In which I support Christine Rankin

datePosted on 19:56, May 18th, 2009 by Anita

Before I start, over here I criticise her appointment as a Families Commissioner. I still believe that she is the wrong person at a time when a consensus needs to be built around the fundamentals of family in New Zealand. 

Over the last few days I have become more and more revolted by the media’s intrusion into Christine Rankin’s person life, and the analysis and commentary that has accompanied it. I’ve tried to write this post a couple of times, and I’ve finally unpacked the three issues that I find so offensive.

Stereotyping and dismissing women

75% of the commentary has focussed on Rankin’s sexuality – her skirt length, her earrings, the response of men, her relationships (frame as a seductress) – as if a woman’s only power is her sexuality. She was a senior public servant, she has run a successful lobby organisation; she is clearly an effective political and administrative operator who uses her intellect and eloquence to gain power.

Why oh why is it acceptable to reduce a woman’s power to her sexuality? As if women were no more than breasts and a vulva and all our power comes from our ability to seduce and trap men.

The growing culture of personal attacks

Over the last few years there have been more and more personal attacks masquerading as commentary. Between the reasonable accusations of divisiveness and standing in opposition to government policy, there have been loads of unjustifiable personal attacks on Rankin.

When did it become acceptable for politicians and their allies to use personal attacks? When did the media start running them with glee rather than challenging the ethics and motives of the attacks? When did the Left start to stoop that low?

Unjustifiable intrusion into personal lives disguised as political analysis 

Rankin’s marriages and relationships have absolutely no relevance to her role as a Families Commissioner. It is not the marriage-for-life commission, it’s not the the perfectly-respectable commission, it’s the families commission which is intended to look after New Zealand families in all their shapes and sizes. Rankin’s family is not the same shape as mine, but that is not newsworthy or politically significant.

What justifies the increasingly prurient intrusion into the lives of the famous (and not so famous)? Are we really a country of judgemental curtain twitchers whose only engagement with our communities is condemnatory gossip, rumour and innuendo?

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56 Responses to “In which I support Christine Rankin”

  1. KiwiPolitico on Rankin | BK Drinkwater on May 18th, 2009 at 21:29

    KiwiPolitico on Rankin…

    If I tried to write my thoughts on the media fracas around Christine Rankin’s appointments to the Families Commission, …

  2. QoT on May 18th, 2009 at 21:43

    It’s Sarah Palin all over again. Cue the number of people willing to swear blind that no, honestly, THIS time someone’s personal life is TOTALLY relevant, truly madly deeply.

  3. ak on May 18th, 2009 at 22:11

    When did it become acceptable for politicians and their allies to use personal attacks?

    Not sure exactly, but in this case possibly around the time that Ms Rankin started repeatedly and publicly attacking our PM in the most venomous and personal ways possible… turning the other cheek’s a nice ideal ‘n all, but call someone a barren witch and more at every opportunity and you can hardly grizzle if they fire the facts about your own life back at you surely Anita?

  4. Neil on May 18th, 2009 at 22:13

    next you’ll be saying Helen Clark’s sexual life is out of bounds and mysoginists like Andrew Sullivan were wrong to characterise Hillary Clinton as an evil witch.

    Ian Wishart will not be happy.

  5. Pascal's bookie on May 18th, 2009 at 22:38

    Ian Wishart will not be happy.

    Well no, he’s not. But is he ever? He’s got the irony cranked up to eleven though.

  6. Lee - MWT on May 18th, 2009 at 22:50
  7. Lee - MWT on May 18th, 2009 at 22:52

    Oh – and in answer to your question ‘when did the left stoop so low?’ – it started about the same time the VDS came online.

  8. Tanya on May 18th, 2009 at 23:29

    I agree, low stuff by the media and the Left. Such a turn off, such smut. Good on Key for endorsing the appointment, frankly I don’t care what she does in her personal life, she is outspoken and honest, I like that.

  9. Francois on May 18th, 2009 at 23:39

    I personally think that there is a role for smear attacks as long as it is used in the deterrent capability. The Right must be made to know that if they use smear tactics, the Left will also use smear tactics so they had better not do it again.

    Christine Rankin is the sacrificial lamb in this case. An example, if you will to the Right that the Left can also play dirty. One can argue that it’s not right and fair to her, but then again one must realize the big picture of this whole affair. The National Party must grow to realize that we will fight back and that they need to refrain from engaging in smear tactics to restore the balance of smear politics to equilibrium.

    There is also the golden rule of treating others as one would like to be treated. If Rankin did attack Helen Clark as a “barren witch” then we must see this as karmic justice or perhaps a poetic one. It’s very hypocritical for Rankin to complain about tactics she once engaged in.

    However, what the Left really needs is it’s own version of whaleoil to confine this sorta stuff to one place of the blogospher left so that the bile doesn’t contaminate the other blogs.

  10. Michael on May 19th, 2009 at 00:48

    the left most certainly does not need its own version of whaleoil! this kind of vile nonsense must be swept out of political discourse altogether, and a good way to start is by calling a spade a spade and calling out bigotry for what it is no matter where on the political spectrum it comes from. it’s disgraceful to see people who would consider themselves to be liberals, progressives or left-wingers indulging in the kind of behaviour that a scumbag like Michael Laws would blush at.

  11. Barnsley Bill on May 19th, 2009 at 01:23

    I find myself agreeing with your post Anita but still feel it was a mistake to appoint Ms Rankin to the families commission. But only because it is a distraction for the government that they could have done without.
    Some of your commenter’s were possibly not reading or even walking upright when labour attempted to destroy Christine Rankin in 98 and 99. They behaved in a completely vile way towards her and that disgusting episode was in my opinion the watershed for personality politics in this country. Almost everything that has followed (from left and right) can be sourced back to her treatment. It is the same time that the previous prime minister was whispering lies to the media about the police commissioner as well.
    Neither side has covered itself in glory in the intervening years but people getting pious and wishing labour would not stoop to this are more than 10 years too late.

  12. BK Drinkwater on May 19th, 2009 at 02:17

    @Francois: Really? I mean, seriously?

    The following question collapses your argument:

    Is it permissible for the Right to conduct a smear-attack in retaliation for the initiatory smear on Rankin?

    # # #

    Exercise for the interested reader: making appropriate modifications to the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, prove my assertion.

    Hint: the following premisses are either implicit or explicit in Francois’ argument:

    L.re: Retaliatory smears are permissible for the Left.
    L.in: Initiatory smears are permissible for the Left if (and only if) they are necessary to establish a credible threat of retaliatory smears.
    Init: It is periodically necessary for the Left to establish a credible threat of retaliatory smears by conducting an initiatory smear.

    Add the following fairness condition (otherwise Francois’ argument is no more than special pleading, & therefore may be dismissed immediately):

    Fair: What is permissible for the Left is permissible for the Right, and vice versa.

    And add the following end condition:

    M.A.D.: Initiating a loop of smears is not permissible.

    I’ll post a proof on my blog on Wednesday.

  13. jcuknz on May 19th, 2009 at 08:12

    Good for you Anita …

  14. What would Hayek say on May 19th, 2009 at 10:47

    The pleading for the left to be better behaved than the right goes to show that people actually have more in common, than they do in opposition. Lets give fall for a utopian fallacy of how we should behave vs how we actually behave.

    I think the issue of Christine Rankin is more a symptom of a wider underlying problem, which maybe in part a debate about the role of media (in particular the editors) the shape and frame modern political discourse.

    Because of the 30 second soundbite and visual element of modern communication/media there maybe an argument that discourse is trapped to emotive instant responses rather than to reasoned intellect.

    For the public this can generate a lot of news volatility with little information on underlying issues and the rationale/intellectual underpinnings for an event, with even less analysis.

    There is some countering to this – and that can be through blogging. On the one hand, a blog can be immediate – but given a good framework, it can also provide time for analysis, research and rationale discourse.

    So for everyone out there – before pressing send, take a moment to read what you have written and ask yourself, am I just angry and venting, or do I have an opinion I want to present and can I back that opinion up with evidence and a rational framework.

  15. millsy on May 19th, 2009 at 11:13

    Oh come one people, Rankin deserves what she gets. She is an anti poor, anti Maori, anti children, anti gay, fascist hatemonger who desverves to be smeared and worn down and driven out of private life.

    It is about time that the left showed her that her sick ideals about life and her brand of hate is not acceptable in this country, and she should go back to the shit hole from whence she came.

    And she is a bit rich to be going on about child abuse when she defended a law that allowed parents who took to ther kids with jug cords and peices of pipe to hide behind ‘reasonable force’. And that to me is unacceptable. Child abuse is OK as long as its rich white christians doing it.

    She wants to systematiccaly marginalise those outside her vision of the 2 (beaten) kids and mum and dad type family, (probably where dad screws the secretary and mum gets fat from chocolate because she is not satisfied in bed).

    It is people like her that saw ‘undesirables’ shoved in the ovens at Aushwitz. 1000 of our boys didnt die at Monte Cassino so this woman could carry out her social engineering.

  16. millsy on May 19th, 2009 at 11:53

    Plus she thought it OK to harp on and on about Helen Clarks personal life like there was no tomorrow, pretty much implying that only people with children should be able to run for public office…hmm she would have had a fit in 1935 then, when Micheal Joseph Savage was PM.

    She makes my physically sick, Every time she comes on the TV I turn it off.

  17. millsy on May 19th, 2009 at 11:58

    Mind you in 1935 she would have taken the first boat to Berlin. I can just imagine her going to Berlin and hobnobbing with Hitler, Goebbbels et al and writing about how wonderful they are, and how they empitomise the values that all countries should aspire to

  18. ak on May 19th, 2009 at 13:31

    Onya Millsy, and let’s not forget the treatment meted out to tens of thousands by her stinking blame-the-victim departmental ethos in the neocon dark age of the 90s – the morass and oceans of tears, anger, ill-health, suicides and generational despair caused directly by her actions and the right-wing agenda now so crushingly exposed as a fraud, from which we now still suffer the consequences.

    The only thing more nauseating than the ability of this creature to raise her head in public is the sheer gall of right-wing hacks like Barnsley Bill in their hallucinatory attempts to re-write history in defence of the utterly indefensible.

  19. Anita on May 19th, 2009 at 18:27

    Francois writes,

    I personally think that there is a role for smear attacks as long as it is used in the deterrent capability. The Right must be made to know that if they use smear tactics, the Left will also use smear tactics so they had better not do it again.

    That way lies the escalation of violence and nuclear proliferation. I know I’ve written it before, but it’s the lesson we (should) teach children, if the behaviour is wrong then don’t do it, I don’t care who started it.

  20. Anita on May 19th, 2009 at 18:30

    millsy,

    In your diatribe against Rankin there are lots of relevant public life points (campaigning to allow violence against children, a narrow definition of family, anti-Māori comments to name just a few). Why not criticise her appointment for those rather than bringing in a variety of extraneous, irrelevant, personal detail?

  21. Lew on May 19th, 2009 at 20:12

    millsy,

    You have a dangerous case of SLOPS and should seek immediate treatment.

    Honestly, you’re completely off the chain with your comments above. It’s beyond absurd and far below the minimum standard which is acceptable here. Sure; you dislike Christine Rankin on a personal level. Sure, you think she was responsible for atrocious policy. If you can’t express it without resorting to obscene ad-hominem, ludicrous conspiracy theories, frankly insulting comparisons to real actual atrocities, and the very sort of hatred you claim to oppose, then you should probably take a long hard look at why you bother. Get a grip, FFS.

    L

  22. SPC on May 19th, 2009 at 23:08

    To which, all I can say is that, I do not support Christine Rankin.

    If the National Party thinks it can run this sick “Eva Peron” imagery by us one more time … (the lets cut back on welfare to the 10% unemployed and hand out money in tax cuts to those with jobs of the 1990′s – the dress for success and let the haves lord it over those who have not brand of spend it up big WINZ) … in this rerun where as the dole queues again lengthen (and Maori and Polynesians of Auckland lose jobs) the benevolent free and privatised marketplace dictatorship strips Maori of representation in Auckland, abuse their families for the “sake of family” and then sell out Auckland for children not yet born. Then increase the age of super so that aging Maori and Polynesians die in their 60″s while living in poverty on UB and SB …

    The way Rankin uses the term leftie means she knows she has been a creature of politicial favour from the right rather than a true public servant.

  23. Fo on May 19th, 2009 at 23:18

    Millsy, I’d just reference Godwin’s law. Also, are you really that limited?

    Anita, I agree the focus on Rankin’s personal life is pathetic. I’m not sure that a male would be treated this way either, so it does seem sexist to me.

    >”Then increase the age of super so that aging Maori >and >Polynesians die in their 60″s while living in >poverty on >UB and SB.”

    Compare living on the UB & SB in a modern country with modern medicine & technology to living anywhere 100-200 years ago.

  24. SPC on May 19th, 2009 at 23:51

    Fo

    Have you ever compared the UB and SB rates in New Zealand, after the cuts back in the 1990′s, with those in other OECD nations? I doubt it.

    All western nations have rising numbers of people on SB and IB and as the age of retirement rises (rememebr it was once 60) more and more people go onto these benefits even while unemployment is low.

    Already the MP is concerned that few Maori reach the age of 65 and retire onto Super – already many Maori are in their last years of life in the late 50′s and early 60′s. Raising the age beyond 65 means we will a particularly large group of people who will be unable to work to retirement and thus will be forced into years on benefits which are not set at a level for this purpose. This means poverty.

    Few Pakeha ever spend much time on such low incomes and nor would they accept any government which would require them to do so.

    New Zealand is unique in working to part pre-fund its future Super liability and it is ridiculous to cite other nations which have not made provision as models for us to emulate. Unless one was planning to abandon the pre-funding attempt …

  25. Lew on May 20th, 2009 at 08:57

    The other thing I don’t get is how people think Christine Rankin is the keystone to this nefarious National agenda to return NZ to the bad old days. She’s not the CEO of WINZ any more; she’s a lowly part-time Families Commissioner with a minuscule budget, few staff, very little policy muscle, and needing to work with six other people.

    Why so obsessive?

    L

  26. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 09:17

    I suppose some people either comprehend what a symbolic act is, or they don’t.

    One can either wait for the actions, or one can stand up and contend before the harm is done and say not again.

    In this the S59 is truly telling – one can either prefer to be proactive or one can move to judge the level of “discipline” after the event.

    Symbolic acts have meaning – as you state relating to Whanganui so sensitively yet your radar is absent on other occasions.

  27. Lew on May 20th, 2009 at 10:50

    SPC,

    Symbolic acts have meaning – as you state relating to Whanganui so sensitively yet your radar is absent on other occasions.

    Well, my main field of research is symbolic politics, so I get that this is a symbolic appointment and a signal of policy intent. But that’s all Christine Rankin is so far: a symbol. You can’t attack a symbol on its policy merits because a symbol doesn’t have policy merits; when you try to do so you are vulnerable to accusations that you’re personalising the issues, attacking someone without grounds to do so, and overreacting. The situation has some similarities to that endured by Helen Clark: people couldn’t (until late in her career) attack her on the basis of policy, so they resorted to other means.

    So-called progressives have been falling over themselves to attack every aspect of Christine Rankin’s appointment, which has had two effects: first, they have damaged whatever feminist credentials they may have had, losing the moral high ground by resorting to the same sorts of attacks to which Helen Clark was subjected, and so soon after complaining that such attacks were misogynist, unreasonable and unfair. Second, they make Rankin out as a symbolic martyr-ogre hybrid, allowing her supporters to claim she’s the victim of a character assassination while her detractors mythologise her power, authority and profile. In order to make big moves at the FC, Christine Rankin doesn’t need to be well-loved; she needs to be known, feared and respected, and being pitied a little won’t hurt either. As a result of these attacks she may be able to walk into the FC and completely run the show; if the attacks against her had been entirely made on the basis of her policy decisions, lobby work and ideological leanings she would have had a much harder row to hoe.

    That’s just from a pragmatic perspective – from a moral perspective it’s pretty simple: the sorts of attacks and smears and rumours which were wrong when deployed by John Banks, Lindsay Perigo, Michael Laws, Ian Wishart, Leighton Smith, Garth George and so on against Helen Clark are still wrong when deployed against Christine Rankin, which was the original point. If you approve of these attacks, then you tacitly also approved of the attacks on Helen Clark, if you’re consistent.

    I’m happy to post a few lurid excerpts if you want a graphic illustration of what you’ve signed yourself up to, if that’s the case.

    L

  28. What would Hayek say on May 20th, 2009 at 11:32

    SPC (and others) – I disagree with the symbolism argument, on that basis what do you make of the appointments of Paul Swain and Micheal Cullen to very significant agencies?

    The Families Commission is not important. At best its an alternative minor source of policy against the major policy development occurring within Treasury/DOL/MSD/Min Ed. Also don’t forget Ms Rankin is one of several commissioners.

    The story is possibly another example of the small population of NZ and therefore statisical probability of individuals having repeat occurances. In corporate governance their is a real issue of many individuals having conflicts of interest. This even occurs at school board of trustees level, many communities are desperate to obtain a lawyer or accountant to add to the board and lift its governance capability, but often these people already have other roles or work that generates a conflict of interest.

    Creating a conspiracy theory out of this, misses the statistical probability of a coincidence. If you want to string together a bunch of coincidences into a conspiracy or symbolic act, then I have a large supply of tinfoil to sell you.

  29. ak on May 20th, 2009 at 16:42

    Sorry Lew, I get your point and applaud the aspiration, but just can’t buy into the “lefties are just as bad as righties” thing: I’ve been saving all this time your very own excellento paper (link below for innocents if it’s ok with you) and I’d need a fair few “lurid excerpts” of any remotely similar degree or volume (not to mention the torrents of filth from the rightie sewer blogs – including death wishes and assassination exhortations) to convince me that the recent comments on Rankin (or any other rightie woman) comes within an ant’s whisker of what was directed at Hels for years (leaving aside entirely the issue of deservedness or lack thereof: trust me, beneficiaries and their kids in the 90s had a wee bit more to grizzle about than the anti-EFA tory boys).

    http://feayn.org/~lewis/clarkvader/20080720-clarkvaderandthehelengradlabourlesbians.pdf

    [Fixed URL. - Lew]

  30. Fo on May 20th, 2009 at 17:12

    >Have you ever compared the UB and SB rates in New >Zealand, after the cuts back in the 1990’s, with >those in other OECD nations? I doubt it.

    No, I haven’t. What does the comparison show? Whatever cut backs there were have to be looked at in terms of our particular economic situation.

    >All western nations have rising numbers of people on >SB and IB and as the age of retirement rises (rememebr it was once 60) more and more people go onto >these benefits even while unemployment is low.

    Presumably the retirement age is only going to go up as the proportion of tax payers reduces over time. There simply won’t be enough money to support increases.

    >Already the MP is concerned that few Maori reach the >age of 65 and retire onto Super – already many Maori >are in their last years of life in the late 50’s and >early 60’s. Raising the age beyond 65 means we will a >particularly large group of people who will be unable >to work to retirement and thus will be forced into >years on benefits which are not set at a level for >this purpose. This means poverty.

    You could say this about any person who is unemployable, whether it be due to age, mental health or drug problems etc.

    Again, I’m not sure in what sense you mean poverty. Isn’t this the purpose of state housing, or accomodation supplements. People aren’t having to live on the street like in the US.

    >Few Pakeha ever spend much time on such low incomes >and nor would they accept any government which would >require them to do so.

    Do you have some figures to support this claim?

  31. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 17:16

    SPC (and others) – I disagree with the symbolism argument, on that basis what do you make of the appointments of Paul Swain and Micheal Cullen to very significant agencies?

    The symbolism argument is based on the earlier period – where her appointment as head of WINZ as a one time solo mother who was supposed to testify to both an aspiration to succeed (and celebrate success) and yet also an understanding of the plight of those reliant on welfare to support their families.

    The “Families Commision” appointment problem is that of the obvious comparison back to an earlier time. Of the haves (WINZ) spending up big on their junkets while the policy was not to provide full entitlements to those dependent on WINZ support for their families comes back to bite National. Thats not dog whistling or conspiracy theory – it speaks to sensitivity. Colin James used the term “tin ear” to describe Keys failure to get this one (because he was not living here at the time and so does not get it).

  32. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 17:37

    Well, my main field of research is symbolic politics, so I get that this is a symbolic appointment and a signal of policy intent. But that’s all Christine Rankin is so far: a symbol. You can’t attack a symbol on its policy merits because a symbol doesn’t have policy merits; when you try to do so you are vulnerable to accusations that you’re personalising the issues, attacking someone without grounds to do so, and overreacting. The situation has some similarities to that endured by Helen Clark: people couldn’t (until late in her career) attack her on the basis of policy, so they resorted to other means.

    I think an attempt to separate policy debate and contention from people is too “puritan” in ambition, its akin to separating policy debate from party brand politics entirely. Brand and people do matter (otherwise why would marketing involve use of people to front promotion of a brand).

    Your use of this language “I get that this is a symbolic appointment and a signal of policy intent. But that’s all Christine Rankin is so far: a symbol. You can’t attack a symbol on its policy merits because a symbol doesn’t have policy merits” speaks to the semantics of it all.

    Can one really separate the symbolic brand signal of past policy and future intent from the debate about policy merits and political brand promotion?

    Labour in 1999 effectively ran a campaign based around the neglect of the well being of too many of our people. Because of the solo mother who went on to make it (Eva Peron-melodramatic) show style of Rankin when she ran WINZ in those years (in the way and with the policy) she was part of that. To not remind voters of that in the symbolic choice of a truly divisive figure would have to be silent champion of the people Labour claims to represent (and their supporters of course get that).

    Doing that, is no personal attack on Rankin – just of her politics and that of the National Party.

  33. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 17:52

    No, I haven’t. What does the comparison show? Whatever cut backs there were have to be looked at in terms of our particular economic situation.

    The only people worse off than our workers relative to others in the OECD are our beneficiaries in relationship to theirs.

    National made the large cutbacks because of a deficit, when there was a later surplus they handed it out in tax cuts – it was not a decision required by our economic situation, it was a choice.

    The correct way to maintain an incentive to work was to raise the minimum wage and increase spending on training. National ended apprenticeships (this time they seem to be resorting to Muldoons sinking lid in tertiary education – the Irish chose another approach back in the 70′s to great effect) and held down the minimum wage – Brash the future champion of our wages catching up with those across the Tasman was in the 90′s an advocate of paying the unemployed under the minimum wage when they got work.

    The effect of past mistaken policy is that – even if our minimum wage was reduced was increased from $12.50 to $15 it would still be lower in real terms than it was in 1990. We have no future in the first world by cutting benefits and minimum wage levels down to the levels of the developing world.

  34. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 18:07

    Presumably the retirement age is only going to go up as the proportion of tax payers reduces over time. There simply won’t be enough money to support increases.

    Everyone knew this years ago and this is why

    1. the age increased from 60 to 65
    2. the Cullen Fund was established to part subsidise the future cost of tax paid Super.

    Here there is a choice – we can afford tax paid Super later if we save for it now. If National do not want to save for it now, then the age will have to increase later. New Zealand is unique in having saved $12 billion or so for the future cost – that at 5% per annum return is $600 million a year (and it will be much higher over $1000 million a year in todays dollars by the 2020′s).

    Lets face it, National want to raise the age to save the money they would later hand out in tax cuts. It’s a straight replay of “cut the benefits during a deficit and hand out tax cuts when the surplus returns” – here its raise the age to 67-70 and use the money saved to hand out tax cuts.

    We know the most likely person to be unemployed on a benefit in their early 60′s and die before they retire at 65 is not someone of the Pakeha middle class and this will be exacerbated with any rise in age for retirement onto Super.

  35. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 18:24

    You could say this about any person who is unemployable, whether it be due to age, mental health or drug problems etc.

    I was referring to age related ill health and the impact on people of limited education being employed in their 50′s and 60′s – the heart and kidney problems predominant amongst some sectors of our population.

    This problem will increase with any raising of the age for Super.

    Again, I’m not sure in what sense you mean poverty. Isn’t this the purpose of state housing, or accomodation supplements. People aren’t having to live on the street like in the US.

    State housing with income related or market rents? Sufficient state housing or lengthening waiting lists? Accomodation supplements which are increased to maintain their real value or held down (diminishing as family support did in the 90′s-2005 period). Industry experts forecast a housing shortage because consents have fallen so low – this would remind us of what happened in Auckland in the 90′s despite accomodation supplements.

    The problem with costs on benefits is also one of power (quality of healthy housing) and food.

    Do you have some figures to support this claim?

    I suppose one could argue in total numbers based on the larger Pakeha population there are as many Pakeha in poverty on benefits as Maori/Polynesians – but relative to the total population it’s obviously much lower. When c20% of Pakeha are in need it is a problem of universal living standards (thus the higher rate of Super compared to benefits) …

  36. millsy on May 20th, 2009 at 19:35

    Anita and Lew,

    With people like you on the left, no wonder the right is taking control of the country, youre as bad as those bearded types in the worker’s party who are too busy discussing what Leon Trotsky wrote about the Mexican Revolution in 1912 to be a force for change…

    The only way to beat the convervative, christian elite is to become them, to resort to their tactics, to wear them down….

  37. Pablo on May 20th, 2009 at 20:29

    Nice sentiments Anita (and Lew) but I am afraid that the cat is out of the bag on this one. Gutter politics is here to stay, introduced by the US inspired advisors to the National governments of the 1990s who counseled that all politics is ultimately personal. They and their lap dogs have been doing so ever since, using karl Rove-inspired “wedge” issues and personal attacks as a means of gaining political traction in the absent of viable policy alternatives. Labour and its supporters only began their response in kind in earnest during their second term, which admittedly, was a sign of weakness in the face of such attacks.

    I subscribe to the view that politics is war by other means (to reverse Clausewitz’s dictum). The objective is to win. Winning honourably is preferred but winning (to include influencing outcomes without being directly involved) is the raison d’etre of becoming political, supporting a party, competing in elections etc. If the other side plays dirty, so be it. As I mentioned in another post, the “tit for tat” strategy is a remarkably effective political and diplomatic tool, and one that can force the other side to desist from negative politics if applied judiciously.

    As for Rankin. I hate to say it but she brought the attacks upon herself. Like Brash and his paens to traditional values, she suffers from terminal hypocrisy syndrome; to wit, she talks one way but lives another. It was she who sexualised her work environments with her inappropriate dress and demeanor; it was she who promoted a culture of extravagance and personality while authorising cutbacks in basic social services; it is she who attacked Helen Clark for being childless. It is therefore she who has opened the doors to attacks on her personal life, the last home-wrecker/suicide episode being yet another indication that she is not someone who deserves the pubic trust and taxpayer-funded salary. The media frenzy is just a matter of hyenas smelling blood and going for it. I doubt that there is concerted political orchestration of the Rankin coverage, just a media interest in generating viewer/reader ratings via salacious pandering.

    I agree that things should not be this way. It is dirty and cheapens political discourse. But unless some sort of political pact is negotiated across party lines to refrain and publicly denounce personal attacks in the media (and I would suggest parliament itself unless issues of behaviour are directly related to their job performance–which Rankin’s is), then political wars must be fought with a full arsenal and as effectively as possible in order to achieve victory. Absent a pact, that arsenal must include the “political as personal” angle. Given that National is now showing its true colours in areas as variegated as foreign policy (subsumed to trade), defense (subsumed to the US and Australians), Auckland governance (the uber city proposal) and family matters (Rankin), it is time for the Left to rise to the challenge and fight fire with fire.

    I do agree that the Rankin appointment is a Trojan horse designed to undermine the work of the Families Commission, and as Lew said, a symbol of National’s real intent.

  38. Lew on May 20th, 2009 at 21:13

    I seem to have given the impression that I oppose all symbolic political campaigns and all personal attacks – which I don’t. What I oppose is the sacrifice by a political movement of its core values in the name of short-term, low-value political point-scoring.

    In this case, the so-called progressives engaging in gendered, misogynist attacks against Christine Rankin are sacrificing ideals of feminism – without which, as Melissa McEwan eloquently says, you’re a fauxgressive* – in order to score cheap partisan points against someone whose policy agenda is by far the bigger liability for her National party patrons. It’s idiotic in this case, and also in the case of Melissa Lee.

    What next? Taking a leaf from some arguments made on the other thread, should Labour start an Orewa-style campaign of divisive symbolic racism against the māori party in order to negate their influence in NZ politics? If not, how do these attacks differ? Note: the attacks I’m referring to against Rankin and Lee are those to which they are vulnerable strictly by virtue of being women – voice, appearance, uppity attitude, relationship status – aspects from which a man of similar conduct would be largely exempt.#

    I accept there’s a cost-benefit here, but I don’t think alienating or demoralising half the electorate or normalising the use of gendered attacks is worth it. Feel free to try to argue how you think it is.

    L

    * Some of the people included in this might not think they’re progressives. That’s a different issue (though I’d be interested to hear from those on the left who disclaim feminism).

    # Not entirely exempt, as the above example about Brash illustrates. However there’s a gendered difference in scale if not in kind.

  39. Lew on May 20th, 2009 at 21:25

    ak,

    Yeah, that paper contains the lurid excerpts I was going to post. I’m not arguing the attacks on Christine Rankin are as bad as those upon Helen Clark – I’m arguing that they have the same nature and it’s only a matter of magnitude. Endorsing one set should out of consistency mean endorsing the other, and that should make people feel pretty dirty.

    L

  40. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 22:22

    Lew, can we can agree that the left can make politics “personal” when right wing women are involved and that the restraint is in how one does so.

    As of course anymore than that is to effectively say, whenever the right choose to exploit a women joining to their cause we have to concede to them an advantage in the political discourse. That would be old fashioned, gentlemanly and patronising and not really treating women as equals (Brash vs Clark 2005).

  41. ak on May 20th, 2009 at 22:37

    Thanks Lew,

    Oh I see. I thought you had examples from the left. Totally agree that the left must never stoop to this level, and yeah, while some of the Rankin criticism could be said to be of “the same nature”, I’d argue; only in the way that a pea-shooter is of the same nature as a tank (which may of course only indicate that I’m not very widely read in this area, so stand to be corrected)

    Pablo’s right in one sense: the filth attacks seemed to be effective for NACT (in that a diluted version seeped up into the mainstream until open Clark demonisation was du jour in even the most genteel of settings), but the reception for baseless hatemongering is waning, the current ridicule of GOP cheerleaders indicative that its days are numbered.

    The left has the historical moral height and mandate: dipping into the gutter at this stage would be a gross insult to those who sacrificed their all to achieve it. Good on ya Lew for reminding us.

  42. Anita on May 20th, 2009 at 22:41

    SPC,

    IMHO no-one (left or right) should bring personal attacks into politics(on women or men).

    There are three separate issues in my original post, in only one does her gender matter.

  43. Lew on May 20th, 2009 at 22:44

    SPC,

    Lew, can we can agree that the left can make politics “personal” when right wing women are involved and that the restraint is in how one does so.

    I think politics is personal all the time; I just think that one’s political tactics should be consistent with one’s declared political principles.

    As of course anymore than that is to effectively say, whenever the right choose to exploit a women joining to their cause we have to concede to them an advantage in the political discourse.

    I can barely parse this.

    That would be old fashioned, gentlemanly and patronising and not really treating women as equals (Brash vs Clark 2005).

    From this I gather that you think I was advocating treating women with kid gloves, or being nice to them out of chivalry. Not at all – just recognise that when you attack a woman for an aspect of her femininity or on the basis of a characteristic which is only relevant because of her gender, you attack all women with that characteristic. Careful who you attack, there.

    L

  44. Lew on May 20th, 2009 at 22:48

    ak,

    Pablo’s right in one sense: the filth attacks seemed to be effective for NACT

    It does; this tells you more about their constituency than it does about the target of their attacks. I suppose a part of my argument (in pragmatic terms; aside from the ethical and moral considerations) is that the progressive constituency aren’t quite so nasty – or oughtn’t be so nasty. If they are, is progressivism really working?

    L

  45. Quoth the Raven on May 20th, 2009 at 23:22

    I think Pablo raises a key point that badly needed to be made in this. That is the hypocrisy of many conservatives. We can wax lyrical about “personal politics” but I believe conservatives open themselves up for these personal attacks when their is this disconnect between the values they profess (and ultimately want to foist upon others) and the way they live their own lives.

  46. SPC on May 20th, 2009 at 23:26

    As of course anymore than that is to effectively say, whenever the right choose to exploit a women joining to their cause we have to concede to them an advantage in the political discourse.

    I can barely parse this.

    I will clarify it then via an example.

    When the right use a women formerly on the DPB (who “as a women cares for families because she is a woman and that is what women do” and along with other women, the Minister Shipley and the subsequent ACT counterpart Newman on the DPB and also shared parenting) to front a policy of diminishing benefit levels and call it motivating women to aspire to emulate her working career example (while their children endure poverty Rankins would not have on the former level of benefit and meanwhile the Rankin brand WINZ is not committed to ensuring full entitlements are available to these families) – then appoint this women to the “Families Commission”.

    It naturally provokes an emotive reaction from some – but to respond with political criticism at the symbolism of all this, should not be seen as a personal attack, its just politics.

  47. Phil Sage on May 21st, 2009 at 07:28

    SPC – or those on the right are genuinely not interested in gender, but in merit rather than patronising positive discrimination. I consider myself a strong supporter of Thatcher, Richardson, Shipley, Rankin because they were effective rather than ticking the politically correct gender box.

    On the other hand I think Clark is a hypocritical lying manipulative fraud. She has done nothing for New Zealand, I credit Cullen with the fiscal position and yet Clark has stepped up another level in her glittering cv.

    The change that Rankin brought to WINZ in the nineties was loudly dismissed by ***** (moderated for offensive language) like Maharey and then subsequently reinstated so that WINZ procedures now are not fundamentally different from those implemented by National.

    This thread blames rovian politics on National in the nineties. I would challenge anyone to name National actions that matched Labour treatment of Peter Doone, Christine Rankin and others.

    Who started it does not matter. Key stopped it and the challenge is to Labour to match that

  48. jcuknz on May 21st, 2009 at 09:09

    On listening to Thursday morning report, where an ex boss said she was a good choice,I wondert how many of the critics actually know Christine Rankin and how many are simply judging on the basis of media reports.

  49. SPC on May 21st, 2009 at 09:11

    Then why do the right choose exclusively women to speak on behalf of the right as to what is right for other women (on welfare in particular) – cuting back support to women with children while the right claims to care about family values?

    Is welfare and comment about women on welfare something reserved as a role for women?

    Now why is that?

    Does it really speak about a regard for merit and the equality of women? Really?

    Opposition to WFF (money to women) and support for tax cuts to the male provider (higher income earner generally still). Favour for shared parenting from Newman (reduces the number of divorce applicaons by women because they lose full-time access to their children). Quite apart from the advocacy of restricted access to welfare support (or amount) to divorced women/solo parents

    Using women to advocate thr ight agenda is to cover the anti-women nature e of the policy.

  50. What would Hayek say on May 21st, 2009 at 10:17

    SPC – you ask why do the right choose women to speak on behalf of the right as to what is right for other women.

    Two answers:
    1. because the left will usually come out with a variation of “babies will die, if this is not funded” forgetting babies will die because to fund this other activities have to be traded off.

    2. possibly because the women speaking for the right, might actually be voicing their own thoughts/analysis and have chossen that ministeril portfolio because it actually interests them.

    I think your to ready to look for a conspiracy, rather than see the reality of people stumbling and bumbling there way through life using their own experience and value judgement as a guide to there decision making.

  51. Francois on May 21st, 2009 at 11:07

    Pablo basically just said everything I wanted to say except smarter.

    Kudos to him for this.

  52. Fo on May 21st, 2009 at 14:52

    >Gutter politics is here to stay, introduced by the US >inspired advisors to the National governments of the >1990s who counseled that all politics is ultimately >personal.

    Pre-1990 NZ politics was pure and honourable?

    >I do agree that the Rankin appointment is a Trojan >horse designed to undermine the work of the Families >Commission, and as Lew said, a symbol of National’s >real intent.

    Or perhaps provide some balance in terms of ideological views?

    [Snipped rampant quotes - Lew]

  53. SPC on May 21st, 2009 at 16:19

    2. possibly because the women speaking for the right, might actually be voicing their own thoughts/analysis and have chossen that ministeril portfolio because it actually interests them.

    Or is it a match of how they can best serve the right wing cause and the positions the right wing men are prepared to accept them having?

  54. SPC on May 21st, 2009 at 16:38

    I think your to ready to look for a conspiracy, rather than see the reality of people stumbling and bumbling there way through life using their own experience and value judgement as a guide to there decision making.

    So you see the pattern as just being, the way the right wing political “free market” operates – whereas I see a pattern where men hire women to advocate for positions convenient to men.

  55. Anita on May 21st, 2009 at 21:38

    Pablo writes,

    Nice sentiments Anita (and Lew) but I am afraid that the cat is out of the bag on this one. Gutter politics is here to stay

    What would it take to put the cat back in the bag?

    If the right started assassinating leaders of the left as a tactic, and the left eventually retaliated by assassinating leaders of the right, would we be doomed to have assassination as part of the political culture forever? I reckon it should be possible to stop a war of escalation by behaving the way that we believe is right.

    As for Rankin. … It was she who sexualised her work environments with her inappropriate dress and demeanor;

    How? Are just above the knee skirts and long earrings really inappropriate?

    If a lesbian were to have short spikey hair and wear purple to work would that mean she was opening herself up to homophobia, and that bigotry and discrimination would be justified?

  56. millsy on May 21st, 2009 at 23:56

    Then why do the right choose exclusively women to speak on behalf of the right as to what is right for other women (on welfare in particular) – cuting back support to women with children while the right claims to care about family values?

    You dont get it….women want to screw over the poor as much as men do. Call it the ultimate extension of feminisim.

    Personally, I am not bothered with the way she dresses, I actually think she dresses a hell of a lot better than a lot of other women out there, and she really has a decent grip on her grooming, which a lot of women lack, its what comes out of her mouth that I have a problem with.

    Its the whole beauty is as beauty does thing…

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