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Toxic Sludge is Good For You

James Robinson



This week everywhere you looked, the acrid stench of politics at its worst could be found. It started with funding debates, moved into September 11 and then eased into the sexual politics of the National Party. The game of politics so often boils down to a public relations battlefield where no one benefits, where no side wins. Politicians become so detached from reality that it’s almost sickening. It can get tabloid, it can get ugly and it’s often heartless.
So much noise was made over the campaign over-spending ‘affair’. I couldn’t help but applaud the across the board minor-party opposition of the destruction of the house by National and Labour, so preened on their self importance that they filled the house with so much noise that no one else could be heard. I don’t often find myself siding with Tariana Turia.
Break this argument down and it’s really quite minor. Small dishonesties recorded on the National and Labour ledgers, an apology should have been made, and people should have moved on. Labour spent taxpayer money, Don Brash was knowingly propped up by the Brethren. I know that it’s an issue of credibility, but everyone makes mistakes, gets backed into a corner, and occasionally doesn’t tell the whole truth. Surely credibility can be boosted by knowing when to come clean, take it on the chin and apologise. In their quests to prove who was the bigger bad guy, both parties ended up looking mighty stupid, and what’s more, increasingly divorced from their actual purpose of existence. The debate actually had little to do with their constituents. Labour misspent roughly 10 cents for every New Zealander. Don Brash lied about someone else spending money for his party’s benefit. Someone remarked to me that: “the right got sick of the left’s tactics and started fighting dirty for themselves, and at the moment they are doing a better job.” Rubbish. Both sides’ politics are dirty tactics, divorced from everyday practicalities.
From this we moved onto the ultimate political delusion of spin, with the Bush administration’s oddly appropriate political hijacking of the fifth anniversary of the events of September 11. After a solemn day of paying homage to victims the big gun was pulled out in a speech late in the day, “if we pull out of Iraq,” Bush told his fellow countrymen, “the terrorists win.” Further false and misleading overtones are made linking the events of September 11 to the Iraq war, a link that as we know, has been proved false. It was inevitable, and low. Tying a spectacularly unsuccessful war into a global tragedy is a good technique as it ties the strong emotions from one, into the other and dredges out the last remaining drops of support for a war that’s killing more people than Vietnam, and a war which has a far more trivial purpose. It ties the war into terrorism, and all that dastardly weapons of destruction business. The reality is no, the war had nothing to do with 9/11, and has only lead to a more unstable Middle East and greater chances of another event on the scale of 9/11 happening. It’s beautiful spin, and another example of the message being far away from the reality of the situation. Iraq is a disaster zone, but the Bush administration took their window and helped manipulate it into a patriotic quest.
We then moved back into our own country with the recent National party ‘sex’ scandal. (What is this country’s particular infatuation with Don Brash’s sex life?) Mallard, Clark’s political bovver boy, made threats about emails they had about certain high-profile National MPs, Clark distanced herself, a week later the story broke. (Cut in a movie-like scene of Clark laughing maniacally in a smoky office, surrounded by her advisors.) I know there is hypocrisy here: you have a National party caucus strong on family values and the leader is sleeping around. But you also have a Labour party caucus that screamed blue murder when the National party turned the headlights on the skeletons in the closet of their own MPs. And you know there is a Labour party hand in there somewhere with this recent turnover of information.
For the Bush administration it was the act of a desperate administration, bleeding support in a Congressional election year and struggling to make it through their 8 years in power intact. But it can also be representative of extremely lazy politics. If it takes diving into the personal lives of National MPs for the Labour party to expose Don Brash as a weak and feeble leader, then Clark’s administration really is on its last legs.
It’s rubbish, and it’s spin. It cuts politics down to a game of mud throwing, where politicians are judged not by the results of their work, but by who comes out cleanest in the fight. The media, the very place where this judging should be taking place, too often becomes their weapon of choice.
Just for once, it’d be nice if this week the news was dominated by hands-on initiatives and positive discussions from our MPs about improving our everyday situation.
Yeah, I know, it’s a long shot. A boy can dream though can’t he?