Three days before the election I couldn’t hold myself back from beginning a post although my mood was grim. I felt I could only hope for a cliffhanger. This didn’t seem very satisfactory so the next day I changed my strategy, gave up post, hoped polls wrong. Huh.
At first I thought the media had done a fairly good job. I knew decriminalisation of abortion was a proscribed identity politics issue (whatever that is) because ordinary blokes aren’t into it. Travelling, taking three days off work, arranging child care in order to get through the certification process is a major problem for many ordinary women.
Blaming Internet Mana and Nicky Hager for the election outcome, the left’s misfortunes and directing attention away from policies is downright pathetic. A lot of policy did get good coverage. Labour has totally lost its mojo, it was an all too visible mess in steady decline before the advent of Internet Mana. The latter’s brave but high risk strategy bombed. I was surprised by the Greens’ failure to increase their support. So were they. Are they too losing their mojo? Both parties might consider co-operating in a very thorough investigation of the problems, outcome and future challenges. Scrabbling for the middle ground and downplaying their more visionary roles is close to a vote of no confidence in their own merit.
A resonating line I’m hearing is ‘I/we have done pretty well lately’. Sounds like it is from National’s armoury. It isn’t as ugly or self-serving as ‘greed is good’ but it doesn’t offer a lot of hope for those who aren’t doing so well. Let alone for advancing social cohesion, surely the primary goal of good government. It is also unlikely to advance the welfare of our planet.
I confess it: It wasn’t hard to smirk a little when National didn’t need NZ First. I’m not sure the young can take heart from their success. But a peeved Peters could be a thorn in National’ side.
Role of the media
I was reluctant to sheet the left’s failure home to the media although I sensed it had a different approach and etiquette for different parties. Had National stuff ups and misdemeanours attracted softer reprimands? Would a young woman television reporter scream at the Prime Minister with same ferocity in the way one used for Laila Harré (as reported by totally shocked son who is well accustomed to fierce confrontation with his mother).
Was media coverage of Dirty Politics a rare exception? Guyon Espiner’s relentless pursuit of an answer from John Key on Radio NZ was hailed as outstanding journalism as indeed it was in many ways. That doesn’t reflect well on the media. Espiner never got a meaningful answer.
The media serve as referees in democracies and should be super careful in election campaigns. In theory. But have they ever considered developing sanctions to bin or send off or send off realcitrant or evasive politicians who repeatedly give them the fingers. Keith Ng’s Sunlight Resistance on the Public Address blog nails the problem. His conclusion: The media utterly failed in its watchdog role. His argument clinches it for me.
It is long time past time for them to collectively review this failure. Some of its extremely well paid past and present stars who pride themselves on working for the public good could selflessly help fund a wide-ranging conference? The main topics would be acknowledging how easily they are outmanoeuvred and routed, and develop strategies to fix this. Why not stop dead interviews when questions are sidestepped, then deny further coverage if promised answers aren’t forthcoming quickly? Keep the momentum achieved by Hager’s work and OIA responses. Repeatedly report failures to answer.
Are scoops really such a big deal? We have no local competition in respect of newspapers and are carpet bombed with information on the internet. I genuinely admire the amount of work many journalists do at election time and in between election. I deeply envy their writing skills.
Happily I came across two pieces in the NZ Herald that offer backup to my increasing unease with politically partisan coverage. Undaunted Pam Corkery’s piece Some reporters puffed up with egomania is a must read. The whopping coverage of her ‘outburst’ at the media was beyond ridiculous. She makes an important distinction between radio and television coverage.
Dita de Boni’s piece, Kim Dotcom – the unwanted entrepreneur points out he was totally transparent about his motive (revenge by getting rid of John Key) for funding Internet Mana. She compares this with with the anonymity of National’s big donors. Didn’t they do well from the lowering of top tax rates. She alleges National was indeed influenced by the US Government to have him banged up. I would like to know a lot more about this, the ‘fake’ email, how the Herald had access to it so early. Was it playing some political game?
There’s also the case of the Malaysian diplomat on charges of sexual assault who was allowed to return to Malaysia. A furious Key suggested, in Parliament, the official in charge of the matter should consider resignation. That was unconstitutonal, in breach of the Cabinet manual and sounded very like revenge for the embarrassment his government faced. This aspect of the case was not widely covered, if at all, by the media.
Lots more post-election answers needed
For starters why did people give their electorate votes to Labour and party vote to National? An astonishing outcome? How do National voters handle moral inconsistencies, condemn Internet Mana’s blatant attempt to game the system and overlook National’s identical ploy and broken promise in respect of fixing it? How do they accommodate Key’s brainfades, unanswered questions about what was going on his office, unfounded insinuations of a leftwing conspiracy? Asking this of longtime National voters in the wider whanau was no help. So and so doesn’t talk about this sort of thing. Bad form? A sort of comfortable Anglicanism that requires no soul searching?
Time for National’s sympathy-oozing manly men to step up
Helpful son unhelpfully undermined the part of co-blogger Pohutu’s election result Sliver of Silver Lining. All I needed. Pohutu argues failure of the Conservatives to get a seat was a victory over moral conservatism. Son thinks Labour needs the moral conservatives in bed with National in order to give them an edge. Gee, thanks. Is that why it is so pusillanimous in respect of decriminalising abortion and taking responsibility for sex education away from Boards of Trustees which it stupidly gave them way back (outcome has been some good programmes, some middling, many non-existent)? I suspect Labour’s colossal number of egos and ids will be thrashing about for quite a while, so any initiative from them unlikely. Both sex education and abortion require law changes which will involve a little acrimony. Could the Greens save their mojo if Jan Logie fronts a private members bill?
It is is almost a year since the shame of the Roastbusters’ ugly exploits shook New Zealand and the rest of the world. Young men needed to be taught empathy and respect for women. Only action will bring that about. Leaving our demeaning abortion law on the statute books makes nonsense of any respect for women. That law was based on the ‘she asked for it’ attitudes prevailing in the male dominated Parliament that passed it. Three of the four women MPs (in an 87-member House) opposed it, the fourth was overseas. Compulsory motherhood was the punishment for women enjoying sex. Our rape culture won’t go away until such deeply embedded attitudes are acknowledged and eradicated.
I can console myself with the fact that it is unlikely we will move backwards on moral issues. Pohutu got this bang on: John Key is a social and moral centrist, if not a liberal in fact. He’s pro-choice (though he tries to be a fence-sitter when it comes to talking about it or acting on it), not a homophobe and doesn’t seem to want to re-criminalise prostitution. He’s also an atheist (yay!) And it was John Key who won the election.