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Questions questions

Written By: - Date published: 10:21 am, January 14th, 2013 - 96 comments
Categories: activism, blogs, Media, The Standard - Tags:

Christmas holidays – never long enough! Happy 2013 to one and all.

So – what do we do with this new year of ours? I’ve been pondering blogging, the role of The Standard, the future of blogs and the like. I’ve ended up with far more questions than answers, so (of course) I’m putting the questions to the community:

What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?

To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?

Bearing in mind the answer to the above, how should blogs relate to political parties in NZ? How should political parties relate to blogs?

A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more? (I note here with sadness the currently moribund states of two interesting experiments – Policy Progress and journalism.org.nz ).

What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

That’ll do for now I think!

96 comments on “Questions questions”

  1. just saying 1

    You go first R0b. I’m interested to hear your opinions.

    • r0b 1.1

      Thanks for the invite but (1) no time to chat right now, and (2) the idea was to start an open ended discussion, not head it off by stating my views. I will check in with my opinions near the end of the day though.

      • geoff 1.1.1

        r0b’s MO: I’ve always got the time to put together a shit-stirring pro-labour-caucus post but dag-nabbit, wouldn’t you just know it, I’ve got no time to answer any of the comments. Byyyeee!!!

        However… In response to the headline question, “What is the role of the blogs”:

        What a stupid rhetorical question. Blogs are just people’s opinions. That’s like saying “Hmm, what is the role of people’s opinions…? (scratches chin while gazing thoughtfully into the distance”)

        Opinions are only valid as long as they don’t question THE LEADER.

        As the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance said on Hot Fuzz last night, It’s all about The Greater Gooood eh Anthony.

        [lprent: Since you’ve taken time to express personally attack one of our authors, then let me take the time to express my opinion about your opinion. You’re banned for a month.

        Read the policy about attacking authors personally. It is in the section about self-martyrdom offences and extreme levels of stupidity. But I guess you know about that already right?

        Authors already commit to quite a lot of effort to simply write posts. It is quite difficult to do. The mere act of doing so means that they they seldom have lots of time to also comment or moderate. Not to mention that we’re usually just outright short of time anyway. Blogging is an adjunct to the other things going on in our lives. Quite simply you have to accept what we’re able to give. Demanding what we should do is obviously one of the more stupid things that any commentator could ever do.

        That last thing I need is some small-minded jerk-off like yourself attacking authors and discouraging them from writing. Given a choice I’m going to drop anyone stupid enough to attack authors on their own site, either in a mild message like this ban, or permanently. After all you can always go to somewhere more compatible with your way of thinking – the trashcan of Whaleoil comes to mind. ]

        • Andy-Roo 1.1.1.1

          Got something constructive to add Geoff?

          ?

          ?

          ?

          Thought not!

        • weka 1.1.1.2

          Even though I often disagree with some of r0b’s positions re the Labour party, I am always grateful for the time he puts in here. He’s thoughtful in what he writes, and often brings in perspectives that are missing from the comment level debate. I have no problem with him (or Mike or whoever) writing a post and not having the time or inclination to respond to the comments. For god’s sake, as far as I can tell the authors don’t exist to service the debate needs of the commenters. It’s great when we have authors that have the time to engage in comment, but it’s also great to have authors who just put up a post and leave it to the commenters to respond to. Both serve a purpose.

          So, to in part answer r0b’s question, I think diversity is a key role of political blogs. Can you imagine how boring it would be if all the authors thought and acted similarly? We are fortunate with ts to have a diversity of opinion amongst the authors, and commenters, and a diversity also in terms of how much time people have to spend here. I think ts gets the balance right to make this an open community that fosters good debate, critical thinking and encourages political learning and insight.

        • geoff 1.1.1.3

          small-minded jerk off?!?!

          Have we met?

          [lprent: Not as far as I’m aware. My god. How unfortunate for you that it is so bleeding obvious by merely looking at you. I didn’t realize that you were so afflicted. After all I’m merely gaining this opinion after reading a comment to one of my authors. 😈

          Now go away and serve your time, reflecting on how futile it is to argue with someone who likes to double sentences in preference to wasting more time explaining the obvious stupidity of attacking someone on their own site. ]

        • pollywog 1.1.1.4

          heh

  2. Anne 2

    To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?

    On the whole, I’d say bloggers’ views are not more extreme than the norm. It’s more a case of bloggers and commentors being better informed because they take the time out to make themselves so… I certainly put this site in that category anyway.

    What might be described today by some as extreme (eg. the terrifying effects of human-exacerbated Climate Change) will tomorrow be the norm. It’s the nature of the beast. It can take years – even decades – for some people to catch up with the rest of us.

    • just saying 2.1

      Thanks for getting the ball rolling Anne. My views are only slightly more left wing than most of my friends and peers, and acquaintances around home. About to the same degree as, my views are to the left of many commenters here.

      When I go up to Auckland, I’m considered to be part of the political lunatic fringe, but that’s okay because I consider my family to hold extremist right wing views. It makes for some entertaining discussions.

      My point is, the question is not that simple.

    • Lanthanide 2.2

      I agree Anne, was going to say that myself.

  3. just saying 3

    Sorry ROb, I had a bit of de ja vu, and felt like I was reading a particularly daunting set of essay questions, it took me back to sitting rigidly with my five pens, and my officially sancitioned calculator and my id card face-up, and my bottle of V…….

    edit: meant to hit the reply under Rob at 10.39 am.

  4. Pete 4

    Fact checking played a significant role in the US presidential election last year and I hope a similar service emerges in NZ. It would probably have to be a new blog rather than one of the established left-right offerings so it can at least be seen to be impartial.

  5. ad 5

    Well here’s a few metaphors to start you with.

    Its not quite Socratic in the sense of Great Minds sitting under a great and ancient tree on an unimpeded sunny day declaiming dialogical about the world, being required to resolve nothing.

    It’s not quite a Colusseum, wild animals versus the Christians, with only an occasional I’m Spartacus moment to defend the weak from the bully.

    It’s certainly not a simple old-media loud hailer, merely amplifying the paid releases and latest bloody intersections of humanity.

    But equally it has too much freedom, despite the glorious moderation, to be what IrishBill wants it to be in his recent invitation to “do policy”. It doesn’t have the editorial discipline of Wikipedia that would enable drafts of texts to stabilise, which would enable it to help parties write policy.

    What it could do however is write and debate the Coalition agreement for a mildly Leftie government.

    The site does not have the right to expect people to make sense. And perhaps it’s too early in the electoral cycle to test and parallel policies between Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, and whomever.

    But I think it could start with enticing more actual MP Spokespeople on. For example a themed post in which three housing spokespersons are given a (say) 500 max word limit, and TheStandard becomes New Zealand’s leftie parliament, moderated not by a Speaker but by the editors.

    This site could also be the preferred supplier for testing in public a draft policy from a party. be a reasonably informed focus group. Save them all a whole lot of money.

    It’s definitely a site that could form its own Briefing to Incoming Ministers. You could invite Child Poverty Action Group or the Fabians or Salvation Army whomever to guestpost on their opwn policy ideas. Plenty of policy ideas in those kinds of groups.

    Nothing to stop us reacting to stories of the day, but we need to be discipled enough to also stick to one major policy area per month, for example.

  6. KhandallaViper 6

    We will own the answers, so we must come up with the answers in the first place.

    The Standard bloggers and readers are positive people. They care enough to get engaged, and more.

    Many general and many specific issues have been raised and debated on theses pages in the past year. The tempo increased significantly with the start of the Constitutional Review and has been white-hot since then.

    Identifying problems and shaping answers without being able to advance/influence/progress the solution is very frustrating. Feeling that a rump in the party is fighting against that change is infuriating.

    Here are a few things you can do to be in a position to shape the answer and to see them through to execution:

    1. Host a BBQ and don’t invite your MP. She/he will definitely show up with a least two good bottles of wine. They are paranoid, the insecure darlings.
    2. Go to the Summer School in two weeks time. David Shearer will be making another policy speech and many of the movers and shakers will be there. It is hosted by Young Labour and is great fun.
    3.Ask for an urgent extraordinary LEC meeting to discuss your frustrations. If your Sec/Chair says that is not possible, then ask all the members you know/like to come together to discuss how you can collectively own the answer.
    4. Ditto your Sectoral group.
    5. Ask your MP to meet over a pint/glass. Those politicians that do not drink usually loose elections quickly.
    6. Ditto for your NZ Council rep.

    Remember, you own the answer. That is what the voting at Conference was all about.

    • just saying 6.1

      1. Host a BBQ and don’t invite your MP. She/he will definitely show up with a least two good bottles of wine.

      Laughed out loud.

      I’m still feeling my way. I thought I might bowl up and introduce myself at my MP’s next clinic, and briefly outline my main concerns. We’ve already been in contact by email, so he knows I’m one of those awful blog people who sit in darkened rooms.

      Not quite the bold action you advocate, but it’s a start.

      Ps if I invited my MP to a neighbourhood BBQ I can guarantee his would be the only two bottles of “good wine” there….

    • Rogue Trooper 6.2

      🙂 🙂

  7. end o times viper shorts 7

    What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?

    I’d suggest that they’re increasing – partly due to how bad the msm is at presenting the whole story or following up on many, thanks to google (especially) those online and curious can find information and opinion lacking elsewhere – the good, the bad and the plain batshit insane
    To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?

    I don’t think the blogging community differs too much from ya average kiwi (those who try to be informed about things – ie actually read and consider news items). I’d say they are only more extreme in that the opinions presented tend to come from those with either an agenda (political, personal or financial – often a mix) or a deep set of beliefs which tends to be seen as extreme by those who don’t

    Bearing in mind the answer to the above, how should blogs relate to political parties in NZ? How should political parties relate to blogs?

    In the case of this blog – keep doing what you do, I enjoy the variety of opinions and the fact you’re not above having a go at the Labour when the posters see cause – I see this as healthy. Political parties should engage more with blogs and bloggers – consider them akin to the msm, take note of what they’re doing and working with them when needed, don’t be afraid to comment (with sense) – as in blogs and bloggers are not the enemy, nor are the commentators on blogs… we’re all just people and blogs provide a very good means to communicate

    A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more?

    What more is there than community?

    What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

    Up to The Standard to decide and determine its role… I’d say just keep doing that which you do (its appreciated), if the blog accomplishes anything of good – that would be growing the community and level of discourse, whilst continuing to make it accessible to people with varying levels of interest and understanding of the issues

    My personal plea for 2013 and beyond would be to drop the term beltway – we’re americanised enough thank you very much

  8. Jenny 8

    What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

    ANTHONY R0BINS

    We can make sure that climate change is an election issue.

  9. BLiP 9

    .

    . . . What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time? . . .

    I see two main roles. First, to be a source of good information so as to counter the MSM spin. Presenting the whole story with facts and context and human experiences – something the MSM can’t be bothered with since its newsrooms have been deliberately under resourced and the news agenda driven by need to gather eyeballs rather than facts. Concomitant with that is keeping the politicians – all of them – honest. Ideally, it would be great if The Standard (and other political blogs) can start to drive part of the news day, breaking stories and gathering a larger and larger audience who come here first for their political news. And, second, perhaps most important, blogs can serve as a nexus for organising meat-world activities. It took me a couple of years to realise that blogging can be trap which locks people into various echo-chambers where they can feel as if they have “done their bit” with some wonderful commenting. Meanwhile, like howling in the wind, nothing actually changes. Its not until we hit the streets with, say, petitions for a referrendum or putting up bill boards or (god forbid) actually protesting that we can hope to change things.

    What can The Standard accomplish in that time? The election of Greens/Labour government.

  10. Blue 10

    I thought it was a well-known fact that we’re all just losers hiding behind dark curtains who never leave the house and don’t vote.

  11. Tiresias 11

    Blogs like The Standard would be an excellent place for MPs to engage with supporters – and potential supporters – to explain themselves, get feed-back and ideas, engage with the grass-roots and generally recover a feeling for life in the real world instead of the tax-payer-cushioned bubble of privilege they occupy.

    Unfortunately explaining themselves, getting feed-back and ideas, and engaging with real people is so inimical to the egos of most politicians that they can be really creative and self-delusional in finding ways to avoid it. Certainly in all the time I have been following The Standard I cannot recall one single Labour or left-wing politician deigning to put in an appearance.

    The Internet is such a potentially great tool for the promotion and implementation of true democracy that you’d have to be a politician to be blind to it.

  12. Matthew Hooton 12

    I think The Standard is doing a brilliant job undermining the credibility of the political left and helping secure John Key a third term.

    • just saying 12.1

      Thank the gods you’ve told us Matthew.
      We’ll put a stop to all that immediately.
      What should we be doing?

    • Mary 12.2

      The inference is that you believe Labour is a left-wing party. For those who accept that it’s not The Standard is enhancing the credibility of the political left.

    • quartz 12.3

      Says the man that helped Don Brash lead National to a third term of opposition.

    • Mary 12.4

      Are there any blogs you believe are enhancing the credibility of the political right?

      • Matthew Hooton 12.4.1

        I don’t think any blogs are necessarily enhancing the credibility of the right but none is quite undermining the right’s political prospects the way The Standard hurts the left. Why do you think I love you so much?

    • Jenny 12.5

      Thank you for that Matthew. Your comments are great news, and for me a confirmation of of our success.

      To do to know how we are doing, is to read your comments as a photo negative of the reality.

      • Gosman 12.5.1

        You might not like Matthew Hooten’s comments but he at least he tells it like he sees it.

        Of course it could all be part of some darstedly Machiavellian plot to try and get the authors of The Standard to change their line. All I would state in reply to that is have you asked many right leaning people their views on the recent goings on here? I know the one’s I have seen have been enjoying the infighting immensely.

        The left does political infighting and generating electorally suicidal policies better than most.

        • King Kong 12.5.1.1

          Don’t listen to Hooten and Gosman.

          What is happening on the Standard is an honest, democratic dialogue. Sometimes to save the patient you need to cut off some limbs so hack away.

          By smearing the reputations of over half the Labour party caucus you can ensure that those who don’t want to work have the means to live in the same level of comfort as the greedy arseholes that make up middle class New Zealand.

          You’ve got to maintain the pressure. Join with me comrades “fuck David Shearer and his right wing, neo liberal, beneficiary bashing ways”.

        • fatty 12.5.1.2

          The left does political infighting and generating electorally suicidal policies better than most.

          I doubt it…in fact, the left does not do nearly enough infighting.
          Look at the ‘left’ in NZ over the last 30 years, its been a disgrace, this should never have happened. How would less infighting have helped?

          The left should be critical of its ethical and moral positioning. As long as Labour continue with this third way ideology, which people like Hoots support, infighting should be seen as a positive. If the left looked at itself and its results, from its fourth and fifth Labour led terms, and were in agreement that these values are appropriate, then the left may as well pick up a crack habit and give up.
          Currently, infighting offers some hope.

          • Gosman 12.5.1.2.1

            The second or third Labour Governments weren’t much beef as well. The most radical proposals that came out was probably ACC and the idea of a Superannuation fund. They would hardly guarrantee their proponents a ‘Hero of the workers’ medal.

        • Rogue Trooper 12.5.1.3

          some truth in that G.

    • Bill 12.6

      I think…

      Eh? You…think? Oh, come Matthew. You spin And stuff merely flies out as a result. There’s a difference between the two you know. (Aside from the latter being a ‘user pays’ service.)

    • Tiresias 12.7

      While I voted Labour solidly until the betrayal of 1984 and have still never voted National or for any right-wing party in my life, I have to say I agree with Hooton’s above comment.

      I visit this site regularly hoping to find a coherent vision for social, constitutional and economic reform along ‘left-wing’ lines and find a few intelligent articles, some reasonable criticism of a Right-wing Government – although usually attacking its incompetence rather than its philosophy – and an unfortunate amount of almost unhinged ranting at some vast ‘Priory of Sion’-led conspiracy by some sinister and devious cabal of rich faceless men intent on taking over the world.

      I sometimes put up my views on where we should be trying to go taking account where we’re starting from rather than where we would have been had Karl Marx been given the world presidency in 1864, and even in a section which requests “the usual rules of good behaviour” I find myself labelled a ‘wanker with a plum in my mouth’.

      Certainly the Greens have had my support for several general elections and I find very little in The Standard that might pursuade me to support Labour – and that from someone who would very much like to be given a reason to.

    • QoT 12.8

      Matthew Hooton uses Obvious Reverse Psychology.

      It’s not Super Effective! 🙁

  13. Andy-Roo 13

    Hi Anthony

    My best shot at answering follows:

    “What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?”

    – No data. But in my opinion, blogs will influence those who are interested in blogs. What determines the number of people who are interested in blogs (enough to take the time to read them) will be driven by many complex factors – many of which will be unrelated to what is going on in the blogging world. Case in point the rise of the earthquake blogs in CHCH

    “To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?”

    – I would guess that most of us who read or contribute to this blog (from whatever perspective) do so because we have more extreme views than average. This is certainly the case for me.

    “Bearing in mind the answer to the above, how should blogs relate to political parties in NZ? How should political parties relate to blogs?”

    – The standard is a broad church. There is a diversity and range of opinions here that would be lost if this became just a party blog. Some of us are not instinctively “joiners” and feel more comfortable with a loosely affiliated group.

    “A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more? (I note here with sadness the currently moribund states of two interesting experiments – Policy Progress and journalism.org.nz ).”

    -The flip side of the above is that it is harder to organise a loosely affiliated group. I think that the Standard has built a community, and I know that individuals within that community have used information, perspectives , motivation gained in part through being a part of this community to go off and do stuff. I think that this is the best that can be hoped for with a group like this. My opinion only 🙂

    “What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?”

    – Motivate the individuals within it to get involved in and contribute to the overall election effort. We could also fundraise in various ways.

  14. McFlock 14

    I agree with the gist of one or two previous commenter who said that blogs now tend to be the ones who actually fact check, investigate, pursue OIAs before they know the answer (i.e. nobody told them to do a narrow OIA in that area), and generally do what the MSM has neither the resources nor inclination to do these days. E.g. winz kiosks, and any analyses more sophisticated than parroting a media release.

    Blogs are gaining cultural significance (if not credibility at this stage). The recent diversion of “PMs holidays” is a case in point: if the original posts had been on local TV, nobody would have bothered responding.

    I tried writing a post once. It turned into a rant on a topic that had been done to death anyway (from moi? quelle surprise!), so it got nowhere. Thanks to all authors for their work!

  15. Bill 15

    Sorry r0b. Thought the front page sustained two headers.

    As for your post. I’d expect ‘ts’ to be given no quarter in the run up to the election. Which is indicative of what blogs can do I guess.

    And I’d personally like to see ‘ts’ having a real world presence…y’know, a bit beyond what ‘drinking liberally’ was (as far as I understand, that never progressed beyond a speaker and a few drinks).

    Anyway, maybe one day I’ll throw up a short post suggesting posters, commenters and readers of ‘ts’ meet up somewhere in this here city if they live around here. Could be good way to get traction or momentum on the basis of common ground.

  16. I think The Standard has done a brilliant job to allow commenters to post, who want a democracy and who want a fair and just election for the leadership ( which was already achieved,but tossed aside by the current caucus) Caucus installed their own right winged favourite, if right wing commenters feel The Standard commenters should not freely submit their objection to the
    denial of their democratic rights re: the membership election, then grab a bucket for the tears,
    because unless there is an awakening within caucus,the comments will continue.
    No sitting politician has an unreserved right to our vote in 2014, they also don’t have total
    ownership of the Labour Party, (the peoples party) bent out of shape for 30yrs,there is a
    definate feeling growing to take it back and believe me, those i talk to want nothing more
    than to get the old Labour Party back to it’s core and values.

  17. weka 17

    I really liked the idea of ts being used via a facilitated process to develop left wing policy (who posted on that recently?). It could also operate as an outside left think tank.

    I think the potential of ts to foster activism is good, and not being fully utilised yet.

    However, I also see that’s it’s largely up to the impulses of the individuals involved, and as such it will always be a fluid thing (not sure how much can be planned/carried out intentionally).

  18. PlanetOrphan 18

    Howdy Anthony, Happy holidays 2 u 2 M8!

    Q: “What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?”
    A: HUGE and increasing…Every politician in NZ will be reading/referring to blogs by 2015 (IMHO 🙂 )

    Q: “To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?”
    A: Very representative, people say it more loudly on a blog, but it’s still NZers’ saying it, the more vitriolic the more deep felt the belief.

    Q: “A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more?”
    A: Read the Policy ;-)….sorry…..it’d be upto the “parties” to join the community in an attempt to hear it’s “voice”.

    Q: “What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?”
    A: Real time feedback (An Obvious One)

    Bloggs haven’t and wont change opinions, at most they might make people doubt their conclusions.
    Only time and hindsight change peoples minds in politics.
    The Standard can’t do any more than it is already doing, IMHO, it’s not party aligned and it’s community would baulk if it tried to be.

    The best thing The Standard could do is encourage membership from all the party members running in 2014, they are the people we vote for after all, not The Standard.

    IMO Party members should talk their policy, not partake in “Debate”, if they do they should use a pseudonym (Cheers LPRent 🙂 )

  19. GeoffC 19

    All good questions or ponderings there Anthony…
    Blogs etc are the modern construct of open air meetings of our beloved comrades from past times but we should progress further.
    Open govt ‘ could morph into a open platform that incorporates a blog like experience, video webinArs, policy formation, meetings of small groupins from branch regional or just interested peeps on a retain topic all under the left banner.
    Purpose to by pass the controlled MSM, provide connection to the people, in lighten the leaders and provide direction on policy.

    Call it um….The Standard.

    We nee to be connected united and striving for a new direction a new way of doing things to counter the embeddness of the Tory machine.

  20. ak 20

    Just whip back a few short years to the kiwiblogblog days r0b and contemplate how far the old Stan’s run in terms of references in other media, visiting Annette Kings and hooters and so forth and compare the level of informed and intelligent debate with any other garden Joe Blog and you and all authors pat yourselves heartily on the backs and continue your impeccable fact-filled and informed creation of an invaluable and still-developing brains trust and think-tank sans pariel that is so incredibly well moderated and stimulating that lesser mortals are barely able to keep up with reading it let alone contributing more than the occasional one-sentence comment and even then sometimes unable to fin

  21. r0b 21

    Thanks all, there have been some great and very thoughtful comments above. Plenty for me to think about. As requested I will at least have a go at giving my (current) answers to my own questions.

    What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?

    I think the impact is relatively minor. I think it is increasing slightly as readership increases, as “real reporters” increasingly keep an eye on blogs, and due to Bryce Edwards’ NZ politics daily abstracts which make a wider readership aware of blogs. I also think that blogs may be peaking, and that other forms of media (Twitter, Facebook groups) may come to assimilate their role.

    I think that the impact of blogs will remain relatively minor unless they find ways of going beyond their current role as forums for discussion. For example, by becoming a focus for shared community projects like policy development (which is why I’m so sorry that Policy Progress didn’t seem to take off).

    To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?

    I don’t read the right-wing blogs, but speaking for the left-wing I think the views of bloggers are significantly more extreme than the norm. For example, there’s a lot of energy and passion here at The Standard. But if I can say so without being branded a bastard oppressor of free speech, I think too much of that passion is turned destructively inward, instead of looking for solutions and positive contributions. What goes on here at The Standard is not the way the average NZ voter sees the world.

    Bearing in mind the answer to the above, how should blogs relate to political parties in NZ? How should political parties relate to blogs?

    Maybe the first part of that question doesn’t make much sense, but the second part does. How should political parties relate to blogs? In an ideal world I would like to see parties and politicians actively engage with blogs, each contributing to, and bringing out the best in each other. Labour MPs have popped up here occasionally (most recently Annette King) and as far as I can tell it has always been appreciated and often been productive.

    But I don’t think it’s an ideal world, and I don’t think the engagement between parties and blogs is likely to develop further. Because it’s a dilemma to parties. To win office they need to win over the majority of “averagely engaged” voters (I hate the term “center left”, but there it is, that’s what wins elections). Labour, for example, almost certainly can’t win over the center, and win over the (significantly more left wing) Standard community too. That limits the extent to which they are willing to engage here, and motivates the publicly dismissive attitude that some of them profess about blogs. Sadly, the audience of The Standard can’t win Labour the election, they are after the audience of the 6 o’clock telly. In short, I think the tension between parties and blogs is likely to remain.

    A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more?

    There’s no “should” about it, each blog charts its own course. “Could” blogs to more? Probably, but not with their current resourcing and volunteer writers. Again in my ideal world, I would love to see The Standard much more engaged with left-wing parties, with the MSM, and with developing policies and ideas. But I just can’t see how it can happen with a part-time volunteer crew.

    I also take the point of BLiP’s comment at 11:43 AM. We should recognise the limitations of blogs, and that writing or commenting here isn’t enough. I hope that we are all actively engaged with the political party of our choice.

    What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

    I don’t think it will change match – forums for information and discussion, a minor but definite voice (or cacophony of voices!) in the national debate. I think there is the potential for this community to accomplish much more, but that would require a significant rethinking of attitudes both on our part, and the part of left-wing parties. At the moment I don’t think there is any realistic chance of that happening, which is a pity. But, steady as she goes, it is enough.

    There ya go – that should be enough rope to hang me thoroughly!

    • just saying 21.1

      Thanks R0b,
      A couple of quick comments:

      Firstly, I think it is the job of political parties to change the “way the average voter sees the world”. To say this role has been neglected would be an understatement.

      Blogs can be a significant resource of facts, soundbites, memes, big and small picture discourse and counterarguments against opposing spin, for all the left-wing progressive parties. I remember thinking, in the year before the last general election, that Goff’s team could have used some very valuable crowd-sourced contributions here of the above to great effect, to describe, contestualise, and argue many of the policies that Labour was trying to push. There was some real gold sprinkled throughout the pages, and I’m talking here about policies Labour was trying to sell, although, of course there was plenty of sharp rhetoric for a more general left-wing discourse, and policies further to the left than Labour had positioned itself.

      Secondly, the 6pm news audience is made up of a wide range of views. And it is my suspicion that the poorest and most marginalised are less likely to be watching it than middle-class voters. You seem to be saying that the left must pitch its policies to the beliefs and interets of the middle of what is already a disproportionately right-skewed audience, in order to win office.
      That is an unnecessary straight-jacket, and in my opinion, a misguided strategy. For the last four years this strategy has failed to significantly improve Labour’s popularity.

      • rosy 21.1.1

        Hi js, I agree entirely with your comment.

        “I think it is the job of political parties to change the “way the average voter sees the world”. To say this role has been neglected would be an understatement”.

        I do believe political parties know this is true as well. Otherwise there is not a lot of point in spinning policies and potential outcomes of those policies. What political parties don’t seem to like to do is change the way the average voter sees the world before the election. They’d prefer to wait until they’re in power, produce the fait accompli and then send out the spinners.

        I do believe Labour is dipping into policy changes like supporting a living wage . The comments on the Stuff article probably make them more tentative about pushing such policies whereas they should really be putting all the facts together to build support. Blogs play a huge part in joining the dots for them.

      • karol 21.1.2

        Thanks, r0b, for identifying some crucial aspects of the role of left wing blogs, and their limitations.

        This:

        Sadly, the audience of The Standard can’t win Labour the election, they are after the audience of the 6 o’clock telly.

        This is where I think the Labour Party have got themselves locked into the “neoliberal” consensus. The old guard are skilled at operating this way, and don’t see a way around it. However, IMO this is where they need a fresh approach. In fact, they don’t actually talk directly to the 6pm audience. MPs primarily talk to the MSM via the way the TV format and personnel address the 6pm audience. The MSM becomes a filter for the communications, with a strong middle class focus. Once in power, a Labour-led government, dependent on the MSM, won’t be able to shift out of the “neoliberal”, corporate-defined, middle-class focused position.

        IMO, the only way forward for a truly left party is to engage directly with the wider community, in a 2 way communication. The MSM is largely a one-way communication system, that disengages MPs from the wider community. It favours spin and PR approaches over more authentic engagement with the electorate.

        Blogs can be a part of the dialogue with the wider community, but that also needs to be connected to offline activities and groups, party membership forums etc.

        However, this disconnect, between caucus and community, aided by the MSM filtering machine, is why I agree with this:

        In short, I think the tension between parties and blogs is likely to remain.

        • r0b 21.1.2.1

          This is where I think the Labour Party have got themselves locked into the “neoliberal” consensus.

          I’m having trouble with the word “neoliberal”. It seems so widely used that I have trouble penning down its meaning in any concrete situation. Can you elaborate on what you mean in this case?

          In fact, they don’t actually talk directly to the 6pm audience.

          No they don’t, but they do have to position their policies and the messaging with that audience in mind.

          Once in power, a Labour-led government, dependent on the MSM, won’t be able to shift

          All governments are dependent on the filter of the MSM. You have listed some possibilities for direct communication. As far as I know all are being tried, but without sufficient energy / uptake. What needs to be done differently to make them work effectively?

          • karol 21.1.2.1.1

            I put “neoliberal” in quote marks because it is a problematic term – it’s just a useful shorthand. IMO, key features are a culture of individualism, and the promotion of private enterprise over public provisions: all working in the interests of the wealthy and powerful. It involves focusing on the middle class desires and ambitions, while giving those of low income people lower priority.

            And as David Harvey says, there is a difference between the theory and the practice. The theory foregrounds individualism, the freemarket, and small government. But in practice the government intervenes in ways to favour private enterprise, especially those involving corporates, over public services: roll back the “welfare state”, roll out state provisions by private enterprises (usually PPPs or contracted out work).

            In the case of the media it means infotainment, individualism, celebrity culture, status through commodity acquisition, and marketing strategies dominate. It is through this filter that the Labour Caucus aim to communicate with the electorate. It’s a filter that largely works against being positive about collective efforts, and that increasingly marginalises and disengages those struggling most just to survive.

            All governments are dependent on the filter of the MSM.

            This has increased in the neoliberal era. It now means it gives a Labour-led government very little room to manoeuvre to return to basic left/labour movement values. Now more than ever is a need to break with this. Once the Labour party had a much broader flax roots movement, based in a large party membership. The MSM tended to take more notice of their views, activities and experiences.

            The Labour party membership have shown (at least part of) the way forward in terms of democratisation. Empowering and energising the membership will be a way to start to revitialise the flax roots: each member has multiple connections to networks within their communities. And blogs can play a small part in activating and engaging with some of these networks.

            But, to do this, Caucus needs to give up their long established MO of wanting to control the direction of the wider party – of thinking they know better than the membership. This means stopping using the “neoliberal” marketing approaches, dependent on focus groups and MSM “neolliberal” values. They need to move away from Caucus mostly deciding the policy, priorities and approaches, then using PR style spin to sell it to the membership, the blogs, and the electorate (largely through the MSM).

            Basically more power to the people & more genuine two way engagement between the caucus and the community/ies.

          • Olwyn 21.1.2.1.2

            rOb: Here is a good thumbnail sketch of what is meant by neoliberalism:

            “The rise in the fortunes of the super-rich is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments’ refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.”

            The whole article in fact is well worth a read, and perhaps helps to explain why many people turn off when they hear the words “Labour has to aim for the centre.” The term tends in practice to mean not challenging a pernicious status quo while nurturing real or imagined middle class prejudices, all under the umbrella of a brand that says “we care.” Think about Kennedy’s appeal to people’s better natures, and you can see the “appeal to the middle class” for the craven thing it is.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/14/neoliberal-theory-economic-failure

            • r0b 21.1.2.1.2.1

              Well by that definition it doesn’t make much sense to refer to any recent or current incarnation of Labour as neoliberal.

              • Olwyn

                It can, however, be overly accommodating of the neoliberal status quo, as opposed to genuinely challenging it. While I realise that there is a limit to how far one can go in challenging a dominant economic system, my main beef with the present configuration of Labour is that it fails to inspire hope, while the neoliberal fangs sink ever deeper into the necks of many New Zealanders.

                • Bill

                  Oh, maybe throw away the definitions and be straight forward about it. Is there a party that is going to stop shafting the poor to mollify the desires and fears of the better off? And is there a party that is going to be unequivicol in putting the interests of society above that of the economy?

                  Neo-liberal parties do neither and neither has Labour these past – how many decades? Best we got from Labour was some wringing of the hands as the chopper dropped as opposed to National’s rubbing of the hands.

                • karol

                  There seems to be a certain amount of pandering to neoliberal practices: e.g. talking up an affordable housing policy that involves PPPs, while keeping the real priority for a Labour Party (state housing) in a backroom. And also some of the ways of talking about social security.

                  • Olwyn

                    I accepted the Clark government. I would have liked them to be further to the left, but I also realised that neoliberal economics were entrenched, and that it was possible then to think that one could incrementally gain some balance without risking punishment. While it is easy to remember things like the cutting of the special benefit, for instance, vulnerable people were not perpetually frightened and treated like lepers under Clark, and unemployment was very low. Hope remained alive. Now, however, when it is clear that the neoliberal movement is, as Monbiot has pointed out, essentially a mode of conquest, and that there is no story of “maturing markets” to be told, a stand needs be taken. But Labour, with Hooton as at least a cheer leader, if not an actual advisor, baulks at taking it.

                    They should remember, when Shearer comes out with yet another “great directional speech” that the people who are hurting are very sensitive to the difference between “I feel your pain” and “I will do all I can to ease your pain.”

      • r0b 21.1.3

        Cheers JS, and sorry if the initial post seemed too much like a philosophy exam!

        You seem to be saying that the left must pitch its policies to the beliefs and interets of the middle of what is already a disproportionately right-skewed audience, in order to win office.

        It must at least not scare them to death! I also question your underlying assumption that middle-class TV watchers are right-wing, and poor non-watchers are left-wing. It’s not as simple as that.

    • quartz 21.2

      To win office they need to win over the majority of “averagely engaged” voters (I hate the term “center left”, but there it is, that’s what wins elections). Labour, for example, almost certainly can’t win over the center, and win over the (significantly more left wing) Standard community too. That limits the extent to which they are willing to engage here, and motivates the publicly dismissive attitude that some of them profess about blogs.

      I don’t know who’s been telling you this but they’re wrong. Political campaigning and marketing, and “left” and “center” and “right” have a tenuous connection. A competent campaign team could easily take swing votes (and let me be blatantly clear, these are not synonymous with “center votes”) but Labour lacks a competent campaign team.

      I doubt even 10% of New Zealand voters could accurately identify themselves on a left/right spectrum and I suspect that even fewer still could accurately sort policies into left and right. Even here at the standard many engaged commenters and authors don’t seem to be able to place some policies on the left/right spectrum, most notably those who have mistaken Labour’s middle class housing policy for being left-wing.

      • r0b 21.2.1

        Political campaigning and marketing, and “left” and “center” and “right” have a tenuous connection.

        People may not know or use the terms, but they are widespread currency because they are pretty useful categories.

        A competent campaign team could easily take swing votes (and let me be blatantly clear, these are not synonymous with “center votes”)

        Interesting, what then characterises the swing votes in your opinion?

        • quartz 21.2.1.1

          People may not know or use the terms, but they are widespread currency because they are pretty useful categories.

          I’d argue that, for the purposes of political marketing (which is what your original point was about) they’re not particularly useful categories, because they reflect policy positions rather than voter profiles or political brand stories. The swing vote is a separate thing to the political center, indeed, if you look at recent polling by IPSOS you’ll find that the, very leftwing, Greens have taken around three percent of, the center-right National Party’s vote directly from them*. That’s swing vote and it swings on brand perception rather than policy platform.

          Anyone who thinks political campaigning for the mainstream in the twenty first century is about “left” and “right” is kidding themselves.

          Clearly some of the more extreme left or right policies won’t get traction with swing voters but often only because they are easy to brand as fringe by political opponents. If, as happened with Chicago school economics in the 1980s and 90s, the two main parties achieve consensus on a fringe notion it is possible for it to become centrist. The idea of having a purely monetarist, cash rate only, monetary policy has, for example, for the last 25 years been considered mainstream in NZ for just this reason despite being a fringe idea internationally.

          *http://static.stuff.co.nz/files/SundayPoll.pdf

          • r0b 21.2.1.1.1

            Anyone who thinks political campaigning for the mainstream in the twenty first century is about “left” and “right” is kidding themselves.

            And yet in the paragraph above you refer to “very leftwing Greens” and “the center-right National Party”.

            • quartz 21.2.1.1.1.1

              Yep, in terms of political policy, not in terms of political marketing. In fact I was using the terms to show just how redundant they were in talking to the electorate. Unless you think a whole three percent of National’s vote suddenly decided they weren’t center-right but were in fact more enamored with carbon taxes and 1970’s style industrial policy than tax cuts and light-handed regulation.

    • Bill 21.3

      Do you really believe that ‘the standard’ represents a cross section of more ‘extreme’ left views than ‘the norm’? I’m just not at all sure about that. I’ll be vain enough to take myself as an example here and say that on the face of it many people would take me to more to the left than most. But what I’ve constantly found over the years, is that when I speak to people ‘of the norm’ they tend to agree with a lot of what I say – just as I agree with a lot of what they say.

      At the end of the day, it’s been my experience that difference comes down to how ideas or thoughts are couched rather than any marked difference in the attitudes that underpin ideas or thoughts.

      And true, a lot of people don’t think about political stuff too much and their opinions (at least on the surface) tend to revolve around a positive or negative perception of what the TV tells them to think about. But it takes all of two seconds to get through that and into more – how to say? – considered discussions that are free from knee jerk reactions.

      e.g. Many people are happy enough to talk about democracy. And I’ve found them espousing quite anarchist sentiments or concepts (which is natural enough given the basis of anarchy). But if even just once I throw in the term ‘anarchy’ they immediately adopt a defensive and negative posture – (coz that’s all chaos and violence, innit?)

      • r0b 21.3.1

        Do you really believe that ‘the standard’ represents a cross section of more ‘extreme’ left views than ‘the norm’?

        Yes I do. I don’t hear anything like the bitter in-fighting that we’ve seen here lately in the “real world”, or at my local LEC (a bunch of politically aware and active people).

        • Bill 21.3.1.1

          To be honest, I’m not aware of any bitter infighting here. Yes there is utter disbelief flowing two ways on one specific issue. But that’s it. Mind you, given the numbers of labour party members who state their position on that matter here, I find it difficult to believe that LEC’s are all peace and mungbeans – not below the surface at any rate.

          But anyway. There are other specific issues that people ‘of the norm’…ie, people ‘of the norm’ who couldn’t give a toss for labour Party shenanigans, get upset and passionate about. Mere passion doesn’t equate with ‘being extreme’. Neither does ‘getting upset’.

          The basic values that people hold – often obscured by the somewhat falsely generated and spoon fed opinions of media are basically the same from people who are viewed as moderate to those who are viewed (or maligned) as being extreme. And it takes bugger all digging to find that commonality.

        • Colonial Weka 21.3.1.2

          R0b, to follow on what Bill said, I think you are confusing multiple things: anger and extremeness of views are not the same thing. Vitriolic behaviour and extremeness of views are not the same thing. Dissent and extremity are no the same thing.

          What you call ‘bitter in-fighting’ is a fairly normal thing to occur in internet communities of this kind. I wouldn’t expect the people here to relate like this if they were in a room together, esp if it was something like a political meeting. I don’t think the fighting is anything to do with extremeness of views per se, it’s more a function of you can get away with calling someone a fuckwit online, whereas it’s harder to do that in real life.

          That’s the general discussions. The political dissent about the direction of the Labour party goes hand in hand with genuine anger. I don’t know how that would work in things like LECs. Maybe people wouldn’t bother and they’d just go to GP meetings instead 😉 What happened in the 80s, when there was no internet outlet and people (members) were realising the problems within Labour?

          I actually find your use of the terms ‘normal’ and ‘extreme’ offensive to be honest. It reminds of people who think that there is something wrong with dissent, or the outside edge, and it directly marginalises many people here who are ‘normal’ parts of the community. It’s the slur that was used against the GP for many years. I’m surprised to see you doing that.

  22. Blogs have become to partisan , its just preaching to the choir, Blogs are the news version of Faux news.

  23. NoseViper (The Nose knows) 23

    r0b A meaty topic that is ripe for examination in this important year prior to coming elections.

    What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?
    The number of hits for ts has been increasing exponentially so there must be an increasing impact on commenters to read and think about political matters. Because of the wide number of commenters, there is a range of opinions, and soon you can tell who is reliable and what their obssessions, if present, are so that these can be borne in mind.

    It is so easy to participate, no filter or wait to get on the radio or for the letter to be processed by the paper There is no actual quota so multiple comments can be made, if the commenter has the time and desires discussion. Too many making cheap shots or giving repetition, can be a disadvantage, but if the blogs are moderated adequately, then the dross is controlled and the content is vital and worthwhile to read and will continue to attract regulars and newbies.

    To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?
    Most people that I mix with don’t talk about politics much. There does not seem to be much thought on politics either, apart from shallow comment about daily matters, problems and personalities. But this is just my impression of the situation. Certainly they would get bored with me if I attempted to widely discuss either an individual policy or politician, or the whole direction of the nation.

    It seems to me that as a nation we’re rather apathetic about politics. Bloggers are by their desire to contribute, not apathetic. Many are wrong-minded in my opinion, and vice versa. But it is a great forum and ideas can be hammered out here. It is their commitment to an idea, which they will defend avidly against other competing opinions that makes bloggers seem extreme. If the nation generally tends towards apathy as I suggest, then active arguers would naturally seem ‘extreme’ in comparison .

    Bearing in mind the answer to the above, how should blogs relate to political parties in NZ? How should political parties relate to blogs?
    TS has tended to be critical of all political parties. I think the way that blogs are sorted as to left or right or up the boohai, reflects fairly accurate perceptions of the relation of them to any particular party, in a partisan way.
    I think that blogs could be good sounding boards and stream of voter consciousness for politicians to tap into. They would be an alternative to focus groups which I feel must suffer from Heisenberg’s theory.

    A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more? (I note here with sadness the currently moribund states of two interesting experiments – Policy Progress and journalism.org.nz ).
    It would be good if the bloggers could commit to some policy matter and bring information on the subject to the page over a set time. (I would like to know about methods of transfer of house ownership used overseas that might offer a different approach than the ones used here.
    Perhaps, for instance, I could get help finding the right sources overseas and bring back a report to the group: that’s the sort of thing that Aaron Swartz wanted to see happening I should think).

    A model for reflecting and researching policy matters on an agreed subject over a set time, with sources to be obligatory, could be set up and trialled.

    What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?

    What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

    What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

  24. NoseViper (The Nose knows) 24

    r0b
    I couldn’t get finished on the previous comment and got a bit tangled at end.
    Don’t know if impact of political blogs is increasing or declining – to some they may seem like a sideshow or a workgang that can be counted on to demolish any idea from those of a different political view. I think TS is likely to make more impact over time.

    The role of blogs to the next election? Keep the issues churning, ask questions. As I mentioned before TS could divide up a subject and set ourselves a task to get basic information and write up a summary of a draft policy at least, to see whether it was practical. However some secrecy might be helpful and the blog is very open.

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