The Dim-Post

February 26, 2014

Speaking for the 0%

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:32 am

Another day, another raft of New Zealand Herald columns, news stories and editorials about the ACT party. The editorial is happy to see Richard Prebble running the campaign but isn’t sure about flat tax. Fran O’Sullivan loves Prebble and ACT’s ideas about superannuation (Prebble is pictured in a field of daisies playing with a dog.) Earlier this week we had an approving story by political editor Audrey Young based on Jamie Whyte’s thoughts on superannuation. Young also ran a story the same day on Prebble and his flat tax. The day before that: another story about Prebble. And on it goes. Search the Herald site for Jamie Whyte and you’ll find dozens of glowing interviews, editorials, features and columns about the new leader of the ACT Party. At this point in the election they’re easily receiving as much coverage as National and Labour.

Which is weird because this is a really, really, really tiny party. They only recieved 23,889 votes in the 2011 election. Fewer than the Mana Party. WAY fewer than the Maori Party. Less than a 10th of the support of the Green Party. In the only by-election we’ve had since then they were beaten by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (Where are their editorials and columns and soft interviews?). According to my aggregated poll results ACT are on about 0.4% at the moment which, based on 2011 turnout, suggests they’ll get less than 10,000 people voting for them in the election.

ACT aren’t totally irrelevant, since National will give them an electorate and they’ll get to be in government. But this party is approximately as popular and significant as United Future. Who is their campaign manager? What are their new policies? We don’t know because, frankly, it doesn’t really matter because United Future aren’t a real political party. Neither is ACT but because a bunch of activists for this microscopically small party WAY out on the lunatic fringe happen to be senior staff at a major newspaper we have to hear all about it.


  1. Could it be that everyone writing at the Herald lives in Epsom and cannot see beyond the bubble? After all, the Herald is an Auckland paper.

    Comment by Nick R — February 26, 2014 @ 11:17 am

  2. The aging white folks who write (and read) Herald columns pine for the salad days of their youth, when Bob Jones took down Rob and Roger and Ruth made them giddy with the romance of revolution.

    In a sense, it is the same malign baby boomer entitlement that is ABC old guard is curing the Labour party with. Baby Boomers really, really don’t like the idea that they are now getting pretty crusty and starting to develop that funny old person smell. And they hate the idea their time in the sun has past. So they’ll sit around and getting in the way by abusing their positions of influence and power and continue talking up yesterday’s people, yesterday’s ideas and yesterday’s failed solutions until someone nails the lid shut.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 26, 2014 @ 11:20 am

  3. But Sanctuary, even amongst Baby Boomers, fuck all support ACT. I think it’s more than just the demographic reading the paper, and working for it. It’s the demographic that *owns* the paper. The 0%.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 26, 2014 @ 11:26 am

  4. Nice conspiracy theory. Perhaps ACT just have actual good media management where they give the journalists something they can run that’s interesting and low effort? Seems like a more plausible theory to me.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2014 @ 11:37 am

  5. Perhaps ACT just have actual good media management

    Yeah right. And John Key donates his salary to charity.

    Comment by Joe W — February 26, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  6. Its probably also ACT once having been a power in the land and their political whakapapa extends back into the Labour Party. A halo effect, if you will. Also pretty sure Audrey Young is no shill for ACT. Fran O’Sullivan on the other hand….

    Comment by Tinakori — February 26, 2014 @ 11:46 am

  7. Perhaps ACT just have actual good media management where they give the journalists something they can run that’s interesting…

    Yep – no value judgment needed there! “Interesting” is an inherently objective phenomenon.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 26, 2014 @ 11:46 am

  8. But actually, the “interesting” factor explains the continued interest in the Conservative Party, and let’s face it – the continued “interest” in the Winston First party is what has kept it alive all these years. The publishers want to sell papers, so the editors look for stories that might sell papers, and so the journalists look for “interesting” stories. End of story! 😉 🙂

    Comment by David in Christchurch — February 26, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

  9. I know it’s popular on both the left and the right to blame the media for being mean. Take the recent scandal in TVNZ, which you could hardly claim to be a bastion of the right. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The media do as the media do. They aren’t going to change. If you want to be in politics you need to package your positions in ways that the media want to report. If that means soft focus and fuzzy interviews over wine, then fine. If that means photos with the family, then fine (note how Cunliffe avoids this). If that means letting them ask you questions about drug use and implying things that may or may not be true, then you do that too (note to Colin Craig there – you don’t get all up in arms about it, you just gently deflect).

    I have to say I’m surprised, I’d expected the new Act leadership to be all “Act on campus”, which mostly means immaturity and shouting shrilly at people. They don’t appear to be doing that. Labour could learn a lot from that.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

  10. It’s called news. That’s why Colin Craig (astoundingly) keeps getting quoted even though he has never been elected to anything AFAIK, and KDC’s whimsical political interventions are taken seriously – (more weirdly, some previously considered sane people quit their jobs to get involved)

    Comment by insider — February 26, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

  11. It’s called news.

    There’s usually a consensus about news. I don’t think much of Dotcom or Craig but they are news. When Jamie Whyte took over ACT the Dom-Post did, I think, one feature on him which seems about right. The Herald did at least a dozen columns, features, interviews and editorials. No one else thinks this tiny little party is that newsworthy.

    Comment by danylmc — February 26, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

  12. They’re just doing their bit to inform the people of Epsom who their new electorate MP will be, as they have no choice but to vote for them. I’d guess that most of the herald’s subscribers are probably from inner-east Auckland these days, so it doesn’t surprise me that much.

    Comment by Chris Bull — February 26, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  13. Danyl: it probably is a bit more interesting for Auckland readers than Wellington ones. Since a reasonable proportion of the Herald readers might be presumed to be in Epsom, and a decent proportion of them therefore considering voting for Act on the electorate if nowhere else. They are a business after all, and writing articles about things their readers are interested in seems like a good way to sell newspapers.

    I’m not convinced either that they’re as tiny a party as you make out. I’ll be surprised if they don’t get two MPs in the upcoming election (since I’m making a prediction here, let me add a couple of caveats – assuming that Jamie or David don’t entirely implode and/or become some sort of crazy parody of Act on Campus – so I’m assuming here they run a reasonably sensible campaign based on something approximating historical Act policies)

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

  14. “Journalism of the 0%, for the 0%, by the 0%”

    Comment by TerryB — February 26, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

  15. “I’m not convinced either that they’re as tiny a party as you make out.”

    electoral results say otherwise – remember the cups of tea?

    But the point is they have miniscule support compared to almost every other party – yet they get showered with praise from the frans of this world, get to run the ideas the nats dont want to own and weild an influence on govt that is out of all proportion to their support – solely based on “the good people of epsom” doing what they are told

    note: i no longer see national or act as separate in any real sense other than branding – they are two fronts for the same project – sort of bad cop/crazy cop

    out of curiosity – if you get an electorate what sort of party vote % do you need for seat number 2?

    Comment by framu — February 26, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

  16. Danyl wrote “There’s usually a consensus about [what constitutes] news.”

    nah, there’s seldom a consensus about what is news. usually there’s just a media outlet that decides for itself what to treat as being news, and that gives it the stamp of authority which makes people think it’s a consensus.

    Comment by kahikatea — February 26, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

  17. They’re just doing their bit to inform the people of Epsom who their new electorate MP will be, as they have no choice but to vote for them.

    No they’re not. Jamie Whyte is not running as the ACT candidate for Epsom. David Seymour is.

    I’m not convinced either that they’re as tiny a party as you make out. I’ll be surprised if they don’t get two MPs in the upcoming election.

    Quite possibly. However, extensive (and largely favourable) media coverage significantly helps in that quest. So what are we measuring here?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 26, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

  18. “There’s usually a consensus about news.”

    Of course that explains why the Russians only had Pravda – they only needed the one news source because they all agreed what the news was. We in the west are so wasteful with our contests of ideas and numerous media outlets that reflect it. Next thing you know some geezer in a damp valley in the back of nowhere will be putting his opinions on some computer somewhere so that others can debate them…

    Comment by insider — February 26, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

  19. @insider – are there any more spaces available in your fairyland where mass media is significantly differentiated in its content, and editors are free to roam without having to kow-tow to ideologies of their paymasters?

    Comment by Gregor W — February 26, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

  20. Yet apparently most journalists are left-leaning. Whoever the lefties are, they seem to be able to stay objective. Unlike the right wingers who stand out like dog’s balls.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — February 26, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

  21. @ gregor

    I encourage you to try something called the world wide web where you will be amazed by the efforts free roaming editors who have chosen diverse stories such as Parking wardens under fire; Hospital’s future secure; Rebel’s houseboat beats bureaucracy; Illegal freedom campers corralled; Phat cat is back in the black; for the Nelson Mail and Terror on the tracks; Dice with death under ferry bow; Cycle seller rode with the times; No alcohol sales after 9pm; Plan could upset bees; for the neighbouring region’s Marlborough Express.

    A fairyland is revealed. Enjoy!

    Comment by insider — February 26, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

  22. Sanctuary, I think I love you. Keep pumping out those comments, I luv ’em!

    Comment by trev — February 26, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

  23. “the Russians only had Pravda – they only needed the one news source because they all agreed what the news was. We in the west are so wasteful with our contests of ideas and numerous media outlets that reflect it”

    we is so inefficient.

    Comment by Sacha — February 26, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

  24. Amongst my friends and acquaintances (and out of those that are likely to vote) the ACT party is not a topic of conversation when politics is brought up. Except maybe when we wish to deride a certain group of society that is losing their grip on power and sanity.

    Comment by Mistahbillcollector — February 27, 2014 @ 1:27 am

  25. you can add this lovely story approving of incest to your list.

    i’d guess it’s a pretty important topic considering the closeness of the relationship between the press and this party danyl is implying.

    Comment by Che Tibby — February 27, 2014 @ 6:11 am

  26. We could keep a list…

    Comment by Paul — February 27, 2014 @ 7:46 am

  27. @insider – you’ll note I said “mass media” not “provincial news”.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 27, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  28. “…“the Russians only had Pravda…”

    No they didn’t.

    In addition to Pravda, there was Izvestia, Sovetskaya Rossiya, Trud, and Komsomolskaya Pravda, all of which had circulations in the 8-12 million range.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 27, 2014 @ 8:29 am

  29. @ sanc – and I bet you read every issue 🙂

    @ gregorw – same diff for mass (assuming you mean national media) top local stories on RNZ: Gas leak at Northland power station; Spying revelations to come – analyst; Backing for car stability system; Night pay ruling for school hostels; Govt ‘not being loyal’ to interpreters; Hundreds of call centre jobs for NZ

    Top local stories on ZB: Northland doctor named the New Zealander of the Year; Northland power station declared safe; Mean messages faked;Driver has serious injuries after fleeing from police; Waitemata DHB increase funding for youth health

    Comment by insider — February 27, 2014 @ 9:09 am

  30. @Sanc: And Krokodil.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 27, 2014 @ 10:01 am

  31. @insider – I’m not sure any of your examples meets your bar of ‘contest of ideas’.

    Having flavours of human interest stories – ‘little guy vs the gummint’, ‘cat stuck up tree’ etc. – does not speak to considerable content / ideological differentiation.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 27, 2014 @ 10:10 am

  32. @ gregor I may have misunderstood your point then as the subject morphed, sorry. I don;t think NZ media is ideological to any great extent. It used to have some significant differences but that was in a different age. It became pretty clear in the 70s that media couldn’t align closely with any ideology because the audience was alienated- we’re not big enough to support a Sun v Mirror, or Telegraph v Guardian approach.

    Campbell live IMO has a Fair Go style approach on consumers v business/govt, and an implicit NZ good foreign bad. RNZ similarly takes a pretty greenish view of issues and doesn’t actually challenge on whether state control and ministerial intervention is really the best option for nearly every problem. But I wouldn’t call that ideological with a big I, as in wanting to push a world view. NBR is probably our most ideological and less so since Colman sold it, but that is a niche audience.

    Comment by insider — February 27, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

  33. I don’t think NZ media is ideological to any great extent….

    @ insider – yes, this is the point I was trying to make. Where there used to be a the genuine ‘contest of ideas’ and true differentiation, this has now evapourated as the media market has become more condensed (though obviously not in terms of mode) and ownership has been centralised – hence my point around the realities of editorial independence.

    I’m not sure that “we aren’t big enough” holds as there are certainly more people consuming media. But definitely as the differentiation of content has decreased – dumbing down, meeting advertiser demands, etc. – and media product has become more homogeneous,creating a kind of vicious circle.

    To meet the demand of the 2 sided market (consumers and advertisers), there is an oversupply of the same news, in increasing dumbed-down formats, to increase the relative catchment of eyeballs versus competing formats, to sell the same products….ad infinitum.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 27, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

  34. The meme of ‘increasingly dumbed down journalism’ is one that we all seem to take for granted, but I wonder if maybe we’re pining for days gone by that never actually were?

    For instance, take a look at some of the ‘yellow journalism’ of Pulitzer et al that came out of New York in the late 1800’s. Even the worst headlines of today are a pale imitation of the jingoistic, racist, grossly misleading garbage being peddled back then.

    Admittedly, we do live in a world where the ‘game’ of journalism is seemingly more important than the events which are actually unfolding, but I’m not convinced that the quality of political journalism today is any worse than that which has come previously.

    Comment by Phil — February 27, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

  35. …but I’m not convinced that the quality of political journalism today is any worse than that which has come previously.

    So while I agree that the qulaity of 20th century journalism is probably a manifestation of exogenous factors – that is, the much larger ‘clash of ideologies’ that was taking place post post WW1 to the 90s – I think you’d be hard pressed to say that the quality of mainstream journalism hasn’t degraded since then.

    Might that golden age have been an irregularity? Quite possibly. But it’s still a shame.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 27, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

  36. Today’s NZ Herald ACT watch has Audrey Young fawning over ACT’s desire to basically destroy environmental protection laws.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 1, 2014 @ 9:54 am

  37. another day, another ACT story

    this is a weird walking of the line between saturation coverage and reporting. because it continues to look like the NZH is rock-hard for ACT. but i suppose auckland is the only city in which these policies could have traction.

    Comment by Che Tibby — March 2, 2014 @ 9:17 am

  38. since we’re keeping these for posterity, here’s today’s bit of NZH ACT pron.

    Comment by Che Tibby — March 3, 2014 @ 9:05 am

  39. ACT holds the Epsom seat and it’s fortunes may influence the nature of the next govt. It’s election year and no doubt coverage will sweep in an unpredictable and sometimes irrational manner around the various parties.

    Comment by NeilM — March 3, 2014 @ 9:14 am

  40. ACT holds the Epsom seat and it’s fortunes may influence the nature of the next govt.

    Yeah, United Future holds Ohariu and we don’t get saturation coverage of Dunne. I’ve had friends in the press gallery and National point out how totally bizarre Young’s coverage of ACT is. And its not like Young wrote about the lack of detail around their policy release on Saturday, which is what everyone else lead with. Simplest explanation here is that she really, really likes the new leader and wants to give him as much positive coverage as she can.

    Comment by danylmc — March 3, 2014 @ 9:22 am

  41. you could be right. but media attention often does come in weird flurries.

    Comment by NeilM — March 3, 2014 @ 9:29 am

  42. Slightly off topic but can someone outline how Alan Gibb can ask to follow the “singapore way” – which seems to be based around the State owning and managing every part of the economic equation – and then say that the government shoudl not even provide roads?

    Comment by Ian — March 3, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  43. Alan Gibbs is insane.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 3, 2014 @ 11:28 am

  44. Alan Gibbs is insane.

    It should also be noted that his wife isn’t from Singapore so wtf does he know.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 3, 2014 @ 11:53 am

  45. I thought the most interesting bit from Audrey’s recent pieces was about how Prebble wanted to get membership up to 150,000, from around 600.

    Can we please just ignore the ridiculous headline number, and talk about how close ACT is to being de-registered? Because lulz.

    Comment by simonpnz — March 3, 2014 @ 1:01 pm

  46. More power to Jamie Whyte and Act

    Comment by KayCee — March 3, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

  47. missed this one

    Comment by Che Tibby — March 3, 2014 @ 6:42 pm

  48. shit. html fail meant this one

    also – did audrey young put up two articles on ACT in one day? here’s a different one to the one above.

    Comment by Che Tibby — March 3, 2014 @ 6:45 pm

  49. Alan Gibbs is insane.

    rather. I’d be interested to see if Whyte can transfrom ACT into a genuine liberal party but the continued involvement of the likes of Gibbs and Prebble don’t inspire confidence.

    I’d also like someone to try and transform the Greens into a sensible environmental party.

    Comment by NeilM — March 3, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

  50. Hi Neil,

    Can you please describe what main policies your sensible environmental party would have and how it would differ from the Greens?


    Comment by Rob — March 3, 2014 @ 11:33 pm

  51. I’d also like someone to try and transform the Greens into a sensible environmental party.

    So you’d be keen to vote for it?

    Comment by Ross — March 4, 2014 @ 6:10 am

  52. The Greens are highly inconsistant in their pplication of science. The leadership shows no sign of lifting their political game above that of other parties.

    Like ACT they publically claim a purity of action and intent which they don’t live up to and like a section of the libertarian spectrum look more like a cult than a political party.

    Comment by NeilM — March 4, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

  53. I’ll take that as a no. 🙂

    Comment by Ross — March 4, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

  54. Hi Neil,

    Seeing as the Greens are highly inconsistent in their application of science it shouldn’t be a problem for you to provide 2-3 examples of this, right?

    Without evidence to support your claim, your comment just looks like a baseless accusation from a biased individual. I’m sure this is accidental and you had a number of situations in mind when you wrote it.

    I eagerly await your analysis.


    Comment by Rob — March 5, 2014 @ 5:55 am

  55. @Rob: Well, the Greens have modified their stance on GM, but they still say they want to ‘keep it in the laboratory’.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 5, 2014 @ 7:56 am

  56. kalvarnsen – I suspect this change is as a result of taking a more sensibleposition in the GE vs GMO semantic debate.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 5, 2014 @ 8:42 am

  57. NeilM got nothing yo

    Comment by Rob — March 7, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  58. One word: Fracking

    Comment by Phil — March 7, 2014 @ 11:25 am

  59. Fracking is an interesting one.

    While it was a classic case of letting Gareth Hughes of the leash and being subjected to the entirely predictable lunacy that resulted (“Fracking = EARTHQUAKES!!!!1!!11!!”) I’m not sure that the wider debate has been settled regarding longer term environmnetal risks / energy supply trade-offs.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 7, 2014 @ 11:44 am

  60. The Greens are anti-science is the sense that at a personal level many of them don’t believe what science tells them – over radiation emissions from cell phone towers, or vaccinations, or GE or a peculair belief in the healing powers of Bowen therapy, or whatever. But at a party policy level, this tends to express itself as anti-technology.

    For example most Greens, I think, would say “we want clean energy”. We all know what “dirty” energy is – fossil fuels. So it follows that Greens would want to eliminate or drastically reduce fossil fuel use. Wind and solar will never produce the sort of energy outputs we need to keep our energy hungry civilisations running, unless we develop gigantic fuck-off space based solar power stations that can send power to earth via a space elevator or gigantic laser beam. So the problem the Greens have is that they oppose the two most viable technological alternatives, nuclear and hydro (and probably giant space based power stations), on environmental grounds that are often just excuses for an anti-technology/anti-science world view. Greens try and explain this energy gap away by saying everything would be fine if we all just owned a bike and used a Prius on the weekends, but the world doesn’t need energy for the Saturday morning run to the farmers market – it needs it for the giant steel mills that produce the raw materials to make everything and the power plants that keep all the lights on.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 7, 2014 @ 11:59 am

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