The meaning of dirty politics

One of the strategies of the right in NZ politics has been to take any complaint levelled against them – of corruption, of malpractice, of conspiracy – and reduce it down until it’s meaningless.

An excellent recent example of this took place on the Open Mike post at the Standard, where political hacking, and thus Dirty Politics, was being discussed. Dirty Politics, to most people in the NZ political sphere, has a pretty specific, well-known meaning. It refers to the actions documented by Nicky Hager by a cast of unethical players on the right, who use smear, innuendo, ghostwritten blog posts and allegedly even blackmail to shut down political opponents and promote a far-right, conservative ideology.

The book didn’t have the killing-blow impact on the general election which many people thought it would. It hasn’t stopped people like Matthew Hooton and David Farrar being used as political commentators in the mainstream media – sometimes even being asked to comment on Dirty Politics as though they have no stake in the game. It didn’t even claim the scalp of Judith Collins – that was another terribly revealing email – though it set the stage for it.

It’s still a powerful weapon for the left. As much as the right have tried to say “but the left do it too” – with their only example being one post which briefly appeared on The Standard in 2008 and was pulled precisely because it was an unethical move – their political machine has been damaged by the exposure. Cameron Slater is no longer a good conduit to get dirt into the mainstream. John Key cannot replace Jason Ede with another “blog liaison officer”. And they’ve relied on that two-track strategy for so long, into their third term (which is when the wheels start to fall off the masterplan anyway), that it could be impossible to build a completely new framework to control the political narrative.

What they can do is co-opt the idea of dirty politics and divorce it from any real meaning at all.

Thus you get Pete George – the derailing mastertroll ofNZ political blogging – leaving 20 comments on one post at The Standard which include contradictory assertions: that dirty politics isn’t serious because it’s what everyone does; that dirty politics is serious because it involves hacking, ergo Cameron Slater isn’t involved in dirty politics because he’s not a hacker; but also that people who tell Pete George to shut up and stop trolling are playing dirty politics.

When called on his behaviour, he complains that Nicky Hager “doesn’t get to control” how the phrase “dirty politics” is used.

I don’t think Pete George himself is a part of the Slater/Ede/Collins/Odgers dirty politics machine, but he’s a useful weathervane of how effective their strategy is: defining dirty politics as everything and nothing to render it powerless.

From being a significant piece of investigative journalism which shone a spotlight on the forces which are trying to turn NZ politics into a nasty, back-stabbing, big-money game, the aim is that “dirty politics” will enter our lexicon as just another way to say “people in a political debate calling each other names.” In the long run, it’s part of the strategy of turning people off politics so they don’t agitate, don’t organise, don’t vote.

How do we stop it? It’s a big project, turning around a well-resourced, widely-heard narrative. But we can be very clear in our meaning when we talk about dirty politics. We can keep pointing out when it happens and naming it for what it is. And with online platforms it’s much easier to get those messages out to a wider, less political audience.

And we don’t let the right de=fang Dirty Politics.

Hey Jordan, pick me!

Yesterday Jordan Williams – head of the Taxpayers’ Onion and courageous fighter for the right to call women ugly in private – sent out a tweet which got me all excited:

I’m a helpful kind of woman, and yes, my household’s income is over 120k. I got ready to put my hand up and aid Jordan in his doubtless completely-unbiased quest to help the media tell a balanced story about National’s stellar economic management whatever it was.

Alas, his next tweet dashed my hopes:

Two strikes and I’m out.

There were some amusing, and some serious, responses to Jordan’s request:

https://twitter.com/MeLlamoLlama_/status/509566079342219265

But it made me think. Why the focus on a non-political person or family? I suppose the obvious answer is to ensure there’s no political agenda behind what a person chooses to tell the journalist, but in that case I wouldn’t be asking Jordan “runs to the Backbencher to film Winston Peters drunk” Williams to be finding my candidates.

The other possibility is: because a non-political person might be more likely to take the question at face value. Do I feel better off now than I did 6 years ago? Hell yes I do. Things now, compared to 6 years ago, are going swimmingly.

Of course that might have something to do with the fact that 6 years ago my household wasn’t earning 120k! Not even close! We didn’t own our house. I was still in university typing dictation part-time, he was at the beginning of his career.

Through a very fortunate series of events, including a decent dollop of sheer good luck, we are now very well off, especially for our age group, and depressingly high on the wealth distribution table.

None of that makes me think “gee, the government’s done a great job.” It makes me think: How are people raising their kids on the low wages in this country? How are other people my age ever going to afford to buy their first home?

And how can we survive another three years of National?

 

 

(I think the answer might be Voting Positive because we #LoveNZ.)

60 tweeps to follow this election

Bryce Edwards had his go at a list of the top 100 tweeters to follow this election, but with only 24 women making the cut he faced terrible accusations of “a perceived lack” of gender balance. The silver lining is that his follow-up post was chock-full of the women who complained! Pesky, pesky women, as ColeyTangerina put it.

I thought I’d try my hand at a list – with a lot of women, an entirely obvious leftwing bias, and a big disclaimer right up front that these are just people who I think have interesting things to say about the election and NZ politics. Please suggest your own faves in the comments!

In the interests of deflecting criticism, tweeps are listed alphabetically by username. Click on their name to see their Twitter feed and give them a follow!

Mainstream media

Get the inside scoop on the night’s top stories/the front page/the stuff that gets bumped because an All Black has a career-threatening injury.

Politicians

The good, the weird and the always-interesting-even-if-I-disagree-with-them.

https://twitter.com/asenatitaylor/status/501607601721704448

(Editor’s note: I am, like, 95% sure this isn’t the parody Asenati account. But who can tell?)

Nerds and h4xx0rs

Knowledge is power, innit?

Thinking folk

My people. And me. It’s my list, dammit.

https://twitter.com/DorothySarker/status/502335746062024704

https://twitter.com/tripthestation/status/503136017067429888

https://twitter.com/verbscape/status/503325468439748608

https://twitter.com/VishOnAMish/status/503293412045385728

https://twitter.com/writehandedgirl/status/501658041498869760

LOLz

It’s a laugh, isn’t it?

What?

That noise you make at the back of your throat.

Oh yeah, that’s a laugh.

https://twitter.com/johnkeysemotion/status/501939506346332161

Token rightwing pundit for “balance”

Hear the National Party’s key messages whole hours before they show up on The Panel!

https://twitter.com/MatthewHootonNZ/status/499984634302574593