The Dim-Post

October 14, 2013

Compare and contrast

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 9:32 pm

My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet’s the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.

– Dorothy Parker. Sanctuary

A couple months ago John Key went on Campbell Live to defend his GCSB legislation. The issue was getting huge traction, John Campbell was fronting it, and Key gave such a comprehensive performance that the issue all but died as a topic of debate in the mainstream media.

And today one of the up-and-coming superstars of the National Party, Energy Minister Simon Bridges tried to do the same thing, and failed about as badly as I’ve ever seen a Minister fail on national TV. So I went back and watched Key’s interview again to try and spot the difference.

Both Key and Bridges were well prepped with lines and talking points. But Key’s success and Bridges’ failure are, I think, due to them addressing different audiences. Key didn’t go on Campbell Live to talk to John Campbell. Key didn’t care about John Campbell. Key was talking past him, to Campbell’s audience. Bridges, on-the-other-hand, is pissed. He’s there to talk to John Fucking Campbell and put him in his fucking place.

So all the lines are completely different. Key’s comms team has sat down, watched previous episodes of Campbell Live and said, ‘Here’s what John Campbell will say. How do we neutralise that?’ And then they work out responses and then go through the lines with their boss. Bridges has, I suspect, watched the episodes in his office with his comms adviser, stalking around in a rage and shouting at the screen, ‘What about your fucking car John? That flash Mazda at the start of your show? How are you going to drive THAT without oil mined from the Pegasus basin? Make a note of that – I’m gonna ask him that. And now he’s on about Anadarko owning shares in BP. How many shares does John Fucking Campbell own in various companies? What’s his answer to that? Put that down too.’

The result is a Minister who looks like he’s close to tears and about to start throwing punches because someone is talking trash about a Texas-based oil company that was involved in an environmental catastrophe in the US and is about to start drilling down here. Which is hilarious, but not great for the government. I bet political advisers will use these two interviews as comparison studies for years.


  1. Yes agreed. John Campbell absolutely smoked the kid (to be fair he wasn’t going let himself lose this one). He was bristling for a fight. Idiot. I dont know why people think Bridges is a rising star. He doesnt seem to be much of an intellectual heavyweight. He is very confident but is there really much between him and Aaron Gillmore?

    Comment by swan — October 14, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

  2. ‘Close to tears’ is what I picked up on too, perhaps he was realising, mid-interview, what a gargantuan tactical error he had made and that he’d completely fucked himself.

    Comment by geoff — October 14, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

  3. Not only did Bridges make a fool of himself by being unnecessarily aggressive, but he lost the opportunity to get his messages across in a way that people will listen. The public is most likely to remember this interview for Bridges talking over the top of Campbell rather than for anything he said.
    To be fair, Campbell sighing every two minutes made him sound weak and unable to control the interview. Campbell won this interview, but only because Bridges did so badly.

    Comment by Ataahua — October 14, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

  4. “To be fair, Campbell sighing every two minutes made him sound weak and unable to control the interview. Campbell won this interview, but only because Bridges did so badly.”

    I agree to a point, but to be fair to Campbell, I think he was genuinely surprised at Bridges’ bizarre behavior.

    Comment by steve — October 14, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

  5. I think “Ignore the questions and talk past the interviewer to the audience” is generically good advice, not even just for politicians. You need a minimum of preexisting celebrity to pull it off but that’s about it.

    Comment by Hugh — October 14, 2013 @ 11:43 pm


    Comment by sleepdepriveddiva — October 15, 2013 @ 12:00 am

  7. Simon looked like a Bapist Preacher screaming at a congregation that do believe him nor follow him.

    Comment by Alison Deaker — October 15, 2013 @ 1:54 am

  8. do not believe him, (whoops)

    Comment by Alison Deaker — October 15, 2013 @ 1:57 am

  9. A high-definition Walker-Muldoon, much?

    Comment by deepred — October 15, 2013 @ 2:47 am

  10. Muldoon was never this shit with the cameras

    Comment by Hugh — October 15, 2013 @ 5:50 am

  11. The National Party has a habit of refusing interviews with media. The lack of practice from an arrogant minister shines on through.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 15, 2013 @ 6:58 am

  12. Looking at it more objectively, it was obvious Bridges was pretty wound up before the interview even started. He was an angry man. The question is, what is the source of such anger? This government gets an armchair ride from the majority of the main broadcast media, and those bits which refuse to be docile are routinely ignored and treated with high handed disdain unless ministers really, really, really have to go on that show. So when government ministers DO end up having to be interviewed by Kim Hill or John Campbell they are already in enemy territory, edgy, and defensive and drawing their wagons in circle from hostile attack. When the curtain falls away we glimpse the corporate governance culture of John Key and Steven in action: A style of passive-aggressive and paranoid authoritarianism familiar to any of us who have worked in the Soviet bureaucracy of a large and badly run private sector corporate organisation.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 15, 2013 @ 7:49 am

  13. Re no. 4: Very true. I don’t think anyone could have predicted Bridges would behave like that.

    Comment by Ataahua — October 15, 2013 @ 8:25 am

  14. It’s not just that, Sanc, because we’ve seen Tories get interviewed on these programs without losing it beforehand. Amusingly when I first read this I thought it was about Simon Joyce, not Simon Bridges, and that kind of surprised me, because while Joyce is a bit media shy he is usually more competent than this. Bridges though, absolutely, he’s always seemed to get by purely on his biography (With apologies to Francis Urquhart, Maori, check, Oxford educated, check, not too hard on the eyes, check check check) so it’s not surprising he’d crumble like ryvita when exposed even to Campbell’s form of ‘hardball’.

    Comment by Hugh — October 15, 2013 @ 9:19 am

  15. OT, but Loading…

    Comment by Leopold — October 15, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  16. Oh, I see – sorry about that – back to your discussion

    Comment by Leopold — October 15, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  17. Bridges sounded just like hooton on natrad. Do the nats pay hooton for shouty lessons, or is it just that they’re all assholes?

    Watch Key in parliament when the veneer slides off and he’s just the same.

    Comment by Alistair — October 15, 2013 @ 11:06 am

  18. Bridges totally lost it, but I disagree about the Key interview. Key kept his cool which made the truth fudges more believable.

    Comment by A M Thom — October 15, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  19. Where’s the “like” gone?

    Comment by MeToo — October 15, 2013 @ 11:58 am

  20. On one hand the Govt wants to support deep sea oil drilling. On the other they rabbit on about global warming and
    conserving fuel etc. We even pay a global warming tax. Is this what is known as an oxymoron.

    Comment by bosun — October 15, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  21. swan: I dont know why people think Bridges is a rising star…

    He’s more like an oil slick floating on National’s shallow talent pool.

    Comment by RJL — October 15, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

  22. > Bridges, on-the-other-hand, is pissed.

    Yeah I thought he’d been on turps as well.🙂

    Comment by Ross — October 15, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

  23. Simon Bridges – the guy who tried to make out he was a country boy but was always a city slicker.

    “As a boy from Tauranga, I’ve always wanted my name up in lights in the big city.” ~ NZ Herald, 17 July 2013.

    Bridges was born in Auckland, grew up in Te Atatu, began his legal career as a litigation lawyer at a major Auckland law firm after graduating from Auckland University. He moved to Tauranga in 2001 aged 25. Hmmmm a boy aged 25? Judging by his performance last night, he’s still a boy.

    Comment by Ross — October 15, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

  24. Nice poem. You could also have used the final verse of The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole:

    “This chasm, that has been naught to me,
    To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
    He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
    Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

    Comment by — October 15, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

  25. Today in Question Time Mr Bridges seemed much more subdued. I expect that today he had taken his ritalin whereas last night he had taken something else much more fiery.

    Comment by xianmac — October 15, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  26. #22: if by “always a city slicker” you mean gated community suburbanist, then yes. If you meant liberal cosmopolite, then no.

    Comment by deepred — October 15, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

  27. Despite any grooming the PM may have got from any advisers about speaking to the public he played the man not the ball. Key consistently used words such as John (Campbell) you and you’re, in what was a shout down. I don’t see Key getting away with this technique again, he’s simply not clever enough to carry it off twice.

    Comment by Cameron — October 15, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

  28. Waiting for your Len Brown/Campbell Live failure piss take.
    Oh sorry forgot, moral outrage only applies conditionally.

    Comment by grant — October 15, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

  29. “moral outrage”, grant?

    You seem to be conflating criticism of a poor media performance with some sort of judgment on Bridge’s character. Which perhaps says more about how you view the world and what is important in it than danyl’s alleged hypocrisy.

    Comment by Flashing Light — October 15, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

  30. Gosh, almost everyone agrees totally with the OP.

    How astonishing.

    Comment by Redbaiter — October 15, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

  31. @22 Ross: Brilliant🙂

    He probably got lessons from Dick Cheney. There’s a brilliant book called ‘Dick’ that describes Dick Cheney many attempts to pretend to be a blue collar working man from Wyoming. Unfortunately for Cheney it never worked.

    Comment by K2 — October 15, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

  32. Awwww, c’mon K2, Dick Cheney did what he though every blue collar working man fro Wyoming does – invited his buddies out hunting and shot one of them at point blank range😉

    In other news, does it strike anyone else as ‘coincidence’ that a Nats source of propaganda breaks a scandal about a Labour mayor on the same day as the 2nd reading of the TICS Bill? (the companion Bill to the GCSB Bill that legalises NZ govt agencies spying on pretty much everyone). Just observing that the Nats seem to be pretty good at distracting media from awkward laws they want to pass by generating shock headlines, usually benny bashing. Perhaps Bridges was the first effort at distraction?

    Comment by bob — October 15, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

  33. The point in the interview at which I was miming being hanged, as in, hang oneself by one’s own words, was Bridges’ answer to Campbell’s question about where the rescue and cleanup vessels would come from in the event of a Gulf of Mexico-type spill. He (Bridges) blathered about police rescue boats and the army coming to help; that was the clearest indication of all that he was making this stuff up on the fly. Police and the army? Good grief! And wasn’t he all pouty: I’ll bet he threw a screaming, roll-on-the-floor-and-drum-his-heels tanty as soon as he was off air. Possibly with a bit of blubbing as well…

    Comment by Merrial — October 15, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

  34. So the question nobody is asking is this – did Whale Oil drop the Len Brown affair thing to take media attention off Bridges’ debacle?

    I doubt it – the Brown thing is too big, and the Bridges thing too inconsequential.

    Comment by Hugh — October 16, 2013 @ 1:58 am

  35. So the question nobody is asking is this – did Whale Oil drop the Len Brown affair thing to take media attention off Bridges’ debacle?

    Probably because the question is so silly.

    Cameron Slater hates Brown, is a prurient jerk with a desire to drive his website clicks higher, and delusions of importance. Apply Occam’s razor.

    Comment by Flashing Light — October 16, 2013 @ 7:53 am

  36. Campbell did another good job last night letting Len do the necessary face slapping etc.

    Comment by Swan — October 16, 2013 @ 7:53 am

  37. The French must be wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 16, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  38. The French must be wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Minto’s comment on NatRad this morning was amusing; along the lines of if this was Italy, an affair might well have enhanced Brown’s prospects.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 16, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

  39. Juvenal would be proud.

    Comment by Katrina Clark — October 16, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

  40. French and Italian men get away with things they wouldn’t here.

    i thought at the time Clinton was treated extremely badly but I think there does need to be sent a message to men in power that screwing around is not going to be one of the perks of power as it has been in the past.

    And then there’s the issue of trust and loyalty. If a man can lie to family he can lie to anyone.

    Comment by NeilM — October 17, 2013 @ 8:16 am

  41. If a man can lie to family he can lie to anyone.

    No Santa for your kids then, NeilM.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 17, 2013 @ 8:53 am

  42. And then there’s the issue of trust and loyalty. If a man can lie to family he can lie to anyone

    Anyone can lie to anyone Neil. But does the fact someone lies to their family about an affair mean they are more or less likely to lie in a differenet context? I honestly don’t know.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — October 17, 2013 @ 9:14 am

  43. It’s seems to me that when it’s said “a person’s private life is their private live” what’s really meant is “a man’s private life is his private life”.

    Strauss-Kahn, Berlusconi – Len Brown’s escapade is nowhere near that level but I doubt the affair would have happened had Brown not been mayor.

    Comment by NeilM — October 17, 2013 @ 11:13 am

  44. NeilM – What your examples show is the well documented and understood phenomenon that people – not just men – in positions of power are more likely to exhibit sociopathy, in this case feeling entitled to exert sexual influence over their subordinates.

    So it’s not a case that it wouldn’t have happened if Brown was not Mayor – more a case of that someone like Brown who seek out a very public and powerful role that holds great influence (and gains great personal satisfaction from this role), is more prone abusing that power (i.e. it would be just as likely to happen if Brown were, for example, the head of a large corporation).

    Comment by Gregor W — October 17, 2013 @ 11:48 am

  45. And then there’s the issue of trust and loyalty. If a man can lie to family he can lie to anyone

    I don’t think it’s an issue. In terms of trust, as a ratepayer I find the question “Can I trust this guy not to fuck someone else?” just never, ever arises (except maybe in a strictly metaphorical sense, but in that metaphorical sense I’d want to be able to trust that I was not the only ratepayer gettng shafted). The more relevant questions are “Can I trust this guy not to put my money in his own pocket?” or “Can I trust him not to distribute my money amongst his friends?” Nothing about spoofing on overly-indulgent bimbos or wanking while on the phone suggests negative answers to those questions.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — October 17, 2013 @ 11:54 am

  46. people – not just men – in positions of power are more likely to exhibit sociopathy, in this case feeling entitled to exert sexual influence over their subordinates.

    I think there’s an element of that in this case – sociopathy is be a bit harsh, but a bit of power going to his head, as it were.

    If nothing else comes out then the humiliation and loss of moral credibility is punishment enough. If he takes part in future debates on issues that have some moral component then it’s not going to do him good.

    Comment by NeilM — October 17, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

  47. I’m just glad he isn’t running a girl’s school. Oh but wait – perhaps he is.

    Comment by LeeC — October 17, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

  48. sociopathy is be a bit harsh, but a bit of power going to his head, as it were.

    I’m not using sociopathy as a bad word NeilM, but as a desciptor for certain behavioural traits – for instance, consistent use of superficial charm, abject or grandiose displays of emotion and rhetoric designed to engender pathos in an audience, poor behavioural controls, impulsivity, failure to take responsibility for ones own actions &c.

    Effectively, the politician’s MO.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 17, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  49. This wasnt just one way, Ms Chuang was looking for a for a political career so I read. ……… who seduced who?

    Comment by A M Thom — October 17, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

  50. apparently Simon Bridges is looking for a new Press Sec.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — October 17, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

  51. For the past few days, I have found all of the reading about Len Brown absolutely fascinating. People who appear to avow feminism have overlooked the abuse of patriarchal power. People who usually avow interest in labour relations and fair play have defended the boss over the worker. People who have previously avowed interest in democracy and transparency in the democratic process have sanctioned the coercion and silencing of a key witness. And people who describe themselves as supportive of Te Tiriti o Waitangi have turned a blind eye to the tapu. Those who consider race-relations to be about protecting people from damaging stereotypes have endorsed the crassest of sexual innuendo and those who would be clamouring with calls of ‘resign’ if an elected official from another party had done what Len Brown did, are strangely silent. Having been sucked in by the cheesecake representation of Brown and his family at election time, suddenly his family is ‘private’ (but not so private they can’t get a column in the Herald).
    The defense is that what he did was not illegal and doesn’t affect his ability to do his job. But it does. Brown was elected and people elected him on the ‘brand’ he sold them. Part of that brand was about protecting people from abusive power-structures and upholding fairness and equality, and another was his religious morality and belief system, and another was his ‘family-man’ credentials, and another was that he was ‘safe’ with other races. This is not about party politics IMO. It goes to the heart of what values we profess and reward in this society.

    Comment by Lee C — October 18, 2013 @ 6:33 am

  52. “Effectively, the politician’s MO.”

    That plus a little bit of no fool like an old fool.

    Comment by NeilM — October 18, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

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