The Dim-Post

February 19, 2015

Neologism needed

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:11 am

Fierce debate rages in the comments thread of the previous post over whether the Andrew Little/David Cohen invoice fiasco is, actually a fiasco or just a trivial nothing. A routine clerical error. A beat up. A beltway issue.

It’s ironic, because David Cohen has written extensively about the term ‘beltway’. It comes from Washington DC, he points out, which has a beltway but Wellington doesn’t so we shouldn’t use it (This is the level of analysis Andrew Little paid a thousand dollars for). But this seems like the opposite of a beltway issue. If you’re preoccupied with policy and ‘political issues’ then an MP paying an invoice late is so trivial as to be laughable. What about Sky City? What about Mike Sabin? What about defense procurement? But to contractors and small business owners, clients who don’t pay their bills are a huge deal. It can destroy your business. So how are those people going to view a political leader who claims to champion contractors and small businesses in order to win their votes, while at the same time failing to pay a contractor who is screaming at him to do so? Very poorly, I suspect.

(On top of this is the absurdity of the contractor being a right-wing columnist who gleefully published about it and is now leaking his correspondence with Labour to mainstream media outlets.)

We need a neologism to refer to issues or political stories that baffle (mostly left-wing) political parties and their activists but resonate strongly with hundreds of thousands or millions of actual voters (Cunliffe’s ‘man apology’ is another great example). The term should probably contain the word ‘beltway’ because if it catches on that would irritate David Cohen.

45 Comments »

  1. Lefties don’t need to worry about the political implications of McCarten being useless at paperwork: invoice-gate has already been overshadowed by sprinkler-gate. See http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/66373669/National-Party-staff-told-off-for-sprinkler-usage
    Tomorrow: Greens discovered not recycling paperclips.
    Saturday: Act pays full fare for air ticket.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — February 19, 2015 @ 6:15 am

  2. ‘The National Party offices are at 41 Pipitea St and the date was February 18’

    Smoking gun, right there.

    Comment by danylmc — February 19, 2015 @ 6:17 am

  3. 1.2 million wont vote in the next election.

    Comment by Simon — February 19, 2015 @ 6:22 am

  4. ” this seems like the opposite of a beltway issue.”

    We all like to think that the issues we have identified have strong resonance for everyday New Zealanders just struggling to make a living while etc etc. I’m permanently sceptical of those who claim to be able to speak for the apolitical electorate.

    Not that the apolitical electorate doesn’t have a pretty poor view of Labour, but I would argue that these kinds of stuff-ups are not the reason for it. Why does this resonate, when Helen Clark’s signing a picture she didn’t draw or not noticing her motorcade breaking the speed limit didn’t? Is it because attributing your work correctly and obeying the speed limit aren’t issues that contractors and small businessmen have to pay attention to in their day-to-day lives?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 19, 2015 @ 7:18 am

  5. More passive aggressive nonsense. Instead of analysing why the Greens performed only marginally better than Winston First at the last election, why don’t we analyse why Labour didn’t pay an account more promptly. Yeah that’ll make the Greens more popular with voters!

    Comment by Ross — February 19, 2015 @ 7:24 am

  6. I’d say that the public actually really care about things like the SkyCity convention centre rort, when they’re reported to them. You don’t get to 96% opposition in a Campbell Live text poll without some depth of feeling.

    They’d probably also care that a $900m road is going to cost $3b because it’s being paid for by PPP. If it was reported as such – it’s like paying for a new car with your credit card. People get debt and paying over the odds.

    The point is that the public don’t generally get to choose. That decision is made for them, by a small group of people who like playing with politicians the way a cat plays with a captured mouse.

    Comment by George — February 19, 2015 @ 7:32 am

  7. The only outlet really running with this story (admittedly I don’t listen to the talkback Taliban of ZB etc) is TV3, where a gloating Gower still appears to think he has the scoop of the still young century. Checking around my office, the reliable barometers have: not heard of the story (5); puzzled by all the fuss (2); think Gower is fuckwit who should be taken out the back, put in a cage and set on fire (3). My sample group of around 12-14 people has a significant margin of error and a degree of confirmation bias on the part of the surveyor, but generally provides a reasonable snapshot of what penetrates the the national consciousness.

    The last group normally only numbers two people, so a 50% leap in those advocating Gowers execution in style approved by ISIL may or may not be statistically significant.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 19, 2015 @ 7:52 am

  8. Who knows if this will have any effect on Labour. The counter example of Clark is relevant – the faux scandals didn’t have much of an effect on her popularity but nevertheless occupied media and beltway chatter time.

    But I think your central point about what voters do take notice of and how that’s been quite different from what the liberal left think they should be noticing is interesting.

    I tend to think that the somewhat condescending manner of you hate the children and the planet doesn’t help.

    Comment by NeilM — February 19, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  9. What about a “below the beltway issue”?

    Comment by RJL — February 19, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  10. invoice-gate has already been overshadowed by sprinkler-gate

    *cough* water-gate.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — February 19, 2015 @ 8:45 am

  11. Side note: Can we all agree that anyone using “-gate”, in reference to a political event in 2015, is worse than Hitler?

    Comment by Phil — February 19, 2015 @ 9:18 am

  12. We need a neologism to refer to issues or political stories that baffle (mostly left-wing) political parties and their activists but resonate strongly with hundreds of thousands or millions of actual voters (Cunliffe’s ‘man apology’ is another great example).

    How about a “Te Whanganui-a-Tara issue”?

    The term should probably contain the word ‘beltway’ because if it catches on that would irritate David Cohen.

    For irritation value abbreviate the phrase and anglicise.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 19, 2015 @ 9:22 am

  13. Can we all agree that anyone using “-gate”, in reference to a political event in 2015, is worse than Hitler?

    Yes. One thing I always admired about Murray McCully is, when he found the Lying in Unison Scandal, he made sure to call it the Lying in Unison Scandal. Had it gotten a -gate, it would never have lasted, nor seemed as bad.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — February 19, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  14. Jesus. If you want to know what people reckon, poll them. Show the cross-tabs. This is known.

    All else is woo.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — February 19, 2015 @ 9:36 am

  15. But Wellington does have a beltway. The Beehive and Parliament buildings are encompassed by Bowen St, Museum St, Molesworth St and Hill St. Therefore I suggest we abbreviate these streets to come up with the neologism — howabout a ‘Bosom Molehill issue’

    Comment by Michael — February 19, 2015 @ 9:37 am

  16. @kalvarnsen: “Why does this resonate, when Helen Clark’s signing a picture she didn’t draw or not noticing her motorcade breaking the speed limit didn’t? Is it because attributing your work correctly and obeying the speed limit aren’t issues that contractors and small businessmen have to pay attention to in their day-to-day lives?”

    I’d guess claiming that the government isn’t worthy of being in government means going against the views of the majority of people who voted for it. It’ll always be more challenging to convince people to change their minds than claiming that the opposition aren’t worthy.

    Comment by izogi — February 19, 2015 @ 9:37 am

  17. @izogi: That’s possible, but if the valence of these issues is a product of people’s voting behaviour, it can’t simultaneously be an explanation for their voting behaviour.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 19, 2015 @ 9:48 am

  18. Hi @kalvarnsen. Yes, true. My personal thought from watching people I know is that most people just vote according to things which affect them most directly, whether it’s themselves or people they see around them. Sideshows provide great talking points to justify decisions, though. Look at how many people voted against Labour, with their most vocal reason being that Helen Clark was an ugly bitch, and …something about light bulbs…, or something like that.

    It’s dangerous to try and second-guess why people vote as they do, though.🙂

    Comment by izogi — February 19, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  19. “My sample group of around 12-14 people…”

    Is this the political section of the Ministry of Potato Production and Light Industry, Sanctuary? If so, the result is not surprising, although I would expect the view on Patrick Gower to be widely shared. What is it with Gower anyway? One moment he is the left’s hero and the next fit only for the firing squad. I guess it depends on who he is hyperventilating over at any given time, but really the man is utterly apolitical and interested only in the journalistic chase and kill. That’s his ideology.

    What’s the matter with the Thorndon Bubble? An issue of interest mainly to the residents and workers bees of the bubble would be a “Bubble Burger”, as in “That’s just another fucking Bubble Burger….”

    Comment by Tinakori — February 19, 2015 @ 10:03 am

  20. it can’t simultaneously be an explanation for their voting behaviour.

    Why not? Confirmation bias is a pretty well established notion.
    Voting habits are a continuum, not a one-off.

    Also re the optics of not paying a contractor playing poorly – yes, it looks foolish. The monumental cockup of employing a political enemy to work for you – incomprehensible. The handling of the issue – absolutely woeful.

    However, in terms of whether this will resonate in any meaningful way with the electorate I’m not so sure.

    Firstly, as someone else pointed out, everyone has been late paying a creditor. This especially applies to small businesses. Any SME business owner who says they’ve never stretched their creditors goodwill is a liar, so I’m sceptical in reading into the manufactured hysteria too much.

    Secondly, this is clearly a bait and switch to keep attention away from the Iraq deployment and SkyCity. While politicians like to think the public is stupid – and the media abets this for whatever reason – I’m pretty sure most people can smell a rat here.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 19, 2015 @ 10:15 am

  21. “…but really the man is utterly apolitical and interested only in the journalistic chase and kill…”

    lack of politics is political, and chase and kill gotcha politics favours the right more than the left, don’t you think?

    PS to you and Kalvasen – since Mr. Geddis accused me of – and I quote – “squabbling” I resolved I was going to try and be more grown up, at least until the next time.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 19, 2015 @ 10:40 am

  22. “chase and kill gotcha politics favours the right more than the left”

    Really? All those bible-thumpers caught with rent boys would beg to differ. So would Sarah (I can literally SEE Russia, even when my unmarried pregnant daughter stands in the way) Palin.
    Eventually, the media will get sick of Key & National the way they got sick of Clarke & Labour. Perhaps they FOLLOW public sentiment, and once the polls start to show that we think the govt smells…? After all, they wouldn’t want to irritate their readers/viewers too much by getting tough with Key while the public “love” him?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 19, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  23. Millions of contractors and business owners who might vote Labour. Yeah, right.

    Comment by richdrich — February 19, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

  24. An analogous piece of sociological research tries to understand why homeless people reject ‘the healthy options’ when given free food.
    https://twp.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/sociology-deliberations-2012.original.pdf

    Comment by Neil Miller — February 19, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  25. “and chase and kill gotcha politics favours the right more than the left, don’t you think?”

    Governments are the bigger target and do far more and have a far greater opportunity to screw up, and be reported on it. And the media have done, the chase and kill reporters included. But the agenda of Morning Report and its audience is not that of the rest of the country. Things the Morning Report audience see as vital are not necessarily those that change voters’ behaviour, as the last election showed. Labour’s screw ups are relatively minor – as the opposition they don’t have any serious money to spend – but they might be seen by the rest of the country as indicators of character and competence, as Danyl has noted. Above all, in the absence of serious damage to John Key, what they do is get in the way of turning the overall narrative – National competent managers and Labour incompetent screwballs – around. It was the same when Labour were riding high in its first term and a half as Government and the Nats were the not so loveable slapstick characters continually slipping on the banana skin.. Much of what Labour did during that time did not bear close scrutiny but it was hard for National to turn the story around when they were shooting themselves in the feet all the time.

    Comment by Tinakori — February 19, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

  26. lack of politics is political

    Yes, and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.
    Up is down. Water does not make you wet.

    Here endeth the philosophy Sanctuary.

    Comment by Phil — February 19, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

  27. A Bell tea-way issue?

    Comment by davidt1008 — February 19, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

  28. I’m with Cohen on “Beltway”. Apart from anything else it sets up a misleading equivalence with what goes on in Washington.

    Comment by Bill Bennett — February 19, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

  29. Neomortgagezeitgeizig

    Comment by NeilM — February 19, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

  30. I’ve been tending for awhile towards a rather skeptical view of language, and spelling of might say, but there’s still some residual belief if not in the power of language then in its importance.

    If the argument for intervention against ISIS is just s lie then is the argument against also a lie? And if it’s all a lie then does that mean nothing can be decided for or against or does it mean one must choice an action, exercising a freedom of choice, despite the rhetoric of others.

    I saw recently a piece where it was presented that on environmental issues the Left were “sane” and everyone else were “insane”.

    Maybe if that was changed to able vs disabled it might register with some it’s not a great use of language. Language being important.

    Comment by NeilM — February 19, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

  31. Tinakori: My theory is that Patrick Gower is the journalistic equivalent of an arms dealer – doesn’t take sides for as long as both sides buy weapons from him.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — February 19, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

  32. Excellent non-sequitur points, NeilM.

    The real question is however, do you enjoy wearing trousers constructed of marmalade, and if not, why not?

    Comment by Gregor W — February 19, 2015 @ 7:23 pm

  33. It is a beltway issue but the nub is the public see yet another clown in charge of the Labour Party, they care not a jot about the details but shrug and like the rest of the western world shudder at the thought of a labour type party running the gaffe again as they all appear dead set useless.
    Key and Joyce on the other hand can keep doing whatever they like because fuck it wages are going up, costs are going down and the country is humming along so who cares about when who knew about some obscure northland MP doing what no one knows what, Key has sorted that pesky Morrison from skycity and life is pretty damn good despite what Sue Bradfords daughter is grinning about nightly when we turn off the news again.

    Comment by David — February 19, 2015 @ 7:41 pm

  34. And either Hooton is on McCartens payroll or he is getting all bitter because Joyce has cut off his lucrative government PR gigs, sounds just sad these days.

    Comment by David — February 19, 2015 @ 7:43 pm

  35. “because fuck it wages are going up, costs are going down and the country is humming along ”

    Says the spokesman for the Ministry of Plenty. Do you ever read your power bills? Are you trying to buy a house right now?

    “who cares about when who knew about some obscure northland MP doing what no one knows what, Key has sorted that pesky Morrison from skycity”

    Yes, no true Scotsman would ever do those.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — February 19, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

  36. Beltway Spin or BS

    Comment by Vita Thomas — February 19, 2015 @ 10:00 pm

  37. Or how about the Dumb Ass Versus Intelligence Disconnect and immortalise DAVID forever.

    Comment by Vita Thomas — February 19, 2015 @ 10:29 pm

  38. The invoice thing a complete beat up. Andrew Little paid his invoice when he knew about it. John Key didn’t stand Mike Sabin down at all when he knew about that. Everytime some one raises the invoice with me I am going to say Mike Sabin…………….

    Comment by anker — February 19, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

  39. Ultimately I think it’s a bit premature (at best) to say this issue has “strongly resonated with hundreds of thousands of voters”.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 20, 2015 @ 10:24 am

  40. How about “beehive bubble”?
    It might be objected that only the cabinet and staff work there; and not the other MP’s etc. But that is the point – most people don’t care about the distinction. Besides – alliteration is catchy.

    Comment by Philo — February 20, 2015 @ 10:38 pm

  41. There isn’t a great deal of political news in New Zealand, and to make it worse people get bored talking about policy very quickly, narrowing the possibilities further. Even when I discuss politics with my wife, who is a policy analyst, and her parents (a lawyer and a policy analyst) the talk turns rapidly away from the thick, and important, detail of policy to facile stuff the Andrew Little check fiasco. The kind of interesting policy debates that danyl raises on dimpost – like the Iraq war a couple of weeks ago, probably intimidate the average person, who don’t want to be caught saying something foolish or racist, and so instead stick to things they can relate to, like whether Eleanor Catton should be slagging off New Zealand, or whether we should get a new flag or not.

    When I was in the UK I noticed that the political debate in that country was much more sophisticated. There was a lot of debate about energy bills for example, and it was fairly complex, but you didn’t see the average person shying away from getting involved. Ditto with immigration, the EU, and bad banker behaviour.

    And I can then recall loading NZHerald to see Dotcom humiliating John Key, which made me both homesick and a bit depressed.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — February 21, 2015 @ 8:27 am

  42. When I was in the UK I noticed that the political debate in that country was much more sophisticated. There was a lot of debate about energy bills for example, and it was fairly complex, but you didn’t see the average person shying away from getting involved. Ditto with immigration, the EU, and bad banker behaviour.

    Why do you think that is? Is it because the British are genetically and culturally different? Or could it be some other completely mysterious reason?

    Comment by George — February 21, 2015 @ 10:21 am

  43. In my experience the British public conversation about immigration isn’t that sophisticated

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 21, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  44. No neologism needed.

    “Beat Up”. It’s the best because it contains both the cooking and the wanking imagery. It also alliterates with Beltway, a word whose usage is well understood by its targets, which is why it’s used, to give them the shits.

    The phrase has been around for ages. Does that make it a paleogism? Or is that enough gism for this thread already?

    No one cares. I’m yet to meet anyone the least bit political disengaged who has heard about this incident, or cared when they did. They don’t use the word Beltway – it’s more likely to be “those c*&ts in Wellington”.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 21, 2015 @ 2:08 pm

  45. “Beehive bubble” looks the best so far.

    George #42: Britain has a very diverse media environment. And though tabloid media outlets are more relentless over there than in NZ, they don’t pretend to hide the fact that they’re tabloid outlets. Whereas in NZ we have a number of tabloid reporters who try to pass off as broadsheet types.

    Ben #44: the Oily One stuck the “Chan ban” label on Opposition proposals to restrict foreign buy-ups of houses in NZ, and it had nowhere near the coverage of the similar sounding “man ban”.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — February 21, 2015 @ 5:50 pm


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