The Widening Gap.
Paula B's Guide To Unity.
I’m in two minds over Paula Bennett. On the one hand it seems like a democratic thing that people who don’t normally have one of their own in parliament, did. On the other hand it’s hard not to see it as a terrible indictment, that someone, how to put this… someone of such modest intellect could reach such a political height.
Look she’s not the first MP so endowed, normally they sit in the corner while the smart kids ignore them and get on with things. But Paula was like Maureen Pugh except with enormous, unwarranted, levels of confidence. And she rose to the top.
Deputy Prime Minister. Hosted a prime time game show, which was remarkably worse than even those of us with low expectations had imagined. A political commentator during the recent campaign, demonstrating the wit and analytical skills some of us remember from Question Time. And lately, a writer for the NZ Herald.
Yes, old granny H has deemed Mrs Bennett worthy of a role as an opinion writer. Either that or they’ve deemed their audience worthy of Paula Bennett. A depressing state of affairs in any case.
Mind you there are a variety of options in the NZ Herald. All the way from Prebble to Hooton, covering the full spectrum of views from those on the right to those on the centre right.
Yesterday Paula issued her latest missive, expressing concerns about the growing division between left and right. I don’t believe it was intended ironically.
Based on Paula’s television career I suspect the extent of her comedy ability runs to saying “know what I mean?”, then grimacing while hoping for laughter. Which soon arrives from a freshly opened can, once a cattle prod has been administered to the sound effects guy, alerting him to the presence of a joke.
You’ll note from the image above that NZME identifies this as “premium content”. Meaning Paula’s inside the paywall, not bilging in the moat with Hosking, lurking under the drawbridge with former ACT party leaders, or worse still soaking in the run off from the privies with the Taxpayers’ Union. Poo stinky!
“Is our collective national identity at risk? Are we becoming more Americanised in the gap between left and right supporters and our belief that the divide cannot be crossed?”, begins Paula.
That opening is the crux, pretty much all, of the article. It’s a valid question, but not a particularly interesting one as the answer is a resounding yes. And has been for quite some time now.
Earth shattering news, what next from the Herald? An article from Winston Peters saying he’s noticed more anti Māori rhetoric lately? Nicola Willis expressing concerns over the gap between rich and poor?
A more interesting question might be WHY are we becoming more Americanised, and divided?
Not a question that Paula addresses, funnily enough. Although not due to her own culpability on the change, which is not insignificant, but because she doesn’t seem to really understand the question she’s asking.
The remainder of her article is essentially the spiel of a Real Estate agent, another string to Paula’s bow, as to how amazing new MP James Meager is - OMG did you see his maiden speech? How dare we be mean about him.
“Sometimes people won’t like you for what you believe and don’t have the intelligence or desire to understand the rationale that often goes with the decisions you make. The argument that those of us on the right of politics who come from a welfare or poor background then “pull the ladder up behind us” is absolute rubbish.”
Naw, there you go people. If you don’t understand where Paula is coming from. If you think her political beliefs are perhaps self centred, focussed on the rich getting richer and if the poor get hungry enough that will be good motivation. It’s down to you not liking Paula because you’re not smart enough to understand how she rationalises her decisions. Presumably to herself.
Coming over surprisingly Greta like, Paula moans - how dare we call him a traitor to his class? But what she mostly seems to mean is, he’s just like me, how dare you attack me as a class traitor? How dare you say I pulled the ladder up behind me?
So when Paula talks about us becoming “Americanised”, what is that? Surprisingly enough, there are a number of aspects to it that Paula knows quite a bit about.
How about we start with saying things that are accurate. America has become awash with misinformation, disinformation, people misspeaking, and all manner of euphemisms for not telling the truth. Either without due care, or deliberately.
Let me give you a local example supporting Mrs Bennett’s moot…
During the Cannabis referendum in 2020, Paula’s last political hurrah so far, she said a lot of things that were simply not true. Some were wildly out of context, or were absolute junk science, only supported by “experts” with vested interests.
That’s not an accusation it’s a simple statement of fact. What is less certain is whether it was misinformation or disinformation? Did Paula say those things because she didn’t know the real information and was just spouting garbage. Or did she know that it was absolute garbage, but she said it anyway due to political partisanship.
Whichever it was it certainly is an example of Americanisation. Dividing the public by spreading false information, exactly the thing that Paula claims to be worried about. Hmm was this perhaps a confessional piece, a map to the bodies? I’m kidding, such lists would be much longer.
Then there is of course Dirty Politics. Such behaviour occurred previously, but this type of politics became really weaponised under John Key, reaching back to when Don Brash was National Party leader.
We are seeing more “Americanisation” in our media. Scandals and witch hunts, and not to put too fine a point on it - but a lot of that happened when Paula Bennett was in senior government roles.
It sounds like she was something of a fixer for Simon Bridges in that regard, no doubt people remember all thing things Jami-Lee Ross was involved in. She was even to be the Campaign Manager, before infighting and a coup left her without a job.
I struggle to recall many MPs that have demonstrated more divisive partisanship than Paul Bennett. To her everything the other side did was wrong out of principle, regardless of merit.
Paula states “people either hide their political views or are now incapable of discussing politics in a thoughtful respectful way.”
Certainly one aspect of Americanisation we see is the polarisation of our politics. We retreat into our bubbles, with media platforms that have no interest in speaking to people with other views.
But no one is more guilty of this than National and ACT. Not only do the messages from the right not even pretend to appeal to people they don’t think will vote for them, but those people aren’t even being shown the messages.
Like the Brexit referendum, or the successful election of Trump, the parties that have taken government here have, for sometime - certainly going back to Paula’s time, used the same strategies to polarise and divide. Mrs Bennett’s identification of a problem is valid, but she ignores that the party she remains a champion for is largely responsible.
For goodness sake Topham Guerin, the people they used to subvert our political process spending their large war chest of funding from investors, are even boasting about it and using it as a case study here.
“Behind this historical win we developed a crafty digital campaign that changed the face of the electoral landscape forever.”
“While TikTok was a central player in the campaign's digital strategy, it wasn't the only one. Facebook emerged as another key platform where National and Luxon's accounts garnered 1.6 million video views, dwarfing their political adversaries… The National Party emerged as the leading political entity on TikTok, amassing 60,000 followers and outperforming all counterparts on the platform.”
“I would consider the openness and the way the campaign embraced trends and contemporary themes, and using a platform natively on TikTok, was a sign of pushing the boundaries and being innovative.” - Sean Topham, co-founder of TG.
You could certainly argue, to Paula’s point, that the “innovation” National have brought to Aotearoa, in their tactics and the use of organisations like Tophan Geurin, definitely represents Americanisation.
Our elections have moved from being a contest of ideas, to a battle of misinformation, negative attack ads, and spin over substance.
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Towards the end of the article Paula rolls out one of the right’s favourite old chestnuts, “the left does not have the monopoly on caring and wanting change for the better. Instead of pity, some of us want to see people with dignity and a place in society that sees them grow and prosper.”
Naw that’s nice sweetie, does it help you sleep at night? That statement might have an ounce more credibility if the people of the right, who she claims care about the wider group of New Zealanders, weren’t Luxon, Willis, Seymour, and van Velden. Yeah Nah.
Paula Bennett has shown great willingness to sell out the people who live where she came from in order to get a bigger slice of the pie, and more power, for herself as an individual. Some people might consider that admirable. There’s no denying that going from the DPB, to become the Deputy Prime Minister, demonstrates incredible drive
But she could have the good grace not to bloody moan when someone points out the truth.
She cancelled programmes that she herself used to get a better life, that’s basically the definition of “pulling the ladder up”. Paula could save us the hypocritical concerns over polarisation when she herself has been one of our most partisan politicians, not only while in parliament, but ever since.
As for the NZ Herald, premium content? Seriously? Good lord, does that mean they paid her for it? I can’t imagine she’d be happy with it being behind the paywall if she’s concerned about reaching all New Zealanders and closing the gap.
I’m kidding, nothing says Americanisation, ot National, more than a gated community with no interest in those on the outside.
This newsletter probably calls for some American Music. If you grew up in the 80s you probably knew the Violent Femmes.