Gordon Campbell interviews Colin Craig and asks him if his recent flurry of dumb statements (chem trails etc) represent a deliberate strategy of trolling the electorate:
I don’t know about the term ‘ political trolling.’ But there is an element whereby to cut through into peoples’ minds – and I’m concerned about the voters, for us its about connecting – and you do have to find those points of interest, those opportunities, those discussions that people are motivated about. So naturally, we do…try and focus, certainly at this point in the election cycle, on those points of interest. The things people are thinking about. We try to make what we put our there interesting. Sometimes I might quote someone who says Key is too gay for Helensville. Yes ! When I do that I know its going to be something where people will say – ‘Oh gosh, he said that ! Now I’m going to read the rest of what he sent me.’
I see it as a form of marketing, to be honest. I’m not sure about this idea of trolling, that’ s a new one on me. But we are getting into issues as they come up, and if I think there’s an interesting way to present it – or an interesting debate to be had – I will do that. I’m interested in making politics exciting and relevant for people –
Even at the risk of looking like a complete loose cannon, or a political lightweight ?
Inevitably, there’s always a risk in how you present your argument. Even if you’re presenting it as the most boring argument in the world. For me, I’m always looking at what we send out – and asking – is this interesting? Would I read it?
I think that some of what Craig is doing is deliberate. When he describes a contest between two female politicians as a catfight or announces that Labour and the Greens are ‘schizophrenic’ (I spelled that right without spellcheck!’) I think Craig is trying to provoke a reaction. He wants a female left-wing politician to come out and condemn him for demeaning women, and he wants some mental health group to accuse him of stigmatising schizophrenia. And then a bunch of cranky old male voters are supposed to flock to him because they see a decent guy using plain language under attack from the satanic forces of political correctness.
US political pundits now refer to this tactic as ‘Palinism’ after Sarah Palin the former half-term governor of Alaska, who perfected it. Palin would wonder aloud whether Africa was a country or a continent, every educated person in the country would jeer at her, and millions of Americans who also were not sure about Africa would flock to her cause.
Craig has stated that he respects Palin. But Palinism didn’t turn out to be a very successful strategy. Sure, some people loved her but many, many more people were terrified at the idea of putting a proudly ignorant fruitcake into a position of power. She’s no longer a significant political figure in the US.
But New Zealand has MMP. Craig only needs 5% of the vote to get into
government Parliament. Maybe the strategy can work here. Can Palinism deliver 5% of the vote. Probably! But not the way Craig plays it. The trick is to be divisive, stir up resentment. Craig is trying to do that but the chem-trails and moon landing gaffes just make him look flat-out delusional. His prospective demographic of sad, bitter old men should be able to tell if he’s saying thing like the ‘catfight’ comment because he’s striking a blow against the radical politically correct feminists who control our entire society, or if he’s saying them because he’s kind of stupid and crazy, and I don’t think they can.
The best thing about this is the dilemma it presents to National. Do they endorse Craig and give him an electoral seat? On paper that’s a no-brainer. But the second they do that the Prime Minister ‘owns’ his statements, and the chances of Colin Craig dropping some misogynistic bombshell into the middle of the election campaign are really, really high.