The Dim-Post

March 25, 2015

Conspiracy theory of the day and other observations

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:55 am
  • Why is National so desperate to win Northland – even at the cost of making themselves look like fools – when they can stitch up Peter Dunne’s vote and pass pretty much everything? Here’s my totally unsubstantiated theory. When they talked to Dunne after the election his price for confidence and supply was a nice diplomatic posting somewhere at the end of the term. Which means (a) The government would lose its majority sometime in 2017 and need either New Zealand First or the Maori Party to pass legislation and (b) Dunne would retire as an MP and the rotten borough of Ohariu would become a normal electorate seat, which is a net loss for National.
  • David Fisher has a column about the timing of his latest Snowden story in light of the Prime Miinister’s allegations that it was calculated to coincide with his trip to South Korea.
  • Chris Trotter writes about ‘post-modern’ politics in Russia and New Zealand and advances a theory I’ve heard from a few people now, that National’s messaging is deliberately confusing; that by disorientating the public with self-contradictory ideas and arguments they’re practising a form of ‘avant-garde’ politics, with the result that the public turn off and stop listening to negative news stories about the government, repulsed by the incomprehensibility of it all.
  • It’s a fun theory. And it’s true that most of what comes out of the Beehive at the moment makes literally no sense (today they’re solving the housing crisis by selling state houses to property developers because it’s ‘what the public wants’). But I think it’s because this government speaks the language of advertising rather than avant-garde art. An ad for Coke or laundry detergent makes no sense on a rational level. (The product is consumed by sedentary fat people – why are they showing slender beautiful people playing beach volleyball?) But, like ads, National’s communications products are (a) data driven based on extensive research and (b) aren’t targeted at people who pay close attention and subject them to reasoned analysis. They’re pitched at an emotive non-rational level for people who are half-listening while driving, or half-watching the news while they get the kids ready for bed. The logical integrity of the arguments don’t matter because they’re just delivery mechanisms for key phrases that by-pass logic and trigger emotional reactions to political events.

27 Comments »

  1. They can’t pass “pretty much anything” with Dunne’s vote. He’s against gutting the RMA, which is National’s top priority this term.

    Comment by pete — March 25, 2015 @ 9:16 am

  2. How many times did you sip on a “big gulp” and push your glasses up you nose while you were writing that?

    Comment by biglivers — March 25, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  3. Scary stuff, how do we combat it?

    Comment by northshoreguynz — March 25, 2015 @ 9:26 am

  4. Scary stuff, how do we combat it?

    Tumbrils and guillotines.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 25, 2015 @ 9:36 am

  5. Wow, it will come as a surprise to most people who work for National just how co-ordinated they are!

    Comment by Tinakori — March 25, 2015 @ 9:47 am

  6. “the language of advertising rather than avant-garde art”

    Advertising IS the unsung art of our times, if not avant-garde, in the sense that it’s where the creative talent, the audience and the patronage collide. Modern Medicis would be commissioning incredible ad campaigns, and employing the best and brightest as comms specialists, not wasting it on unattractive pictures and highbrow performances for their fellow elites.

    /me goes to get coffee and wash his brain out.

    Comment by Stephen J — March 25, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  7. Theories like this lead to the eventual failure of the opposition. They are essentially advocating the same idea that Bomber has, that basically National just targets morons who don’t really know/care about the real issues. It reminds me of that classic obnoxious bomber phrase “muddle nu ziland”. Once you buy that lie, well, then politics is all just about convincing the idiot masses who can’t think for themselves, and of course it’s so unfair because National is just playing political games, and the whole media system is corrupt, and it’s not fair etc etc.

    Sooner or later people on the left are going to have to realize that there are large proportion of sensible, intelligent people who listen to what National says, considers their arguments, agrees with most (but not all) of what they say and then votes for them. Those voters are the SAME voters who once voted for Labour and now flock to the centre of the political spectrum. Stop arguing that they’re only voting National because they don’t understand the issues. Because that’s a shortcut most of the left take that absolves them from the responsibility of ACTUALLY HAVING TO TRY AND CONVINCE PREVIOUS NATIONAL VOTERS TO VOTE FOR THEM. Grrr.

    And I would add, very strongly, that if you think National’s ads don’t have logical integrity, or aren’t subject to rational analysis – what the bloody hell were Labour’s? Every single Labour ad I ever heard simplified the issues, used emotive language (“selling off the family silver”, “hard working kiwi families”), didn’t stand up to rational analysis (Kiwibuild, the new power policies), were often contradictory (e.g. Cunliffe and the living wage).

    In fact, I would argue that “They’re pitched at an emotive non-rational level for people who are half-listening while driving, or half-watching the news while they get the kids ready for bed. The logical integrity of the arguments don’t matter because they’re just delivery mechanisms for key phrases that by-pass logic and trigger emotional reactions to political events”. If you hadn’t told me that you were talking about National, I would assume you were discussing Labour’s advertising! Perhaps this is just how political advertising is?

    Comment by nightform — March 25, 2015 @ 10:05 am

  8. Once Peter Dunne retires, we can expect Ohariu to move to a relatively safe Nat seat. It’s a reasonable bet that most Dunne voters will just switch to the Nat candidate – at the last election, Dunne got 13,569 votes, Labour came in just under with 12,859, and the Nat candidate with 6,120 (the numbers for 2011 are similar). So when Dunne goes, expect Ohariu to just flip to blue.

    Comment by jackelder — March 25, 2015 @ 10:05 am

  9. Wow, it will come as a surprise to most people who work for National just how co-ordinated they are!

    Nice combination of hamfisted irony troll and missing the point there, Tinakori.
    The audience of political advertising is not people who work for National. It’s for everyone else and it’s undoubtedly successful. The results in fact, speak for themselves.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 25, 2015 @ 10:14 am

  10. There’s a difference between political advertising and political messaging. If Labour used National’s tactics over something like, say, David Cunliffe getting caught using secret trusts to fund his leadership campaign or David Shearer having his secret undeclared bank account, their response would have been to simply deny that there had been any secret trust or bank account, and insist that the accusations were smears and conspiracy theories. Labour – and the other parties – use emotive language and all the rest of the tricks, but National is pretty remarkable for its cheerful anti-realism. Key’s insistence that the IGS cleared him and his office of any wrongdoing, say. And I don’t think they’re counting on people being stupid, I think they’re counting on people being busy and unengaged, which is what most people who aren’t political tragics are.

    Comment by danylmc — March 25, 2015 @ 10:41 am

  11. But, like ads, National’s communications products are (a) data driven based on extensive research and (b) aren’t targeted at people who pay close attention and subject them to reasoned analysis. They’re pitched at an emotive non-rational level for people who are half-listening while driving, or half-watching the news while they get the kids ready for bed. The logical integrity of the arguments don’t matter because they’re just delivery mechanisms for key phrases that by-pass logic and trigger emotional reactions to political events.

    That sounds awfully like the “some people are just to dumb to be allowed to vote” argument that is sometimes brought forward on the right fringe.

    Truth is, most people don’t do an all-out, in-depth political analysis of all parties, policies and topics before they decide who they vote for. They may scratch the surface on a few topics that are dear to their heart, but most decision will be based on emotional stuff.

    I guess the key is how to bind your political message to such emotional triggers. National seems to master it better than Labour.

    But the real master of this art is Peters, who can contradict himself in a matter of minutes and still come out on top. I guess that is the reason why National are running scared, they are up against the Jedi Knight of irrational political platitudes.

    Comment by eszett — March 25, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  12. Yeah, Peters is basically the God of this kind of tactic. He makes even less sense than Key or English or Joyce, but its all delivered with a gravelly voice and flinty stare and total conviction.

    Comment by danylmc — March 25, 2015 @ 11:18 am

  13. “The audience of political advertising is not people who work for National.”

    And who would think that? The point I was making was that inside the National Government things are not as joined up and co-ordinated as Danyl assumes. In fact Labour in the Beehive under Helen Clark was always more centrally co-ordinated than National in Government. It’s a basic difference in culture between the two parties.

    Comment by Tinakori — March 25, 2015 @ 11:27 am

  14. *Gets completely side tracked by Stephen’s description of the works of da Vinci, Botticelli, and other great artists of the Renaissance as ‘unattractive’*

    Comment by helenalex — March 25, 2015 @ 11:48 am

  15. @nightform, have you ever actually talked with a National voter ? I have, many times. They typically a) don’t know anything about National policy, b) have only a vague idea what the government is up to c) don’t accept any data that does not conform to their world view d) minimise any negative about National that they do know about by saying “Labour are worse”, “They all do it” or other convenient platitudes.

    This is why National’s bullshit is so effective – it won’t be fact-check by their typical supporter, and serves to confirm their prejudices anyway.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — March 25, 2015 @ 11:51 am

  16. @Mikaere Curtis, have you ever talked to a Labour & Greens voter? They typically a) don’t know anything about Labour policy, b) have only a vague idea what their opposition government would actually change, c) don’t accept any data that does not conform to their world view d) minimise any negative about Labour & Greens that they do know about by saying “National are evil”, or other convenient platitudes. This is why Labour’s bullshit is so effective – it won’t be fact-check by their typical supporter, and serves to confirm their prejudices anyway.

    I’m not being silly here. It’s the National voters that I know who understand the impact of Labour’s power policy, or of Kiwibuild, or understand the benefits of the TPPA (rather than just pulling out an old Choamsky quote). Those people I know that are Labour / Greens supporters tend to have very little idea about actual policy, other than catchphrases.

    This does NOT mean that National is in right, or that Labour & Greens supporters are all (or even more) idiots than National supporters. But if you base your persepectives on the small group of people around you and what you feel the supporters are like, you’re not going to vote in the right direction. I may well vote Labour at the next election, despite a large number of Labours supporters I know being idiots.

    Comment by nightform — March 25, 2015 @ 12:35 pm

  17. the works of da Vinci, Botticelli, and other great artists of the Renaissance as ‘unattractive’
    Have you seen the statue of David? Tiny knob. No manscaping whatsoever. Totally unfuckable.

    Comment by Phil — March 25, 2015 @ 12:52 pm

  18. ” It’s the National voters that I know who understand the impact of Labour’s power policy”

    such as?

    yes, its a test

    I think we can all appreciate that theres a lot of cross over of such claims – but nat supporters have been swallowing some really obvious BS the last 6 years in a rather alarming fashion. – Even when the problem can be found by just comparing “what JK sair yesterday compared with today” and spotting that the two statements utterly contradict each other. (this happens quite a bit)

    Comment by framu — March 25, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

  19. @Tinakori – I had a long response penned but it got chewed up.

    In synopsis, I don’t think Danyl is assuming that the National Party machinery are joined up / co-ordinated at all.

    He makes an inference that a small group – presumably Curia, Joyce and the PMS Office – create the messaging.
    They appear to be very much joined up irrespective of what the rest of the apparatus is up to simply because the rest of the party machinery is irrelevant (apart from being a fundraising mechanism etc.)

    Comment by Gregor W — March 25, 2015 @ 1:07 pm

  20. And I don’t think they’re counting on people being stupid, I think they’re counting on people being busy and unengaged

    Exactly this. Uninformed is not “dumb”. I have no idea how my car or computer works, the mechanic/IT probably think I’m dumb.

    But I don’t think the left – or more exactly, the painfully old and creaky Labour caucus – have got to grips with changes in media coverage of politics. A few examples:

    – Politics sections disappeared from main pages of Stuff and Herald websites
    – Parliamentary reporting confined to the ghetto
    – Political “editors”, at least on TV, entirely unconcerned with policy issues
    – Parliament is sitting. There are questions in the House. The points of order will be loud and angry and utterly pointless. Zero mainstream coverage.

    Key will be at the World Cup final, which beats a hundred press releases by Andrew Little.

    You know what Little was asked about on the telly the other day? Leaflets. That’s what they devote their resources too. That’s the communication strategy. Who needs FM radio when you’ve got junk mail in the trash?

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — March 25, 2015 @ 1:39 pm

  21. ” Uninformed is not “dumb”.”

    exactly – most people – even the really smart ones – have busy lives

    Comment by framu — March 25, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

  22. This is not a conspiracy. They are the party of government – this happens.

    Any governing party is subject to the pull of conflicting political notions. This is precisely due to the fact that most people are uninvolved in politics, we see parliamentarians as merely another branch of government. Most people approach the government, regardless of which party is the government, with respect and courtesy in the hope that the government will be cooperative.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 25, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

  23. “He makes an inference that a small group – presumably Curia, Joyce and the PMS Office – create the messaging.”

    So, translating that into plainer language, the political leadership think hard about how they communicate and take advice on how that communication works and what might work in the future. Wow, who would have thought it?

    Comment by Tinakori — March 25, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

  24. Tinakori – Yes, if you cherry pick that statement sans context, that’s exactly what I meant to point out.
    Top marks for you.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 25, 2015 @ 5:21 pm

  25. Dunne famously swings both ways. He’s been a minister and/or in cabinet, apart from the odd hiccup, just about forever. The Kitterage leak can’t have helped his relationship with the PM, but it seems more likely he’s canny enough to see the wind shifting against National. Voting independently, eg nixing the RMA reforms which are, as he says, an attempt to prioritise ‘development’ over environment disguised with a light dressing of ‘the housing problem’ is just good strategy, softening us up to accept him as a minister in the next government.

    Comment by Robinson Stowell — March 27, 2015 @ 11:22 am

  26. “The logical integrity of the arguments don’t matter because they’re just delivery mechanisms for key phrases that by-pass logic and trigger emotional reactions to political events.”
    Wow, so you think people who vote for National are stupid? I’ve noticed that people who I consider to be a bit toward stupid on the scale, don’t bother voting.

    My gut tells me that, at the end of the day, many voters would ditch National if there was something better. And since, quite obviously, there isn’t, then we vote National to keep Greens/Labour out.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 30, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  27. >Wow, so you think people who vote for National are stupid?

    Not ALL of them. But the clever evil ones are already in the bag.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2015 @ 2:10 pm


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