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“Post-truth” politics (and false equivalences)

Written By: - Date published: 7:56 am, July 2nd, 2016 - 38 comments
Categories: accountability, john key, national - Tags: , , , , , , ,

John Key and the National government have always attacked facts, scientists, lawyers, journalists and other experts that they don’t like. Just ask Mike Joy, Bradley Ambrose, Jon Stephenson, Rodney Harrison QC and others.

But lately National’s denial of the facts has gone to a whole new level: Inequality not growing, Govt claims. Just as a reminder, the new Statistics NZ report shows that “Wealth distribution in New Zealand is at its most uneven in more than a decade. Statistics New Zealand shows the top 10 per cent of people have almost 60 per cent of wealth … Labour market and household statistics manager Diane Ramsay said it was the biggest divide between the rich and poor since 2003”.

What to make of a government that denies its own official statistics?

Perhaps questions such as this have been puzzling others recently too. Andrea Vance:

Opinion: A post-truth era in politics

We are living in a post-truth era… and it has infected New Zealand politics.

The campaigns of Donald Trump and the Brexiteers have been a triumph of emotional populism over cold, hard facts.

And our MPs are running around the Beehive with their pants on fire. Reporting on politics now feels like dispatches from an alternate universe.

In this distorted reality there are imaginary MSD squads flying in to help the homeless, and new emergency beds that already existed.

There is no evidence that inequality in New Zealand is rising, despite actual evidence on the widening wealth gap from Statistics New Zealand.

And in this brave new era, politicians prefer the anecdotal evidence of café owners over Treasury commissioned reports on the ineffectiveness of the 90-day trial.

The Government can disown previous statements (work trials were never about creating jobs, the foreign trust regime is “world class”, we’ll only be in Iraq for two years).

And serious flaws – such as the Ombudsman’s conclusion that the MFAT leaks inquiry “failed to have proper regard to relevant evidence in making its findings” – were merely “procedural issues” that journalists had “misinterpreted” anyway. …

Claire Trevett:

House antics rather like trial over Queen’s tarts

The release of tax consultant John Shewan’s report into foreign trusts sparked scenes in Parliament reminiscent of the trial to find out who stole the Queen of Heart’s tarts in Alice in Wonderland.

Key was the Mad Hatter, trying to insist he had not said things he had said – or at least he had not meant what he was said to have meant when he said them.

The report was effectively confirmation of much that Key had denied was wrong with the foreign trust regime. Shewan found that although New Zealand was not technically a tax haven, the disclosure regime was so weak there was a perception of New Zealand as “generally a soft touch”. He also said while there was no evidence illicit funds were being stashed away, it was reasonable to assume foreign trusts were indeed being used to hide funds or help tax evasion.

Key’s response was to agree to make the changes Shewan had recommended while arguing there was barely a hair-width’s difference between what the report said and what he had said.

Shewan described the disclosure rules as “inadequate” and “not fit for purpose in the context of preserving New Zealand’s reputation”. When Key was asked how this fitted in with his own description of those rules as “broad and deep”, the PM put on his tap shoes and danced up a storm on the head of a pin. …

Vernon Small:

Foreign trust review brings out the worst in our political leaders

… the Prime Minister was blatantly claiming black was lily-white with his continued insistence – against all the facts – that the current rules for foreign trusts is a “full disclosure” regime.

Key should acknowledge there is a world of difference between holding information, ready to disclose if asked, and actual disclosure; just as there is gulf between what we have in place for foreign trusts now and what Shewan says we need – which the Government has largely committed to putting in place.

If for no other reason, than that nobody likes being treated as stupid.

Well and good that journalists are starting to pull Key up on his blatant lies (sorry – “post-truth politics”). Would that they had started eight long years ago, when Key was spouting this sort of bullshit unchallenged:

I’ve had nine years of being told what lightbulb I can screw into the house, what shower I can take, what food I can eat, what things I can do, what thoughts I am allowed to have.

Vintage post-truth politics that! The seeds of dirty politics and the “brighter future” that we now inhabit.

But I digress.

The second theme of this post is false equivalence. Each of the three scribes quoted above also writes on Andrew Little’s supposed claim that John Shewan did not request an apology (Shewan had in fact made such a request). The implication in all cases is that Little was lying, and therefore just as bad, just as “post-truth” as Key and the National government. I don’t know what Little was asked, what he knew / remembered, or what he said, but I find it difficult to believe that he decided to simply lie about the matter.

If he did deliberately lie he was of course quite wrong to do so, and it would be a very worrying sign for his leadership. But it would still not be equivalent to, not even the faintest palest shade of equivalent to, the behaviour of this execrable government that lies and denies reflexively and at all levels, and has been doing so for eight long years. Pretending that it is equivalent does no favours to a country that desperately needs a change of government.

38 comments on ““Post-truth” politics (and false equivalences) ”

  1. Fustercluck 2

    False equivalence has becom the sin qua non of this and so many reactionary right wing governments. Thank all that is good that we live in a small enough nation that the electorate occasionally has the opportunity, and even more occasionally takes it, to turn the ship of state away from the brink of turning neoliberalism into neofascism. The USA and Eurooe may not be so fortunate.

  2. North 3

    Key’s “full disclosure” was a deliberate lie.

    Making out he said more or less what Shewan subsequently reported is a deliberate lie.

    Key is an astoundingly irresponsible and cowardly man. No one would recommend him to youngsters as a role model.

    For my part I’d love to accompany him to a few of the pubs I know where this wannabe ‘regular joker’, this wannabe ABs ‘brother’, could disport his “truth” about a range of things.

    He wouldn’t of course because he’s an irresponsible and cowardly man (vernacular – “chickenhawk”) whose first reflex is to hide in lies. In the face of patent realities. Goodness me……..Fran sees it.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11667232

    • RedLogix 3.1

      For my part I’d love to accompany him to a few of the pubs I know where this wannabe ‘regular joker’, this wannabe ABs ‘brother’, could disport his “truth” about a range of things.

      And therein lies one of the root causes of political collapse, the increasing isolation of the elites from the ordinary people. New Zealand used to be a small enough society that while the privileged and powerful might not be seen at your regular pub every Friday night … they were not entirely absent either.

      In a world absent focus groups, continuous polling, PR hacks and a media ensconced in it’s own thought bubble … in order to build any kind of political mandate all politicians had to mingle.

      My father worked for Muldoon’s accountancy company for a while, and I still recall a family holiday we spent at the famous fibrolite bach in Orewa. (Actually it was more accurately located at the next beach north Hatfields)) It was a very modest and humble affair, surrounded by similar places lived in by other middle-class kiwis. I’m not arguing this made Muldoon an everyman hero, but clearly his home life was something we’d all recognise. Much the same can be said for Muldoon’s working life prior to entering politics.

      Contrast this with Key, most of it spent in a long ascent of the greasy pole that is the arcane world of merchant banking, in places far away from New Zealand; as with his holidays. Ultimately Key’s legions of spin-doctors cannot save him from the fact that he is not one of us, he is not part of New Zealand. He is something foreign grafted onto us.

      • North 3.1.1

        The elites have had it so well because they all feed off one another. Disgracefully that includes the media elite. Who for their self-interest (and their moral and intellectual sluggishness) applaud whatever lies and questionable tactics the political elite, the executive, calls to its aid. John Key a good joker who cares about ordinary people. Ha !

        • KJT 3.1.1.1

          The “Elites” is a contradiction in terms.

          Money launderers, lying politicians, double dippers, cheats, financial finaglers, speculators in ponzi schemes, entitled inheritors of unearned money, beneficiaries of Government corporate welfare schemes, overpaid TV shock jocks, and tax dodgers, are not “Elite”.

          SCUM, rising to the top, more like.

          • Macro 3.1.1.1.1

            SCUM, rising to the top, more like.

            My thoughts entirely as well.

            • North 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Thank you Macro and KJT……you have me identifying the guts of things. Scum !

          • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1.2

            +1

            Exactly.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.3

            What’s worse, these parasites actively undermine the genuinely elite – they cannot abide facts so our best minds are subject to ratfucking and vilification.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.2

          The elites have had it so well because they all feed off one another.

          They don’t feed off of each other – they feed off of everyone else and help each other to do so. We saw that when Key/National helped his ex-lawyer/financial mates prevent the changing of the laws.

          The rich are the bludgers and we simply cannot afford them.

      • Incognito 3.1.2

        Ultimately Key’s legions of spin-doctors cannot save him from the fact that he is not one of us, he is not part of New Zealand. He is something foreign grafted onto us.

        John Key is the Clark Kent of New Zealand politics.

  3. jcuknz 4

    Yesterday I got an email from Key listing seven ways that the government was helping hard pressed NZ families…..reading the list IMO only one even mildly approached real help.

  4. Jack Ramaka 5

    Key and National’s MO is very similar to the USA Clinton/Obama model whereby you have a compliant media and big business backing. Governments world wide have been taken over by the bankers and corporates, hence they have control of the media.

    Critical analysis and independent thinking has been thrown out the window, if you are critical or opinionated about Government these days you are seen as a radical and subversive and worthy of investigation by the State, ie Stasi/GCSB.

    We are being constantly brainwashed about how well this National Government is doing, however the information can not be independently assessed/audited and is being promoted by State run media aka Mike Hoskings?

  5. Mark Wilson 6

    Please not more “4 legs good, 2 legs bad” stuff – as in if the left lie as in Little saying Shewan did not ask for an apology then that is not lying but everything the right says is automatically a lie. My point is that after 9 years you would think the left would understand that that sort of all black / all white analysis has voters turned off.
    Welcome to another 3 years in the wilderness.

    • North 6.1

      Yeah well you’re not a dishonest concern troll at all are you Wilson ?

    • Stuart Munro 6.2

      Ah yes – the Left should strive to change the government by not pointing out the $150 billion in debt, the million New Zealanders living in previously unimaginable poverty and the vicious and corrosive lies perpetrated by MSM to keep this disgusting failarchy in power – because it might hurt the liar in chief’s feelings.

      You must be an unusually stupid munter to be not only satisfied with this pathetic caricature of governance, but incapable of visualising anything better.

      • Wensleydale 6.2.1

        “Disgusting Failarchy”

        That’s probably the most apt description of this wretched excuse for a government I’ve yet heard.

  6. save nz 7

    Great post.+1000

    Essentially a growing amount of politicians using this post truth method, ultimately they are damaging democracy and society. Because once citizens realise that the government are liars, and the MSM are smearing Labour and Andrew little as liars, Greens are loony and NZ First is racist. You then get citizens who make desperate decisions and stop believing anything and become more radical to get their position across. They stop believing Doctors, Scientists, (Politicians obviously) and so they make their own information and you can get radical changes that nobody was expecting. National under Key, is destroying our country in every aspect, economically, socially, democratically and environmentally.

    Brexit, Potentially Trump becoming president and so forth are examples of unexpected post truth politics outcomes that nobody saw coming.

  7. ianmac 8

    So true Save.”Because once citizens realise that the government are a liars, and the MSM are saying everyday that Labour and Andrew little are liars, Greens are loony and NZ First is racist.”
    Key’s ultimate line is “Labour does it too.” As with Dirty Politics in his world, if he can claim that someone else does it too, then somehow this is an excuse for him. Most kids try that line but are not excused. Key is excused up till now anyway.

    • North 8.1

      Childish denials, lies ever figure in Key’s repertoire. Great to see him double down with that though. More and more people get to see it as contempt for the public. Then more and more people……..

  8. b waghorn 9

    I’m sorry but but key bullshitting is not news, how we get kiwis to give a fuck about being lead buy a bullshitter is the ?.

    • KJT 9.1

      It suits Key to continue the meme that Labour bullshits just as much.

      The public ends up believing all politicians are lairs.

      So we just get to choose between two lots of liars.

      Not much difference between choosing the bunch of Neo-Liberals that will do least harm, as at present.

  9. mosa 10

    The first lie i heard him tell was that he had NOT met with the exsclusive Brethern in 2005 despite the fact he was filmed talking too them in his Helensville electorate office.
    He really should have been picked up on that big one when the media knew it was a quite big deception as it was a major scandal at the time.
    I believe its all he knows how too do is deceive people because too tell the truth would mean being honest about what he does that quite frankly would appall many New Zealanders and run contrary too the image he has been told too project at all costs to remain electable
    Too be caught out so many times and in parliament where he has misled the house many times and has not been held accountable for what is a serious offence and when it is shown he lied and it cant be disputed he rushes back into the house and “clarifies the deliberate deception.
    We used to rely on the media to expose this type of behaviour which in Keys case is totally blatant but with the sell out too corporate interests and a keep the status quo at all costs mentality has saved him when it would have bought down a Labour PM long before now and the harsh media campaign against David Cunliffe via the National party shows how far away responsible media in NZ has moved in the last 8 years.
    If you were Key of course you would lie when you can get away with it and he does every time he speaks !

    • weston 10.1

      the most telling lie he has ever uttered i think was when he was asked where he stood on the springbok tour issue and he said he couldnt remember !!!
      the more vile liars and manipulators though i.m.o.and without which governments like ours would prob be toast are the creepy crawly cosby textor opperative types behind the scenes….the essential bacteria of governments like these …actively tutoring our politicians to lie cheat twist obfuscate who get paid huge money to get them elected and then are kept on the payroll to keep them elected. its a dirty business.

      • mosa 10.1.1

        Weston that was in a leaders debate with Helen Clark in 2008 and his response to the question was he had no OPINION on the tour because he was too busy studying at varsity to decide where he stood one way or the other.
        Strange he had no opinion on a massive event that polarised the whole country and that a lot of protesters were uni students themselves.
        I remember thinking at the time as he became rattled at being pressed on the issue that he was clearly being evasive on and that all he had too do was make clear where he stood as Helen Clark had done but he couldnt bring himself to be honest after all he was campaigning to be Prime Minister.

      • Reddelusion 10.1.2

        I can hear violins, herald ran a piece on most ridiculous excuses for loosing in sport, plenty of material here to run one for politics The reason labour or the left does not win elections is that they are bat shit useless in securing the confidence of kiwis,

  10. Draco T Bastard 11

    …the behaviour of this execrable government that lies and denies reflexively and at all levels, and has been doing so for eight long years.

    I think you’ll find that National almost always lies. They have to as reality never matches their ideology.

  11. Jack Ramaka 12

    The problem we have here in NZ is most people are politically disconnected and just go with the status quo.

  12. Whateva Next 13

    except every time people (journo’s, opposition, political commentators the people etc) speak out, it feels like we are treated as a nagging wife to a husband who is spending all the money on booze and betting, whilst the wife struggles to make ends meet running the home.

  13. One Anonymous Bloke 14

    Speaking of post-truth politics, here’s Tracey Watkins with some post-truth journalism.

    …the current debate over homelessness, the Auckland housing “problem”, which NZ First leader Winston Peters has milked as part of his wider anti immigration bandwagon, are all reminders that making stability and predictability as an election pitch can be a double edged sword.

    It can stand for certainty, security and a safe pair of hands – but it can also stand for more of the same.

    And as one insider noted wryly following Key’s speech, National’s shock Northland by-election loss was a stark reminder to the party faithful that it can’t be taken for granted the same forces propelling Britain’s Ukip, and America’s Donald Trump, aren’t bubbling beneath the surface here.

    Get that people – if you think the National Party is a homelessness factory you’re xenophobic.

  14. AlZ 15

    There a a few things driving the post truth era. Once upon a time enough people where genuinely god fearing and this “fear” compelled people to be honest and keep others honest ( accountable). With there being no “overseer” on that scale with those powers, that would hold everyone to account for every deed and un truth there has been a shift in morality generally. (NB i am atheist). The modern invented replacements for, something to “fear” that controls masses behavior, does not include morality, Aliens flying UFO’s with the power to vapourise the planet do not have, a life time of moral behavior as a criteria for ones immortality. Politicians are not directly accountable to those who elected them, it may take until the next election before the voters can do anything about a renagade MP or PM. There is no “performance review ” as there is in the private sector to justify their salaries, “client satisfaction” does not determine their still having a job after a lie is exposed. A large number of the wealthy habitually lie to maintain their lavish comfortable lives and thereby set completely the wrong standards for those who aspire to wealth and material acquisition. It has set up a “class” by any means ideal. The medias are pre occupied with their own existence and so have adopted Infotainment as their function rather than being the distributors of facts and information. The entertainment industry reveres the hero who can successfully deceive in the name of good. The anti hero robs banks of everyone’s money, and not in the Robin Hood tradition, now the booty is not shared out but kept by the individual who joins the pleasure class on a large yacht or island paradise. Any one not clear about the line between truth and false in these times is in peril.

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