race keeps the aquifers below my property (and a lot others in the neighbourhood, to boot) charged up (essentially “cos water-races lose a helluva lot of water into the ground”). This in turn, kept the water-level in my well at useful levels (about 12.5 m below ground to water level. High enough for a windmill to pump out.).

        Then – HEY PRESTO. Along come a bunch of NAT idiots who summarily dismiss the Canty Regional Council (elected by the people) and replace them with commissioners (who were put there by the GNATS to advance the “privatisation of water wishes” of BIG BUSINESS (i.e. the wishes of the Central Plains Irrigation Scheme shareholders),

        Central Canterbury now is confronted with the lowest aquifer levels in its entire history since the year dot , This is in part due to low rainfall (the “official” position) but it is ALSO because Central Plains irrigation is busily putting the flow through the water-races into plastic pipes. Which DO NOT recharge the aquifers.. All so that “Private Enterprise” can make a buck at the expense of the rest of us).

        Sorry about the diversion, but I felt I had to “get that off my chest”.

    • This was covered in the post, Murray – “At the end (because language is vital, but it isn’t the only thing) Shenker-Osorio presents a set of four powerful policies to redefine key parts of the economy – and re-set our expectations of how it should work and who it should work for.”

      We cannot “forget” language and linguistic framing. Just look at the discussions around quantitative easing, universal basic income, and capital gains tax. All probably good policies (I’ve never wrapped my head around QE), all failed to gain traction with people who vote because our language and framing was terrible.

      • Murray Simmonds 7.3.1

        Yes, true, Stephanie, and thanks for that, and I hereby offer my apologies. I admit I missed that point.

        I don’t deny that communication is important. But so too is plausible and workable alternative economic theory. I don’t think that we are particularly far apart on these points.

  8. Chuck 8

    “The book is fundamentally about language. The messages we send, not just with our policies or campaigns, but the metaphor and subtext of every slogan, speech and press release.”

    “The point is we’re doing it wrong.”

    Why don’t the progressive hordes then storm Fraser House or 17 Garrett St…and put in place the personal to implement what Anat Shenker-Osorio suggests?

    Could it be that it would mean political suicide?

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Nice bit of meaningless dissembling there. You’re a bit of an expert at this shite it seems.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2

      CV’s right: you have no idea how to construct an argument without resorting to lies, which funnily enough, is the topic under discussion: right wing liars and how not to respond to them.

      • Chuck 8.2.1

        OAB I was thinking you could lead the assault on Fraser House 🙂

        At least Draco (8.3) has an opinion on why…”The problem is that the major Left parties are keeping to the same failed message as the RWNJs which, inevitably, results in more and more people not voting at all and the people not voting are mostly of the Left who are looking for Left solutions to the problems that the RWNJs have forced upon us.”

        So OAB why don’t / won’t the progressive parties in NZ take note of Anat Shenker-Osorio ideas and implement them?

        Or is it just easier to call someone a lair?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.1.1

          Funny, it’s almost as though you have no memory of the number of times the phrase “false narrative”, crops up in response to your flailing.

          But there it is, undermining your entire argument.

          Sad.

          • Chuck 8.2.1.1.1

            Oh well I thought it was asking too much of you…

            • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.1.1.1.1

              What you’re doing is called “projection”. Like I said, you have no clue how to construct an argument without lying, and even less about me.

              For example, you obviously think the addresses you cited mean something to me. I’m guessing they’re party premises for the Greens and Labour or something.

              Beltway nerds like you might know this stuff.

              • Murray Simmonds

                I’ve got an idea, One Anonymous bloke. Why don’t you just remain anonymous? And silent.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Perhaps you can be more persuasive. Rest assured I’ll look out for your comments from now on, though.

                • locus

                  OAB was quite clear about the technique Chuck was using to manipulate and frame the discussion – it”s called “projection” http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

                  I agree with OAB on this point.

                  Look back an all of the comments that Chuck has made on other TS posts and you’ll get an idea of what he tries to do. Chuck also uses projection to derail the discussion from the topic of the post. I’ve explained this directly to Chuck.

                  As for your comment that OAB remain “anonymous and silent”, you do yourself no favours as it sounds like you think it’s okay to silence an opinion you disagree with.

                  Given that you are a relative newcomer to TS you might find it rewarding and illuminating to look back on some of the hundreds of discussions that OAB has contributed to

              • Chuck

                OAB you are a laugh a minute mate!

                “For example, you obviously think the addresses you cited mean something to me”

                When I post something its not directed at you OAB (unless its a reply to one of your posts).

                “Beltway nerds like you might know this stuff.”

                I don’t think knowing the name of the Labour party HQ or Greens office address is “Beltway nerd type of thing”. I receive both party’s letters and leaflets.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Political pamphlets go in the recycling unread at my place. When I want info about policy I can find it online.

                  You expressed disappointment (‘asking too much’) that I did not explain party behaviour to you. I’m more interested in the topic of the post, which is about changing the conversation.

                  Rather than answer your loaded questions, it makes far more sense to me to note that they are loaded and speculate as to your motives and character.

                  • In Vino

                    OAB is quite right and Chuck is a semi-literate klutz. Look back and you will find that he wrote ‘whom said’. Ye Gods! We should not feed this troll who over-rates his own articulacy.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.3

      Communicating honestly and forthrightly about how the present system is failing and the radical change needed to correct it would bring about a massive boost in voter support for the Left.

      The problem is that the major Left parties are keeping to the same failed message as the RWNJs which, inevitably, results in more and more people not voting at all and the people not voting are mostly of the Left who are looking for Left solutions to the problems that the RWNJs have forced upon us.

    • Well, first off because that’s not how democratic political parties work, but I can understand how that concept is alien to a Tory troll.

      • Chuck 8.4.1

        “Why don’t the progressive hordes then storm Fraser House or 17 Garrett St”

        Stephanie just in case you think I meant the above literally…it was a metaphor for changing the current leadership / approach of NZ’s left wing parties…in a non violent way of course 🙂

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.4.1.1

          Nah, we’ll get far better results targeting your leaders than ours.

  9. Colonial Viper 9

    The entire art of “linguistic framing” also known as propaganda or soon after “public relations” was very well defined by the 1920s and 1930s.

    Updates for cultural, political and technological conditions, as well as the interests and proclivities of the contemporary elite of the day, is all that is needed to keep the machine in motion.

    • Interestingly, both the metaphor of capitalism/the economy as a machine and the idea of the economy as an object in motion are directly addressed in the book, which definitely isn’t about propaganda or public relations or serving the interests of the elite.

      You should try reading it for yourself before making snide assumptions.

      • Murray Simmonds 9.1.1

        Yes, Stephanie. But does it tell us anything about how to FIX the broken economy? As opposed to talking about how to fix it. (I admit I haven’t read the book). I await your guidance on this matter).

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1

          I’d start with the rule of law. There are plenty of statutes regarding fraud, reckless and negligent behaviour and so-forth.

          At a deeper level, perhaps the entire economic model is broken, cf: Piketty. We’ll still need the rule of law.

        • One book can only cover so much, Murray.

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.2

        You should try reading it for yourself before making snide assumptions.

        How is it my problem if you don’t understand the connection between a “strategic communications expert” talking about “messaging subtexts”, and the connection with PR and propaganda.

        [Stephanie: It’s your problem when, on my first fucking post back at this site, I have to roll out the moderation bold.

        By your logic, all human speech is inherently propaganda because it’s intended to convey meaning and persuasion to an audience. That would be a fun thought experiment to play with, but it doesn’t lead to meaningful conversation.

        Cut the petty “you don’t understand basic concepts, you’re so stupid” personal attacks and quit implying that anyone who writes about topics you don’t agree with is just some useful idiot of capitalism.]

  10. Stuart Munro 10

    Tagore stated something essentially similar:

    Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward
    Into ever-widening thought and action

      • Red Hand 10.1.1

        A post WW2 answer to “who are we and why are we here”

        “Wir sind nicht geboren, um glucklich zu sein. Wir sind geboren, um zu leiden, zu wissen, warum wir leiden. Unser Schmerz is das einzige, was wir werden vorzeigen konnen.”

        From “Das Vermachtnis” (a Soldier’s Legacy”) written by Heinrich Boll in 1948

  11. Wayne 11

    The book might be about language, but your central (actually the writer’s) thesis is that in 2008 there was an opportunity to do things radically differently, but instead the banks got bailed out.

    Just recollect what things were like in 2008/2009. If the banks had collapsed, with no bailout, you would have got a 1930’s style recession, maybe even worse. Massive loss of personal savings, massive foreclosure of loans (much more than what happened), massive collapse of businesses with massive loss of jobs.

    What was done, in NZ as elsewhere, were policies to avoid that. Which meant bailing out banks so that the economy could still function with the minimum disruption in the circumstances. And it basically worked. There never was a 1930’s style recession.

    Now I know some of the far left want to see a collapse, but you should not assume the left automatically benefits. It is just as likely to benefit the far right.

    That is why virtually all democratic governments from 2008 to about 2011 did what they did. And I say thank goodness.

    If you think the present is bad, the alternative, apparently proposed by the writer, would have been much worse. Even with the bailouts and the fiscal stimulus packages, politics has been pretty deeply shocked, hence the current wave of populism. But there are much worse alternatives than populism.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1

      When did turning a blind eye to massive deliberate fraud become a virtue?

      The “high trust model” your Prime Minister pays lip service to doesn’t in fact exist. The market, left to itself, corrupted the rating agencies. As a Cabinet Club type you don’t need me to explain how that works, eh.

    • Chuck 11.2

      Wayne I agree with what you have posted.

      “Now I know some of the far left want to see a collapse, but you should not assume the left automatically benefits. It is just as likely to benefit the far right.”

      I think the far left knows this…however they don’t care. After all its all about “resetting the system”.

    • That’s not the central thesis at all. Maybe you should take the word of someone who’s actually read the book in question?

      The point is that the left failed to capitalise (lol) on the massive systemic failures in 2008 to build support for radical change. Maybe the banks still needed to be bailed out – but certainly those bailouts should have come with strict conditions (like not paying CEOs massive bonuses despite bringing us to the brink of catastrophe) and significant changes to the financial sector as a whole.

      As to “some of the far left want to see a collapse” – in future, Wayne, it would be really helpful not to mention basic good manners to address things that are actually in the post you’re responding to, instead trying to derail the conversation with inflammatory nonsense.

      • Wayne 11.3.1

        Stephanie,

        I thought I was following the narrative of your post, and in your second paragraph you have addressed the point I was making.

        It is hardly bad manners to say that some on the far left want to see a collapse of the society as currently structured. The reality is that they do. I was simply pointing out that in a collapse situation, which is what radical solutions can sometimes precipitate, things may go in an unanticipated direction.

        Look for instance at Greece to take a relatively mild contemporary example. However, New Zealand is not Greece, the situation was never as bad. Thus moderate measures in New Zealand produced a moderate outcome. I would also say a safe outcome in that the basic structures of the economy and society were not seriously disturbed. And that is what protected peoples jobs and livelihoods to the extent that was possible. Obviously views on details (tax packages, specific elements of the various stimulus packages) may differ, but can you really argue that the basic prescription, as least as applied in New Zealand essentially worked.

        Our debt levels are higher than was originally expected, but about $20 billion of that can be attributed to the Christchurch earthquake. Basically propping up the Christchurch economy, the red zone package, insurance bailouts, and the infrastructure rebuild, a lot of which is not covered by insurance.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 11.3.1.1

          How does failing to prosecute massive fraud protect peoples’ jobs and livelihoods? I wonder whether someone (like you, for example) who helped establish NZ as a tax haven can even understand the question.

        • b waghorn 11.3.1.2

          “economy and society were not seriously disturbed.”
          probably not but they havn’t fucking improved have they! and the longer this country keeps leaving people behind the more likely we will end up with with some form of “collapse situation” . so coming here dribbling warm piss in my ear about how it’s “essentially worked ” just isn’t good enough.

    • Rosemary McDonald 11.4

      “That is why virtually all democratic governments from 2008 to about 2011 did what they did. And I say thank goodness.

      If you think the present is bad, the alternative, apparently proposed by the writer, would have been much worse. Even with the bailouts and the fiscal stimulus packages, politics has been pretty deeply shocked, hence the current wave of populism. But there are much worse alternatives than populism.”

      Hmm…proof positive that Wayne just doesn’t get it.

      And never will.

      No space left in his mind for even imagining a different past, or future if the narrative and system (for want of a better word) changed.

      Love the post Stephanie…you shameless fangirl you!

      “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo.

      (I’ve had this as the back ground on my computer desktop for three years now)

      Tick, tock, Wayne.

    • Murray Simmonds 11.5

      Wayne: “If the banks had collapsed, with no bailout, you would have got a 1930’s style recession.”

      AKA a much needed RESET of global economic policy. Painful though that might have been.

      “What was done, in NZ as elsewhere, were policies to avoid that.”

      Bullshit. The only “policy” was maintenance of the Status quo. Something that your government EXCELS at.

      “Now I know some of the far left want to see a collapse, but you should not assume the left automatically benefits. It is just as likely to benefit the far right. ”

      Pretty much no one benefits. Business as usual does not benefit anyone other than the “”1%”.

      If that’s what you stand for it, go for it. But long term, you are wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

      • One Anonymous Bloke 11.5.1

        Painful

        Be careful what you wish for: this ‘pain’ is fertile ground for populism. Not to mention the human cost.

        The best ideas I’ve seen so far involve more jubilee than judgement.

        • Murray Simmonds 11.5.1.1

          One Anonymous . . .

          Yeah, have to admit, “debt jubilees” are an interesting idea.

          Only problem I have with that form of fiscal intervention is that they don’t really CHJANGE anything.

          its a bit like Wayne’s “Kicking the can further down the road” type of approach.

          After the debt jubilee has run its course you are back to the same old same old . . . until things get bad enough to trigger the next “Debt Jubilee”.

          Just because it might have worked a bit in ancient times, that doesn’t mean it would work in the 21st Century.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 11.5.1.1.1

            I suppose simply addressing debt takes no account of capital, for one thing.

            We are not the first society to struggle with the inherent tension between ownership and community. I wonder if we can find better solutions than all the ones that have been tried before.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.6

      Just recollect what things were like in 2008/2009. If the banks had collapsed, with no bailout, you would have got a 1930’s style recession, maybe even worse.

      Not necessarily. We could have let the banks fail and then bailed out the populace instead.

      Massive loss of personal savings

      This is one of the main disconnections of modern economics. The idea that saving money saves anything at all. It doesn’t. To run the economy requires resources and so from one year to the next the resources goes down by the amount extracted.

      We can reduce the amount of resources we’re using by using more efficient methods such as using public transport rather than personal cars. We can use automation to reduce the number of people required to produce the same output meaning that the people freed up can do something else or everyone works slightly less but it is physically impossible to save.

      What was done, in NZ as elsewhere, were policies to avoid that.

      No, what was done was to protect the rich and put the bill for their risk taking on the poor.

      Now I know some of the far left want to see a collapse

      Don’t really want to see a collapse. What I want to see is an actual rational economic system that supports society well and not just the few with capitalisms inevitable result of collapse.

      That said, a collapse of the present failed system can be used to change the system to one that actually works.

    • Stuart Munro 11.7

      There is more than one way to skin a cat Wayne, and the bailouts of ’08 rescued banks without rescuing the victims of their subprime machinations. Better would’ve been to discipline the professional bankers – who had a professional responsibility to do better – and rescue the small depositors whose activity underpins the real economy. But of course as a baby-eating far righty oppressing the honest small fry is your raison d’etre.

  12. Draco T Bastard 12

    Talking about language:

    Many people’s grinding situations have nothing to do with individual ‘bad choices’ or laziness or you know, violating the ’12 Steps to an Extraordinary Life’. No matter how many times we hear rotten rhetoric like this we must — absolutely — refuse, to accept these pervasive and dominant narratives. At their core these narratives use shame and ruggedly focus on the individual as a method to pacify and silence. We must disrupt language that is designed to disempower and divide workers while seeming to empower. We need to seek out ways to elevate the voices of our most vulnerable and the messages of people of conscience who can envision a better world and whose political imaginations outstretch the dominant reality.

    Bold mine.

    BTW, that’s a long read but well worth it.

  13. Nelson Muntz 13

    “Why? Because the content of our messages might have been bang on, but the delivery wasn’t.”

    Actually your delivery is fine. It’s just that most of us in the real world think your messages are full of shite.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 13.1

      There are also some of us in the real world who have noticed that ~30% of the electorate is not “most”. It’s hard to tell whether the error is an attempt to deceive or a simple matter of innumeracy.

  14. Tiger Mountain 14

    watched a clip of Anat’s CTU presentation, will get book as her message is useful rather than pontificating like some other recent left books that seem to consist of 90% restating known problems

    it is anathema to some-particularly office holders and office seekers-but short sentences and saying what you mean are both effective and revealing of the speaker/communicator

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Swiss tax agreement tightens net
    Opportunities to dodge tax are shrinking with the completion of a new tax agreement with Switzerland, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash announced today. Mr Nash and the Swiss Ambassador David Vogelsanger have today signed documents to update the double tax agreement (DTA). The previous DTA was signed in 1980. “Double tax ...
    2 weeks ago