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Strange Democracy.

Written By: - Date published: 11:38 am, May 30th, 2018 - 30 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, class war, democracy under attack, International, liberalism, Politics, Propaganda, uk politics - Tags: ,

Remember the “Moment of Truth” in Auckland Town Hall just before the 2014 election when Glen Greenwald, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NZ government’s spying on us?

I seem to recall that went down as foreigners interfering in democratic processes in many quarters, and as such, was deemed to be “malign”. And so, regardless of the information they were imparting or attempting to impart, the order of the day (at least in a number of quarters) was to cast aspersions on the messengers, while minimising and/or ignoring the message.

Remember a company based in Russia pushing ridiculous but clickable memes through facebook that allowed them to generate revenue from advertising that was attached to their posts in various ways?

That was a “the sky is falling in” moment of foreign interference in democratic processes that, to this day, has people and agencies running around all in a flap.

So there’s a pattern. Whatever the rights and wrongs or efficacy of what’s being done, the clear message is that a country’s elections ought to be left to unfold in a vacuum, sealed by domestic power structures that can rightfully, and without interference, subject the voting public to whatever information or mis-information as might be around at the time.

Any challenge to that set up (either real or merely perceived) is jumped on from a great height with cries about democracy being subverted, undermined or otherwise threatened. Of course, in the current political climate, the alleged source of the threat will tend to be Russia, what with its supposed track record of nefarious  goings on stretching all the way back to the stone age or when-ever. Such were the claims with regards the independence vote in Catalonia, and various European elections, as well as the US one.

And sure, the USA and whoever else sticks fingers in various pies and has done for years, but either we’re meant to view that interference (“ours”) as benevolent in intent if not benign in practice, or ignore it completely. Which, for the sake of this post, is fine, because we’re talking about interference in elections taking place on “our” side of some notional fence – which is to say, on the ‘good guys’ side of the fence.

So from Dotcom to “all things Russian” (or tenuously connected to something that can be labelled “Russian”), and across various jurisdictions, democracy is under attack from “bad guys” who are bad because they are focusing their energies on largely benign or benevolent instances of power.

Which brings us to today’s Guardian headlines about George Soros, a Hungarian American and dedicated liberal centrist, who is about to launch a campaign aimed at securing a second Brexit referendum in Britain. Now, I know there’s a swathe of conspiratorial stuff swills around about George Soros and his influence. I’m not interested in any of that and would appreciate if comments steer away from that rabbit hole.

The point is that the Guardian has “gifted” its front page to the announcement of a foreign person intent on shaping British democratic culture at a quite fundamental level. This isn’t about influencing a vote, but about generating an issue for the British public to vote on. And yet, the pieces (there are two) offer up no criticism of this attempt to determine British politics at such a basic level.

In fact, the second piece strongly suggests that any questioning of this most bizarre unfolding of events is, or will be, down to rabid nationalism and/or anti-semitism on the part of those calling matters into question. The British public are to “get in behind” George Soros. George Soros, so the second article reports, is looking to “save the UK from “immense danger”” after all.

And what could possibly be wrong with that?

30 comments on “Strange Democracy.”

  1. roy cartland 1

    Billionaires don’t really count as foreigners, as they go/do where/what-ever they like, and the public is chill with it. As NZ has so obsequiously demonstrated to the likes of James Cameron, Peter Thiel, that nuclear survivalist bunker-builder in Wanaka, et al.

  2. Gosman 2

    I think you have misinterpreted why the ‘Moment of truth’ was such an anti-climax and blew up in the face of those who promoted it.

    It was less to do with the Foreigner angle and more to do with the expectations that were raised by Kim Dotcom (and others) prior to the big reveal.

    The general feel was that this was something that was going to prove beyond doubt that John Key knew about the arrest of Kim Dotcom and additionally knew this was to satisfy US commercial interests.

    Instead of that we got some complicated story about Government spying on NZers via the Five Eyes network (which I suspect most NZers didn’t even care too much about). That was the reason it didn’t gain traction.

    • Hanswurst 2.1

      Your point is irrelevant, since, regardless of whether you are right or not about the importance of expectations on Dotcom to The Moment of Truth, Key and his hangers-on were definitely propagating the angle Bill describes in his post.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        I have yet to see any evidence presented that the main attack points against the ‘moment of truth’ was that it involved a lot of foreigners.

        Do you have some link backing this view up?

    • Stuart Munro 2.2

      It didn’t gain traction because establishment stooges like Tim Watkin made very certain that it didn’t. It would have impugned the Key kleptocracy’s gross abuse of power and imperiled their ability to continue to misgovern.

      “(which I suspect most NZers didn’t even care too much about)”

      The rotten to the core MSM ensured that they didn’t get to decide.

  3. One Two 3

    No need for rabbit holes, Bill…

    Soros is headline news, fronting a ‘correcting’ exercise in broad daylight…

    Hungary chose a different approach…

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Hungary’s approach has met with dismay at the EU Parliament, who will vote next month and in September as to whether to formally commence sanction procedures.

      Orbán’s government has been accused by critics at home and abroad of putting Hungary on the road to autocracy and reintroducing undemocratic practices last seen under communism, such as de facto censorship in state media. The government has repeatedly dismissed such criticism as overblown and unwarranted meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.

      They’re also accusing the European Parliament of being agents of Soros, but the EU accusations broadly confirm what I’ve been hearing privately.

  4. dukeofurl 4

    I thought Soros had British citizenship?
    Yes, he was of German-jewish ancestry born in Budapest ( born Schwartz) but survived the nazis and emigrated to Britain after the war.
    Nowdays he would say he has Hungarian-British-American nationality.
    As he lives in US now it could be said he was interfering in British politics

  5. Ad 5

    George Soros is not a foreign government.

    • Bill 5.1

      Neither are any of the pertinent entities mentioned in the post.

      • Ad 5.1.1

        Apart from Russia, multiple times.
        Which was the true subtext of this entire post.

        Unlike Russia, Soros was completely open that it was his entity doing the funding from the beginning.

        • Bill 5.1.1.1

          Like I said Ad, none of the pertinent entities mentioned in the post are states.

          The subtext is (or so I would have thought) pretty obvious.

          When Liberalism’s primacy is threatened, then according to liberal media, it’s “democracy under attack” – and ideological bogey men are sought out and presented.

          When a Liberal agenda is on the offensive, it’s “three wise monkeys” time.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.1.1

            The last time I recall democracy was “under attack” in NZ, it was capital’s privilege/primacy being threatened; it was “under attack” apparently, by a “neoliberal” NZLP coalition government.

            What am I missing?

            • Bill 5.1.1.1.1.1

              The intervening 30 odd years that saw the ascent and plateau of liberalism?

              30 years ago Capital sought to overcome the constraints social democratic governance had placed on it. There is an argument that Capital essentially went on strike (no investment) and created the crisis of stagflation that opened the door for the “liberal reforms” of Thatcher, Reagan, Douglas et al.

              The idea you’re suggesting – that Capital is any kind of harbour or home for democracy, and that an attack on Capital can constitute an attack on democracy, is an odd one.

  6. One Anonymous Bloke 6

    The substantive difference between eg: Soros and eg: the CIA and/or GRU is that Soros is an individual who acts (more-or-less I suppose) in the open, and the CIA/GRU are states acting covertly.

    It fairly common for ‘foreigners’ to be asked to comment on all sorts of topics from trade to tourism etc etc. Media interviews, co-operation between trades unions at a global level, etc.

    If/when those foreigners are discovered in possession of a hidden agenda, like Israelis wanting passports, there’s legitimate cause for concern.

    • Bill 6.1

      And that’s true, but a straw peep argument thang in the context of the post.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1

        How so? Soros, Dotcom are both subject to praise and/or denigration based on the perspective of whoever comments on their behaviour. For everyone saying “get in behind” Soros there’s someone saying the opposite. Both perspectives get published. Same for Dotcom.

        You did ask “what could possibly be wrong with that?”

        So I guess the answer is “plenty, potentially, but the shit the CIA/GRU get up to is in a different category because it’s undeclared”.

        • Bill 6.1.1.1

          Apart from the elevation of the platform or volume of the megaphone employed or accessible for the opposing views in your first para, I have no argument with what your saying.

          In relation to this post, the Guardian has come out in full support and (by my reading) is looking to head off criticism at the pass (as per argued in the main body of the post). And sure, no doubt there will be critical takes aired elsewhere…

          • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.1.1

            It did occur to me that Soros, Dotcom and the like represent privilege seeking influence (a bit like The Guardian really), as opposed to grass roots. That said, Mana made common cause with Dotcom. Soros no doubt also has allies.

  7. millsy 7

    Conservative reactionaries call Soros a “communist”, yet the Russian oligarchs owe him for “helping” Boris Yeltsin defeat the Communist Party candidate in the 1996 election. This is freely admitted in Russian circles.

    • dukeofurl 7.1

      The one where Yeltsin won the 2nd round 54% to 40% ( with 5% none of the above).

      Dont think he needed much help

  8. CHCOff 8

    The British electorate should get abit more involvement in their Brexit, but it should be on the terms of their elected govt. not that of trans international lobby groups.

    All of which is a significant proportion of what the exercise is all about surely.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      on the terms of their elected govt. not that of trans international lobby groups.

      What about when their elected government is a mouthpiece for trans-national lobby groups? Surely under those circumstances, resistance by other trans-national lobby groups is ok.

      Example: an extreme authoritarian organisation spends a lot of money and we get toxic US education rorts in NZ. In that circumstance, is it ok for teachers’ unions to draw on international experience to help destroy charter schools?

      In a nutshell, whatever rules are put in place to prevent the National Party’s inherently treacherous agenda, they will find a way around the law. Grass roots organisations caught in the same net can’t afford as many morally white lawyers.

  9. CHCOff 9

    What about when their elected government is a mouthpiece for trans-national lobby groups?

    Well i’ve blogged often before that i think it would be better if you had above board local lobbying as part elected govt. and i understand what you are saying.

    In short, the more local involvement, even with say ‘theoretically’ an elected govt that is a mouthpiece of foreign interests & rorting against the public interest, at least it would still have to do token efforts with required more involvement of electorate guidance on policies. And overtime there would be contrasts that steadily raise the bar in the general understandings of the mass electorate.

  10. greywarshark 10

    Thinking about overseas influence on our government, why did we decide to limit ourselves so much in the Won’t Budgeit rules Robertson and Labour have adopted. The public debt to GDP which has apparently been decided at 20% seems more to the austerity side than just being prudent. (… 19.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022.)

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/357606/budget-2018-the-fiscal-nitty-gritty

    What other countries are spending.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt
    Compare – net debt to GDP for 2017 (CIA) – USA Central Intelligence Agency.
    Japan 223.8%
    Singapore 114.6%
    Belgium 104.3%
    Canada 98.2%
    UK 90.4%
    Austria 81.7%
    United States 77.4%
    Ireland 69.5%
    Germany 65.7%
    Finland 63.8%
    World (average?) 59.9%
    Netherlands 59%
    South Africa 50.1%
    Australia 47.1%
    South Korea 43.3%
    Sweden 39%
    Denmark 35.1%
    New Zealand 32%
    Turkey 29.6%
    Nepal 27.3%
    China 18.6%
    Russia 11.8%

    United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Canada – there is information about their public debt.

    At less than 25% (as noted in the Budget) we seem to be amongst some strange bedfellows! They have different trajectories than us.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt#/media/File:Government_debt_gdp.png

  11. Timeforacupoftea 11

    The FBI have to practice somewhere, why not Coatsville !!

  12. Scott C 12

    Hey Bill, I agree, although being new here I wondering whether the Chomsky-esque idea of the media actively arranging public opinion is readilly accepted by this site’s audience. Perhaps it is. The other intriguing example of this in NZ media is the China activity story, with Hillary CLinton, no less, coming here to sure up the ‘china is a threat perspective’ and the various local media pieces presuming to be the prevailing perspective on it.
    Or too – far as I can tell – the unaskable question of why the government is paying the farmers /their collectives anything let alone a goodly chunk of $800 million to ease their losses. THe stories about this to my mind all leap straight over that question and ponder only superficialities of it. This seems to be strategic messaging by corporates. To me this seems 80% likely and perhaps equates to Chomsky’s describing the NYT and FOX combo as defining the thinkable left. Fox news, by being utterly outraged at NYT’s position, makes anything left of the NYT position pretty much crazy. …if you are with me 🙂

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