Friday 4 December 2020

Looking For "The Drummer".

Drumming-Up Support For The Nationalist Right: They’ll know “The Drummer” when they see him. He’ll be raffish, but not dishevelled. He’ll be articulate, but not slick. He’ll tell the most outrageous lies, which they will want to believe. But, most important of all, he’ll tell the most outrageous truths, which nobody else has the courage to speak. He’ll say the things that everybody on the Right (and even some disillusioned comrades on the Left) are thinking – and they’ll love him for it.

IN THE FIRST, fraught years of the Weimar Republic, its enemies spoke longingly of “The Drummer” who would re-awaken Germany. By the early 1920s, a small group of ultra-nationalists were convinced “The Drummer” had been found – in Munich. The name of this decorated front-line soldier and self-proclaimed artist, with an extraordinary gift for rousing political oratory? Adolf Hitler.

With the demise of Winston Peters and his NZ First Party, the New Zealand Right is in the market for a replacement “Drummer”. To say that the political merchandise currently on offer is shoddy would be an understatement. The manifestoes of the New Conservatives, Advance New Zealand, The Public Party and Heartland New Zealand are too cramped, and their leaders too lacking in talent, to serve as any sort of replacement for Peters and NZ First. For the time being, therefore, right-wing anger and resentment will seek to find expression in the National Party and Act – vessels too old and weak for wine as new and strong as theirs.

That said, it is difficult to see a radical right-wing party built from scratch achieving very much very soon. For a start, who would lead it? It is equally difficult to see the next Winston Peters in the latest intake of MPs. If there is a truly dangerous man or woman among them, then these qualities have been kept exceptionally well hidden.

David Seymour has performed admirably, it is true, but for a good part of the last term he was essentially pushing on an open door. National was too divided, too conflicted, to offer a credible alternative to Jacinda Ardern’s kindly populism. This allowed Seymour to move Act into the unoccupied political space. Holding that space, however, should National ever recover its mojo, will be a much harder task. Historically, Act’s success tends to be inversely proportional to National’s and, hence, a reflection of the Right’s overall weakness.

Could National’s leader, Judith Collins, morph into the long-awaited Drummer in the way her predecessor, Rob Muldoon, did between August 1974 and November 1975? The answer is: No.

There just isn’t enough of Judith Collins: intellectually, culturally or performatively; to become New Zealand’s next Drummer. She possesses neither Muldoon’s ear, nor his stomach. Muldoon “heard” the anxieties and resentments of “ordinary” New Zealanders more clearly than anyone except Norman Kirk – the man who had the good grace to die just weeks after Muldoon became National’s leader. More significantly, “Piggy” Muldoon had ample stomach for the political brutality required to transform the electorate’s anxiety and fear into votes. It helped, of course, that he was an intellectually formidable politician who despised “intellectuals”. That always plays well with “ordinary blokes”.

If the Drummer is not to be found in Act or National, then the Right will have to go looking for him elsewhere. (That the Drummer might be female is, of course, possible, but given the nature of right-wing Kiwi culture, unlikely.)

The monied men of the Right will not find him among the ranks of the ideologically compliant. The Drummer cares nothing for the “rules” of neoliberalism. For him, economics is a means to an end – nothing more. Having carefully studied the fortunes of the populist parties of Hungary and Poland, he’s convinced that nationalism only succeeds electorally when mixed with good sized dollops of socialism. This, he tells his friends, was where Trump got it so wrong. You can’t promise to rescue the working class from the clutches of the liberal elites, and then pump billions of dollars into the already bulging pockets of the One Percent!

So, where should they look for their twenty-first century Drummer? Will he be found, like Hitler, regaling the patrons of a crowded beer-hall with all manner of outlandish conspiracy theories? Unlikely. The place to find New Zealand’s next Drummer, Winston’s replacement, is by frequenting the one place Peters never felt comfortable – Online.

They’ll know him when they see him. He’ll be raffish, but not dishevelled. He’ll be articulate, but not slick. He’ll tell the most outrageous lies, which they will want to believe. But, most important of all, he’ll tell the most outrageous truths, which nobody else has the courage to speak. He’ll say the things that everybody on the Right (and even some disillusioned comrades on the Left) are thinking – and they’ll love him for it.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 4 December 2020.


Odysseus said...

Why do you assume the "Drummer" will be some kind of bar-room brawler? Don Brash came within a whisker of power three years after National suffered its worst defeat. The only room he graced was a Rotary luncheon. Events move so quickly these days and things have never been more uncertain, so predictions are fraught. People reached out to your "kindly populist" this time because she "saved" their grandmothers. It was pretty much like the movie "Being There", Serendipity washed away, temporarily, all the failures to deliver. But in three years time when the pandemic has been beaten back by mass vaccination and the economy lies in tatters weighed down by debt and the absurd zero carbon goal it will be a different story. Of course by that time there may also be serous confrontation or war with China to our north. All bets are off. But the "Drummer" may well be a cerebral and well-spoken leader of the Centre-Right.

John Hurley said...

I think there are some Key points that need to be won.

The hardest point to make is to recognise that there is an existing society and culture that gives people meaning and confidence. Whereas at the other end you have the liberal identity those (perhaps) whose society is epitomized by the university cafeteria. Most peoples lives aren't as exciting and full of potential. They need a government that puts them first.

John Hurley said...

I started watching a video discussion between Steve Sailer ("Sailer strategy" got Trump elected) and Ed Dutton (Jolly Heretic). Was really interesting. I only got into the start of it intending to watch later now Youtube and Twitter have taken it down. That's an example of dangerous ideas. Facebook took down a post by Spectator USA where a pollster said there was something strange about the US election. They said it was "partly false". Everything is "partly false". It reminds me of high school and the monitors.

Shane McDowall said...

Hitler actually was a talented artist.

He earned a living as a commercial artist for about 4 years before World War One.

There are thousands of fake Hitler paintings and drawings in circulation, but the ones with a known provenance show genuine talent.

He was also a genocidal megalomaniac who brought death and misery to millions.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's a bit unfair to deride Collins for not having the intellectual heft to be a populist leader. After all, Muldoon didn't really have much in the way of intellect either. He simply had a reasonable memory for facts, much the same facility that enabled Jonathan Hunt to be a quiz kid – and no one would actually regard him as having much in the way of intellect either.
Incidentally, Hitler was not a commercial artist by the generally accepted definition. He was not particularly talented either. He never actually wanted to be an artist as such, but wanted to work for an architectural firm and draw buildings which he was fairly good at. He couldn't draw figures at all as shown by the few he bothered to put in his paintings. Which incidentally were mostly copied from postcards.
He made a living in partnership with someone who sold his paintings of buildings on the street. Quite a good living for someone whose talent as an artist was to say the least, mediocre.
I will admit however that he was a megalomaniac.

sumsuch said...

You think all over the camp, Chris. Sad and glad. Rather, for us last of the social democrats, you kept to the glad. But always better than TDB and TS. You must camp for this holiday, I'm stuck in a poor suburb of Gisborne, but adventure.

Shane McDowall said...

Hitler earned a living by doing paintings, ipso facto he was a commercial artist.

We know he wanted to be an artist because says as much in Mein Kampf.

According to British ambassador Neville Henderson, Hitler told him in August 1939 that " I am an artist and not a politician ... I want to end my life as an artist".

Hitler's paintings are easily accessible, just google "Hitler art".

I wish I could paint as "badly" as Adolf Hitler.

And I will bet my last dollar that Hitler could paint way better than you, GS.

You should take not of my already expressed contempt for people who cower behind nom-de-plumes.

Nick J said...

This begs the question of what is this outbreak of populism worldwide, and what does this mean to NZ?

I'd wager that it is intimately associated with the massive divide between the increasingly wealthy and their enablers, and the growing underclasses. There's some postulation that the elite and enabling classes are growing faster than their ability to create or maintain jobs and access to power. Despite degrees in law or similar they are socially mobile downwards. This is the fertile ground for leadership of populist politics.

The other ingredient is the squeezed middle class whose roles are threatened by both automation and the impoverishment of the working classes their businesses and services were supported by.

What we are left with is nascent leadership for those with a joint cause. Trump was a phenomenon of this, the outsider who seized on the failings of the insider Republican Democratic duopoly.

What we appear to be heading for is a rerun of the 1930s. Populists then amped up propaganda by control of papers and the new radio technology. Currently the authoritarians of the elite classes are increasingly trying to censor the new media (Internet) and the papers against the populist masses. Ironically we can see Facebook, Google etc acting as directors of "correct thinking" on behalf of the elite. These are the true enemies of liberty as will become obvious to all when they stop focusing on the likes of Trump.

How is it in NZ? We are fortunate that our democracy has not been nearly corrupted as has Washington by corporate ownership of elected representatives. We do have a deep state, we do have an increasing gap in wealth that Labour appears unwilling to address. If they fail to make inroads in this area we have, because of our proportional system the risk of rapid growth and capture of power by whoever responds to the plight of the people. The Jacinda feel good factor has the potential to give the same result as a lover spurned.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

1.Someone who makes a living from art is not the accepted definition of a commercial artist, who generally works in advertising.
2. Hitler spoke a lot of bullshit about art to various people because he wanted to be considered 'artistic'and sensitive. His actual ambitions were somewhat less than this.
3. I looked at Hitler's art, and I've read critics' appreciations of it. One of the reasons he is so often forged is that it's easy to forge him because his technique is so awful. And to be honest I'd sooner take an art critic's word over yours.
4. Yes he probably could paint better than me, he could also argue better than you or at least less childishly.
5. Your opinion of me and my nom de plume bothers me about as much as a ant fart in a hurricane.

Sorry Chris, I've just broken my own rule about trying to be polite.

Andrew Nichols said...

They’ll know him when they see him. He’ll be raffish, but not dishevelled. He’ll be articulate, but not slick. He’ll tell the most outrageous lies, which they will want to believe. But, most important of all, he’ll tell the most outrageous truths, which nobody else has the courage to speak. He’ll say the things that everybody on the Right (and even some disillusioned comrades on the Left) are thinking – and they’ll love him for it.,,,

A Boris Johnson...?

John Hurley said...

This is the thesis of your book. Can you explain more what the title means?

“Whiteshift” has two meanings. One is a more immediate meaning relevant to our lifetime, which is the decline of white ethnic majorities before they blur and expand to absorb those of mixed race. They’re in decline, which creates the conditions, I would argue, for the rise of right-wing populism and polarization. Then the second meaning of whiteshift is this longer-term one. You’re going to get this very rapidly rising mixed-race population that will become the majority and will take over the consciousness, memories, and myths of that current ethnic majority.

Think of white-hot John Campbell and Peter Brown.
Campbell argues that (while the numbers of Asians will be large) "__" will have been born here.
I think (above) Eric Kaufmann means inherit the identity (assimilate), although I'm not sure. I would argue that the ethnic majority (who were never consulted and experience a temporal effect) have a right to maintain their conciousness, memories, and myths.

Will Chinese become European New Zealanders? Studies show second generation Chinese are more china oriented than their parents. So is there a counter argument or is resistance racist? Either way there is massive intervention from academics, politicians, media and corporates and no voice to reply since Peter Brown was no Eric Kaufmann.