Friday, 13 March 2015

Not Understood.

Mixed Signals: The Prime Minister’s claim: “I don’t know what ‘mass collection’ even means”, when filtered through the ears of someone who agrees with Mr Key’s portrayal of Nicky Hager as “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist”, becomes: “These journalists think they know something about the ‘Five Eyes’ operation, but they don’t. All of this stuff about ‘mass collection’ is just rubbish. I don’t have to respond to the likes of Nicky Hager, Glen Greenwald or Edward Snowden – and neither do you.”

THE PRIME MINISTER doesn’t know what “mass collection” means. This is surprising – given that the Prime Minister has spoken English all his life. And since the phrase has been used repeatedly with reference to the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) acknowledged interception of individual and diplomatic metadata on an industrial scale, the Prime Minister’s professed ignorance is rather hard to accept.
 
What makes the Prime Minister’s unawareness even more puzzling is that he was the Minister in charge of the GCSB in 2009, when its facilities were, at the behest of and with considerable assistance from the US Government, being up-graded to “full-take” capability. It is inconceivable that the Prime Minister was not fully briefed on these expanded intelligence-gathering powers by the then Head of the GCSB, Sir Bruce Fergusson.
 
It is, accordingly, very difficult to believe that the Prime Minister does not know what “mass collection” entails. So, why claim ignorance? Perhaps it’s because “mass collection” sounds a little too much like “mass surveillance” – an activity which, if proven to have taken place, would require our Prime Minister, by his own solemn undertaking, to resign his office.
 
Certainly, the prospect of having to relinquish his office is a powerful motive for the Prime Minister to create as much confusion as possible around the activities of his security agencies. And if that is, indeed, the Prime Minister’s intention, then professing ignorance of what “mass collection” means is actually a very clever psychological gambit.
 
It’s roughly equivalent to a meteorologist claiming not to know what “rain” is. The statement is so preposterous that it leaves the questioner feeling utterly flummoxed. How can one have a sensible conversation about the weather with a weather expert who denies any knowledge of rain? Of course a meteorologist can be challenged. He can be ridiculed. He can even be branded an out-and-out liar. Meteorologists capacity for serious reprisal is limited.
 
Prime Ministers, on the other hand, have the power to make people’s lives extremely uncomfortable. Insulting a meteorologist is unlikely to prove a career-terminating act. But, publicly challenging and ridiculing the Prime Minister? Calling him a liar? That is not a course of action likely to recommend itself to any journalist who values the good opinion of his or her employer.
 
Publicly claiming not to know the meaning of “mass collection” delivers further benefits to Mr Key. Not only does it effectively shut down a potentially dangerous line of questioning, but it also suggests a potent line of defence to his political supporters.
 
The sub-textual message contained in the Prime Minister’s claim is one of impatience and denial. “I don’t know what ‘mass collection’ even means”, when filtered through the ears of someone who agrees with Mr Key’s portrayal of Nicky Hager as “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist”, becomes: “These journalists think they know something about the ‘Five Eyes’ operation, but they don’t. All of this stuff about ‘mass collection’ is just rubbish. I don’t have to respond to the likes of Nicky Hager, Glen Greenwald or Edward Snowden – and neither do you.”
 
This, too, is a tactic of considerable psychological subtlety. It builds on the silencing effect of the Prime Minister’s denial by simultaneously priming his followers to reject the evidence-derived premise of the original question.
 
All the revelations of Snowden, Greenwald and Hager: “Fallowhaunt”, “Darkquest”, “Legalreptile”, “Venusaffect”, “Xkeyscore”. The whole terrifying lexicon of the Five Eyes system of global mass surveillance is transformed from objective fact into mere subjective accusations. The sort of charges a large section of the community has been carefully schooled to reject as the work of “screaming left-wing conspiracy theorists”.
 
Of course the Prime Minister understands what “mass collection” means. Just as he is fully aware that all New Zealanders are, indeed, under surveillance by the Five Eyes panopticon. His brilliance as a politician (if “brilliance” is the right word for so sinister a talent) lies in the way he has transformed the Truths and Untruths of the controversy into brutal binary equations of partisan allegiance. To paraphrase President George W. Bush: “Every citizen now has a decision to make. Either you are with the Prime Minister, or you are with the “screaming left-wing conspiracy theorists”.
 
Whatever John Key may understand, or not understand, about “mass collection”, his mastery of the dark arts of “mass deception” is beyond dispute.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 13 March 2015.

32 comments:

Graham said...

Just a general comment Chris - I really enjoy listening to your commentary, mostly via radio. You have a great depth of knowledge and history. Your reasonableness provides me, and I'm sure others, with a great sense of balance across many issues. Keep up the good work!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it."
Terry Pratchett (RIP)

Relevant here, and to politicians in general.

pat said...

so true and amply demonstrates that people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear....but can not the weight of evidence surrounding John Keys dishonesty on so many important issues eventually cause consternation amongst his current supporters...at least to the degree that his support falls to a level that makes his re election unlikely.

Neil Miller said...

Bruce Ferguson, on Morning Report,repeatedly used the analogy of whitebaiting, to explain the mass date collection undertaken on behalf of the CIA by the GCSB.

If our PM can't understand his own ex spy masters' simile
then he has to choose between being seen as a liar or a fool.

Anonymous said...

Cut the crap. He's a liar

peterlepaysan said...

Key has always been a Crosby/ Textor puppet (and whoever is funding Crosby/Textor).

Davo Stevens said...

Deflect, deflect then bury. Standard reaction of a pollie!

Alma said...

If anyone's getting sick of Key's endless lies, there's a petition addressed to him asking him to get treatment for pathological lying:
https://www.change.org/p/the-right-honourable-john-key-prime-minister-of-new-zealand-get-treatment-for-compulsive-lying

Draco TB said...

THE ORWELLIAN RE-BRANDING OF “MASS SURVEILLANCE” AS MERELY “BULK COLLECTION”

It's being done on purpose around the world in an obviously coordinated attempt to lie to the populace.

Anonymous said...

In this country when Labour started the ball rolling and demolished the unions - they knowing - wrecked the workers potential to receive a decent minimum wage...unlike Australia where wages relate the fact that unions and employers coexist.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@18:35

The unions were broken in this country by the Employment Contracts Act 1991.

It was one of the very first pieces of legislation introduced by the Jim Bolger-led National Government - elected on 27th October 1990.

Labour is guilty of many sins - but smashing the trade unions is not one of them.

Davo Stevens said...

It was indeed the Bolger Gnats that smacked the Unions. The Architect of the ECA was none other than Billy Birch, the daddy of that useless Gas-to-Oil Taranaki plant that has been mothballed since it's inception.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

They keep saying that what they're doing is perfectly legal. That's what worries me.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

To be fair, the 1984 Labour government brought in the Labour relations act, the effective which was to radically weaken unions' bargaining power by allowing employers to sue for damages.
Didn't they also bugger the public sector unions? I can't be arsed checking at the moment so I'll come back to this :-).

Brewerstroupe said...

Mr Key knows exactly what "mass collection" means. It would have been explained in the briefing he must surely have received from his neo-con colleagues:

"Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism."
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/03/13/orwellian-re-branding-mass-surveillance-merely-bulk-collection/

Chris Trotter said...

Hmmm, GS, that's a pretty long bow your drawing there. The Labour Relations Act restored the unqualified preference clause and drew unions into larger and, allegedly, more powerful industry-based configurations.

Unfortunately, the new regime was never given the time to prove itself. Passed into law in 1987, it was swept away by the ECA in 1991.

Employers have always possessed the option of suing unions that breach the legislation of the day. It was a legal injunction that sparked what was arguably the greatest demonstration of union power in NZ history, the strikes and protests that followed the arrest of Bill Andersen in 1974.

After that demonstration, most employers tended to err on the side of caution. Until, that is, the Nats placed all the power in their hands.

What is true is that Labour, in the years after 1991, never once promised to restore to workers the power that was taken from them by a combination of legislative fiat and the CTU National Council's betrayal.

So, maybe not such a long bow after all ;-)

charles e said...

This stuff is old hat. Yawn!!
Years ago (10?) I read in the Economist that the NSA hoovers up everything it can from many sources, not just 5 eyes and runs it through a computer that sifts it. So if certain words and phrases like 'let's bomb xyz's house' match with certain names and in certain patterns etc etc they get tagged & put aside automatically. Then on Monday morning some pale faced geek somewhere has a look at it and rates it as worth further attention or not, and so on.
That is of course a type of mass surveillance and only dummies would be surprised by it and only people trying to score political points would pretend to be alarmed & outraged by it. It was surely working flat out under Helen.
Clearly from what JK and others have told us obliquely, the 5 eyes make sure they do not sift their own countries' data so their leaders can assure their people 'We do not perform mass surveillance on NZers'. The Aussies probably do ours and vice versa.
No lies being told as far as I can see. So Hager once again is way more noise than signal. All mouth and no trousers. A hollow man.
Funny how his last two books describe him better than his targets.

Davo Stevens said...

"What is true is that Labour, in the years after 1991, never once promised to restore to workers the power that was taken from them by a combination of legislative fiat and the CTU National Council's betrayal."

Yes Chris. Helen had ample opportunity to fix it yet never did (Gnatlite) and will Little Andy do it? Time will tell.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I once did an undergraduate essay about the "3rd way", which of course I now cannot find. But I do remember cheekily ringing up SSC(as I was old and didn't give a stuff who I bothered) and interviewing someone reasonably important there, who expressed surprise at how easily the state unions rolled over.
Good point about the failure to repeal the 1991 act though. As with most "labour" policy of Labour governments they have just tinkered round the edges of what National did. At least the 1987 act was an attempt to find a way between the demands of the nutballs on the employer's side and the unions. Unfortunately some unions had done some really stupid things and offended a lot of people. I suspect that's one of the reasons why there wasn't a great deal of sympathy for unions in 1991. Mind you this was never really tested by a general strike which should have happened. Unions let their workers down really badly there. I did hear that it was into union politics that fucked it, but I don't know. But the government should have been tested a little bit more than it was.
And of course there were numerous highly skilled people in areas of shortage who quite cannily realised that they would do quite well out of a free for all bargaining system.
You know what, no matter what happens no one is going to reintroduce compulsory unionism – more's the pity, so basically we're fucked. :-)

Chris Trotter said...

Yes, Charles, and the Economist was almost certainly drawing on the research of Nicky Hager, whose book "Secret Power" exposed the workings of the NSA's Echelon System to the world.

That was why he was called to give evidence before the European Parliament - which had been entirely unaware of what the USA and the UK were up to until Nicky's book was published.

Your hatred of Nicky, and your utter ignorance of what he has done over the years, reveal you to be a foolish and generally unpleasant human-being with a wildly exaggerated view of your own intellectual and moral competence.

Unless you have more to offer Bowalley Road's readers than ill-informed and snide commentary, I suggest you go elsewhere.

Pasquino said...

Dear Chris,

You just don't understand! The GCSB is only interested in Bad People. Why would they waste their time and resources listening in on the communications of Good People?

Get real, that would be far too taxing, especially for any member of the [once] Civil Service who simply has no energy or motivation left to worry about what Good People are up to, after going to weekly courses on giving PC answers to people you don't want to know the truth.

So if you are a Good Person, you have nothing to worry about. Now the corollary of this is that if you are worrying about these matters, you are probably a Bad Person: the Devil, you know, finds work for idle speculators.

So how do they find out about Bad People? Well, it's incredibly simply really. Spies are often from a Roman Catholic, or some other black and white religious background; so they start with The Devil. No one would ever disagree that the Devil is a Bad Person. Then they look at the world to find others with Similar Traits. Clearly, for example, Mr Harger is a Bit of a Devil, so he's in the Bad People's camp automatically. And so, by simple association, from the Devil to Harger, one moves on to include all Harger's friends and associates. Remember in a witch hunt anyone who has touched the witch is automatically regarded as bewitched!

Now your might say, as everyone knows everyone in New Zealand, this guilt-by-association lark would soon pull in everyone. But this would never do! The GCSB's answer to this lies in Parkinson's Law which states “that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The aim is to be seen to be busy, not to get on top of the job. So if each GCSB busybody can handle say 25 files at a time and he needs to keep his in-tray overflowing to make it look like he is overworked and underpaid (Rule No. 1 of the Civil Service), and he spends only 3.5 days working, the other 1.5 days being absorbed by special courses on learning to communicate in Double-talk Key Phrases, there is a very finite limit to what he can contemplate, let alone spy on. Multiply this figure by the very finite number of GCSB busybodies actually at work on any given day and you will see mass surveillance is just not possible.

Now I know you will say that they collect everything and put it up in the NSA cloud, so they can comb through it later. But that's the very nub of the argument. Key's Law states: “All things cease to exist once He no longer looks at them.” In short, you cannot know about what you have not, cannot, or will not see! So you see the data of the supposed “mass collection” Key speaks of simply does not exist in anyone's mind - until they look at it all. And as no one can look at all of it, it does not exist en masse at all.

Key's Law actually has three parts,
1. Things do not exist if you to not consciously look at, or consider, them,
2. As you can only say one thing at a time, no statement can be said to be contradictory or untrue, because one cannot think or talk about two things at once and thus have something in mind to contradict.
3. Different things said on different occasions are totally true to the reality of their moments of existence and cannot be compared to anything said on any other occasion which will have a totally different moment of existence or 'truth'.

As Lewis Carroll put it so aptly,

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

Pasquino

Anonymous said...

"In this country when Labour started the ball rolling and demolished the unions - they knowing - wrecked the workers potential to receive a decent minimum wage...unlike Australia where wages relate the fact that unions and employers coexist"

The notion New Zealand has a "low minimum wage" is a falsehood that does not come true through the retelling.

New Zealand has a medium income economy that is about 40-somethingeth in the world in terms of material standard of living. If our minimum wage was in line with economic performance it would be significantly lower than what it is.

The reason people cannot live on our minimum wage is because the cost of living is so high. The major cause of the high cost of living is because house and property prices are so high. Not only does that mean dwelling rents are often double what they should be but retail prices are jacked up and otherwise productive businesses that cannot afford premises costs must shutter, driving incomes down further.

The kind of minimum wage being advocated from some quarters as a "living wage" could see New Zealand have the highest minimum wage in the entire world!

Yet this obsession with increasing the minimum wage remains. If only that passion went into doing something about the housing crisis. But in this housing bubble environment it is unlikely minimum wage increases would have the anticipated effect: rents haven't gone up as fast as house prices because people materially can't afford higher rents, so not only would a minimum wage increase make thousands of the most vulnerable lose their jobs but the wage increase would be vacuumed up by rent increases from the landlords who live off the backs of the poorest!

In North America you can buy a spacious three storey mansion with swimming pool, air conditioning and an acre of forest for NZ$500,000. That is what happens in an environment where people don't view property as the only investment option.

But so long as people think landlording off each other, flipping houses and an infrastructure-stretching, neoliberalist immigration ponzi scheme are the way to manage our finances, our standard of living and economy will continue to be crushed.

Brewerstroupe said...

"Everyone is guilty of something. Who thinks he is innocent, just doesn't know what he is guilty of yet." - Erich Mielke, Stasi chief.

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." - Cardinal Richelieu.

Those who, for reasons that (to me at least) defy evidence and reason, accept our Prime Minister's "trust me" stance should bear in mind that there will one day be a party in power that they do not similarly trust - the powers will remain.

Anyone who has ever used the term "Helengrad" should be the first to protest these outrages.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

FFS – there are people out there who don't have a house, have never bought a house, and don't stand any sort of show of buying a house. They can't even afford to save for a house. So the price of houses for them is totally irrelevant to whether they can survive on the minimum wage.
Having said that, the price of houses in this country is a fucking disgrace. Says someone whose wife wants to move :-).
And on the matter of mass surveillance, most of us were ignorant of exactly what was going on – that is the hoovering up of just about everything - and ignorant of the fact that it was being sent to the USA. We thought that however clumsily – remember the guy who found an agent in his house? – they were spying on people they thought deserved it. Even though most of THOSE were in no way a risk to the security of the country.
Even with all the hoovering they have done a piss poor job of spying. They certainly missed all those Fijian coups :-). And if that 1080 guy is a terrorist they should have been on to him like a terrier on a rat. But he seems pretty safe at the moment as well. So personally I think get rid of a lot of them. I'm sure their friends in the National party will find them all jobs.

Brewerstroupe said...

Australia ordered to cease spying on East Timor by International Court of Justice

The court also ruled that the Australian government must seal documents and data seized in an ASIO raid in December. The ICJ is the United Nations' top court, and its decisions are binding on members.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-ordered-to-cease-spying-on-east-timor-by-international-court-of-justice-20140303-hvfya.html

manfred said...

nonymous @ 16 March 2015 at 05:47 is so right.

Personally I'd like to see higher wages but I think that would only come through a State-led economic diversification programme.

But I share Anonymous's worries about bleeding small businesses with higher wages.

The absolute best thing a government could do for workers and the poor is to crack down on all the causes of skyrocketing house prices.

That would give workers, in many cases, an extra 200-400 dollars a week in their pocket.

But Key doesn't want to do that because the swing voting middle NZers are still investing their money into housing. And they want it to continue to be a sure investment.

We could be investing in our industries and small businesses.

The things I've just mentioned are such basic common sense only a politician could fail to recognise them. If implemented, such policies I have described would greatly strengthen economic stability and growth.

Anonymous said...

"So the price of houses for them is totally irrelevant to whether they can survive on the minimum wage."

The price of housing has a huge impact on people who rent as high house prices inflate both commercial and residential rents. High commercial rents are paid for by the public in higher retail prices. They also send productive businesses broke or deprive them of access to investment credit.

"But Key doesn't want to do that because the swing voting middle NZers are still investing their money into housing. And they want it to continue to be a sure investment."

That was the reason why the Clark government allowed the housing crisis to develop but I think the National government's reasons have been more mundane. Most National MPs are property investors and would be angry at Key if he moved to lower prices. The Herald reported several Labour and half the National MPs were using MPs' accommodation benefits to pay rent for houses their trusts owned. That is the kind of rule rort that could result in prosecution in countries with better legal structures. The New Zealand government has proven to be exceptionally slow in establishing rules and institutions to tackle corruption.

"The absolute best thing a government could do for workers and the poor is to crack down on all the causes of skyrocketing house prices."

Yes but I don't think they have much understanding of the economic effects of high house prices and I don't think many really care. Some Green MPs don't appear to know anything about economics while Labour continues to go on about the minimum wage and last election came up with a vague fantasy solution of borrowing billions to build houses at suspiciously low prices on some very cheap land, somewhere, that would house a small proportion of the excessive immigration level.

New Zealand is chronically misgoverned and still following the same slow path of decline trod by Argentina.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The price of housing has a huge impact on people who rent as high house prices inflate both commercial and residential rents."

The people I'm talking about can't afford to rent in the private sector for Christ's sake. They are usually in state houses, or in that weird form of subsidised private rental that the government is now pushing instead of doing what it should do building more state houses.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The GCSB may only be interested in bad people – but it doesn't cost them anything to hoover up the whole mess of communications from every innocent person in the country. What they can't do quite yet is filter out the good from the bad. And who among us hasn't occasionally done something we wouldn't want bruited about?

Anonymous said...

"The people I'm talking about can't afford to rent in the private sector for Christ's sake."

As I have tried to say, even if a person has ZERO housing costs the housing crisis still personally costs them because commercial and retail sites also pay accommodation costs for their premises. When Mr Minimum Wage buys turnips and aspirin the elevated costs paid by the supermarket and pharmacy for their site are built into their retail price. A housing crisis affects and degrades almost everything in an economy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I somehow think that the "elevated costs" supermarkets pay for their sites are amortised over a long period of time. So I suspect that the price of turnips doesn't go up a heap. However I'm open to convincing.

Charles E said...

Talk about snide and ill informed comments! You are as good at it as anyone.
Your comments in defence of your friend disclose your nasty side too, but that is your prerogative as it's your blog.

The regulars you allow constantly show more bile than I can muster so you can ban comment you passionately don't agree with but what would be left?

I do not believe Hager led this area of knowledge and was plagiarised by The Economist.
It's as old as the hills and predated him and the internet. Computers predated him too.