The Dim-Post

November 28, 2014

Armchair psychoanalysis of the day

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:48 am

A week ago I was having coffee with some fellow politics nerds, scoffing at the idea that newly elected Labour MP Andrew Little could defeat Key in 2017. ‘The best he could hope for’, I pontificated, ‘Is to get up into the mid-30s. Force a coalition between Key and Winston Peters, and then remain as leader and win in 2020.’

A week is a long time, as the cliche goes. A lot has happened this week but in a big picture sense the Prime Minister appears to have lost his mind. Lying about the Gwyn report; texting Slater back; lying about it; lying about the lie. What the hell is going on with Key?

My theory is that he was hit with everything during the election campaign. The ‘Fuck John Key’ video. Dirty Politics. The Snowden/Greenwald stuff. The Dotcom allegations. Key denied everything (and in some cases he was probably right to do so). The wider public believed Key and backed him over his adversaries.

So from Key’s perspective the allegations this week are more of the same rubbish. More opposition lies. More media beat-ups. Hysteria. Hyperbole. Exaggerations. As he said to Slater in his text, so what if Jason Ede collaborated with Slater? Didn’t Goff collaborate with the media to leak the IGIS report? And who cares if Key isn’t totally honest about all of this nonsense. The public don’t give a shit about any of it. They’ll back Key and his version of events, just like they did back in the campaign.

Key might be right. He’s a very astute politician. On the other hand, the post-election environment is very different. There’s no prospect of a Kim Dotcom/Hone Harawira brokered coalition government. There’s no Cunliffe. There’s an unexpectedly effective Labour leader. The allegations are coming from his own Inspector General of Intelligence instead of a polarising figure like Nicky Hager. I don’t see how Key can know the public will back him on all of this. It seems like a huge risk.

During question time the government likes to jeer at the opposition about their obsession with ‘beltway’ issues. ‘No one cares!’ Catching Key out in a lie to Parliament is one reason why it’s worth persisting with this and getting him on the record. But also, too, I’ve been reading back through media coverage of the 2008 election campaign, and it’s amazing how ‘beltway’ National’s attacks were. Winston Peters’ donation scandal and the Electoral Finance Act were their big, big issues for the whole election campaign. There was policy stuff (tax cuts) but that was more peripheral. Voters might not have cared about the technical minutiae, but they cared that people in the government were acting unethically and lying to them.

34 Comments »

  1. Policy doesn’t win elections. Policy loses elections.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — November 28, 2014 @ 6:52 am

  2. I’m pretty sure policy (student loans, WFF) swung the 2005 election for Clark.

    Comment by danylmc — November 28, 2014 @ 6:53 am

  3. I find it hilarious the way John Key described texts from Cameron Slater as “unsolicited’ yet also admits that he has changed his mobile number in the last two months since the election and made sure that his buddy Cameron was one of the people he gave his new, ever so secret, mobile number to. Not exactly the actions of somebody trying to distance themselves from ‘dirty politics’ and the person at the heart of it.

    Comment by Richard29 — November 28, 2014 @ 7:23 am

  4. The real thing that has changed for Key is that some of his media fanboys are attacking him for poor judgement. If they continue to frame him in a negative way it will have an impact on what the public thinks of him. Mistakes accumulate.

    Comment by MeToo — November 28, 2014 @ 8:14 am

  5. Danyl- I think you mean massive bribes swung the election for Clark in 2005.

    Comment by Swingingvoter — November 28, 2014 @ 8:18 am

  6. “The real thing that has changed for Key is that some of his media fanboys are attacking him for poor judgement. If they continue to frame him in a negative way it will have an impact on what the public thinks of him.”

    Wasn’t this exactly what was happening before the election, though, during which time large amounts of the public simply decided they didn’t care about the media’s obsessions, or it was all too complicated?

    I think I agree with Danyl, though, that the outcome is probably more dependent on the state of the opposition. Pre-election, National could point at the mish-mash of a disorganised alternative, centred around Labour, and argue that it was hopelessly worse. Andrew Little seems to have been impressive in his first few days, though, and it’s no longer been so easy for National to use that tactic.

    Comment by izogi — November 28, 2014 @ 8:30 am

  7. The post-election switch off has occurred. Curia polling is probably telling him that people just don’t care right now.

    Comment by Ant — November 28, 2014 @ 8:50 am

  8. I don’t think Key says anything without having polling to back him up. I reckon his polling is saying people don’t care about dirty politics, and that all politicians are as bad as each other (hence the constant “Goff leaked the report!” bleating). But people are probably also not loving Slater. So Key on the one hand feels confident to deflect and ignore the dirty politics, but can’t admit to the relationship with Slater. The problem is the two are intertwined so you get his weird stance this week.

    Comment by James — November 28, 2014 @ 9:00 am

  9. I think that izogi has a sound grasp on this with his remark about a solidarity of opposition. but, considering the recently lauded performance of Andrew Little, I think I recall similar honeymoon periods for Goff, Shearer and Cunliffe, too. Admittedly, Key was not leaking credibility in quite the same way (or was he? it might be worth checking back), but three years before another election is a long time for people to forget in.

    But just as I found myself focused on a key word in Danyl’s post – ‘probably’ – I recall the story of Alexander the Great telling the people of Lacos that if they didn’t surrender, he’d tear down their walls, pillage the city, take the women and leave no man alive, and sell the survivors into slavery. Lacos was a strong city and confident that Alexander could not storm it. They replied to Alexander’s long diatribe with a single word reply:

    ‘If’.

    Comment by Lee Clark — November 28, 2014 @ 9:12 am

  10. Wrong, Danyl at 6.53am. Brash looking weird for dealing with EB is wot won it according to pollsters.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — November 28, 2014 @ 9:12 am

  11. Fearless predictions as ever, Danyl. I find the gotcha attempts by journalists far less interesting than the continued textual relationship. Does the Whale have some sort of leverage in this relationship because of a deeper working textual relationship over the last 6 years? I don’t see the upside in Key maintaining contact unsolicited or not. I would differ in your interpretation of 2008. By the time of the campaign, Labour was not a front runner. The emphasis on Winston’s funding from Owen Glenn and the Electoral Finance Act served simply to reinforce existing problems with Labour’s stewardship.They were also way more significant as issues than the PM’s office’s interaction with either the SIS or Whaleoil.

    Comment by Tinakori — November 28, 2014 @ 9:15 am

  12. I am pretty sure the PM has decided that the obfuscate and deny strategy is the best option for him right now. It’s only a few weeks until Christmas and people will be switching off. Plenty of time to do remedial work in the New Year. He still has a lot of good will and people will forgive and forget.

    Of course, long term the chickens will eventually come home to roost for John Key, as they did for Helen Clark. I am reminded of that scene in the move the Queen where after all the dust has settled, the Queen and Tony Blair are having a meeting in which she reflects on how suddenly public sentiment can turn, and says that one day it will happen to him.

    Comment by Nick R — November 28, 2014 @ 9:16 am

  13. I think there is a real change in Key. From 2006-2011, he gained kudos for being “umble”, apologizing quickly for mistakes with that lovable grin and shrug. There were plenty of policy backdowns too. It worked very well.

    After the 2011 election, he got the (perceived) mandate for asset sales, and for the first time he started to push his luck. Being opposed by Goff, Shearer and Cunliffe (and Dotcom) certainly encouraged this.

    Of course the humility was all tactics, not character. Now he’s got his third term, he’s probably got a date penciled in for getting out (post-Gallipoli anniversary, he loves his Big Events) and basically, he couldn’t give a rat’s arse.

    I think he’s an arrogant S.O.B but to be fair, if I was held to account by the Labour caucus and the NZ media marshmallows, I’d probably get pretty cocky too.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 28, 2014 @ 9:21 am

  14. If interest free student loans for tertiary students were ‘massive bribes’ I assume tax cuts for the rich, like National dropping the top tax rate in 2010 from 39% to 33%, was also. It’s all how you spin things eh.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — November 28, 2014 @ 9:47 am

  15. David Farrar took an extensive holiday in South America courtesy of the National Party’s generous funding of Curia, and by the look of it he took Key’s brain with him. I guess we are seeing a glimpse of how much Key relies on incessant polling. Maybe that polling is telling him he is still reigning supreme and people are switched off, who knows. DPF certainly ran the “all these lies, it’s just all so confusing” line yesterday.

    The National party two tier smear machine was exposed by Nicky Hager, and it then self-dismantled as the various rats either scuttled for cover or were trapped and dealt with. At the time, plenty of people predicted that the blunting of the most effective (and cynical) covert propaganda program in our political history would have all sorts of unexpected impacts in the medium to long term. Two of them might be that Key has become addicted to dirty politics, and feels vulnerable if he feels he doesn’t have full spectrum dominance and that in Slater he has a tiger by the tail – I would wager that plenty of those emails deleted by Jason Ede to cover the PMs ass were addressed to Slater…

    As I see it, Key and National’s total control of the mainstream media was built on four, mutually reinforcing pillars – Tight media management to set the narrative, incessant polling to frame the narrative, black ops to control the narrative, and a weak and divided opposition. The media management is being diluted by the Collin’s faction intent of doubling down on revenge, the black ops has been dismantled and Andrew Little so far looks the real deal. All they have left is Curia. The system is tending toward entropy.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 28, 2014 @ 10:12 am

  16. “As I see it, Key and National’s total control of the mainstream media was built on four, mutually reinforcing pillars ”

    And the fearless Jason Bourne figure battling the odds to expose this magnificent conspiracy is………..Sanctuary? I can’t wait for the movie. Brad Pitt as Sanctuary, Queen Latifah as Judith Collins, Jesse Eisenberg as Nicky Hager, Tom Hanks as John Key and Billy Bob Thornton as Jason Ede.

    Comment by Tinakori — November 28, 2014 @ 10:32 am

  17. Having tight media management, lots of money to poll and a weak opposition is hardly the stuff of conspiracy. Now, the idea that the PM would have the state security services reporting to a party crony who also was in charge of the government black ops department working directly out of the PM office IS the stuff of a crazy conspiracy….

    Oh wait.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 28, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  18. @ 17, “Now, the idea that the PM would have the state security services reporting to a party crony who also was in charge of the government black ops department working directly out of the PM office IS the stuff of a crazy conspiracy….”

    Or a great TV drama. That would engage the public more than a thousand political analyses.

    Comment by Kay — November 28, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  19. @ Swingingvoter — ‘Danyl- I think you mean massive bribes swung the election for Clark in 2005’

    Which National have not reversed. Call bribes by National at the time, now called policy.

    Comment by aj — November 28, 2014 @ 11:25 am

  20. John Key is fast becoming the George Costanza of New Zealand politics…watching him wriggle out of the lies is entertaining AND excruciating.

    Comment by Anthony Behrens — November 28, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

  21. >Lacos was a strong city and confident that Alexander could not storm it. They replied to Alexander’s long diatribe with a single word reply:
    >
    >‘If’.

    Were they one of the many towns that came to regret such defiance? I can’t find any reference to a town called Lacos. Does it have another name?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 29, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

  22. I can’t find any reference to a town called Lacos
    See how thoroughly he destroyed it?

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — November 30, 2014 @ 12:03 am

  23. “…I can’t find any reference to a town called Lacos…” I assume this is an attempt to refer to Laconia – the home of the Lacedemonians, AKA the Spartans. The quote itself actually refers to Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, who having over-run the key Greek cities 350-346BC sent a message to the Spartans “If once I enter into your territories, I will destroy you all, never to rise again.” to which the Spartan’s famous reply was simply the word “If.”

    Philip didn’t bother, which caused the Spartans to think they still counted for something when really, it meant they had declined to the point of irrelevance.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 30, 2014 @ 8:36 am

  24. Apologies for slow reply Ben. What he said.

    Comment by Lee Clark — December 1, 2014 @ 11:41 am

  25. >Philip didn’t bother, which caused the Spartans to think they still counted for something when really, it meant they had declined to the point of irrelevance.

    Yes, even their Laconic wit was irrelevant. Essentially, their response is saying “you won’t invade, because we won’t annoy you”. Which was the response Philip wanted. He wouldn’t have bothered with the threat otherwise.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 1, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

  26. Well… yeah – nah. I feel I have to stand up for the Spartans here… (I am Spartacus?) Which is not the same, I hasten to add, as saying that John Key will win the next election.. . . .

    The Spartans were not finally subdued until AD 71, by Rome – which, post 346 BC is a considerable time for any nation to exist on the point of irrelevance. Phillip and Alexander took on many enemies, and travelled far and wide looking for fights.

    It is feasible to assume Phillip refused to engage the Spartans because they were essentially neutered, but equally feasible to assume that neither he nor Alexander were unwise enough to invade Sparta (even if it was on their doorstep) as they felt it would be costly, and perhaps mortally damaging for them do so. At the same time it is likely that they achieved a stand-off of some sort, but Phillip of Macedonia appears to have been a guy with a gift for often making the right decisions.

    ps I don’t think they would have called it ‘wit’ – I don’t think the Spartans really did ‘witty’.

    Comment by Lee Clark — December 2, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

  27. I’m liking the Myers-Briggs explanation for Key’s predicament, if this is about his psychology. He’s an ESTP, as far as I know. Google some things about ESTP under pressure, ESTP under stress, ESTP lying, or ESTP sociopath, and you’ll come up with a lot of insightful stuff. Key is behaving true to form.

    Comment by Kristin Rees — December 3, 2014 @ 12:42 am

  28. >as they felt it would be costly

    Maybe. Or perhaps they just didn’t feel threatened and liked the Spartans for sentimental reasons.

    >The Spartans were not finally subdued until AD 71, by Rome – which, post 346 BC is a considerable time for any nation to exist on the point of irrelevance

    Depends what you mean by subdued. They were thoroughly defeated by Titus Quinctius Flamininus, in the middle of the 2nd Century BC, and again by Lucius Mummius at which point it was incorporated into the Achaen League and is never mentioned as an independent state ever again. Sparta was pretty much a tourist attraction for rich Romans after that. The elites of the ancient world had a bit of a love affair with Sparta, since it was the place from which all the Homeric Greeks hailed. There’s a word for it – “Laconophilia”. The culture of the Spartans seemed to impress aristocrats, and they paid tribute and were no threat. I find it weird, since it sounds like a fucking horrible place for most of the people in it, but if you’re from a slave culture in the first place, a region where hundreds of thousands of slaves served a few thousands citizens, it might have seemed like paradise.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 3, 2014 @ 9:37 am

  29. All the Homeric heroes came from Sparta? What? Only Menelaus came from Sparta. Agamemnon – the big banana – came from Mycenae. Odysseus was king of Ithaca. Achilles was mythical. It should always be remembered the pre-Christian ancient mind was quite different to ours. For example, how could Marcus Aurelius, a celebrated stoic whose meditations have enjoyed renewed modest interest amongst some new agers and self-helpers, consider himself to be living a morally upright and just life whilst presiding over Gladiatorial games?

    Sparta was of some interest to stoics, and stoicism was popular amongst the rich in a pre-christian world because it offered a moral framework to live by. That is the main reason for the enduring interest in Sparta. The principle of personal discipline as a way of morally differentiating the civilized from the nearly indistinguisable from animals barbarians was a given in the ancient world. The Christian world had it’s ascetics, but they sort to become closer to God by asceticism as a way of atoning for their sins, not as a way to be morally superior. A Christian ascetic would consider himself a terrible sinner, whereas a good Roman stoic would have regarded themselves as a better person than the average Roman.

    Anyway, it helps to at least attempt to understand how pre-Christian Mediterranean societies saw the world before forming subjective opinions about about the world they lived in.

    Comment by tomsem — December 3, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

  30. Thank you.

    I was using the date of the crushing of the ‘Spartacus’ uprising as my reference for ‘subdued’. It appears, looking at the sum total of information, that that that final uprising may have been the death-throes of the ‘nation’ such as it was. Your points, Ben Wilson, coupled with the argument Sanctuary made about their possible irrelevance to Phillip and Alexander are persuasive. However, the middle of the second century BC is still a hundred years later than Phillip, and the Roman military system had a certain something, that perhaps the earlier Greeks and Macedonians may have lacked: in particular they were foreign invaders. So, it is still possible that the Spartans held enough military or cultural influence at that time to power to convince Phillip and Alexander not to invade.

    However, I’m probably over-romanticizing the Spartans (it is a kind of post-renaissance laconophilia perhaps). It may be true that they were ignored as irrelevant by both Phillip and Alexander as irrelevant. There may also be an argument that Sparta may have held such cultural – or sentimental – sway (laconophilia was as old as Socrates and Plato) that to invade Sparta might have galvanized resistance from other parts of the Hellenistic world against Phillip, and neither he or his son Alexander needed that.

    But these are all conjectures – which I respectfully suggest might be summed up with a word like ” if “, perhaps.

    Comment by lee Clark — December 3, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

  31. >I was using the date of the crushing of the ‘Spartacus’ uprising as my reference for ‘subdued’

    Well if so, you mixed up AD and BC.

    >It appears, looking at the sum total of information, that that that final uprising may have been the death-throes of the ‘nation’ such as it was.

    Spartacus was Thracian and his uprising was in Italy, and was a slave revolt. He had absolutely nothing to do with the Spartans.

    > it is still possible that the Spartans held enough military or cultural influence at that time to power to convince Phillip and Alexander not to invade.

    I think they really couldn’t be bothered. They’d have had to fight, for sure. And they’d have won, for sure. We are talking about the army that conquered an area as large as Rome ever held in only a single decade. They were unstoppable. Alexander just had bigger fish to fry, and maybe when he read the Iliad before bed, he came to revere the homeland of Agamemnon as a cultural treasure, rather than something to smash.

    Anyways, my point was just that the Laconic wit of the phrase is perhaps a little misunderstood. Saying IF to Philip would be like saying it in response to a policeman saying “If I arrest you, I’ll be able to search you”. It’s really up to the policeman whether they do, and if they do, then what they say is certainly true. But they might not want to. It might be a waste of their time.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 3, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

  32. Ok you got me. I’ll go back to my knitting. Thank you it’s been an education.

    Comment by lee Clark — December 3, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

  33. I can’t find any reference to a town called Lacos
    See how thoroughly he destroyed it?

    Comment by العاب سيارات — December 13, 2014 @ 6:28 am

  34. The real thing that has changed for Key is that some of his media fanboys are attacking him for poor judgement. If they continue to frame him in a negative way it will have an impact on what the public thinks of him. Mistakes accumulate.

    Comment by سيارات اطفال — December 13, 2014 @ 6:29 am


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