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Rent a crowd

Written By: - Date published: 7:09 am, November 19th, 2010 - 34 comments
Categories: activism, john key - Tags:

I understand the anger that drove some leftie activists to confront John Key in Mana yesterday (though I think that anything that looks like direct aggression against a politician is always a tactical mistake). But Key’s response triggered one of my pet peeves:

Prime Minister confronted by ‘rent a crowd’ in Mana

Prime Minister John Key has been forced to make a strategic retreat from a Porirua shopping mall after being mobbed by a group of trade union and labour activists.

He was out campaigning for National in the Mana by-election, and dismissed his opponents as a “rent a crowd”.

“Rent a crowd” is a deliberate attempt to denigrate the motives of the protesters. The goal is to distract from the fact that Left wing political protests are grass roots events. They consist of people. People who care enough to get up off the sofa and do something to try and change the world. No one pays people to turn up at such protests (well no one has ever paid me!). “Rent a crowd”? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ironically, it is the right wing that needs to literally pay for its “crowds”. When it comes to activists the right is supported by far more money and far fewer warm bodies. It’s supporters would rather write a cheque to an anonymous trust than actually get involved. So if they do try and fake a mass protest, they need to pay well. Like the 2008 “March for Democracy”, $450,000 in advertising costs to get a turnout of 4 to 5,000 people. Let’s call it $100 a head. Now that’s what I call “rent a crowd”.

34 comments on “Rent a crowd ”

  1. burt 1

    It was really good that people were able to speak their minds and promote their own views without needing to have a sign showing everyone their full name and residential address.

  2. Bored 2

    Shonkey is missing something: under his watch there is no money left to rent a crowd. You can of course always get NZers to turn out free of charge if you say it is for an audition as Hobbits for the sainted PJ.

  3. Fisiani 3

    All this commotion, fear and loathing in a safe Labour seat. The success of National in constantly winning the hearts and minds of the people is terrifying the Left.

    • r0b 3.1

      What – like Mt Albert? Yeah, that was scary all right. And when all those hearts and minds elected a “Labour Mayor from South Auckland”. Terrifying!

    • Sean 3.2

      From what I can gather, living in the electorate, the crowd was Matt McCarten supporters and they did it for free.

      Beyond that, the fear and loathing these people were expressing would be aimed at a government which has lowered real incomes across the board in New Zealand, and by a shameful 11.5 and 19 percent for Maori and Pacific Islander communities respectively.

    • Colonial Viper 3.3

      Its politics mate! I’m really surprised that you think that its fear when its actually fight! And Labour is simply practicing for the real fight: 2011!!! Which means its gonna be a fight on the street, street by street, group by group, away from the Boardroom drinks that Key and co. is used too.

      And if you think John Key has seen anything yet just wait until we smash National’s margin in Botany. You speak of fear? Do you want to know why John Key is keeping Pansy Wong on? Because the NAT strategists fear the very real possibility of a 10% swing against this unfair and unscrupulous Government, showing up in Botany. 15% if we have anything to do with it.

      • Brett 3.3.1

        Do you consider people who vote for National,the enemy?

        • felix

          Yeah sure Brett. We all do. And we want them shot.


          • rich

            Shooting is a bit lenient. I favour having them buried up to their necks and slowly eaten by ants.

          • Mark

            Your a perfect example of the nastiness from the left , Felix.
            Im sure your father , if you new who he was would give you a right spanking for saying something like that .

            Who is ” We all ” felix ?

            Is it the whole left wing minority or just a few losers like yourself

            • Jim Nald

              Try harder to improve thy reading and comprehension skills
              Responding to Brett, Felix starts off by saying “Yeah sure”

              or get Tolley to give you a helicopter view

            • Colonial Viper

              Your a perfect example of the nastiness from the left , Felix.

              And when the Right dump an extra 20,000 low paid (and mainly ethnic/women) people out of work into the unemployment queues that’s what? Not nastiness but ‘economic rationalism’? ‘Rebalancing the economy’? ‘People who didn’t have sustainable jobs anyways’?

              You are correct, the Left can be nasty and fully admits it, the Right on the other hand are simply sociopathic and waltzes along quite blithely while destroying lives thank you very much.

              • Jim Nald

                What is worse is, under the cover of neutral or progressive language like “rebalancing the economy” and “sustainability”, they stealthily make gains for themselves and their cronies at the cost of pilfering and destroying the lives of many people.

      • smhead 3.3.2

        Colonial Viper sounds remarkably like that Australian union fellow who was briefly Labour’s candidate in Botany last time.

        Okay CV, I will bite. What makes you think that something is happening in Botany that isn’t showing up in any other public polls?

        • Colonial Viper

          smh, given recent events even I think that NZ Labour should minimise its involvement with Australian union officials for the time being 😛

    • Redbaron77 3.4

      Not the impression I am receiving outside my own personal silo.

  4. The other example of rent a crowd was the pro smacking march in November 2008 where a cool $500k was spent to get a crowd of 5,000 to protest. The protest took a couple of hours. This works out to $50 an hour per person to walk up Queen Street. Those guys must have a really good union.

  5. Carol 5

    This mode of dismissing sincerely motivated protests, especially by demonstrators on the left wing of politics, is a tired, old and very unoriginal strategy of misdirection and distraction. Key and NZ journos show a total lack of imagination and intellect in using this to undermine a sincerely motivated protest. The “rent-a-mob” slur was around in the UK way back my feminist days in London, and was frequently used in attempts to dismiss anti-Thatcher government and/or left-wing protests.

    In those days, I saw MSM reports on protests/demos I’d been on, that included many of the most prominent women in the local women’s movement. Sometimes there were comments from some Tory politicians making totally incorrect claims about the protestors. I learned at a fairly early age that some journos and pollies can just make sh*t up, if it suits their purpose.

  6. Jeremy Harris 6

    While I take your point the comment to more seemed more cliche, i.e. “those same old activists”, “that rent-a-crowd”, “they’d show up to a protest to stop cancer”, etc…

    IMO I don’t think he really thinks those people were paid to be there…

  7. Jaghut 7

    This post is basically NO U

  8. randal 8

    if they are a rent a mob then the nats rented them to take the heat off the water privatisation bill.

  9. Tanz 9

    Glad I sit on the Right side of the fence, I’d rather waltz than advocate torture….ants indeed.

    • Vicky32 9.1

      Tanz, there’s a good chance that was humour…. (I have a bit Aspergers, I am always failing to get jokes, so I sympathise with you, but still)

      • Tanz 9.1.1

        I am also an Aspergers sufferer, or so I’ve been told.Vicky. Yes,I know it was humour, but thanks.

  10. David 10

    It is interesting the way the right is able to make these assertions as if they are fact and there’s no challenge in the media.
    Activists campaigning are described as ‘rent-a-crowd’ which as R0B rightly points out makes it sound as if they are being paid for their campaign.

    Another similar example is David Farrar’s claim today:
    Also in these “tribal Labour” areas you will have scores and scores of salaried union employees getting out the vote. They have been campaigning fulltime for Labour for weeks – and of course their salaries do not count as part of the $40,000 cap.

    So if a score is 20, he is saying there’s what, 40, 60, 80 salaried union employees working full time on the campaign. This is simply untrue. If there were so many salaried union employees working full time on the campaign then most of the unions in NZ would be shut down as he’s actually describing a huge chunk of the salaried union staff in the country. Farrar is nothing if not smart. He knows it simply cannot be the case that there are “scores and scores” of salaried union employees working full time for the Labour Mana campaign. But he also knows that he can get away with telling untruths like that and it will become an accepted wisdom.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      I’m at the stage where I believe that what the RWNJs say is increasingly irrelevant and that burning up energy addressing their noise is not a great investment. The job of the Left today is to help the many find their voices over the issues which they are facing individually and as a collective today, and to help them express those voices loud and clear – at the ballot box and in many other settings.

      The more vacuous elements of the MSM and the various punditry can, as they say, go take a long walk off a short pier.

    • Jeremy Harris 10.2

      The left can’t ignore the right and vice versa…

      If they do the public starts to ask, “why can’t they answer the oppositions questions..?”

  11. Irascible 11

    I notice that on the comments pages of TV3 & Herald the NACT supporters are resorting to the GOP campaign advice book which says To discredit your opposition simply tell the biggest lie or distortion of a statement about him as possible. Get your mates to repeat it then when your opposition hits you in court argue that by suing the person is admitting the truth of the original lie.”
    There are some really nasty comments about Goff coming through that on a moderated comment site of TV3 that should be questioned by the moderator.
    This is the same strategy that Dipton and the Member for Hawaii are using in the House only being masked with the use of incredibly shonky statistics to blind the ignoratii that are the Press Gallery.

  12. roger nome 13

    rent a crowd? Prebble was using that to describe protests against unpopular right wing reforms in the 1980s. Looks like a chunk of double-speak has been seared into the right-wing lexicon in NZ. I think this form of politiking started with Reagan’s administration. Attack your opponents’ strengths – accusing them of being exactly the opposite of what they are in order to muddy the ideological waters in the public consciousness.

    Orwell forshadowed it – and Key lives it.

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