Monday 11 May 2009

The Selling (Out?) of the Greens

"You're not on Waiheke Island now, Dr Norman."

THEY say one picture is worth a thousand words. Well, cast your eyes over the above billboard and ask yourself: What are the Greens trying to say about Russel Norman and their party?

Both the image and the slogan are intended to convey strength and reliability.

This young man, the billboard says, can be relied upon to get things done. What’s more, just by looking at him, you can tell he’s not a weirdo or a revolutionary. His hair is nicely styled (no dreadlocks!) and he wears an expensive suit (no tie, though, because Russel is a relaxed, informal kind of guy– not a stuffed shirt).

Even more interesting is what the Greens are telling us about themselves.

Look at us, says their advertising, see how we’ve changed. No longer are we the sort of people you might suspect of carrying a joint in their pockets, or having strange dietary habits. This is a very different party from the one that used to tear up GE crops and campaign for the decriminalisation of marijuana. Nowadays we’re just like you. We’re out to save the planet – but in a way that doesn’t pose a direct challenge to the system. Relax, it says, the Greens are no threat to your way of life.

I remember having a cup of coffee with Nandor Tanczos in the weeks after Rod Donald’s death, and him asking me how I thought he should approach his return to Parliament (he was, you’ll recall, next on the List).

I said to him: "If I were Mephistopheles, I’d advise you to pay a visit (accompanied, of course, by photographers from The Woman’s Weekly) to one of New Zealand’s foremost hair-stylists, where your dreadlocks would be removed and your remaining hair styled. Then I’d pay a visit to Politiks, the trendy menswear store (accompanied this time by photographers from FHM Magazine) and kit myself out in the latest executive fashions. And, when I returned to Parliament, I’d give a speech about the importance of Green businesses to New Zealand’s economic future."

If I remember rightly, Nandor quoted scripture: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul."

What indeed?


Bryce Edwards said...


I also wrote a pre-election blog post along similar lines about the Greens' highly professionalised and polished, but vacuous 2008 election campaign, entitled "Have the Greens sold their soul?", see:

As I said at the end of that post, it goes to show that although Russel Norman might be exactly right to often characterize Labour and National as ‘Mother Coke and Father Pepsi’, but increasingly the Greens also seem to taste like merely another variation of cola. The Greens might be some sort of herbal or organic cola, but their taste is pretty much the same as all the other parties' brands of liquids.


Anonymous said...

Full marks to the Greens for the best billboards, once again. Punchy and effective, if only I could vote!

Anonymous said...

What the......."muscle"? muscle!!!!!ye if Sunny Keyster in a black t-shirt wasn't enough "Noddy does Rambo", now it's Russ the Muss and the Morris-dancing Motherf**kers.

Jeepers wept. At least Capill's contradistinction was unintentional.

Joseph said...

which is why some socialists will be supporting a dread who IS standing ;)

more gossip soon....

greensgonegrey said...

Dear Sir, Tumeke and The Standard have photos of Mr Norman proudly alongside his Mt Albert hoarding.

In the billboard he wears no tie but in real-life he is wearing a tie.

Light blue.

How apt.

Anonymous said...

well the Nat's just announced they are canning the waterview tunnel - Melissa Lee would need a miracle to win now - it'll be a race between Norman and Shearer. With Labour voters disaffected over the selection of Goff's buddy Shearer as the Labour candidate, Mr Muscle could be in with a chance if he plays his cards correctly.
He needs to learn a thing or two from his predecessor though in regards to building media relationships. The launch of Russel's campaign on Sunday at Unitec had a notable absence of media.
There's a public debate tomorrow night at Unitec campus in Mt Albert, Faumuina Gold lecture theatre - in the lobby of building 180, entrance Gate 4 - at 7.30pm - candidates will be debating transport issues.
It's time to flex your muscles Russel and show us what you're made of.

Marty Mars said...

The billboard is a shocker... if you're a green that is. Power suit, glinty look in the eye, arms folded, jeepers these greens have lost it big time.

mickysavage said...

This current campaign shows a major shift on the Green's part. Their billboards for the last election were great, they were principled, and they did not rely on any personalities. I believe their initial bump in the polls was pretty well all driven by the billboards.

This current billboard is entirely different. "Muscle"? How ungreen. Force and power over sustainability and reason. And it feeds into one person's ego.

And his behaviour is poor. How dare he buddy up to the nats. How dare he call David Shearer a "grey man". Shearer has given a couple of decades of his life working for the poor and dispossessed, that is about as ungrey as you can get.

Norman is treating politics like a game, like most of the others. The greens used to be better than this.

Anonymous said...

Mickey Savage, the Greens may have once been better then this but that never got them into Government. And perhaps didn't make them very good politicians.
Look at the Alliance, they stayed true to ideologies and the traditional party line and that is what eventually split them. They were unwilling to act pragmatically within the environment they found themselves and within one election cycle went from 10 MP's to 0.
The Greens are showing they have seen the mistakes made by other minor parties and have at long last learnt from them.
At the end of the day politics is a game and the Greens are in the ring. Which means if they want to succeed they need to meet their opponents head on. Pretty hard to do that when your army is distracted with knitting scarves and poncho's out of natural wool fibres and much easier when they've put down their knitting and decided to play their political opponents at their own game.
Don't get me wrong i don't mean to take the piss. Any decent political group be it a political party or a Trade Union functions best when it has the energy of activists and radicals driving the main body - but the representatives - the politician or union official should present themselves in a way most likely to appeal to voters or supporters. No point in putting people off before they have even heard your message.

So if Russel needs to be all shiny and suit attired on a billboard in order to promote Green policies - then so be it. He hasn't sold out, he's just bought a stronger hand into the game.

Anonymous said...

Apparently the planet is about to collapse but Nandor is worried about his soul. Sums up the average leftie nicely.

Sell collectivist solutions to imagined problems to gain a personal advantage.

If you genuinely believed the planet is dead meat unless change is made what personal sacrifice wouldn’t you make?


Nick said...

Hi Chris,

Howzabout a little commentary on last nights expose on Campbell of Melissa Lees understanding of the word compromise (with regard to media ownership and editorial pressure during last election). If she is not a dead duck in this contest now the general public need their heads read. Its now a two horse race, or is it?

The number of compromising issues the media have allowed the NACTs to sidestep shows these blatant compromises dont have to register in the polls if Jonkee can say sternly to the camera "bad boy" and do nothing. Perhaps we had reason to be frightened of Helen who atleast sacked cabinet ministers (Pope, Dalziel, Dyson) for this type of thing. We should be frightened of Jonkee because he doesnt appear to have an ethical compass.

Anonymous said...

A makeover for the "BAN!" Party. Well overdue but too little too late I think.

The electorate knows that the Greens are not an environmentalist Party, that rather, they're an ultra-ultra-Left Party whose membership merely has an aversion to bathing.

Thankfully, Kiwis have an ingrained aversion to totalitarianism. The Green Party's future is a bleak one.

Anonymous said...

Oh for gods sake anonymous. I think it can be definitley be argued that the Greens may not be a left party - and that their large numbers of middle-class environmentalists with often very conservative politics, makes them difficult to place on the political spectrum.
As for their future being a bleak one - you were obviously not at the by-election candidates forum last night. Russel Norman was the preferred candidate by a country mile. He was relaxed and personable in his approach and spoke to the concerns of the community. Whereas the other candidates relied on placard bearing supporters yelling and shrieking slogans to ge their message across - Russel and the Greens were carried by the applause of those in attendance.
I am certain that many undecided voters at that meeting would have walked away with intention to vote for Russel. If he can keep this up and lay low in the shit flinging that is going on between National and Labour - he might just come out top of the polls come the 13th of June.

Anonymous said...

He's wearing a lot of blue 'power' suits in Parliament lately too, I just think the Greens have realised that they need to look serious to be taken seriously, and fair enough. The old saying 'If you can't beat them, join them' well at least when it comes to dress sense!

Anonymous said...

It's not that hard to figure is it? The green leadership has finally realised the meaning of the phrase "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". That is - you don't don't get anywhere if you don't at least appear to conform to conventions. But is this what the right is afraid of? Judging from the general tenor of the comments here, i suspect so.

sas said...

Don't you think this is just a recognition, not that there's some kind of terrible compromise about putting on a tie, but that actually you don't want people to be focusing on what you look like but on what you're saying?