Thursday, 11 February 2016

Here Be Dragons: The Ika Seafood Bar & Grill’s First “Table Talk” Looks At The Year Ahead - Through Right-Wing Eyes.

"Have a care when fighting dragons, lest ye become a dragon yourself." Nietzsche's famous aphorism remains as confronting as ever. To beat the likes of the Right's Matthew Hooton, should the Left attempt to match their Machiavellian amorality? Or, should it simply decide not to invite them onto "Table Talk" panels?
 
I LEFT the first Ika “Table Talk” for 2016 feeling very down – and I know I wasn’t the only one. The panel discussion, on “The Year Ahead”, could have been an enlivening rehearsal of the challenges facing the New Zealand Left in 2016 – but it wasn’t. Instead Ika’s patrons endured an hour-long demonstration of the Right’s remarkable skill at kicking the Left’s ass.
 
Moderated by broadcaster Lisa Owen (of TV3’s The Nation) the panel was made up of the ubiquitous far-right political commentator, Matthew Hooton (proprietor of Exeltium Public Relations) arbiter of all-things-Auckland, Simon Wilson (Editor at Large of Metro Magazine) and Maori educationalist, Dr Ella Henry (AUT Faculty of Maori Development).
 
Dr Henry adopted a position of wry detachment from her “bourgeois” audience of mostly inner-city leftists. Her comments throughout the evening suggested that she regards "Table Talk" as little more than an additional course which Laila Harré has tacked on to Ika’s menu. A heaped ideological platter in which, this time, the sour easily overpowered the sweet.
 
Only once did she cut through the relentless conservative discourse of her fellow panellists and that was in relation to the forthcoming local government elections. Her uncompromising description of the world inhabited by West and South Aucklanders: Maori, Pasifika and immigrant; was as compelling as it was unsparing. Intruding, as it did, a jarring note of brutal social reality to the proceedings, Dr Henry’s intervention was easily the most uplifting of the night.
 
There was a period in Simon Wilson’s life when he mixed almost exclusively with the sort of people who attend the Ika Seafood Bar & Grill’s events. As the Editor of the Victoria University Students Association’s newspaper, Salient, and later, as the Maoist President of NZUSA, Wilson’s youth was an emphatically left-wing affair. The journey he has undertaken since then, from the Left to the Right, has been a slow one. The Maoism he ditched early in favour of the well-mannered leftism of the Wellington liberal intelligentsia. It was only when he bade farewell to Wellington, and Consumer magazine, to take up the editorship of the yuppie gourmand’s glossy guidebook, Cuisine, that the shift to the Right began in earnest.
 
Wilson has a newshound’s nose for a shift in the political winds. As a Metro writer, he’d correctly predicted John Key’s comprehensive electoral victory in 2008, and two years later used his new position as Metro’s Editor to deftly reposition the magazine as the voice of the socially liberal, economically conservative and aggressively acquisitive Auckland middle-class. Nowhere was this repositioning more in evidence than in his choice for Metro’s political columnist. Where the magazine’s founder, Warwick Roger, had turned to New Zealand’s best left-wing journalist, Bruce Jesson, for political commentary, Wilson’s choice was the National Party’s leading ideological skirmisher, Matthew Hooton.
 
Those skirmishing skills were displayed to considerable effect from the get-go on Tuesday night (9/2/16) when Hooton accused the writer of seeing the 4 February anti-TPPA demonstrations as “the beginning of a revolution”. It is precisely this acidic mixture of smile and sneer that makes Hooton such a formidable opponent. That, and his ability to master a complex political brief very quickly and then fashion it into a political argument that is at once simple and subtle. Hooton, when he’s in control of himself, is both a superb manipulator of the truth and a master at identifying his opponents’ weak spots.
 
Out of control, Hooton can be rabid. One of the reasons the numbers were down for Ika’s first Table Talk for 2016 was that many people simply refused to be in the same room as the man who has constantly and viciously impugned the integrity of Professor Jane Kelsey. This penchant for abusing progressive New Zealanders publicly has turned Hooton into something of a hate figure, and it seriously undermines his political credibility. If he ever learns to control it, he will instantly become an even more deadly opponent of the Left.
 
As it was, the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine of Wilson and Hooton was deflating enough. Between them they succeeded in making their left-wing audience wince, sigh, squirm and shake their heads in disbelief. A different set of panellists may have blunted some of the worst thrusts from Hooton, but the one we “bourgeois” leftists had to endure on Tuesday night left Lockwood Smith’s political adviser; the man who makes RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan sound like a moderate; in undisputed possession of the field.
 
Now the more hard-headed leftists amongst us would no doubt say that Tuesday’s Table Talk was an important wake-up call for the Left. Unused to the punishing performance that Hooton excels at delivering, an hour-long pistol-whipping at his hands might be exactly what the Left needed if it is to muscle-up and become politically competitive.
 
But if the only way to defeat a dragon is to become a dragon oneself, then what’s the point? What distinguishes the Left from the Right is its belief that the world should be – and can be made – a better place. Against all the contrary evidence that the cynics and trimmers delight in throwing in their path, the world’s progressives must somehow continue to muster the faith, hope and love to continue fighting. That’s why Laila Harré’s gatherings at the Ika Seafood Bar & Grill are so valuable. They provide an opportunity for the beleaguered Auckland Left to recommit itself to a more just and equal future. The cause that Simon Wilson long ago abandoned, and Matthew Hooton openly despises.
 
So, Laila, please. No more dragons!
 
This essay was posted on The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road on Thursday, 11 February 2016.

43 comments:

Mark Hubbard said...

Re your:

'What distinguishes the Left from the Right is its belief that the world should be – and can be made – a better place. Against all the contrary evidence that the cynics and trimmers delight in throwing in their path, the world’s progressives must somehow continue to muster the faith, hope and love to continue fighting.'

Perhaps you're deceiving yourself Chris? That progressive tribe you speak so endearingly of run a null minded identity politick that despises you as much as myself - have you ever read Twitter. We're both old white dudes. Read the progressive partisans like Tiso and co on yourself: the society they lead, like so many collectivist societies in history, from communist to fascist, will always end flowing with blood, figurative and often literally.

To some of us both the Left and Right are a barbaric dead-end in history that put the state over the individual.

Individuals like myself are outside of that spectrum and just want a society where Left/Right drones can have no influence in our lives via the mechanism of a rampant state both ideologies worship. Just as morality can't be legislated by majority vote - eg, of course there should be euthanasia law; of course cannabis should be legalised - so I don't want my life to be. As much as I can I ignore this dichotomy now, as I try to much of the laws upon laws upon laws spewed from the Fortress of Legislation made to bind me.

You are no way forward.

Hooton is no way forward.

And the drones certainly aren't. Anymore than the codgerati in Wellington.

Brendon Harre said...

Mathew Hooten epitomises the self-entitled, moral-less, use any argument to win, crony capitalism that the right under John Key has become.

peter petterson said...

Forget the baloney. I went from right to left - stopping at social democracy.

jh said...

What distinguishes the Left from the Right is its belief that the world should be – and can be made – a better place
..........
That is why Trump is doing well. The left has banned "othering". One wonders if it is so maladaptive why we do it?
Hooten and Co know the left's weakness. Why do Hooten, Farrah and Slater support immigration and a larger population when there is such a large body of evidence against it's presumed benefits? The reason is their masters are the greedy realestate rat-bags.

Ella Henry said...

Insightful, though I am sorry my 'wry detachment' was unpalatable

Anonymous said...

Chris, a interesting read, it would have been good to know if anyone from Labour or the Greens had been invited?.
This particular 'Table Talk' says a lot about Mathew Hootons character like him or not.
I appreciate the sincerity of the left in their opposition to TPPA but for the life of me I cannot see effective and broad based opposition growing and building whilst the so called 'bob each-way' policy of Labour, (Greens?), continues.
I know commentators on this blog give some defence for Labours policy, but for myself I find "against but will retain" dishonest.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Individuals like myself are outside of that spectrum and just want a society where Left/Right drones can have no influence in our lives via the mechanism of a rampant state both ideologies worship. "
On the contrary, libertarians are definitely part of that spectrum. I generally think of them as the nutty small government conservatives. It's a pity though that the most prosperous and egalitarian periods of Western societies tend to have coincided with periods of "big" government. Not so good for women or minorities I guess, but that's where the American middle class came from. And under a smaller, less involved government it's disappearing.
I'm sorry Mark I still can't get over the whole idea that you libertarians feel that 19th century America was a paradise of small government and prosperity. I don't even bother arguing anymore, because science has shown that actual evidence to the contrary only makes true believers more steadfast in their belief :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm not surprised that people don't like to be in the same room as Hooton. I find it difficult to listen to him on the radio. His voice is the epitome of – I was going to say patronisation, but that's a terrible word – let's just say condescension.

weka said...

So why did they choose Hooton and Wilson?

My objection to Hooton isn't so much that he's right wing, it's his involvement in Dirty Politics. That alone should mean he is no longer even considered for such events. He shouldn't be a political commentator on Nine to Noon for the same reason.

Andrew Nichols said...

I went from the Right in the 70s and 80s to Christian and Green/left.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I must confess, I don't listen to her anymore very much – but I still wouldn't mind if somebody could give me some examples of Kathryn Ryan being right-wing. Something other than "when it's obvious if you listen." :)

Mark Hubbard said...

Goodness me. For Guerilla Surgeon there is no such thing as 'we libertarians'.

Our only common philosophical base is the non-initiation of force principle, and then, for me, individualism (but that's not a commonality as there are contradiction Left libertarians like Bryce Edwards.)

And as for thinking me a conservative, if he clicks on my bio and browses my blog he'll see I'm more of a social liberal than any Progressive I know (who in NZ are pretty conservative).

But then Left and Right have closed their minds off from my point of view, the ultimate arrogance, and want no debate with us.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any objection to Hooton being at such events as Chris is right, the left needs the practise. By sounds of it, the problem really was the lack of a motivated opposition that night, or even, the lack of some opponents who even if outclassed, were banking the lessons. I mightn't like Hooton's methods but he is good at what he does and I agree that even in quite generic terms beyond specific policies, the Left needs to get better at politics - not even dirtier or anything like that - just being smarter, clearer about its arguments and how they play out, would go a long way for a start (think of Little's approach over TPPA).

certus said...

"So, Laila, please. No more dragons!"
Our echo chamber is just fine the way it is.

Geoff B said...

Ella,... wry detachment sounds appropriate to me ;-) !

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you Chris but Simon Wilson was always faux left - even at Onslow College = and merely cultivated left values (just like a certain mannerism that now afflicts him) thinking they were held by a nicer bunch of people. I find his ilk more dangerous than the likes of Hooton. (I'm posting as anonymous out of respect for mutual aquaintances)

Anonymous said...

Chris: "What distinguishes the Left from the Right is its belief that the world should be – and can be made – a better place."

This is where you and most others on the Left, go wrong.

Those of us in the centre and centre-right (there is no right wing in NZ) want exactly the same thing as you.

The key difference between us, is in the methods we wish to employ. We think your left wing methods are outmoded and ultimately do more damage than good.

We believe that hard work and self discipline are preferable to cradle-to-grave welfare handouts.

We believe that private ownership makes for better stewardship than state ownership or tribal ownership. We believe in the right of individuals to contract their labour in a free market rather than a union controlling the workplace.

We believe people have a right to retain most of the money they have earned rather than having it stolen off them and mishandled by government.

We believe free trade is ultimately good for all because it keeps us competitive.

We believe Maori are just as smart and capable as anyone else and so pandering to outmoded tribal entities demeans Maori, as does welfare. As a result we think it is the left that are really the racists.

Andrew

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Mark – many conservatives today are socially liberal. Otherwise we wouldn't have had the social advances of the last 30 or 40 years such as gay marriage. I can't help thinking your argument must be some weird variation of the "no true Scotsman" defence :-). I mean, libertarians do claim to be individualistic, but still have organisations, websites, networks and so on. So I do tend to lump you under a broad definition – sorry.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


"The key difference between us, is in the methods we wish to employ. We think your left wing methods are outmoded and ultimately do more damage than good."

That's funny, we think your 18th-century methods are outmoded as well. And if they're so brilliant, why is the middle class being hollowed out all over the developed world. At least in those countries that have adopted the neoliberal system. And why was the best most prosperous time for the middle-class a time of Keynesian economics?

Jigsaw said...

Well said Anomymous@ 5:48! The pomposity and instinctive seeking for some illusionary moral high ground become extremely boring in Trotter's hands. Others tell untruths and use tricks
but not the left apparently. How the left can hold the idea of equality and the racial superiority that Maori want at the same time has always been a puzzle. They despise the sort of class system of Downtown Abby but are happy to prop up a Maori class system and racial separation that is just as bad. One that is not a tale from the past but a reality that is getting worse. Notice how Trotter ignores this aspect of the current New Zealand political scene. I doubt he will even mention the ghastly things that are coming in the RMA and the iwi water developments.

A O said...

Andrew: "This is where you and most others on the Left, go wrong.

Those of us in the centre and centre-right (there is no right wing in NZ) want exactly the same thing as you."

No, the key difference between the left and the right is that the left want a better world for everybody while the right only want a better world for themselves. This why the things we do differ as much as they do.

Max Ritchie said...

No, AO, the difference is that the Left believe that if A is doing better than B then it must be because A is taking from B. The right believe, inter alia, that A does better because s/he worked or works harder and creates more wealth - it isn't the Left's zero sum game. And among the alia is a belief in hand up rather than hand out. Many on the right are not selfish, just as there are those on the Left who are.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"How the left can hold the idea of equality and the racial superiority that Maori want at the same time has always been a puzzle. "

That's because we don't. Giving Maori some say in what goes on in this country, as they thought they were going to get in the Treaty doesn't imply any racial superiority. As I have said before, Conservatives did not give a shit about official discrimination against Maori which lasted into the 1980s – or unofficial which has lasted much longer. But all of a sudden when Maori seem to be getting something it's racism and separation and all the rest of it.
Pomposity and instinctive seeking for some illusionary moral high ground I will leave for Chris to comment on. Personally I see most of that on the right.

Charles E said...


'What distinguishes the Left from the Right is its belief that the world should be – and can be made – a better place. Against all the contrary evidence that the cynics and trimmers delight in throwing in their path, the world’s progressives must somehow continue to muster the faith, hope and love to continue fighting.'

Chris this is plain wrong and always has been in my view, which is perhaps part of why the left has failed to gain and hold power as much as the right.
Most people, left or right believe exactly that statement and they are of course supported by the evidence that indeed the world can be, has been and still is being made better. The latter claim is disputed by the left currently I accept, but I believe it, in the Pinker sense of his great work 'The Better Angels of our Nature'.
The term 'progressive' I know is a label, but it ill describes the left today I think. Key & team are progressive in my view whereas the left of Labour are regressive. Merkel is progressive yet of the right. Whereas Corbyn and the like seem ultra regressive, even arch conservative I reckon.
Perhaps on this score the left and right are changing places. I feel the left wants to go back 35 years to 're-set' and restrict current freedoms, increase the power of the state, and impose 're-education' on all manner of subjects. Progressive? Nah. Whereas nowadays we have thriving societies with such diverse, and individualistic views, tolerating their differences. That's highly progressive, and better than the entire past.

Jigsaw said...

Maori have the same say on what goes on in this country as anyone else-a little more if you count the Maori electorates which have smaller numbers than ordinary electorates.
Once again you use past injustices-real or imagined as a reason for the loss of democracy RIGHT NOW when appointed and unelected Maori are given governance roles in local councils. You can't or more likely are unable to justify such an onslaught on democracy. Trotter does not comment.
Labour has shown itself to be as committed to this injustice as the National Party currently is and you just demonstrate once again that it is possible and indeed appears easy for the left to have these two quite contradictory ideas in mind at the same time.
Whenever and wherever the voters have been given the choice about co-governance or what the left have laughingly called 'enhanced democracy' they have rejected it -usually by a ratio of at least 4 to 1 - and correctly.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Max – You have some evidence for this bullshit? People do better usually because of luck. Actual scientific research has shown this. You only have to look at Bill Gates. A crappy product, just happen to be in the right place at the right time, he chose rich parents, who indulged his wish to work with computers. Donald Trump. Use bankruptcy as a business strategy. Got a million dollars from his father to start a business. A father who incidentally made most of his money off gummint subsidies. Working hard doesn't guarantee anything. As Jim Anderton said once – about the only thing of sense Jim Anderton did say in a long spell – "my cleaning lady works hard."

greywarbler said...

Max
What a load of cobblers. Did you learn that at your Daddy's knee, that theory certainly has a stale and musty air about it.

You can see your prejudiced attitudes in practice in the racism of police racial profiling. If they see B of a different skin colour with something expensive, they assume it has been thieved from A. They don't have in their mindset that B has worked for it, earned it, and that there is enough money for Bs and As to both choose and have the same expensive machinery. In a society that doesn't hold all its opportunities for As in glass sided warehouses from which Bs are excluded, Bs having discretionary income would be the normal situation.

A O said...

@ Max: No, AO, the difference is that the Left believe that if A is doing better than B then it must be because A is taking from B."


This is your difference but it barely touches on mine. To use my difference on yours, the Left would try and help B to do better like A. In short, the more that are doing well the better. The Right, well, they’re not interested in seeing things this way.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I feel the left wants to go back 35 years to 're-set' and restrict current freedoms, increase the power of the state, and impose 're-education' on all manner of subjects. "
As opposed to the right, who want to go back 150 years to a period of unregulated capitalism? At least that's the myth. As I among others have said, there is no such thing as a free market, there is just a market that is organised to suit certain groups in society.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Once again you use past injustices-real or imagined as a reason for the loss of democracy RIGHT NOW when appointed and unelected Maori are given governance roles in local councils. You can't or more likely are unable to justify such an onslaught on democracy. "
Perhaps you'd like to define democracy. Because I don't regard it as an onslaught on democracy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh, and perhaps jigsaw you'd like to explain what you would do about the "real" grievances. I guess we should be thankful that you admit that there are some real grievances.

Max Ritchie said...

@Greywarbler My "Daddy"joined the Fabians in 1928 and my first campaign for the Labour Party was in 1949. Have you heard of Les Ritchie House? I think we we were talking about effort rather than police discrimination. The theory is based on study and experience, quite a lot of both actually. As I said, there's human frailty on both sides of this debate. But why do you people resort to abuse? Cobblers? Bullshit? How about a civilised debate, or is that beyond you?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Max. Calling your ideas bullshit is not abuse, though it might be blunt speech. Feel free to call my ideas bullshit as long as you provide evidence to back up your judgement. Still waiting for the evidence to back up your opinion. There's plenty of research that shows that all things being equal luck is the major determining factor of success, and sometimes the only factor.

As Michael Lewis once said to some Princeton graduates "You are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier."

Max Ritchie said...

Stephann Makri and the Hiscox research? Luck perhaps 15 percent, hard work somewhat more and seizing the opportunity and vision for the rest? And ask your builder and your plumber what s/he thinks. I don't think Bill Gates or Donald Trump support an argument one way or the other. But if you define luck as having good parents, then sure, that's a key factor. My old man was a freezing worker who left school when his father died in the flu epidemic but he made sure his children went to school and acquired employment skills. Is that luck?

Anonymous said...

An interesting discussion! Some points arising mainly for Guerilla [sic] Surgeon:

The Right don't want to go back a 150 years because those days were beset with arbitrary and high duties on trade which limited growth and kept poor people poor.

There is indeed a fair bit of luck in life when it comes to the super-successful. I agree with you regarding Gates, Buffet and others. They were definitely in the right place at the right time. If you're interested in this topic read 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. Having read that try 'The Millionaire Next Door' by Stanley and Danko. This second book describes how the average millionaire in the USA is likely a technical professional or small business owner who started with nothing, has worked damned hard and spent wisely to get ahead. The thing that really stinks with the Left is that they begrudge these typical, hard working success stories and falsely believe they have somehow stolen it from the poor. It's not a zero sum game.

A point was raised about the 'hollowing out' of the middle class. Maybe not the topic of Chris's post but it is very important nevertheless. There is an historic inevitability in this, regardless of Left or Right policies. When China opened up it increased the global labour pool by 50%, undermining the leverage of organised labour globally. Add to this the effects of automation and the internet eliminating millions of jobs firstly in the working class and later in the middle class. There's nothing any of us can do to resist this tide - it's going to happen regardless of what you or I do. The positive aspect is that we have halved the number of desperately people in the world in the last decade. It's going to force change on us all: Adapt or die.

Andrew

Bushbaptist said...

Interesting points Andrew Amony mouse.

Most minimum wage jobs are menial and mind-numbing. It is trite to say that technology will replace them but if that is the case they would be replaced by machines by now. If the Warehouse replaced all those minimum wage jobs with an automat, they would have done so.

In the past when there was a major shift in the workplace the workers moved over to the new technology but that isn't the case now. What we have now is more workers than we have jobs and beating up the un-employed is not going to make any difference. How can we force people into jobs that don't exist? So what do we do with all the un-employed? In Victorian England times they were shipped out to the colonies, either freely or in chains -- problem solved! Can't do that today.

An indication of life on the minimum wage in the UK:
The False Narrative of the Working Poor.....

https://youtu.be/VXQ8Wdhucdw

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"My old man was a freezing worker who left school when his father died in the flu epidemic but he made sure his children went to school and acquired employment skills. Is that luck?"
Yes.(So was mine well – not a freezing worker at a factory worker.) And that is the greatest luck of all. I work with kids who don't have this luck. There is a marked difference between them and us.
Successful people of course always deny that luck plays a part. It would of course diminish their self-image. But as I said, there is academic research on this.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Sorry, hit the post button to soon should have finished 'absent the Hiscock research which shows lock is a far greater factor than that.'

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Anonymous/Andrew. You make several assumptions. One is that we begrudge small business people their success. I certainly don't, and if you have any evidence to show that we do please post it. I agree with you on China and automation. Change may well be inevitable, but it can be controlled IF we start to do something about it now. But I don't hold out much hope because 99% of politicians are very short-term thinkers.
Incidentally Guerrilla (sic)????

Guerilla Surgeon said...

However anonymous Andrew, it's not just that so many workers have come onto the market. It's also that these workers are paid a pittance, even by the standards of their own country, and the firms that employ them are allowed to both ignore safety regulations such as they are, and pollute the planet without bothering about having to pay for the externalities. It's definitely not a level playing field.

Max Ritchie said...

GS This is shaping up as one of those discussions where two or more people talk past each other but I can't leave it at that. You said earlier "There's plenty of research that shows that all things being equal luck is the major determining factor of success, and sometimes the only factor." To use your favoured blunt speech: rubbish! Makri and others show that luck is only one element and far from the major one, as you claim. Poor parenting is of course a huge problem and good parenting gives children a significant advantage but plenty of the former overcome it and plenty of the latter end up clogs to clogs. Study, work, initiative, energy - all are more important. You are doing the children with whom you work a disservice if you are not teaching them that. At least some of them can - and no doubt will - overcome their unlucky start in life.

Jh said...

On Nine to Noon they were discussing the latest poll on the flag (65% ours 35% Keys). Hooten saw the process as a fail of P R; not enough money spent. What a pick.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Max, yes it is. But the problem with the Hiscock research is that it was actually researching as far as I know, what entrepreneurs FELT was influential in their success, rather than what was actually influential. 15% said they thought luck was a part. But as I said, successful people are reluctant to credit anything other than hard work et cetera.
But other research has shown the effects of things like being born male, entering the job market during a recession, and various other elements of "luck" which greatly influence your chances of success.

For instance:

'The Short- and Long-Term Career Effects of Graduating in a Recession: Hysteresis and Heterogeneity in the Market for College Graduates.'

Philip Oreopoulos, Till von Wachter, Andrew Heisz

Now obviously luck isn't the only component, and you can in fact learn to be lucky to some extent. And of course people do overcome obstacles of birth, but not that many. Social mobility is not high at the moment.
And yes, this is turning into one of those sessions where we talk past each other, so I think I'll end it here.