Post Truth Politics works for National

New Zealand is a land of Bullies. While many New Zealanders are good caring people it is a bullying culture that leads and governs us. The evidence for this came out strongly in the recent Unicef report. We have the 2nd highest rate of bullying in schools out of 51 countries and if anyone disputes this they can try and explain why we have the highest levels of youth suicide in the world.

Bullying is a learned behaviour and the fact that it exists so strongly in our schools is just a reflection of what has been taught within the environment our children live in. National Standards in Education (narrowing teaching to literacy and numeracy), has stifled the teaching of a rich curriculum and reduced the importance of teaching values. Strict uniform rules and demanding compliance has also become increasingly important in some schools and civics education has a low priority. The focus has been on educating to be work ready rather than supporting our students to be fully active citizens in our society. The number of young people registering to vote is low.

Workers in the private sector have also been largely bullied into submission, few are union members (only 20% of workers are unionised) and pay increases have been minimal for some time, well below increases in productivity and housing costs. The living wage is also considered unaffordable by too many corporate employers and the use of migrants as slave labour is a growing problem.

Our ministries and government departments are also managed through autocratic regimes with complaints and whistle blowing actively discouraged.  The fact that a Ministry of Transport fraudster survived so long by bullying those beneath her is evidence of a pervasive problem. Paula Bennett is remembered for disclosing the private details of two beneficiaries to discredit their complaints and she recently suggested that not all people deserve basic human rights. Diplomats who questioned Murray McCully's structural changes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were targeted in a negative way as were school principals who questioned National Standards and the closing of Christchurch schools.

The National Party has bullying down to a fine art and, when its collective backs are against the wall and facing a possible loss, the lies and heavy bullying tactics come flowing out. Blatant scaremongering and lies are currently being stridently promoted by its MPs and candidates and National has also rallied its supporters within the business community, the media and farming sector to make a good deal of negative noise.

When Metiria Turei exposed the reality of living on a benefit since the huge cuts in the 90s she received overwhelming support from a growing demographic of poor New Zealanders. However, when the Green Party polled 15% it mobilised National's aligning forces. The right wing media quickly shifted Metiria's revelations into personal attacks and blew up her admitted behaviour into a major crime (conveniently ignoring far worse and more recent behaviours from many National Ministers). The media pressure and attacks on Metiria's family got too great for Metiria (and two other MPs) and the Green's poll support slumped.

When Jacinda Adern successfully took on the leadership of the Labour Party, it took a little while for National to work out an effective strategy to deal with her popular appeal. The personal attacks against Andrew Little ("Angry Andy") and a National supporter's dubious legal actions had been effective at keeping him out of the race, but Jacinda's already established popularity needed a different approach.

National obviously decided to attack Labours economic credibility to distract from Jacinda's appeal and shift the debate away from poverty and the real crises in housing, health and the environment. Steven Joyce came out with a wild lie that Labour had a $11.7 billion fiscal hole in their budget plan and despite independent economists not finding evidence to support it, neither Joyce nor English have backed down or apologised.

The lies have come thick and fast since and National have claimed that Labour are going introduce new taxes and the Labour and Greens water charges will cause farms to become unprofitable and cabbages will cost $18 each. The media also focused on the false tax issues National presented and Bill English has mastered the ability to lie with a straight face about his party's successes and economic credibility.

Paddy Gower was a key media voice in attacking Metiria and generally jumps on board many of National's wild claims. Being a central part of the mainstream media's political messaging he can have a huge influence on voter perceptions and it seems that he is beginning to develop a conscience. Gower did apologise to to the Greens for some of his false reporting and he is now calling National's strategy "Post Truth Politics" as the party surges ahead in the polls on the strength of their lies.

Gower's last minute attack of journalistic conscience is too little, too late. The mainstream media have been too soft on the lies and corruption that have been obvious for the last nine years and we needed greater scrutiny well before now. There is a reasonable chance that Trump like post truth politics could provide National with another term. If so, our children, our rivers and our climate will have to wait another long three years before their needs are properly addressed. We can't let that happen,



Unknown said…
Couldn't agree more about the bullying culture. Thanks for joining the dots between that and National's behavior
Unknown said…
Yes there is culture of bullying in our schools big time. It is not just the children bullying each other, it is the culture set in schools from the BOT, principals, middle-management and staff. Don't just say its the children because it is not.
bsprout said…
I agree, Kara, that was my point. Children learn bullying, or not to bully, from the society they live in. I spent many years in a membership support role in NZEI (NZ's largest education union) and a good deal of my time was supporting teachers who were being bullied by their senior managements or boards.

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