Almost everyone came out in support of the idea that taking Telecom's lines and giving them to its competitors was neither nationalisation nor theft, but was instead re-regulation, unbundling, and everyone from Tory to houri was happy to go along and to peddle the spin – everyone that is with the significant exception of one minor party leader, one former Minister, a few blustering bloggers and a large number of former shareholders of Telecom who lost no time in taking their money out of the unbundled corporation.
Everyone however in the commentariat was only too happy to jump on the bandwagon, and happy to turn their focus (and the public's) on the leak – sorry, that should be 'The Leak!' – and the story of The Leak is still being followed assiduously by all the easily diverted drips, even as the larceny looks to be extended further into the partial nationalisation of mobile services.
“Well,” you can imagine the power-lusters from the Red Team contemplating, “if one act of larcenic legerdemain can be put over so easily, why not try and get away with another?” Why not, eh?
And who cares really? Who amongst you lot even notices you're being spun? Or cares? If politics is the art of the possible, then the power-lusters from both Team Red and Team Blue know that the public are buying the spin, and the commentariat are either happy to peddle it or too vapid to notice it (come in Susan Wood) -- but the end result of the spin being bought is that what is possible to the politicians is more, much more, of the same.
Just think how stupid they think we are. Irrelevant accusations of American involvement in our elections was flung around in the election campaign like so much chum – and what the hell’s wrong with Americans anyway? – and then after doing their job in that dust up they’re dusted off and resurrected in the form of some perfectly innocuous e-mails ... and to a man and a woman the commentariat leap up and down as if the sky is falling and we’re in danger of CIA takeover.
What a lot of barking seals and overfed fools. If the political commentators don’t know or notice or point out what’s going on, is it little wonder the public don’t seem to either? But how much more blatant does it need to be made that spin is overwhelming substance? Even having to point out the irrelevance and in-your-face obviousness of this stuff is soiling – and it’s not just me talking with my libertarian hat on here; most of this stuff so blindingly obvious you can only imagine the politicians laughing up their sleeves that they're able to get away with it.
Here’s some recent and ongoing lowlights of spin, just from the top of my head (feel free to add more):
- Blatant lies and spin about welfare numbers is bought almost wholesale and corrected only on the margins.
- Complete equivocation from politicians about the difference between tax cuts and welfare handouts is received with stone-dead ignorance from the commentariat that there even is a difference.
- A coalition in everything but name, and a Foreign Minister in nothing but his name on the door, is greeted with little but laughter and smirks all round.
- Some homes built by some Registered Master Builders and designed by some Registered Architects are found to leak, and the chosen solution is to register all builders and all designers -- 'masterfully done' is the response from the Guilds, the opposition, and the commentariat, who also unanimously agree that the building industry was deregulated in the nineties. It wasn't.
- Stone-age racism from Maori Party and Maori quarter alike is hailed as ‘giving a minority a voice,’ while proposals to remove racism from legislation are spun (and bought) as “playing the race card.”
- An electricity industry in which almost all major players are arms of the state is still widely considered and referred to as having been ‘deregulated’ and ‘privatised.’
- Taxes on cigarettes are raised year after year in order to discourage consumption -- and ‘fat taxes’ are mooted for similar reasons -- but high taxes on production, ie., on fuel, on incomes and on profits are not considered to discourage either enterprise or production, and are barely questioned as being germane.
- Parties across the board talk about the need to help working families and the desirability of good child-care, but the realisation that in most households one partner is going out to work just to pay the tax bill is either ignored, overlooked or dismissed.
Of course, having an opposition that pays major attention only to minor matters doesn’t hurt either. While an election is stolen and New Zealanders routinely and New Zealand’s largest company just recently have their property rights violated -- and the public apparently couldn’t care less about either -- the opposition tries instead to raise attention with footling attacks on the subjects of Plunket Line, tennis balls in schoolrooms, signed paintings, what TVNZ said in some private emails, speeding limousines in Canterbury and chauffered car crashes in Ponsonby.
It's hard to know whether they're all just dim bulbs or whether because both public and commentariat neither know nor care what's really going on the opposition don't really bother either. But it's not exactly diverting to watch.
As a Californian libertarian always sued to say, "People are deluded en masse, and enlightened only one at a time." At this rate, the job of enlightenment will be a long one.
- Of course, I've forgotten to point out another headline grabber of recent days: the shameless spinning, right on to the front pages, of an out-of-context quote from Theresa Gattung. Naturally, the full context showed something quite different (see links in this post).
- And the indefatigable Lindsay Mitchell has news of another crock being peddled as we speak by Minister for Weasel Words Michael Cullen, who points out essentially that the drop in our rankings for economic competitiveness is not so much that we've got worse, as that everyone else has got better.
- And just so you don't think it's only NZers who suffer in this way, spare a thought for the citizens of the US of A, most of whom venerated when he was alive and in office what must be one of last century's greatest political charlatans, and who even today rank him among their top three presidents. I talk of course of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.