Reflections of a retired blogger

Written By: - Date published: 4:34 pm, October 23rd, 2017 - 67 comments
Categories: blogs, The Standard - Tags: , , ,

Time for me to step down as a writer here. I’ve been doing it too long, and through some pretty bleak times. But now we have a new government, and that should bring a new wave of energy and engagement. It’s good time to make room for new writers to step up, with new ideas about the direction of this blog.

What follows is just a ramble on various topics in no particular order. Proceed at your own risk, or not.

I’m pleased that we have changed the government. But I’m probably more worried than I am pleased. Not just about the clusterfuck mess that National is leaving behind, but also about what the nature of the win says about this country. We should have won in a landslide in 2014, because dirty politics should not be acceptable to this country in any form. The fact that the Nats took that election, and maintained a highish level of popularity to the very end, does not speak well of our political health. It is clear that New Zealand has a moderate dose of what we are seeing in America with Trump, a political world where facts matter far less than spin and unquestioning allegiance to predetermined views. It’s a dangerous path.

There’s a lot of truth to the saying that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. It amuses me how actively the Nats lost this one by fighting an FPP campaign. Karma. If there was any rationality to politics National’s history of dirty politics and lies would see them out of power for a generation, but as above, there is no rationality to politics.

Dealing with the National opposition is not going to be easy, but there are a few things to bear in mind and keep repeating. They did a poor job with the economy, and a disastrous job with housing, poverty, health, education and the environment (documented here). They are sore losers who don’t understand MMP, want to argue with the ref, and have no mates. National will get wins from opposition, but that’s fine, the left had wins from opposition too. It’s the beauty of MMP. Don’t worry about it, and don’t let it divide the coalition government.

Is there a coming digital war? Probably. But I don’t think it will be as bad as some people say. The dirty politics blogs have had their day. Everyone now knows how they operate, and they don’t have anything like the influence that they had 5 years ago, especially with the media. They will keep spewing of course, and one thing authors here could do is regularly highlight their shit.

The systemic bias inherent in the right-wing ownership and centralisation of the media is a much bigger problem. It’s not completely unbalanced, but underlying everything is a set of assumptions and a perpetuation of myths that results in a constant screwing of the scrum in favour of the Nats. This reaches its worst in the dominance of idiot demagogues like Mike Hosking, and the repeated use of dirty politics actors like Farrar and Hooton as “commentators”. Let’s be honest about what they are – propagandists.

When it comes to regular journalists though, and I know I’m guilty of this myself, venting about them does very little good. The bad ones only get shirty, and they have a much bigger megaphone than us. The good ones are very good, and it must be frustrating for them to see their whole field (the “MSM”) continually attacked. Dear lefties, please try and make friends with journalists.

Anyway, the biggest problem in terms of political spin and public opinion is not the media, it is the weaponisation of social media. Profiling, AI methods, micro-targeted advertising, the propagation of fake news. If you haven’t heard of Cambridge Analytica you have no idea of how expertly you are being handled. If you are active on Facebook you are a product. Apart from the left trying to fight fire with fire I have no idea what to do about this. Is the politics of the future not so much a battle of ideas as it is a battle of algorithms? Depressing.

I haven’t written much about immigration and racism because I find it a difficult topic. I love immigration, I love diversity, I love travel and the rich tapestry of the exchange of culture and ideas. At the risk of sounding like Don Brash, my wife and kids don’t use a lot of sunblock, and I’ve helped family members from far away to NZ. But we do now have a problem. It isn’t the fault of immigrants, it’s the fault of politicians, a failure to plan, a failure to build infrastructure. It’s OK to point that out, and in my opinion it’s OK to put a slowdown on immigration until it’s sorted (immigration from England or Australia or anywhere). Some of the over-zealous lefties who insist on attacking this proposal as racism annoy me almost as much as overt racists. Too often it’s a privileged and self-gratifying exercise that ignores the fact that the burden of our stuffed housing and infrastructure falls mainly on the poor. Mainly in fact on Maori / Pacific Islanders. Racism of a different kind. We need to take care of the people already in this country (whether they arrived last week or generations ago) before we can sustain high levels of immigration again. Boy am I going to get in to trouble for writing this. So it goes.

In any case, sometimes it all feels like arguing about the proverbial deckchairs on the Titanic. Climate change is here. Huge challenges are coming. In fifty years the world is going be a very very different place from what it is today.

Back to the present. Politics. Philosophically I’m much more Green than Labour, but as a matter of historical accident I’m a member of the Labour Party. (I really don’t think it matters what party you support, as long as its heading in generally the constructive direction – left.) Labour, you don’t need my advice, here are some of the things you know already. You have in front of you huge opportunity and also huge risk. Jacinda Arden is your greatest asset, just let her be herself (don’t get flustered when she makes mistakes). Own up to your mistakes and fix them. Ministers must be accountable and must be seen to be accountable. Stick to the high road, leave dirty politics to the Nats. You will be very busy in government, but as a party you need to look at what went wrong in Auckland. Build relationships with immigrant communities. It’s going to be a hugely tough sell given your immigration policy, but you can’t afford to cede those communities to the Nats, so put the bloody work in. Don’t forget your impossibly huge responsibility to the Maori electorate who have given you their trust. Good luck!

Blogging has been interesting. My first comment here (12 Sept 2007) was a suggestion for a post – it seems I was doomed from the start. Against my better judgement I started submitting guest posts. My first post under my own login (4 September 2009) was Why blog?. I did around 600 posts as r0b, then 1890 after coming out as Anthony R0bins. Several hundred more as many of the Notices and Features and the like. That’s a lot of posts, too many. It was driven by a certain affinity for lost causes – loved this book in my formative years. I’m an accidental blogger – not a real one like the Farrar’s or Bradbury’s or (bless him) the George’s of the world.

Politics is a rough game. The other team plays dirty, which is understandable because it gets results. It’s very very tempting to give in to the dark side and use similar tactics of spin, lies and dogwhistles. I’d like to hope that I (none of the writers here) ever did or will. But I must admit I personally got closer than I would have liked, crossing the line into spin at times. Not proud of that, but it’s very damn frustrating to try and fight fire armed with nothing more than a combustable volume on moral philosophy. We need a better, more mature kind of politics, but I can’t see how to get there from here. I’ll go away and think about it for a bit. Best wishes to you all…


My thanks to to Lprent and The Standard Trust, fellow writers past and present, and the wonderful active commenting community here! The writers here are fantastic, and it’s been a privilege to work with them/you all, but they could use some reinforcements.

If ever there was a time to get active politically it is now. If ever you have thought about submitting guest posts or trying out as a writer here, do it now. The political right are going to go nuts in opposition, and we need fresh new hands on deck.

See you in comments sometimes.

67 comments on “Reflections of a retired blogger”

  1. Ant 1

    Great sketch, steeped in wisdom.
    Agreed, when the Nats last came to power the populous got the government it deserved, – blatantly ignoring dirty politics and hugely funded spin.
    Thanks for your tireless work.

  2. Anthony I wish you all the best for the future. I can’t think of a post from you that I didn’t enjoy – i especially liked the way you kept putting poverty and inequality back to front of mind with your posts. You have made an outstanding contribution to the left and this country – thank you so much for this mahi. I’m going to miss you mate. Arohanui e hoa.

  3. mickysavage 3

    Bugger …

  4. Allan 4

    Your observations were always very good to read. I suspect there will be quite a few people, having spent the last nine years banging their heads against the wall before finally seeing the result of their efforts, who will be pondering on their future.

    Hopefully the incoming government lives up to its promises, otherwise we all may have to resume activism to hold them to account.

    Many thanks for your writings.

  5. gsays 5

    Cheers Anthony, I too have enjoyed your contributions.
    Good luck in your future endeavours.

  6. McFlock 6

    Thanks for the great reading – always a commenter and author I’d stop to read. Onward and upward 🙂

    • Anne 6.1

      Me too.
      It was the common sense stuff that always caught my attention. Readable, reasonable and clear in its intent. You will be sorely missed Anthony Robins.

  7. Carolyn_nth 7

    All the best r0b. You have served us andthe left exceedingly well.

  8. Incognito 8

    We need a better, more mature kind of politics, but I can’t see how to get there from here.

    Darn! If you don’t know, who does? [rhetorical]

    I’ll go away and think about it for a bit.

    Please do; we all need it! [sincere]

    You have my thanks and deepest respect for everything. Frankly, I have no idea where you find the time & energy and how you manage the quality & volume of your writings. [gratitude & respect]

  9. ropata 9

    Kia Ora Matua. Enjoy your well earned break.

  10. Dv 10

    Thank you rob

  11. David Craig 11

    Cheers to you Anthony: your reflections above are rather fine, and yes confirm all the traits of your clever, clear, (almost entirely truthful!), committed blogging over years. I’ve loved seeing your posts, again and again, and have never failed to be at least slightly/ pleasantly surprised and impressed by them.
    You seem to know what to do with actual serious facts, how to put them up economically and effectively, and how to prop them up against the door when fake and nasty bullshit are trying to break it down. I like it too that increasingly, it seems, you have called shit what it is, in some of the most clear and direct ways I’ve seen in media. In this , and in all of the above, you remind me more than a little of Paul Krugman in the NYT….
    I’ll let that comparison weigh with you a little, while I in fact find myself wiping a small tear away here!
    Much love: and please do surprise us again (and again), with some more of that, when you get a moment!

  12. greywarshark 12

    Hei kona ra. Kia waimarie Anthony.
    Please drop in a sentence FTTT so we know you’re still around.
    You have been invaluable. We should be picking up the baton and running with it,
    but watch our progress like Lydiard or Snell, and you will definitely be appreciated.

  13. bwaghorn 13

    giving up is easier said than done , cheers for all you good reads.

  14. r0b 14

    Thank you, kia ora, thank you all, you are far too kind.

    My thanks to to Lprent and The Standard Trust, fellow writers past and present, and the wonderful active commenting community here!

    I’m sorry to stepping down from writing, but I will still be about a bit…

    • mickysavage 14.1

      You do understand that you are welcome back any time, in fact it is expected that you will return …

      • r0b 14.1.1

        Cheers MS. Never say never I suppose, but certainly in the foreseeable 6 months I am utterly buried in a big project at work, and beyond that things may also be complicated for quite a while. Safest to think of it as a clean break.

    • Mike Smith 14.2

      Thanks so much r0b for so much wisdom and insightful comment over so many years. You have been absolutely crucial to setting and maintaining the Standard’s standards. Very best wishes for whatever comes next

  15. Ad 15

    I kinda wondered the motive behind the grand collection of links. A cache to sustain the comrades, I presume.

    I presume also you are being gainfully redirected in a manner that precludes you from public statements. You know you can always backchannel a good leak here!

    We don’t need to love lost causes. We need only a conscience for the loseability of the world. I suspect that this, rather than standard left melancholy, is what you have.

    I have appreciated what you have done, and you are reliably loyal to the broad cause.

    I get the clear impression that you are good, and work for the good.

    Keep doing it.

  16. rhinocrates 16

    Thank you!

  17. riffer 17

    Always enjoyed your input Anthony. All the best for whatever the future holds for you.

    • garibaldi 17.1

      Ditto to all the above Anthony. Thanks for all your contributions and the integrity which you have always displayed by the bucketful.

  18. lurgee 19

    You were one of the saner and more thoughtful voices here, Anthony. You will be missed. If only for honest comments like:

    It is clear that New Zealand has a moderate dose of what we are seeing in America with Trump, a political world where facts matter far less than spin and unquestioning allegiance to predetermined views. It’s a dangerous path.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people on the left don’t get that 2017 has been a lucky fluke for us with the Greens shedding enough support to Labour to make them look credible as a governing party, and Winston deciding he’d go left.

    New Zealand is not a left wing country that mysteriously elects right wing governments. It’s pretty strongly right wing. The sooner people accept that, accept the ‘missing million’ arent going to roll into the polling booths, and realise the best way to keep National out of power and deliver some left wing policies is to colonise the centre ground, the better.

    • BM 19.1

      I do wonder if Peters legacy is to try and push the reset button and turn the clock back 30 years.

      If that’s the case I’m thankful National is on the sidelines and not in the blast zone.

  19. weka 20

    Superb post r0b. Thanks for all the work. Those post numbers are impressive, but I just want to reiterate to the community just how critical you’ve been to keeping momentum going for TS for many years, particularly with such regular posts.

    I appreciate the comments about immigration policy, it’s a topic that the left need to get to grips with very soon in NZ, and I also feel a similar frustration with the polarisation on both sides.

    Good thoughts on Labour too, I hope they choose that path.

    One of the things I’m working through in the past few days is the fact that so much has changed since the last time we had a centre left govt. There will be good things in that, but at the moment I’m feeling a bit daunted by the sheer amount of shit that’s coming the left’s way because they’ve gained some power. And not just the amount of shit but the methods of attack and, if we are not careful, the starting down the path that the US has gone that polarised the country. On the upside, I think like you that there is also real opportunity here, may we make the most of that.

    Wishing you all the best. Enjoy that garden too!

  20. Macro 21

    Am seriously going to miss your posts r0b.
    Enjoy “retirement” and the garden. Look forward to seeing you back from time to time in the commentary.
    And like all others here thank you very much for all the stirling work you have done. TS won’t be quite the same.

  21. halfcrown 22

    You are going to be sorely missed with your writings and snippets of wisdom.
    Wish you all the best and thank you for your bits of sanity in a sometimes insane world.

  22. Pacific Princess 23

    Thank you Anthony! I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. Perhaps some day soon I’ll strike up the courage and write a guest post 🙂 Like you say now is the time to do it!

  23. BM 24

    That’s a shame, I’ve always enjoyed the stuff you’ve done, alway’s provocative and thoughtful but nowhere near as trolly/baity as the stuff some of the other authors do.

    Well done r0b.

  24. lprent 25

    I’m going to miss those posts of sanity and comments of moderation.

    You have been a stalwart and consistent author for a very long time, both in the front and the back of the site. I am probably going to miss the backend even more…

    But this is a multiauthor blog and I long ago resigned myself to authors leaving when they run out of things to say, or when life removes the time to do it (Helen Kelly being the extreme instance of the latter).

    So if anyone else wants to step up to the Mike, can work on an agree to disagree basis, and can string coherent and maybe even interesting thoughts together – give a yell and probably a guest post.

    If you have your own blog and would like a larger and probably more critical audience, then we like crossposting as well.

    Just remember it is a volunteer site and time tends to be limited – including bringing people on board. But we also give a lot of freedom to affect the debate.

  25. Ovid 26

    Thanks Anthony. I hold you in high regard.

  26. Heather Grimwood 27

    Thank you Anthony for your committed work, your integrity , and your encouragement.

  27. One Anonymous Bloke 28

    Thanks Anthony.

  28. ianmac 29

    Every time I started to read a new post I was certain that if ANTHONY R0BINS was the by line, it would be well worth the read for accuracy and credibility. I do hope you pop back when there are serious issues for Jacinda’s Government. Thanks Rob.

  29. Whispering Kate 30

    I also, have enjoyed your commentary on this blog site. I find it admirable that some people have that ability to research and deliver such interesting and insightful ideas. I got very good English marks at school and was good at essay writing in the couple of years I did at Uni (never finished) but have never had the confidence to actually sit down, research and deliver. Personally I have “in your face” experience with the Mental Health System through a loved one in our family and would, if I had the guts, like to vent about it. It has beaten me down to such a level I can’t ever see it happening.

    All the best for the future and your endeavours you have planned.

  30. eco Maori/kiwi 31

    I agree with your principles Anthony even though I’m a new person to this site I can see that your contributions to this site and the left movement have had a positive effect to everyone on this site and all the viewers and your work will be missed Kia Kaha.

  31. ankerawshark 32

    Thank you so much Anthony for all the time and effort you have put into writing such excellent articles for the Standard.

    You will be missed.

    Wishing you well.
    AK

  32. Sparky 33

    I’m increasingly inclined to think there is little “left,left in the left”. Yes a bad joke but then I’m astounded how many people for example still view the likes of the Dems in the US as virtuous examples of the left or the leading CDU in German as somehow a civilised manifestation of the right with a leftie twist.

    The reality is increasingly there is no left/right divide but instead “political homogenisation” around a core set of globalist neo liberal principles. For me this is most exemplified by the unwillingness to accept capitalism as a failed philosophy. Instead its viewed as something in need of reform which inevitably looks a lot like a race to the bottom. New Zealand and others nations as something akin to a large corporations constantly making “cuts” in pursuit of a shining future that never did exist nor ever will exist.

    Meantime people slowly go blind on waiting lists, take out private medical insurance, are forced to live in cars whilst, enduring ever declining standards of healthcare, welfare, policing and education while the money that is there is siphoned off to fund foreign adventurism in the form of wars, socialism for the rich, large corporations and banks who enjoy levels of taxation normally associated with third world nations.

    NZ has the highest level of homelessness in the OECD, the highest level of youth suicide, a housing market the according to Golden Sachs is appallingly overpriced and may lead to a 40% adjustment in the next two years.

    In my opinion that’s our reality and I personally see little to suggest its going to change.

  33. In Vino 34

    Ditto to all the thanks and compliments, with the exception of BM’s.

  34. r0b 35

    Thank you, thank you all again for your kind words (including some from unexpected quarters!). I can’t reply to all the comments, but please know that every one of them is read and is appreciated. Cheers…

  35. Ed 36

    Thank you.

  36. Brian Tregaskin 37

    two words
    “Saint Anthony”

  37. Jenny Kirk 38

    Thank you rOb – I have enjoyed and appreciated your writings.

  38. Rats !, – even though I’m pretty much a new comer here ,.. I hate goodbyes. But on an up ,… we have a new govt , – and by all looks ,… a magnificent one. And it is true , that it is time for all hands on deck as the far right are going to come out swinging and mean spirited.

    Just when I would’ve preferred to think the job is done and we could all get some rest.

    Rats again !

    New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
    http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

  39. Kevin 40

    Thanks R0b, all the best. Loved your work.

  40. Exkiwiforces 41

    I would like to say thank you for your posts and allowing me to comment. All the best for the future whatever that may bring for you.

  41. cleangreen 42

    Anthony you have always written such well balanced subect matters and have acted with a very fair repectful mannerism which I have admired you greatly for this.

    I sincerely hope you will continue to chip in going forward as your views are cherrished by all I am sure judging by the blogs here, so the best of our wishes for the future and enjoy you well deserved rest and recreation my friend.

  42. Nick 43

    Great work and effort r0b, very much appreciated your thoughts and words.

  43. Robert Guyton 44

    Thanks, rOb, for all of your fine work. I wonder how difficult you will find not expressing your views here on TS; even taking a “commenters holiday” is hard enough – seasoned writers must have to hold fast to their decisions to stop writing, especially in a field like politics that changes day by day and matters, especially to those, like you, who have a deep and detailed knowledge of the labyrinth it is. I guess the twitchy typing-finger will settle down eventually and you’ll be able to ride out the coming waves of political anguish without feeling you have to put up a post about them!
    Enjoy your time out.

    • greywarshark 44.1

      You might r0b put up a comment (small ) and like Joe90 provide a valuable link for the questing to go further!?

      And just reading in serendipity pieces, or in sequence, your mighty post with its diverse headings (and not forgetting Blip’s list, still relevant after Key’s departure)
      we will always have something to occupy our minds. The sign-post will point to
      your post The mess that the new government inherits

      So thanks for all the fish. Have a good holiday. See ya later.
      Ka kite ano au i a koe.

  44. roy cartland 45

    Will be sorry to see you go r0b! And some excellent points there.

    Go well.

  45. Agora 46

    R0b .. I don’t buy it.
    You will return to your writing addiction
    as soon as you get a twitch in that finger pressing RETURN
    .. or a nationalist blogger does something stupid.
    Have a good break ..

  46. Smellpir 47

    Thank you Anthony,
    Your online life has tracked the great transition in social media involvement in politics. Thanks to you the Centre/Left has had a committed (bordering on relentless) and principled advocate.

    Good luck for your future challenges – likely to be some on-the-ground advocacy and engagement with the new government’s aspirations for tertiary education!

  47. Keepcalmcarryon 48

    Thank you for all your hard work, I’ve enjoyed your large and very balanced contribution here very much.

  48. Colin Bell 49

    I’m sorry to read that you are leaving The Standard. Part of me would like to step up and join the blog site, but at 70 plus age am not sure if my voice will be appropriate for the times.

    • weka 49.1

      Age is not an issue Colin. If you would like to have a go at writing for TS, reply here and we will see what’s possible.

      • Colin Bell 49.1.1

        Okay Weka. I suggest that we explore what may be possible by means of emails, rather than publicly visible comments on TS. I am not skilled with IT but may be able to put something together a few times per year.

  49. Dot 50

    I hope that you will use your considerable talents
    to help NZ have a good government for a long time

    I agree with your comments about our political health in this country, the level of acceptance of lies
    [ dirty politics ] is worrying
    I join all the appreciative people on this site to say thank you ROB

  50. Enjoy the time to yourself, mate.

  51. r0b 52

    And again – thank you, thank you, thank you – thank you all!

  52. joe90 53

    Thanks r0b.

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