IT’S ONE OF THOSE throwaway lines which, precisely because so little conscious thought was given to it, tells us so much. The author, Andrea Vance, is an experienced political journalist working for Stuff. The subject of Vance’s throwaway line, Sean Plunket, is an equally experienced journalist. It was in her recent story about Plunket’s soon-to-be-launched online media product “The Platform”, that Vance wrote: “Plunket’s dalliances with controversy make it easy to paint him as a two-dimensional character: a right-wing, shock-jock with outdated views on privilege and race.”
It’s hard to get past those first four words. The picture Vance is painting is of a dilettante: someone who flits from one inconsequential pursuit to another, taking nothing seriously. And, of course, the use of the word “dalliances” only compounds this impression. To “dally” with somebody it to treat them casually, offhandedly – almost as a plaything. Accordingly, a “dalliance” should be seen as the very opposite of a genuine commitment. It smacks of self-indulgence. A cure, perhaps, for boredom?
To dally with controversy, therefore, is to betray a thoroughly feckless character. Controversies are all about passion and commitment. Controversies are taken seriously. Indeed, a controversy is usefully defined as a dispute taken seriously by all sides. And yet, according to Vance, Plunket has only been playing with controversy: trifling with it, as a seducer trifles with the affections of an innocent maid.
In Vance’s eyes, this indifference to matters of genuine and serious concern distinguishes Plunket as a “two-dimensional character”. It reduces him to a cardboard cut-out, a promotional poster, a thing of printer’s ink and pixels – insubstantial. Or, which clearly amounts to the same thing as far as Vance is concerned: “a right-wing, shock-jock with outdated views on privilege and race.” Dear me! The scorn dripping from those words could fill a large spittoon!
As if the holding of right-wing views somehow renders a person less than three-dimensional. As if conservative thinkers from Aristotle to Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke to Carl Schmidt haven’t contributed enormously to Western political thought. As if Keith Holyoake, Jim Bolger and Bill English aren’t respected by New Zealanders of all political persuasions for their rough-hewn dignity and love of country. To hold right-wing views isn’t a sickness, It doesn’t make you a bad person. It merely denotes a preference for the familiar; a wariness of the new; and a deep-seated fear of sudden and unmandated change.
As for “shock-jocks”: well, that is the sort of broadcasting talent commercial radio producers are constantly searching for. People of energy and enthusiasm, with a way of communicating both qualities to the radio station’s listeners. And if they also have a talent for decoding the zeitgeist on air: for tapping into the audience’s anger and frustration; and giving voice to their hopes and their fears? Well, then they are worth their weight in gold – and usually get it. The more people a “shock-jock” glues to the station’s frequency, the more the advertisers are prepared to pay. That’s the business.
Perhaps Vance should have a word with the people who pay her salary: perhaps they could explain where all that money comes from.
The most important words, however, Vance saves for last. What really confirms Plunket’s lack of three dimensions are his “outdated views on privilege and race”. It is with these six words that Vance betrays both herself and her newspaper.
Who says Plunket’s views on privilege and race are “outdated”? According to whose measure? After all, his views on privilege and race correspond closely with those of Dr Martin Luther King. Is Vance asserting that Dr King’s view that people should not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character, is outdated? Is she suggesting that a poor white man has more in the way of privilege than Oprah Winfrey? Or that the privileges which flow from superior economic power and social status count for less than those attached to race, gender and sexuality?
The answer is Yes. Those who declare such views to be “outdated” are, indeed, making all of the claims listed above. This locates them among a relatively narrow section of the population: highly educated; paid well above the average; more than adequately housed; and enjoying all the “privileges” accruing to those who manage the bodies and shape the minds of their fellow citizens.
Andrea Vance is a member of this truly privileged group, and so, at one time, was Sean Plunket. So, why the sneering condescension? Why the scorn? The answer is to be found in the new priorities of the truly privileged; the people who actually run this society. They have determined that their interests are better served by fostering division and bitterness. Rather than see people promote a view of human-beings that unites them in a common quest for justice and equality, they would rather Blacks assailed Whites, women assailed men, gays assailed straights, trans assailed TERFS – and vice versa. In short, the “One Percent” have decided that their interests are better protected by corporations, universities and the mainstream news media all promoting the ideology of identity politics.
By setting his face against this new “Woke” establishment, Sean Plunket the conservative poses as large a threat to the status quo as Martyn Bradbury the radical. On the one hand stand those who question the necessity and morality of changes now deemed essential by persons no one elected. On the other, those who insist that such divisive policies will produce results diametrically opposed to their promoters’ intentions. Right and Left, joined in an “outdated” search for the common ground that makes rational politics possible. The place where both sides are willing to acknowledge and agree that, in the words of John F. Kennedy:
[I]n the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 21 September 2021.
Listening to John Michael Greer he echoed Chris' comments. His contention was that the One percent and their enablers the professional middle class echo the aristocratic and ruling classes of the past.
Greer noted that all ruling classes adopt a form of expressing their greater worth as "the good guys" through displays of morality. Think Victorian attitudes to sex (not that it stopped the ruling classes, the display of righteousness was for the prols).
Going by that it is easy to deduce woke identity politics, as adopted by the 1% and PMC as a vehicle to lord it over the rest of us. Hence the denigration of the "deplorables", the labeling of any objection as "right wing reactionary". This is actually class warfare in which the lower class is totally unrepresented politically and in the media. Except by shock jocks whose employers ironically are ruling class.
Two posts on that, the first from me, The Hunger Masks, where I take a look at the recent mask mandates in the US and the rulers who breach them. The latest being the Emmy Awards but also San Francisco mayor, London Breed, caught having maskless fun at a Jazz club. One of her responses to this is as priceless as Vance's:
“We don’t need the fun police to come in and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing,” she said during an interview, contending she was drinking at the time and started dancing because she was “feeling the spirit” and “wasn’t thinking about a mask,” according to reports.
Take that peasants!
The other is from a superb American analyst, Angelo Codevilla, just killed in a car crash at age 78 yesterday. It's from 2010 and you could say that it predicted the rise of Trump: America's Ruling Class. Ten years later he was interviewed about it and responded to a question with this:
I didn’t predict anything. I described a situation which had already come into existence. Namely, that the United States has developed a ruling class that sees itself as distinct from the raw masses of the rest of America. That the distinction that they saw, and which had come to exist, between these classes, comprised tastes and habits as well as ideas. Above all, that it had to do with the relative attachment, or lack thereof, of each of these classes to government.
I think we have much the same here in NZ, and around the Western world.
Christopher hits the nail squarely on the head:
A Woke establishment massively downplaying & obfuscating its own power, social status & glaring economic privilege while systematically scapegoating lower income ‘outgroups’ as their fall guys to do all the sacrificing & suffering. A total subversion of genuine Left principles by an affluent & fundamentally self-interested Professional New Middle Class masquerading as 'altruistic' by way of ostentatious moral posturing & various other flamboyant expressions of performative narcissism.
The media is awash with 'opinion' writers, third rate commentators with low rent views.
Here's a song for Andrea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xX_FCOS4RzY
What does it achieve to spew an on-course of diatribe at the expense of someone's time? A whole generation of chest-beating is brought on by naval gazing when there are bigger things at play. For God's sake (if there is a god), bring it down so the average man/woman can digest all this rhetoric without throwing up. While everyone has an opinion, how many of them miss the mark, purely by adopting their own egotistical spin.
In this world of democratic misfortune and political correctness, the majority of hard-working people cannot be bothered. Everybody wants a cause, everyone wants to riot from inside their four walls, so give them the option, otherwise, you'll miss the mark every time.
Those that think that they are the elitists, who cares, there are enough tall poppies to go around for every kiwi in today's world. Good on Sean Plunkett for at least giving it a go, in preference to those on a corporate handout
Not often I agree wholeheartedly with you Chris but this is one of those rare occasions.
The unmadated changes you allude to are something to be resisted by those of all political persuasions.
Vance's assertion, re the public interest journalism fund, that "that it acts at arm’s length from the government of the day, and has no control or input into how content is produced"
is clearly misleading at best.
Regardless of any overt bias the fund has quite clear requirements from participating news organisations to toe the line on some specific and highly questionable and controversial government policies and proposals. The revolutionary proposals within and surrounding He Puapua in particular.
Here's a good look at the issue, minus the Vance fluff: https://democracyproject.nz/2021/09/14/graham-adams-the-double-edged-sword-of-the-55m-government-journalism-fund-cuts-deep/
"However, he suggested it was time for news organisations to consider refunding some or all of the “Covid-induced $55 million media support package” after record levels of government-funded advertising — “particularly around Covid-19 and the controversial Three Waters proposals” — had goosed their profits.
Cotterill, a former CEO of ACP Magazines, pulled no punches: “If there is any risk that the media is skewing their representation of the performance of government, then we are indeed on shaky ground. In fact I suggest that there is nothing quite as dangerous in any democracy as a media that is beholden to the government.”
Extraordinarily, the column was followed by a statement titled “Proudly independent”, and signed by no fewer than eight senior Herald editors declaring their editorial independence was exercised “without fear or favour”.
National will also be hoping that the Prime Minister will be obliged at some point to deny that her munificent handouts exert any influence on editorial coverage — which would flush the question right out into the open.
In fact, she has already done that twice in Parliament but the public unfortunately wouldn’t have any idea about that because — surprise! — it wasn’t reported in the mainstream media, despite the significance of the topic to a democracy."
"The section describing its goals recommends “actively promoting the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledging Māori as a Te Tiriti partner“. And the first of the general eligibility criteria requires all applicants to show a “commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to Māori as a Te Tiriti partner”.
To those who are deeply suspicious of these criteria being included, the fact that journalists rarely (if ever) mention the impending Three Water reforms handing 50 per cent control of the nation’s water to iwi is compelling evidence it is deliberately avoiding their most contentious aspect. Viewing the Treaty as a partnership is, of course, the basis for such a revolutionary policy.
Their suspicions will be heightened after TVNZ’s Q&A on Sunday in which Jack Tame treated viewers to a soft-soap interview with Nanaia Mahuta about the reforms.
In a 13-minute interview, Tame let the Local Government minister get away with a preposterous amount of flannel about the proposed centralised system to manage drinking, waste and storm water throughout the country."
Brilliant! Your best writing Chris. The metro elite will be beaten if we stand together.
So what can our contributors here recommend:
1. To dispossess and do away the middle and ruling classes ?
2. Or to strengthen the effort to guide and help the proletarians also to accept the
discipline, responsibilities and risks of property ownership and "middle class values", through having them actually participate in that effort on the material level in the full knowledge, that for whatever reason, their efforts alone could not be adequate for many
of the poor ?
3. Or what else can you think of ?
Alright mate, what matters, climate change and nothing else. I read your article claiming lil old New Zealand couldn't do anything. Unlike WW ll we know what's coming up for certain. Even in ineffectual NZ we need a war govt NOW. As indeed we needed it in 1990.
I realise you need to be paid in the present day.
I've probably said this before, but I remember Sean's seriously dismissive view of my 36-year-old bare feet at the Newtown supermarket in Wellington. He couldn't digest it. He had major rightfulness in my opinion, but then again he's a shit. Like the other right wing prick from my generation. Sparkly teeth?
Difficult to be a NZer really when you're a right winger. You see it most clearly in first generation immigrants. It's just not acceptable for them to disrespect our old social democracy.
Funny thing , I was studying journalism when Sean stared at my feet with death rays.
"Alright mate, what matters, climate change and nothing else."
Sure you weren't studying comedy?
The PM is making a speech the the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, she is talking about an end to oil and gas permits: "I don't want some leader in the future to have to deal with that when I'm long gone and having a wonderful time in the Mediterranean or somewhere" - Not Porirua then Jacinda?
I scanned my fathers colour slides. One slide that intrigues me is Corinthic heading out Lyttelton Harbour.
Back then 3 weeks or so to get to Britain and not long before that 8 hours by flying boat Sydney Auckland. When someone had been overseas (eg Peru) we all went down to the Fairton School for a slide viewing.
I used to imagine what it would be like if we could go through a door and into any place on Earth, I don't think we would like to be on the receiving end of that though. The internet, rising middle classes in Asia and cheap air fares have given us the next best thing.
What got me watching Jacinda was a short James Lyndsay video on Inclusion. I googled Jacinda + Inclusive. What you find is things like Film Commision Series on Inclusion in film and a black Iranian saying she doesn’t see herself depicted in culture and “down with colonialism”. The net result is the sort of advertising with one of each ethnic group. The aim is that any expression of people-hood that aren’t licorice all sorts is “hate”. Susan Devoy used to lecture on not assuming someone who looked Chinese wasn’t a New Zealander – we are supposed to assume the opposite or “New Zealander” doesn’t exist.
I was thinking of life for women in the 1950's. Typically a tiny minority have all the say today. Arthur Grieve says life in Auckland was "boring" before mass migration. I don't think my mother was bored.
Her father was a farmer - he wrote poetry like "The Stock Sale at Addington". I told a farmer about him and his farm at Church Bay. He replied: "can't have been a very good farm?". Yeah. that had occurred to me - a bit like the Beverly Hillbillies.
Actually though his father was a sailor and goldminer and he went back to the Shetland Islands to bring back a wife. I think it was a continuation of that timeless Shetland lifestyle?
Kat I can't understand the lingo of the Rhythm Aces. Too down country - music good though.
Tom Hunter 9.19 re USA and Class.
Paul Fussell did some work on that. Here is a bright piece from The Atlantic on him.
I was shamerous about my expostulation here, since it was a regular ejaculation into every argument you present sans investigating. I appreciate our democratic Right.
Your last few paragraphs are more difficult to digest. We social democrats now look down on those silly social causes that were involved in bringing the vile 84 govt to power. And the liberal plutocrats in America who refuse to reach out to the people to fight the ongoing coup for the Freemarket Right, which is to say the Democratic Party. I think a Bernie Sanders is a torpedo through the currents.
A tribute to my mentor, Wally Hotton. He ran a garden centre, down the hill, where I worked, but he'd been the union boss at the Whirinaki Mill. He gave me the fabulous information Muldoon was more left wing than the new Labour Govt. I boggled, but he was right.
Of course he messed up his personal life in his pursuance of our good. Like all the old socialists. And he was a ... hero, despite his wife's complaints.
here we have Paul Spoonley, Jacinda Ardern and Eric Kaufmann on National Populism.
To summarize approximately half of the population like order and stability over constant change. These people aren't "knuckles draggers" ("homos"). There's more to it than that. Eric K does a good essay on the sociology of wokeness. I don't understand the whole thing but I think that there is a sort of societal ecology whereby there cannot be an us without an other.
Some people hate people on the right - you might say that is the border when there is no border. People on the right see progressives as fools.
One of the predictors of support for Brexit and Trump is opinion on the death penalty. I believe in a death penalty, not so much for vengeance but it is a way of looking at the world - a price (set of conditions) for being a member of society.
Excellent article Chris.
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