Archive for ‘December, 2019’

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year.

datePosted on 14:16, December 31st, 2019 by Pablo

I hope that all readers have had a good festive season and are headed into a healthy, happy and productive New Year. 2019 was a relatively consistent and quiet year at KP, as befits a niche political blog. 39 posts this year, including three by Lew on the gun buy back (some the most informed commentary on the post 15/3 gun law reforms has come from Lew). Some months were slow, with just one post, while most months averaged between two and four posts, the high being seven in February (in other words, just over three posts per month). We averaged around 2500 page views per month and got a pretty steady flow of comments from regular and new readers, having now passed the 2,800 comment mark from over 930,000 page views.

Since I do most of the posting the topics reflect my interest in international relations, comparative politics and international security and intelligence. I did write about more domestic-focused subjects such as the NZDF, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attacks, the misogyny of the NZ Right, the implications of Rocket Lab’s military payloads, Simon Bridge’s silliness, Mark Taylor’s desire to return to NZ, Anne Marie Brady’s problems with the PRC, Huawei as a potential arm of PRC intelligence, the Christchurch attacks and backlash to it from rightists, the cloaking of hate speech in the mantle of free speech, and the decline of small-d democracy in NZ and elsewhere. I also celebrated the ten year anniversary of KP’s first post in January 2009.

As for foreign affairs, I wrote about the Venezuela crisis (twice), the US (and its relations with various places), Argentina (on the use of torture there) Hong Kong (protests as collective action), Israel (as a limited democracy), Iran (as a regional power) and Sri Lanka (terrorist attacks). I wrote about the global protest movement, coming resource wars, the fallacy of the so-called “proximity” argument, xenophobia and racism, legacy versus speculative investments, trade versus security (with regard to NZ-PRC-US relations), and the “post-truth” moment that we are living. Underprinning all of these posts was an orientation towards democratic theory, strategic analysis and comparative research methodology, as one would expect from someone with my training, background and interests.

Most of KP readers know the rules of engagement and respected them. A lot of the comments made by were thoughtful, well-grounded and informed, for which I am thankful. There were the usual cranks (hat tip to Paul Scott) but in the main things were kept pretty civil. I did get visited by a pro-PRC troll when I wrote about the PRC and Anne Marie Brady, and he is the fellow who (I will say likely just to be polite) tried to undermine my citizenship application by making false allegations about me to the Department of Internal Affairs. No worries for me, but potentially big worries for him since there are ways that even I can track people who write to this blog (that includes those who use so-called “masking” sites), and government agencies do not take kindly to having their resources wasted by false allegations made by people with dubious foreign connections themselves.

All in all it was a good year for KP. We shall see if it keeps rolling along. I have some health matters to attend to in 2020 that may take me out of circulation for a while and there is no one to pick up the slack. Assuming that all goes well on the health front I will potter along as I can, as there will be no shortage of topics to discuss.

One thing that I can guarantee, though, is that I will not engage in the type of intergenerational warfare (“OK Boomer”) and reactionary/woke nonsense (recently associated with some pathetic old white guys turning magazine and books upside down because they have a powerful woman’s face on them). In a world where refugees are dying in droves trying to reach safe haven, only to be caged upon arrival (be it in Samos or San Antonio), and where the gap between rich and poor widens while global temperatures rise, protests rage and ongoing wars of convenience and opportunity demonstrate the powerlessness of international norm enforcement, I have better things to do in a blogpost than write about petty trivialities.

Feliz Ano Nuevo and Happy New Year to all! See you next decade.

It should be obvious by now but let’s be clear: The same folk who regularly traffic in disinformation, misinformation and “fake news” are also those who most strongly claim that their freedom of expression rights are being violated when moves are made to curb hate speech (as opposed to protected offensive speech). They lie, they mislead, they conspire and they subvert, only to whine when they are called out on their prejudice and deceit.

That is what might be called message “cloaking” or “masking:” using the legal protections of democracy in order to undermine it from within via propaganda and psychological operations designed to confuse, divide and accentuate extant social cleavages, or what right-wing extremists call “acceleration.” This harks to old Marxist-Leninist notions of exacerbating social contradictions, although for Marxists these are class based in capitalist societies whereas the alt-Right sees race and ethno-religious differences as the main fault lines to be exploited (precisely because capitalism is seen to aggregate ethnicities into socio-economic classes, thereby diluting the racial or ethno-religious basis of “proper”–read: Anglo-Saxon–governance).

Ironically, the alt-Right and white supremacists share Lenin’s view that democracy is “capitalism’s best possible political shell,” and they, like him, see it as an impediment to “pure” government (be it of the workers or of a chosen racial or ethnic group, respectively). Lenin believed that democracy blinds workers to their common interests because of the false promise of choice offered by the universal vote. Conversely, Alt-Right adherents and white supremacists believe that democracy (both in terms of the right to vote and in legal protections for minorities, etc.) gives too much power to “inferior” or “replacement” groups, thereby impeding merit-based efficient (read: White) governance. Perhaps both are right.

All of this happens in a context where public cynicism about political elites runs deep in both mature and emergent democratic societies. Venality, corruption and instrumental opportunism are rife throughout the so-called ‘free” world, leading to disenchantment and anger towards “the system” as a whole. This creates the space where conspiracy theories, false alternative narratives, fear-mongering, scape-goating and other deliberate distortions of the truth take hold in the collective consciousness. Some of this is at play on the Left side of the political spectrum but the majority of notions about the existence of a (presumably homogeneous in outlook and transnational in manifestation) Deep State, climate change being a hoax, 9/11 being an inside job, etc. come from the Right, harking back to previous incarnations of paranoid fantasies like those of the John Birch Society and various anti-Semitic cults that see Jewish control behind every major social organisation. In fact, pushed by social media connectivity, new and old Rightist tropes have merged into a particularly nasty amalgam of hate and manipulated ignorance.

The convergence of hate speech enthusiasts, climate change deniers, bigots, xenophobes and assorted conspiracy mongerers has been facilitated by social and alternative media platforms, which has given them common ground and global reach. They fight vigorously to defend their “right” to voice retrograde views while working equally as hard at propagating all sorts of subterfuge and stupidity in pursuit of their ulterior motives.

The saddest part is that this syndrome has seeped into mainstream politics throughout the democratic world, with Right-oriented parties now adopting both dis-and misinformation campaigns and “cloaking” as political tactics. National-populist parties provide the most obvious example, but one only need to look at the GOP in the US or the ACT and National parties in NZ to see how this seepage works. If I was uncharitable I would call it the “Trump tactic dispersion effect:” lie, deny, invent, obfuscate and obstruct in pursuit of partisan and personal gain without regard to the negative impact it has on the political system as a whole. The GOP is too far gone to recover from its MAGA infection, but the NZ Right parties need to be called out on their attempts to model some of their tactics on Trump’s approach and those of the alt-Right.

The irony is that the major beneficiaries of this dispersion effect are authoritarians, both those internal to the societies in question as well as the foreign despots who see utility in the weakening of democracy world-wide (and who therefore encourage and support disinformation/cloaking efforts globally).

After all, the deadliest thrusts of sharp power are into soft targets.