Monday, 21 January 2008

Liars at large

This election year, individuals have been severely restricted in the amounts they can spend opposing government policies -- meanwhile, the Clark Government has spent record amounts of your money fitting out government departments with spin doctors to trumpet its own lies.  [Story here.]While individuals are confined to spending $120,000 over the whole year in a national campaign (or just $10,000 in a local campaign), government departments now boast a whopping 448 spin doctors -- 210 more than just five years ago, and nearly ten times the number of the mid-eighties -- who cost us the sum of $47 million, not including the cost of campaigns these lying arseholes dream up. 

This is where your tax dollars go to, while the sound of protest is muzzled.

Remember last year when a huge taxpayer-funded advertising splurge trumpeted the government's  Kiwisaver, Student Loans and Welfare for Working Families election bribes? You and I paid for that.  Remember all the lies and spin fed to you by the Clark Government-- lies and spin about smacking your children, about the Electoral Finance Bill, about their pledge card ... You and I paid for all that too, and they plan for you to keep right on paying, election after election, while being muzzled in how much we can pay to protest.

The explosion of spin under the Clark regime and of the liars who are paid to do it mirrors a similar explosion in lying and spin in Tony Blair's New Labour.  The pledge card wasn't the only thing NZ Labour borrowed from UK New Labour.  They've also borrowed their mendacity.  As Peter Oborne notes in writing of the rise and rise of political lying in Britain, the reliance on spin and the volume of its is a new phenomenon in politics.

All governments have contained liars, and most politicians deceive each other as well as the public from time to time.  But in recent years [under New Labour] mendacity and deception have ceased to be abnormal and become an entrenched feature of the British [political] system.

The institutionalisation of spin is almost complete, here as it is in Britain.

Records Ruth Laugesen in yesterday's Sunday Star Times, the number of spin doctors is at a record high.  "Government agencies have hired more new communications staff in five years than all the journalists working at Television New Zealand, Radio New Zealand, the Sunday Star-Times and the Dominion Post newspapers put together."  As Gerry Brownlee points out, this leaves them ideally placed to use the machinery of government as its personal campaign for re-election.

In the last election the Clark Government thought they could use taxpayer's money intended to run the Prime Minister's office in order to run for the Prime Minister's Office.  This was what paid for their pledge card.  This election they clearly intend to use every "communications" resource  in every government department they can lay their hands on to run for re-election.  This is the reason the Madeleine Setchell/Clair Curran employment saga was so important (the only reason): it's important to the Clark Government that the have loyal "communications staff" are in place in every department.  With the numbers Laugesen quotes, it's clear that the capture of the public service is all but complete.

  • "The Ministry of Social Development topped the list with 54 communications staff and contractors, making it bigger than Radio New Zealand's entire workforce of journalists."
  • "The biggest spender on communication contractors and staff was the Ministry of Education, with 70% of the $6.6m it spent going on contractors."
  • "There are 10 times as many government "communications staff" as there were 25 years ago, despite a smaller public service."

Not included in this number is the cost of bloggers such as the hacks at the Sub-Standard, who spin this news by arguing that it's not that there are too many spin doctors but too few journalists -- echoing a line used by Helen Clark at a journalism conference last December, and doing it on Labour's ticket.  (As Paul M. points out in the comments at Kiwiblog, the Sub-Standard is hosted on the Labour Party's server, but without the parliamentary crest that's supposed to appear on taxpayer-funded pieces of puffery such as this is, leaving a few questions for the Sub-Standard boys and girls to answer, including who exactly pays their wages, and for what purpose.)

Watch out people.  There are liars out there, and you're paying for them.

The Rise of Political Lying
by Peter Oborne

Read more about this book...

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