There has been some recent discussion about the Greens satirical ad about Simon Bridges from various sources including from Green members. Radio New Zealand has the details:
I can understand the motivation of the ad creators. Bridges is becoming something of a caricature. Maybe it is intentional. Maybe the right think that if it works for Donald Trump and Boris Johnson then a local variation may be the approach most likely to succeed. And the best counter response may be ridicule, although Trump and Johnson have been targets for ridicule for years, seemingly without lasting damage caused.
I would hardly describe the ad as an attack ad. And I would certainly not call it a sneer ad as Bryce Edwards has. In fact he buys into right wing attack lines in a way that is really disturbing. He says this:
The ad is an example of the global phenomenon of “sneer politics”, in which it’s fashionable for liberal elites to admonish and ridicule the ordinariness and ‘uncouth’ elements of political opponents.
It’s very fashionable in metropolitan and liberal circles to sneer at political leaders considered to be déclassé. The likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are ridiculed not just for their reactionary politics, but also for their rather vulgar or even “common” styles and personalities. We call them “clowns”.
Yet these political figures are often very successful for the very reason that they are sneered at. Condescension from liberal elites actually makes them more popular. Famously, when Hillary Clinton labelled Trump’s supporters “deplorables” it actually pushed many voters towards supporting the populist candidate for president.
Everywhere, such sneering has helped to widen the gap between liberal elites and the masses who feel belittled and patronised. In Britain, where Brexit voters have been painted as reactionaries and ignorant, the polarisation has simply become further entrenched.
For many ordinary voters, these “outsider” politicians are appreciated because they come across as down-to-earth. Certainly, such politicians attempt to accentuate or cultivate their ordinariness and “play the clown” on purpose. But regardless of the authenticity of these personas, it resonates widely with many voters who are increasingly distrustful of elites and traditional politicians.
He finishes off by saying this:
For the political left to take on their opponents more successfully, they need to get away from the current urge to denigrate their opponents – this has proved to be a dead-end everywhere. Instead the focus has to be on defeating their actual ideas, and on fostering a focus on progressive solutions to the issues of the day. Hence, in the US at the moment, the Democrat Party has mostly learned this lesson, with the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez putting forward some big ideas rather than concentrating on criticising Trump. Such successful leaders are learning to be bold, rather than petty.
His framing is straight out of Crosby Textor land. “Liberal elites” sneering at “ordinary people” is a neat inflection of what is actually happening, resource powerful elites fooling ordinary people into thinking that they will look after ordinary people’s interests and that progressives are the real enemies.
Edwards’ complete lack of class analysis is disturbing. The real dividing line is not cultural, it is economic.
And guess what? The Green Party has spent all of its life being principled and advancing ideas. This ad is the only ad that I can ever think of where it “attacked” an opponent. And the attack was pretty lame.
National’s continuous insidious distortions of the Government’s climate change policies deserved a robust response. Their analysis is disingenuous in the extreme and one step short of misrepresentation. Sometimes a rational response does not feel sufficient to counter cynical manipulation of people’s fears and prejudices.
By all means lets get to a debate of ideas. But characterising the Greens as the bad guys and National as the innocent victims after dirty politics, Crosby Textor, Dancing Cossacks among a whole lot of other things seems to be making a rather large mountain out of a particularly small mole hill.