Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When Shane Jones Doesn't Go Far Enough ... There's Always Hannah Tamaki

It is often said that when a politician or other public figure says something disparaging about a particular group, that the weight and impact of their words is not only in what they've said ... but also what further statements, what further actions it tacitly allows, invites, and encourages.

Yesterday's press release from Vision NZ, and accompanying remarks from Hannah Tamaki, are a case in point. Coming hot on the heels of Jones' own headline-chasing invective toward the Indian community, we have these guys putting out comments about prohibiting the construction of any new Mandirs, Mosques, etc. and insisting that there's only "room in our society" for one faith, culture, and set of customs here in New Zealand.

Where does that leave you if you're not part of (or, at least, not only part of) our now apparently unitary "[culture], faith [and] customs"? I'm not entirely sure. Vision NZ don't seem to be too clear as to what they want done with anybody who *doesn't* want to "integrate" - and, assumedly, convert, given the rather pointed highlighting of "faith" as something we're not going to be allowed more than one of in this country.

Now to be sure, however personally annoyed I might be about it, what Tamaki/Vision NZ have done here is arguably at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of its actual, tangible impact. A press release and a poor interview are not a brick through the window of a religious building; and with Vision NZ unlikely to get any closer to the actual levers of political power in 2020 than a really, really far away thing ... it is also a rather remote possibility that what's been said by said party will ever *itself* turn into anything more substantive than just that. Words.

Which is rather ironic, as that's exactly what Hannah Tamaki was castigating Shane Jones for in her press release and accompanying verbiage - that all his comments amounted to were words were little prospect of actual follow-through and serious action behind them.

But that is not the point. Well, except insofar as these surely ETS-regulated for methane content outbursts tell us something about the nature, the character, the values, of these greasy-pole dancers jostling for our psephological attentions through the media.

What is, is observing the way in which Jones' initial volleys and ensuing escalation, have set the tone and helped to prepare the ground for Tamaki's more recent and markedly less subtle "contribution". [It is an open question as to whether the ensuing lack of subtlety in Tamaki's remix of Jones' careful leitmotif here, says more about the utterer, or merely its intended recipients]

Jones Spake, and what Jones had implied, or communicated subliminally ... others have now picked up upon, amplified, and projected out damn near superliminally. Because that's how politics, as with most areas of interpersonal affairs in large-scale networks, tends to occur - a smaller, but more forceful move at one end, generates ripples or waves which soon turn into larger, yet less finesseful currents. Occasionally, as Goethe observed, burning *well* out of any control or scope of intended design of their first initiator. 

Thanks, in part, to several prominent media outlets running headline pieces on Tamaki's 'proposal', this pattern of 'broadening' of the sentiment in question is likely to continue for awhile yet - both about our politics, and beyond. Although what this probably means in practice is more on the order of an uptick in Talkback callers and Letters To The Editor picking up and advocating the concepts in question.

Were this America, I would perhaps be a little concerned about what's known as the 'Overton Window' [the general envelope of 'acceptable' opinion within a mainstream political sphere] shifting out in this proffered direction as a rather directly attributable result; perhaps bringing Australian-style "One Nation" antics [that's Pauline Hanson, not Benjamin Disraeli] to our shores. [Or, for that matter, enabling something like the ongoing situation of one of the candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination - Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard - who seems to face recurrent attacks on the basis of her (Hindu) religion every time she runs, including attempts to have her declared ineligible for office due to spurious something something Hinduism incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and its values something something. Charges not entirely dissimilar to those once levied at John F. Kennedy for his Catholicism, as it happens]

But despite Jones' flirtations with wearing a deliberately Trump-style "Put New Zealand First Again" cap during the past Electoral season, and the Tamakis' own demonstrable enthusiasm for a quite literally American brand of Christianity with occasional GoP characteristics ... we are not there.

Which means that I have the considerable luxury, in a way, of simply being infuriated by what's contained within Tamaki's remarks, rather than seriously apprehensive that I might find my local Mandir's been vandalized or a Pandit beaten up in the street, deported for being .. well ..  a Priest, etc.

Now, it is at this point that I should perhaps take a moment to overtly address my own biases in all of this. Which is something I somewhat doubt Tamaki has actually done, even to herself, upon this matter.

I am one of this country's more than one hundred and twenty thousand Hindus. And, while I like to think that I do a rather better job of putting the "fun" back in "religious fundamentalist" than Tamaki does, I'm nevertheless capable of recognizing that the degree to which this decree has a personal saliency for me, means that I've responded to it rather differently than if it were a more ... abstract issue, from my immediate perspective.

Which doesn't mean that I wouldn't be distinctly unimpressed about what 'Vision NZ' have put forward here, if it were 'just' about Mosques & Muslims, Gurudwaras & Sikhs, or even, for that matter, Synagogues & Jews [oddly, they seem to have skipped a mention in Tamaki's list of Forbidden Architecture]. Hell, I'd probably even be annoyed if some pair of coverage-coveting politicians had sought to suggest banning Destiny Church - whether from constructing new facilities, or just all up and altogether, for the foreseeable future - as a pathway towards the cheap fifteen minutes of "most read story" status, and maybe a few votes down the line into the bargain.

Because, in no small part, even though most of the rest of the ninety seven odd percent of the country's religious (or irreligious, for that matter, for almost half) values are not mine, that doesn't mean I now start thinking of everybody else, all of these, as being "foreign" and having no "place" in our country nor society. You may as well start going around banning various political parties you're not totally in agreement with, because they, too, are in some ways extraneous and 'alien' to your own, personal, 'reality'-tunnel world view. It's not how a healthy, stable, functional society tends to work - and does rather irrepressible harm to the actual fabric thereof through the manner of its enforcement.

I doubt Hannah Tamaki is thinking of having a localized version of the Spanish Inquisition (or, perhaps more darkly, its Portuguese equivalent in Goa) in order to enforce the "integrations" of "faith" she's calling for - not least because I doubt she's thinking much at all. In terms of the actual detail of policy, I mean [although last month's press release from Tamaki demanding that Jacinda Ardern attempt to *ban* gay conversion therapy ... I am not making this up ... somewhat suggests that it's not only the realms of actual policy-detail and practical application wherein "Vision NZ thinking" is a bit oxymoronic] .

But straight-up. My insta-reaction to reading Tamaki's statements upon this matter, was to basically feel that they were almost tantamount to a declaration of war. Or, at least, would be, if anybody much were likely to take them too terribly seriously - or, perhaps flowing directly from that, if Tamaki was actually likely to be in a position to put them into tangible effect a little further down the line.

It certainly went rather beyond Jones' comments which effectively kicked the whole thing off, at any rate.

Now, once we situate Tamaki's offensive as what it is - both an echoing and a direct continuation, amplification, of Jones' campaign ... the serious question becomes whether the whole thing's begun to fizzle out, or whether it'll continue to spread and lose yet further 'nuance' in the process. I'd already observed a shift in the framing even before yesterday's occurrence, from people writing and speaking about "Arranged Marriage" to "Indian Marriage", for instance - and it is not too terribly far from there to the implication, as Tamaki appears to have picked up upon, that it is not the "arranged" part of that concept which is the issue, but rather some generalized concept of "Indian".

It's tempting to simply close off by tapping out that despite all of that, this is New Zealand. And that therefore, beyond the perhaps predictable uptick in "s/he's just saying what we're all thinking!" attempted-letters to the editor and calls in to talkback radio from people with nothing better to do than try garbing themselves in the voluminous folds of the cloak of false moral majority ... nothing much shall happen. Not in the broad sense, anyway. Maybe a few people get hassled in person by sorts who'd quite likely be favourably disposed towards doing so anyway, regardless of what some Government Minister, or er .. minister's wife attempting to Government ... had to say about an issue.

But without intending to be overdramatic about it, following certain events earlier in the year, I'm not entirely sure that that state of affairs is as 'guaranteed' here as it seemingly once was. It is not inconceivable that somebody out there, in whichever sphere, may seek to make some mileage out of picking up and pushing further, the ball which first Jones and then Tamaki have sought to set into (political) motion.

One thing I think I can state with greater confidence, however, is that while it is something of an open question as to whether one or even both of those two figures aforementioned shall still be percolating about our nation's political punch-bowl by this time a few years' hence ...  there are almost certain to still be Mandir Shikharas rising above various sites here. Whatever Talkback or Tamaki might have to say about it.

Because political opponents come and go.

We Endure.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Shane Jones And Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'

When somebody says or does something a bit gauche in politics and then seemingly doubles down upon it, there are two general explanations. Either it's a genuine error which, out of pride or lack of comprehension of the nature of the sin, they're refusing to extricate themselves from.

Or, it's an intentional move designed to elicit a particular response and project a certain image. In other words, it's not a "mistake", much less an "accident".

Now, as applies Jones, there is a school of thought which states that much of what comes out of his mouth is him sounding clever (arguably because he is), and then over-egging the pudding to the point that some of it winds up upon his face. Getting carried away and spraying around eminently soundbitable quips that become the story and obscurate what he's actually trying to say.

The slightly less charitable perspective is that Jones' runaway verbiage doesn't so much occlude, as more bluntly convey whatever it is he was getting at in the first place.

And the less charitable perspective again, is that it does this largely if not entirely because that's *exactly what it was designed to do*.

Now, I've earlier made the case that Jones' previous remarks in relation to the NZ Indian community - viz. the time he declared that the results of NZ immigration policy were "synonymous with butter chicken - rancid" - were pretty much that.

Deliberate exercises in concentrating verbal fire at particular targets, in order to communicate to other parts of the NZ electorate who the speaker is and what he stands for. And designed to imitate how a certain other politician has made successful use of 'Chinese' as a bit of a political pincushion over the last few decades of *his* career (albeit with a bit more linguistic finesse than "two Wongs don't make a white").

As Jones himself puts it - "I'm giving a voice to the anxieties of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis". Allegedly over population growth, at least partially in relation to immigration, but in a manner which suggests that the "anxieties" in question are perhaps concentrated in other areas. [Because seriously - just how much do we actually think a few arranged marriages are contributing to net population growth here in New Zealand; or what "butter chicken", or "Bollywood" (to reference Jones' latest quip) actually has to do with these either]

That's not to say that issues around immigration and population-growth don't exist. Just that Jones' approach seems to be far less interested in actually having a meaningful discussion around population policy (perhaps, to be sure,  because we all saw how that went down when James Shaw tried this a few years ago), and far more in deploying bait and thence escalating a war of words with various parts of the Indian community.

To an older generation, probably of Spaniards, we'd call this "Bull-Fighting".

In my generation's terms, this would be "Trolling".

As my editor, Bomber, pointed out in a piece published on Tuesday, it's a strategy which parlays the conflict and outrage from various portions of the polis into solid electoral gains elsewhere.

Jones has crab-walked into an ongoing 'live' issue via a side-wind, signaled immediately to the sorts of people who aren't too keen on immigration bringing in various cultural practices they don't like the look or sound of that he's Their Man.

Cunning chap that he is, he's added a dash of "Maori" and "Entitled" in the same sentence; declaring that just as Maori "adapted with the arrival of the Pākehā", it's correct for pretty much every other demographic in the country to "adapt" to better accommodate the Anglo population of New Zealand.

Because if they don't - apparently regardless of how long they've been here (and referencing his own remarks about a thousand years of ancestry here in his personal case) - they've got an "elevated sense of entitlement".

It's like playing political scrabble. He lines up his tiles, he hits the triple-word score.

Of course, part of the point isn't really anything specific to do with the Indian community, or Indian cultural nor culinary practices. I don't doubt that Jones has various reasons why he's singled these out - and these connect with his previous record of engagement with the Chinese, especially in and about the Pacific during his prior career as a pseudoambassador.

But in the main, it's about presenting Jones as Defender of Kiwiland and (certain of) its inhabitants. About portraying that there are certain "Kiwi Values", and anybody not abiding immediately and conveniently and *congruently* with these being at best "entitled', if not outright something of a problem.

And then, when this approach is fairly inevitably attacked, responding with a bit of a "who me?" which alleges that any hint of being more than "just saying what everybody's thinking", is some sort of PC-Liberalism/SJW-ism/Cultural Marxism/Precious Snowflakeism gone mad.

With the implicit impact that people who might perhaps count themselves amidst the "everybody" doing the "thinking", also *themselves* feel attacked, and find newly enhanced reason to rally behind their self-appointed champion.

Personally, I think it's a bit rich for Jones to demand that Indians "tame down your rhetoric", immediately between telling those who don't like his approach that their 'home' is elsewhere and they should be heading for it, and declaring that further unimpressed responses are "Bollywood overreaction".

But I'm sure a certain swathe of the electorate views it quite differently - as Jones being the 'reasonable man', and everyone *else* just going around looking to find an excuse to keep the ordinary Kiwi battler down. Especially given pretty much every other party in Parliament - including the Nats, who've probably remembered the reception they got for deciding the approximate value of an Indian to be half that of a Chinese backer - turning out to distance themselves from him. "It's a conspiracy!" "It's a consensus!" "The entire political class has come together to try and stifle your dissent!" "Gosh, if only there were SOMEONE unafraid to take on the vested interests, and speak YOUR truth to power!" "Who's the man to be the martyr for your viewpoint? Why, where's that chap being shot at apparently from *every* side simultaneously!" "The only honest one amidst the lot of 'em!"

With that in mind, the more outrage Jones generates - provided it's kept contained to a relatively small portion of the population doing the outraging - the more he gets the chance to present himself as the victim. In this age of hashtag self-labeling for our experiences, he could probably coin #WhoMe? in reference to his energetic expressions of innocence at pretty much *every* juncture that something like this has come up. Whether it's airlines, forestry companies, people who think that 'what happens/is legal in Thailand ..." isn't the world's greatest defence, etc. etc. etc. - the idea is to transmogrify via bamboozlement somebody who's pretty much Exhibit A for an 'insider', a man so extraordinarily well-connected and well-positioned across just about *everything* in our politisphere that he's the modem to the Matrix ... into an "outsider", an "anti-establishment" renegade. Who takes *on* said Establishment, in this particular instance, by beating down against a grouping of 'little people' who're so far outside "Establishment" that they're often not even allowed into the country.

Now, again - this is NOT to say that there are NO issues whatsoever when it comes to population-growth in NZ in general, or the way we do immigration, specifically.

It's just that if Jones were actually looking to accomplish something in these areas, this would be almost *exactly* the wrong way to go about it. After all, the resultant anguish has effectively propelled the rest of the Government which Jones is allegedly part of (despite how ... nobody else seems to be prepared to back/'take responsibility' for him every time he hits the headlines for sketch conduct), to commit to fixing the situation in a manner which'll make it easier for those in arranged marriages to bring their spouses here.

But Jones won't mind that. Not a bit. Except in public. Because the more it looks like everybody else in the 'establishment' politisphere is doing the opposite - the more he seems "necessary" to those he's keen to have as supporters.

In this way, it is not at all something we can describe via the words of Macbeth - a tale full of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

Rather, it is the mystery of chessboxing. Something which *looks* like a simple pugilistic spectacle, brazen, bloody blows rained down with punch-drunk enthusiasm in lieu of finesse or insight or intentional skill. And yet which *actually* entails a much more carefully calculated and deliberate - even deliberative - approach that's methodically forward-planned several moves or even matches in advance, pattern-resonant, designed to elicit the loudest roars of approval from the punters down the peanut gallery, keep 'em coming back and the brawler in bar-tabs and commission for another week.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why It's Difficult To Take Seriously Shane Jones' Attempted Indian Burn On Immigration

There's a few things to be said around Shane Jones' recent skirmishing with part of the Indian community over immigration changes.

I mean, it should almost go without saying at this point, but the idea that if somebody dislikes a government policy - that instead of being able to engage with their allegedly democratically empowered representatives to get some movement on it, they should instead either shut up ... or, in the words of Jones "catch the next flight home", is downright pernicious.

Not least because for many Indians, and in particular those born here - they're *already* home.

But Jones himself has long seemingly had the Indian community in his rhetorical sights. You may recall his previous rather pointed remarks about another area of NZ immigration policy being "synonymous with butter chicken - rancid", for example.

My personal theory as to why is due to a combination of his wanting to carve out a "similar but different" reputation to Winston's and therefore finding a different target to Chinese migration, and Jones' own cosier relationship with Chinese interests.

And it's those 'cosier relationships' which really make a mockery out of the Minister's "if you don't like it, [...] catch the next flight home" rhetoric.

Because when Jones, serving then as Associate Immigration Minister under the previous Labour-led government, heard about a chap by the name of Bill Liu who disagreed with Immigration New Zealand's decisions and policy ... Jones didn't tell Liu to get on a plane an leave - rather, he took up the guy's case, against reams of official advice and an Interpol alert, and overturned all of the above precisely to let Liu remain here.

It is now a matter of public record some of the 'inducements' which Liu may have made to men both Red and Blue in order to secure his chosen outcome. Which was precisely to *avoid* having to "catch the next flight home".

Or, in other words, it is difficult to take Jones seriously upon this matter given his own record in this area. Not just when it comes to the 'never mind democracy - disagreement means auto-deportation' line of spurious reasoning. But also, his demands in response to the alleged "levels of verbiage that the Indian communal leadership have thrown at the party" that Indian New Zealanders speaking up against his comments "tame down your rhetoric".

He should, perhaps, stick to shooting things other than his mouth off, in Thailand.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Blaming TVNZ For Mediaworks' Woes A Case Of Ideological Shiver Looking For Spine To Shoot Up

Here's a few unfortunate patterns. Mediaworks is once again in dire financial straits; and once again, some are attempting to assert that this is because private enterprise just can't compete with a Government owned ... company that also works like private enterprise [i.e. TVNZ].

Now, I say it's a "pattern" because this is hardly the first time that MediaWorks has found itself in a state of implosion. One of the previous occasions saw the National-led Government bail it out to the tune of $43 million.

I say it's a "few" patterns, because then as now, some people were insistent that private enterprise doing badly *had* to be the result of publicly-owned private enterprise somehow magically making an "unfair playing-field", upon which the former just could not meaningfully compete. Which is just simply untrue, as like I say - TVNZ is run as a business, and has generally been returning a dividend to the Government as its majority shareholder, rather than drawing tens of millions of dollars in bailout money like its private-sector owned competitor.

It's almost like people will say whatever they were going to say anyway, *regardless* of the circumstances; because any crisis is an ideal launch-point for the pursuit of an ideological "solution" in search of a problem.

The plain fact of the matter, is that MediaWorks has been run rather badly for some time now. It's tried a few things to get back in the game, many of which appear to have simply dug it deeper into the hole. It pushed "MORE REALITY TV *ALL* OF THE TIME" as some sort of golden bullet [not realizing that the downward trajectory which this entailed meant said bullet was aimed squarely at its own foot] - not just converting over C4 to pretty much, but then opening at least one additional channel to do more of the same.

Which it did at the same time as it was busily gutting one of its few *actual* competitive elements, in the form of its news and current affairs arm.

As an aside, I personally don't think it at all coincidental that 3/MediaWorks got rid of John Campbell during a period of prolonged warm relations with the then-National-led Government (and interestingly, Fran O'Sullivan - yes, *that* Fran O'Sullivan - seems to agree, per her remarks in print at the time in 2015) ... which, given Campbell's extraordinary popularity and ratings-magnet saliency, just goes to show how questionable business decisions made for dumb reasons seem to have come to characterize MediaWorks during its turbulent last few years.

To be fair, Mediaworks *has* found itself operating in an escalatingly difficult environment for many a traditional broadcast/media company. There's no getting around that.

But it seems to me that they consistently appear to have a worse set of outcomes, a worse set of results, than others who might be facing similar general tribulations of environment.

It's easy for those with pseudo-ideological agendas - that basically come down to "the government shouldn't own anything, even at an arm's length!" - to try and take aim at the current situation, as if that somehow *definitively proves* their point.

It does nothing of the sort.

All that it *does* do, is show that private enterprise is capable of acting stupidly, repeatedly stupidly, and making seriously flawed decisions over a protracted period of time, that are against both its own, and ultimately, the national/public interest.

And then somehow managing to keep stuttering on thanks to periodic infusions of capital from big foreign hedgefunds and 'friends in high places'.

You know - the *opposite* of what the pernicious ideology du jour of its most ribald and rambunctious defenders insists is "supposed" to happen.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

On Bridges On Jacinda On Trade Talks With Trump

I gotta say - it's rather odd seeing Simon Bridges attempt to attack Jacinda Ardern for not attempting to press Donald J. Trump on climate change, at their meeting earlier this week.

A few weeks back, New Zealand National Party people were attacking Ardern for allegedly - I stress the *allegedly* - refusing to be open to meeting with Trump. Because, amongst other things, TRADE RELATIONS. So, you know, "she's SELLING OUT our PRIMARY PRODUCERS by refusing to meet - because she wants to politically posture", or something.

Now, this was obviously not factual; and this week's meeting shows that those assertions were basically baseless.

So instead, now that an engagement on trade *has* happened - and one that appears to have been pretty successful [oddly enough, Trump's ... "personal" approach to international relations may actually serve NZ better in this narrow regard than his predecessors' more systemic or otherwise agenda'd facings] - we instead have the leader of the National Party claiming that the Prime Minister should have pushed Trump on climate change.

You know, an issue that Trump is well known to be pretty uninterested and/or actively hostile about.

Rather than making good gains talking trade.

A situation that becomes even more curious when we consider that the National Party here in New Zealand has more usually *itself* been pretty lukewarm on climate change related matters, with a preference for trade and agriculture instead.

So what's going on here?

National, apparently annoyed that something appears to be *working* under the Government, is criticizing the Government for not doing something *badly*; for not doing the STRAWMAN thing that their imaginary rhetorical bete-noir 'might' have done.

If the positions were reversed, and Simon Bridges was somehow Prime Minister ... do we *really* believe that he'd have gone into a meeting with Trump, to push climate change action?

Of course he wouldn't. He'd be gently mentioning trade, and then internally pondering which of the Peoples' Republic of China or the United States he should attempt to sell out the national interest to, first, or endeavour to set up some form of bidding war over between the two.

There are - to my mind at least - legitimate areas to criticize this Government over. Ways to set out a principled and alternative vision, even, that provides voters and the country with a genuine sense of choice going forward. But it often seems that the National Party are less interested in doing that, than they are in simply throwing anything and everything at the proverbial Wall [no, not that one .. not the MP, either] in the vague hopes that *something*, *anything* sticks, no matter if it's *exactly* the sort of stuff they'd vitriolically oppose, were Labour/NZF/(Greens) *actually doing* the thing National now claims it would want done.

The National Party has effectively said to the electorate "These are my principles! If you don't like them ... I've got others"

They have no "vision" - except of themselves in power.

And they shall say and/or do [mostly just "say"] anything and everything under the sun, in order to attempt to get there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

On Winston On Bridges On China On Freedom

I see New Zealand First has put out a press statement which seeks to condemn Simon Bridges for his recent positive interview with Chinese media, doubling down on recent criticism aired in Parliament by Winston. To quote NZF's release:

""I have never heard such obsequious, subservient grovelling, kowtowing, palm-kissing nonsense," said Mr Peters.

Mr Bridges praised the Communist Party of China (CCP) for taking the country from mass poverty to economic prosperity in the state media interview, calling it an "amazing story".

Mr Peters said the interview was "staggering" because he "belongs to a country that for all these decades and down through the years... has been a democracy". "

Now, it's not that I disagree with Winston Peters on this issue. Quite the contrary!

It's just that I kinda feel that Winston might have been better to apply the same sort of sentiment to his own remarks afore making them back in 2017, when he made his first major speech as Foreign Affairs Minister, to the PRC-backed Confucius Institute at Victoria University:

""We should also remember this when we are making judgements about China - about freedom and their laws: that when you have hundreds of millions of people to be re-employed and relocated with the change of your economic structure, you have some massive, huge problems.

"Sometimes the West and commentators in the West should have a little more regard to that and the economic outcome for those people, rather than constantly harping on about the romance of 'freedom', or as famous singer Janis Joplin once sang in her song: 'freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose'.

"In some ways the Chinese have a lot to teach us about uplifting everyone's economic futures in their plans.""

Now, to be fair and to be sure, Winston's 2017 speech *did* also include the following - "New Zealand and China do not always see eye-to-eye on every issue ... but where we do have a different perspective we raise this in a way that is cordial, constructive, and hopefully clear." And, again to his credit, he at the very least was speaking about the PRC and"the Chinese" rather than the Chinese Communist Party - which may be something of a fig-leaf when speaking about a one-party state, but it's a fig-leaf that *does* at least somewhat matter.

It's also the case that Bridges was in a foreign country as a guest, and apparently reckons that his interview was edited to remove anything *less* than glowingly positive from the record. Which is not exactly an excuse, but does provide some measure of contextual explanation for how and why he spoke - or seemed to speak - as he did.

Whereas Winston was speaking in his own country (which, to be sure, while it may give one additional license, does not mean one suddenly chooses to insult guests) and chose to add the overtly pro-PRC (and anti- too-much concern about human rights or freedom) segment I've quoted above to the officially prepared text of his speech for additional emphasis.

But having looked at the remarks Winston is - again, quite rightly - castigating from Bridges, and comparing these against his own speech (plus the off-the-cuff additions such as the longer section of excerpt I've quoted above, which wasn't in the original text he was to deliver) ... I would perhaps suggest that it is somewhat "Orwellian" for Winston to get *too* enthusiastic in his condemnation of Brides - at least without *first* issuing some form of clarification about how his, and therefore New Zealand's position on the PRC has presumably now changed, evolved, and grown since that time. Assuming that it has.

And by "Orwellian", I do not mean in the more usual sense nor literary associations of the term - to 1984 and the forcible historical amnesia of rewriting the past for political purposes.

I instead mean the rather memorable line from Animal Farm:
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Why Simon Bridges' Enthusiasm For The Chinese Communist Party Is Utterly Unsurprising

So in the wake of a recent Newshub piece that quotes National's Simon Bridges enthusiastically talking up the Chinese Communist Party - not, you know, the People's Republic of China, but the Communist Party *itself*, various portions of my newsfeed have understandably been understandably just a little surprised and more than a little bemused that Blue is apparently The New Red. Not the right-wing, National-voting sorts, obviously - the perplexity and somewhat faux-bewilderment has basically been exclusive to those to the proverbial left of Genghis Khan

Yet to be honest, I'm entirely unsurprised that Simon Bridges would speak positively about the Chinese Communist Party, even at a time like this with regard to Hong Kong. The fact is, that regardless of however many National supporters might have earnestly believed in that sign at the last election, that Jacinda Ardern is somehow a "PRETTY COMMUNIST", and then kept up much the same red-baiting rhetoric in letters to the editor and upon talkback radio for much of the just under two years since ...

... the National Party has long had a much more complex relationship with "Communist" China. Even at the height of the Cold War,in 1976 - while Chairman Mao was still alive and still nominally in control, some years before the 'transition' to a 'market economy' had begun - the Nats were quite happy to have their then-leader pay an official visit to Beijing.

The PRC  then arguably returned the favour, by sending an apparent envoy in the form of Dr Jian Yang to meet with the last *several* National leaders, over a period of the last eight years, through the highly transparent forum of the National Party's Parliamentary Caucus, of which he is an elected (list) member.

Something which the Nats were evidently quite keen to keep going, as it appeared that while in government they'd placed pressure on our security intelligence services *not* to unduly scrutinize Dr Yang, and particularly not over his hushed-up background with the PRC's military intelligence apparatus.

This ongoing bilateral politician exchange programme appears to have taken on elements of shuttlecock diplomacy - with former National Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley amidst a lengthening list of luminaries who've since re-emerged into public life tethered to the local arms of PRC economic organs.

As applies Shipley in particular, there is a perhaps interesting comparison with what has happened with Simon. Bridges, at the very least, whomever may have written the words for him, *did* utter them himself. Unlike Shipley's surprise at finding she'd somehow written an OpEd for the CCP's People's Daily without actually realizing it nor intending to do so.

More recently, at seemingly every step, the National Party have been like a small yappy thing with a bone in criticizing the Labour/NZF/Greens government for apparently undermining/imperiling/vandalizing New Zealand's relationship with the PRC.

I suppose, in particular, that it is understandable that the Nats are now basically unconcerned about the signposted risks to national security of letting Huawei handle our 5G network upgrade. After all, with the PRC already having been in possession of a "man on the inside" [and not just of National - of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Parliamentary Select Committee, inter alia] for some years now, the National Party just wants the rest of the country to be subject to the same privilege.

I would have said that was "generous" and "egalitarian" of them - but as we all know, National under Simon Bridges considers "two Chinese" to be "better than two Indians", per their own words on the subject. No word on what the rough conversion rate is for other ethnicities, but I hear that when National's loyalty to this country was up for grabs, it fetched only a mere thirty pieces of silver.

In any case, even leaving aside all of teh above, it is absolutely unsurprising that Simon Bridges would speak positively of the modern-day Chinese Communist Party.

And for one simple reason.

Once you strip away all the mid-20th century political rhetoric and symbolism (including, oddly enough, a lot of banging on about representing farmers .. by which I mean peasants, once upon a time), the CCP are basically more-market repressive authoritarians, who never lose an election, never have to apologize, build roads everywhere, and whose leader is mandatorily popular with the people.

You know - *exactly* what National and Simon Bridges *wish* they could be.