Sorry fans, for being away for so long. But here is something that was too good to pass up. The definition of “not ironic”, or maybe “Confessions of a leftist”…
Good to see Russell introducing diversity to PA as I mused on a few weeks ago, I thought he would go for a woman or an “ethnic”* but seems that he went the whole hog and took a former Sir Humphrey’s writer. Through the looking-glass, people.
* Token, how many times do we have to go through this? You’re black. You can play bass.
Think about the things that over the recent centuries have enabled the commoner to be free in Western countries. What are they?
Socialism? Marxism? The insipid fascism of Social Democracy? The United Nations?
No. Every major war has been fought to depose statist regimes that after sating themselves on the lives of their own citizens turned outwards towards their neighbours. The motives for going to war against these evil empires were not pure nor always rational. But the fact is that these wars ended in the destruction of the statists and sometimes in the liberation of their subjects.
But just removing the worst of the worst, destroying those who did turn outwards isn’t enough. In each society where people enjoy reasonable freedom from the old bondages imposed by early statists, monarchs, emperors and so on there had to be underlying social change. It is obvious in retrospect that the deadly theories of the likes of Marx, Mao, Mussolini, Lenin, … could not possibly liberate anyone but only impose another regime no better than what they overthrew. Why? Because they were all theories of control, not liberty.
The keys to freedom come from within the societies themselves. Foremost is the ability to move. The most simple and least glamorous freedom. The ability to choose where to live, where to go and how to get there. Can you imagine a time when you couldn’t go online and book a ticket to almost anywhere in the world with nearly no impediment, at a price that was anywhere from a few weeks wages to almost nothing? Yet it isn’t so long ago that people rarely moved more than a few kilometers from where they were born, even to make a trip if not move house. The less free you are to move the less free your country, it stops people seeing too much and getting too many ideas above their station.
Then there is a secure supply of food, water and warmth. This basically comes down to a proper supply of energy, for direct heating and cooling, for transport, for cultivation and for purification. Fundamental to the security of the basics of life is a reliable and affordable supply of energy in its various forms.
Finally there is the freedom of thought and expressing those thoughts. Without it no one will think of anything new, kick around a new idea or argue against political theoreticians.
The other freedoms, all our modern human rights, cannot exist without the truest freedoms, movement, a secure home, food and water. If you remove any of these then the other rights become merely theoretical, talking points for activists and empty promises for parties.
So what do we have?
- Freedom of movement and choosing where and how to live.
- Securing cheap, plentiful and secure energy sources.
- The freedom to express any idea.
Now tell me how on Earth the Green’s can seriously claim to be in favour of freedom or interested in liberating the poor or even average man?
This is the party that backs the EFA, an unnecessary and potentially dangerous law that they are only too willing to support in order to shore up their faltering support. How do they imagine future governments, hostile to themselves, will wrangle the law to impede their own rights? They seem only too willing to embrace that future and it cannot be out of naivete but with malice aforethought, or total stupidity.
Is there any other party that is so hostile to the poor than the Greens? Suggestions that NZers must restrict their travels to save the planet by not taking advantage of cheap air fares. Desiring the restriction of the only true form of individual freedom of movement, for any distance greater than a few kilometers from home, while laughably suggesting that buses and trains can possibly satisfy the needs and desires of even a fraction of the adult population. Promoting policies that would enable affordable, unrestricted and voluntary travel to only the well off and politicians going to Bali for conferences.
And of course the Greens are all in favour of “smart growth”, city planning and dreams of agrarian purity untouched by the plague of modern technology. Backing building restrictions to prevent development of cities, making new housing hideously expensive, limiting choices in housing to all but the already well-off.
Finally the Greens impose restrictions and costs on developing power stations, dams, oppose developing nuclear power, using gas or coal or in short cheapening the cost of energy to homes and industry. They promote technologies that will possibly be viable options in the future but do nothing to enable those now living to reduce the costs of heating, eating and drinking. They promote technologies that will never be able to supply the entire world’s population in a state of reasonable comfort and freedom. Again, only those well off can really feel secure in their energy needs.
The Greens talk a big line in human rights and their ideas of goodness. Smacking. Recycling. Summer protests in wine valleys against spying. Marijuana. Clean slates … But these mean very little to a poor family buying food, heating the house in winter and considering how far they can travel. For the rich it also means nothing, for obvious reasons.
But when it comes to the fundamentals that truly enable each citizen, poor and rich alike, to be free the Greens are actively working against every citizen, poor and rich. But mostly the poor because the rich either buy their way out or take just that extra bit longer to become poor.
The Greens only have theories of control, not liberty and you have to seriously question the motives of a party that is not in favour of liberty and actively promotes policies that benefit wealthy.
Green, like Red, is not the colour of freedom.
So is a Democrat victory in the American presidential elections unavoidable? Judging by the media coverage you’d think that the Republicans weren’t even running. Watch CNN for instance and there is hour after mind-numbing hour about the Hillary vs Obama tribulations, is he black enough, too black, does she cry on command to win sympathy, blah blah blah. Oh the Republicans? Are they running? Oh look Hillary is crying again.
But it doesn’t really matter about the Republicans does it? When was the last time they appeared interested in even a passing manner in small government, limited interference in citizen life or anything that they used to stand for? None of them are going to turn around the federal US juggernaut even if they by some miracle get elected. Limited government in the US is long out of fashion. Reagan is gone and no one has any interest in even maintaining what he managed. The Republicans are merely the mirror image of the Democrats, all you get to choose is the slight moral bent of the Presidential party. They will both rob you blind, expand useless government agencies with an ever increasing alphabet soup of departments and programs.
Let’s face it. George W Bush would be right at home in the conservative wing of the Democrats. He loves spending. He loves creating new government. His tax cuts are symbolic only and not renewed. He is not terribly conservative and is not racist, misogynistic or a gay-basher. The only difference is foreign policy and that difference is primarily of the Democrats own making. Since the Iraq campaign began most of the Democrats have tried to have it more than two ways as the war has shifted from fervent support, to poorly planned confusion, to successful surge and now on to some measure of calm and apparent hope. None more so than Hillary herself. George W would have been right at home in the Democratic party of Wilson, FDR, Kennedy or LBJ. It is only since Carter and the lack of will in the face of adversity that the Democrats have taken the easier road. That is the primary reason they hated Reagan and his supreme confidence and why they so viscerally hate Bush Jr. The same goes for the rest of the intellectual “left” of the world. Sure George W is no stunning intellect, nor fantastic speaker. But the only separation between him and Al Gore, say, is that Gore is a good public speaker who hides his own will to power from those he purports to represent.
Needless to say we have not seen the last of Gore. The man who was groomed from childhood for the presidency and devoted his whole life to it has not given up. Despite bollocksing up the enormous advantage of the pre-9/11 Clinton years, despite the tarnish of personal scandal for Bill, he will be back. Winning a Nobel prize for what honestly amounts to a fluff movie is the key he needs for a comeback, not this time but maybe in 2016.
But back on track. The Republicans are irrelevant to any liberal who is interested in and disturbed by American governance. Are any of them interested in limited government, or would even recognise it if they tripped over it on the way to tabernacle? I mean, seriously when you have local governments proposing remote controls on individual household thermostats you know that the sense of power in all levels of government has gone well beyond any safe level.
But what of Hillary and Obama? What an uninspiring duo they are. Both riding on their membership of an identity group, with Democrat voters desperately trying to reconcile how to vote against the black man in favour of a woman. Or vice versa. They must only be thanking their stars that neither the desire nor opportunity really struck Condoleeza Rice otherwise the horrid Republicans would have bagged both minority trophies in one fell swoop. How wonderfully ironic that would have been for entertainment value.
Hillary. She is a fine example to us females. Stands behind her areshole of a man while he shags whatever he wants because all along she has nursed her own presidential dreams. Any sane woman would have ditched the bastard and got on with it, funny but marriage used to be about love and dedication. Some feminist example she is. But for Hillary it was clear at the time that ditching him would have destroyed the Clinton name, presidency and any chance she had of not so subtley pretending that being First Lady was somehow a qualification to being President. I’d rather vote for Laura, she seems to believe in some ethics at least. As for crying on stage, that was not a sign of being vulnerable just like the rest of the little people. Oh no, that was very much an ace card to be played. Probably much earlier than she liked and it would have been far better deployed against a White Male Republican than against Obama but in extreme situations you need to use what you have. The tears were for her own frustration at possibly being denied the victory of inevitabilty that she has been so careful to create over the years from being the cheated on wife, through being a senator in a state far away from her own home state (revealing in itself) and on to the final dash only to be tripped by the upstart little minority man. She must have seen the ghosts of Al Gore’s campaign coming for her. No wonder she “cried”.
Hillary is no Lady Thatcher. She does not have the grace, poise or steel to come near Maggie in politics. She would never have cried in public to gain political advantage, she fought the battles on the men’s own terms and kicked the shit out of them. She was a real woman.
Obama. Who knows? Clearly very young, about as bad on foreign policy as George W was at the start of his campaign, politically well left and untried in virtually all areas of government that are meaningful to the Presidents office. Has the advantage of coming without the family baggage of the Clintons, the Gores, the Bushes or any Kennedy association. Most of all of course he is black. He is one up on Hillary here. Having a woman leader is old-hat in the Western hemisphere. But a black person? That is different. No one has quite managed that yet in our countries, and no Bill Clinton does not count. Obama I think would be a passable one-term President who would continue the expansion of the government, do little of any importance except make nice noises to the world. So long as nothing major happened like a terrorist attack or a war and he would be OK. If that did happen I think he would be toasted.
Oh we should make a mention of Ron Paul. Should. But I won’t because he is a complete nutjob. I wouldn’t consider him because he calls himself a “libertarian” any more than I would vote for Hillary because we are both women or would vote for Obama if I was a black American.
What would be good for America would be the destruction of this pernicious building of family dynasties capturing the Presidency for term after term, merely exchanging King (or Queen) every so often. The Bush’s are mercifully finished after 2008, I can’t see anyone of the family winning again even if the candidate was Jesus returned to Earth. But to destroy the electibility of Clintons, Gores, Kennedys and their like would be a great service to the public.
Some people say that you should vote for the best of a bad bunch. But why? All the possible contenders are not going to do anything that I consider good moral governance. Republican or Democrat the choice makes no difference. Governement will expand, taxes will not be rationalized, prayers will still be made at the altar of the Green Church. Screw the average girl or guy, they still have plenty of money for now and don’t seem to object to the creeping social control that seems eerily reminiscent of the social policies of the Weimar Republic.
Fortunately I don’t have to answer the “why” question because I am not American. Whatever dynastic feminist sell-out, populist pretty black man, Mormon tabernacle choirboy or big government Vietnam vet gets the top job the end effect will be the same. They will have their minor differences out on the facade, but those differences are merely created by the over-reaching influence of the government in peoples’ everyday lives. If the government was cut back to its proper ethical size then we would see some real difference among parties and candidates.
The Democrats are virtually by definition never going to do this, they are the consumate illiberal-liberals. The pity is that the Republicans won’t be doing it for the foreseeable future. As it is the partisan hacks will go on believing that Republican and Democrat candidates represent America, when in fact they represent no more than the dynastic dreams of their parents and the same will-to-power that will never ever consider limiting government in the interest of those represented.
What is a blog without a quiz or two? Here is my result from Politopia’s political leaning poll. What do you know, slightly libertarian.
NW-You would feel most at home in the Northwest region. You advocate a large degree of economic and personal freedom. Your neighbors include folks like Ayn Rand, Jesse Ventura, Milton Friedman, and Drew Carey, and may refer to themselves as “classical liberals,” “libertarians,” “market liberals,” “old whigs,” “objectivists,” “propertarians,” “agorists,” or “anarcho-capitalist.”
Abortion is a fascinating moral topic. I admit that I can’t quite decide what is the proper moral position. The two opposing camps take opposing and mutually exclusive positions, which I don’t think helps in getting to a conclusion.
On the one hand there is the “conservative” position, which in its basic form is the total outlawing of abortion. Except for cases in which there is immediate danger to the mother.
On the other hand there is the “liberal” position, which is basically a very permissive view on when the growing body may be killed. Even in cases where there is no immediate danger to the mother.
Many people have a position somewhere in between, but the political camps tend to split into the “conservative” versus “liberal” positions. But I don’t think that most people arrive at their position on abortion through a means that is thoroughly thought it. Some argue from religious morals, which generally ban abortion altogether. Feminists argue from the rights of women to their bodies, ironically though they hold the selfish position but are by and large socialists in political belief.
In between you get a whole bunch of arguments for and against abortion based on various grounds that are usually fairly tenuous. For instance it isn’t uncommon to see it argued that many pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage before the mother even is aware of the pregnancy, therefore abortion isn’t morally wrong. That is of course a fatuous argument as morals are not to do with what can happen without human awareness but are everything to do with actions we choose to make. The difficulties of survival for an embryo or early foetus have nothing to do with the morality of deliberately killing that body. On the other hand we are often shown images of a foetus that can be legally (currently) killed in an effort to strike a sympathetic emotion because the foetus looks undeniably baby-like. Appeals to emotion without an actual foundation in fact, in this case showing that the foetus is fully human and not just bearing the beginnings of resemblance, do not help the moral claims then made.
The basic moral problem is that killing a human being is morally wrong unless it is in acts of self-defense, in times of war or in other extreme cases where normal moral conduct is generally agreed to be suspended. What you nearly never see in arguments about abortion is an attempt to define where humanity begins (not life, because the fertilized egg, embryo and foetus are all clearly alive). The exception is usually the extreme religious idea that the fertilized egg itself constitutes a human being. This is the logical end point of another line of reasoning, a “slippery slope” argument from the fact that killing a new born baby is murder. But is it correct that the fertilized egg, or an embryo after a few divisions, is actually properly considered a fully human being?
An unusual feature of abortion law in many western countries is that the legal time limit for an abortion is based on, or at least considered from, the age at which a foetus/baby can be successfully reared outside the mother. This is a very dodgy basis since I fully expect that eventually it will be possible to fertilize an egg and produce completely normal babies without the egg ever being implanted inside a woman. This would virtually negate the need for abortion completely, but it doesn’t tell us any more about the morality of abortion. The point at which a human becomes fully actual must surely not depend on the advances of medicine in being able to maintain the foetus outside the womb.
These arguments are all beside the point, as I said, it all depends on when a human being is fully realized in the womb. Do we agree that it is in the womb that it becomes human? It is morally wrong to kill a newborn baby, therefore it is morally wrong to kill one just prior to birth since there is no immediate difference over the space of the hours required for its birth. Surely we don’t think that there is something about passing through the birth canal that endows humanity, otherwise all c-section births do not produce humans. Likewise a baby at birthday-1 of birth is human… isn’t it? Or birthday-2, birthday-3, … Surely a day or so makes no difference, think of all those premature babies that are born and we call them human.
But extending that back to fertilization of the egg must be ridiculous. A fertilized egg can’t be fully human. It has the potential to become a baby but it possesses that only in the genetic material. It has no organs, no mind, nothing that identifies it as human. Or is the genetic material and that potentiality sufficient?
Somewhere in between fertilization and birth there comes a point at which a human is realized and it becomes morally wrong to kill it. Because regardless of the rights of the mother to her body and what happens in it, a human no matter how totally dependent on another has the right not to be summarily executed under the normal course of events. If the foetus is not human then it matters not if it is killed. But if it is human then killing it with intent is by definition murder, since it is neither an enemy combatant nor someone bent on the killing of the mother.
Here is the point at which some feminists suddenly become more selfish than any money-grubbing capitalist and accord the foetus no rights, while the religionists will call you a baby-murderer for even considering that there is a period in which abortion is morally neutral.
But I believe that this is the only point which has any tenable foundation if you accept:
- a new born baby is human
- there is nothing special about the moment of birth
- a fertilized egg is not human
The moral question is then, when does humanity arrive for the foetus, the moment it becomes morally wrong to kill it? I would note in passing here that it in the case when the foetus has passed this point but that there is a clear danger to the baby and mother’s life in continuing the pregnancy then it is morally better to save the mother.
I think that the best we can do is talk about how likely it is that the foetus is human at a given time, ranging from 0 at fertilization to 1 at some number of weeks before birth. Somewhere in between lies a distribution increasing towards 1 over time. We probably can’t even derive this distribution since to do so would require us to know how to define humanity and the gradations of it that the increasingly complex bundle of cells becomes on its way to being a baby.
On the other hand this could be making a fundamental mistake in believing that full humanity is achieved by the time of birth. Maybe humanity is earned and not automatically achieved by all individuals. Or maybe it comes some time after birth. In which case infanticide becomes morally acceptable and murder laws become really difficult to administer. But even if this is true it does not alter the fact that if we are talking about the morals of the situation that at some point we have to determine when a human has arrived. It doesn’t matter if this is in the womb or not, when you get down to it.
I think that both conservatives and liberals both make deliberate fundamental errors in arguing about abortion specifically because they do not want to have to face the fact that a much deeper problem exists. The problem of judging who is human and when they become human. Ironically as a libertarian I think that conservatives make a somewhat slighter error by just forbidding abortion outright and at least basing the argument on considering when humanity begins (when God says so). However I don’t think that arguing from religious texts is a sufficient approach to truly deciding. It should be possible to convince atheists or “other religionists” of the case, if humanity is in fact a universal and not dependent on the culture one is born into. Many liberals, while championing the causes of the “weak and defenceless”, suddenly think that late term abortions are somehow a good idea for protecting the most defenceless. Conservatives on the other hand, who are generally interested in the welfare of their community think it is a good idea to deny women the ability to control their bodies in the very early periods of foetal development.
Like I said, often neither camp is very interested in actually determining where humanity begins or trying to discover more about the morally correct position but in maintaining their own political control of a segment of the electorate.
Ask yourselves this. If humanity was somehow scientifically proven to begin at fertilization, how would you as a liberal change your view on abortion? Or if humanity was shown to be earned and not endowed at conception, how would you as a conservative change your view on abortion? If you cannot conceive of the necessity of changing your position in the light of a proof you accept, then can you make any moral judgements?
So what is my position? I think that probably abortion is morally acceptable if the time limit is kept short (well within the first trimester, probably the first handful of weeks), since I do not know when humanity begins but I believe that it begins somewhere and that a new born baby is human, but a fertilized egg is not. While that foetus is not human then the woman’s right to her body overrides the potentiality of the foetus, but it quite quickly becomes a responsibility not to kill an unthreatening human.
Last week Tze Ming Mok gave her farewell to PA System. She is off to Europe to work and cites this as a major reason for her departure from PA System. But a little of her writing and reactions around other blogs reveal a deeper malaise in the “left wing” blogs. Something I would contend is the result of the stifling and virtual conservative nature of PA System, despite its supposed left wing bias. Let’s begin with Tze Ming Mok’s own words about this part of her exit.
… the PA System experiment is large factor in why you’re seeing the back of me. Although it’s been a very successful exercise in online community-building, and although I have had a lot of fun with it in places, it has, overall, been strangely isolating for people like me.
PA System is no doubt successful in its goal to build a sort of online community. But when you read it for a while you do notice the uniformity of the content, despite the range of authors. It is understandable that someone like Tze Ming Mok would eventually feel isolated. Just like any of the whitebread writers on PA would if they were the single white man on an Indonesian site. But that is human nature, as she realizes…
But I always knew that was how communities worked, and I knew even before it started that PA System would be dominated by a certain kind of perspective.
Communities are prone to conformist perspectives, fairly much tautologically. Online communities more so since if you don’t like it you can up and leave with no problems, unlike most real communities. In reality PA System is something of a sheltered world that brings together commenters from the majoritarian side of NZ culture in an area where they feel safe from much more rough and tumble side of other local blogs. The only comparable site was the defunct Sir Humphrey’s, which didn’t shelter anyone and if memory serves even the authors often had altercations on various subjects. The more right wing blogs are apparently far less interested in providing a haven for the majority of commenters and in so doing provide more diversity of thought.
I would argue that there is nothing more important to those “left wing” commenters than this conformance to the majority of NZ’s ethnic and political identity. It is vital to avoid argument and maintain the appearance of good natured community. Subjects that could lead to division and serious argument are complicitly ignored. This is the root of Tze Ming Mok’s isolation, real debate over race, sex and identity are simply not discussed at a deep level. The conversation is instead lead into ancient NZ musicians, Exclusive Brethren and George W. Bush.
Che Tibby, himself an ex-PA writer, says this in his lead into talking about Tze Ming Mok’s farewell.
Since its inception it has increasingly formed an alternative voice to places like Kiwiblog that pose an explicitly aggressive and right-wing dialogue.
Obviously here he is talking about the comments at Kiwiblog, as David Farrar is not aggressive in his writing. No more so than Che Tibby himself anyway. But the interesting way he writes reveals the underlying need for participants at PA, or the PA style of community, to feel sheltered and give the illusion of a romantic community. Why else link “aggressive” and “right wing” in the same breath? The commenting at Kiwiblog is obviously combative very often, but that is NOT just because of the right wing participants. Only and ideologue with a specific need to reinforce the false dichotomy of “left = cooperative, right = aggresive” could write something like that. The left wing commenters at Kiwiblog are just as responsible for the overall tone and aggression as the right. But it is somewhat typical of his writing that Che Tibby often sets up these strawmen in order to pull one of them down while putting lipstick and mascara on the other.
The fact is that there is self-evidently a wide range of “right wing” writing and debating style with regular disagreements, as well as agreements, in which the debate does not descend in to a slanging match. Take for example Peter Cresswell and the team at NZ Conservative. On the other hand there do exist left wing bloggers who are not afraid to hand it out to their “own side”. Tim Selwyn springs to mind here.
Che Tibby does make a series of good points about PA System reflecting real life and eventually comes to the evident conclusion that if you don’t like it you can leave and start up something to give your own voice. All fair enough and sensible, yet he still gives voice unintentionally to the nature of PA System and its natural inclination to provide a sheltered environment for the majority culture of NZ.
[PA System] listens to difference, and gets a bit awkward and uncomfortable when those voices get too loud, too direct, or too challenging.
And when those voices do get too loud, rightly or wrongly plays no role here, then the crowd gets “uncomfortable” and shuts down the debate. Just like the real world keeping down the uncomfortable voices by implicitly ignoring them. Here is how Deborah at In a strange land relates.
A couple of weeks ago one regular commenter made a gratuitously sexist reference to women politicians… and I longed to post something pointing out exactly what the problem was with the phrasing, but I do not have the energy to do it, nor the emotional wherewithal to withstand the rebukes that would come my way.
These women can’t all be wrong in their assessments, unless you subscribe to some weaker-sex idea, and of course if you know that the crowd is going to suppress you if you get “too challenging” you’ll eventually not bother. Naturally PA System is Russell Brown’s creation, it is his to do with as he wants. But to elevate its community to some position of idealist superiority over those “aggresive right wing” sites is fundamentally dishonest. Take Tibby’s closing paragraph.
The number of people who have delurked and posted their first comment to say goodbye to Tze Ming is a strong indication that there where plenty of readers directly interested in feminist and activist writers. If I remember correctly, Russell has pointed out that all Tze Ming’s posts were marked by high numbers of lurkers. This is a fairly strong indication to me that a market exists for these ideas, it just needs to find the right venue.
So whilst Tze Ming Mok was feeling increasingly isolated in the world of PA System her posts were actually read by a large number of people. These commenters felt able to comment only when she left! One has the sneaking suspicion that had these lurkers spoken up with something “uncomfortable, possibly even “direct” or “challenging” she might have persisted and there would still be a market for her ideas. It probably didn’t help that the most striking discussion she did create ended up with her basically being told to “deal with it” about supposed bullying in the System. But before I move on from Che Tibby’s comments let’s take a look at his concluding line.
I, for one, used to go over to Span when I wanted to read a feminist or women’s perspective on issues. And now, I go to In a Strange Land.
I really can only hope he is not as patronising as that in real life. Otherwise I hope that someday someone writes a farewell article for him that concludes with…
I, for one, used to go over to Che when I wanted to read a bogan posing as an intellectual.
If I was Tze Ming Mok, or the departed Span, I would get annoyed with being the amusing alternative view as well. “Look, the wee girl is trying to express and point-of-view. How cute! Now when is Blam Blam Blam playing?”
Whatever, it is evident that while diversity, minority issues and so on are buzzwords for leftist intellectuals the readers and commenters are far less comfortable with openly discussing these ideas. What is typically attributed to the “right” is much a trait of the “left”. The latter just cover it up by not deigning to debate it and find their areas of discomfort.
Another interesting feature of the right wing blogs is that there are strong women there writing. Whether you agree or disagree with them Cactus Kate and Lucyna survive perfectly well on their own account. Possibly this has something to do with them not playing the games of identity politics or feeling the need to be accepted by the “big boys”. Whereas Russell Brown feels an actual need to address a supposed imbalance…
And yes, I have an idea about refreshing our gender and ethnic balance too.
The problem Russell is not so much with the balance of your writers, it is the readership and commenters do not feel comfortable giving debate to the minorities you take on board. The intrinsic leftist reflex is to not take such a writer to task, or even seriously debate on the fundamental issues, so any such writer is going to get bored and isolated. The only reason to be part of PA System is to be part of the community and experience the feedback, good or bad.
This is why I would contend that PA System has the ironic effect of stifling the left wing side of the blogosphere in NZ. It has drawn to it the large audience that is uncomfortable with having their views directly challenged into a chamber in which they are not confronted, except in a very superficial way, with anything resembling an alternative to their own brand of self-congratulatory liberalism. In a manner reminiscent of Maoism they comfortable look out on the real world and merely tut while any opposition is derided as rightist (a self-evident evil), quietly strangle dissent within and let their younger fellows battle it out on the rougher blogs to give them a self-satisfied glow about how civilized their world is.
Left wing bloggers who are truly not afraid to take the debate to their own “side” are rare but do exist. Tim Selwyn, in writing about an anthology of NZ essays, sums up PA System well even when writing about the book.
Dedicated to “the bloggers,” media personality and Labour Party apologist, Russell Brown has had his smirk come to life in a shambolically uneven historical homage that would sit smugly with his complacent white middle class acolytes whose ignorance of it’s failure on almost every level is, inevitably, a prerequisite of their membership.
My emphasis. Here is an unashamed leftist who is definitely not happy to sit aside and watch the comfortable majority of NZ be quite so comfortable if he can help it. In Tibbyian terms he is positively rightist in his aggression. However, Selwyn is definitely not the sort of middle-class communitarian like Tibby or Brown who is happy to sit in his self-made echo chamber mouthing platitudes to the minorities while ignoring the injustices of their own favoured party and elites. I would say in passing that it is remarkably indicative that Tim Selwyn is far more appreciated by the right, despite the diametric opinions held, than by the left. Again I think that Selwyn captures the reason when talking about the book.
There is no internal challenge. No rejoinders, no debate as such. There are no working class voices here. No James K Baxter, no John A Lee, no Bruce Jesson or Tim Shadbolt or Warwick Roger let alone Bob Jones or Roger Douglas – and certainly no Maori “militants” who Brown evidently thinks unworthy or perhaps incapable of ideas or “great writing.”
This is equally well applicable to PA System as it is to the dreary book Selwyn is reviewing. There is definitely no internal challenge. All anger and criticism is directed outwards. Remember the vitriolic bile directed at Sir Humphrey’s? As far as I could tell it was because of the temerity of criticising the government in less than polite words, giving a convenient excuse to ignore-by-not-ignoring the site. Even when the unrepentantly leftist Psycho Milt turned up (from Kuwait? Somewhere in the Middle East anyway) there was no expressed solidarity of a kindred spirit, nor enquiry after his experiences in that part of the world. Perhaps because what he had to say sometimes challenged the comfortable quiet existence in our backwater of the world. It doesn’t seem to have changed now that No Minister has reborn some of those writers, Psycho Milt among them.
In another irony, from the point-of-view of minorities or anyone not comfortable as a middle class socialist obsessed with doctrine, PA System is in fact a heavily conservative weight on the left wing blogosphere. There is certainly nothing revolutionary nor progressive there, apart from occasional diatribes against foreign right wing politicians when needed as a distraction from Labour’s problems in NZ. This unfortunately is mostly due to the influence, probably unintended, that Russell Brown exerts. There is no similar personality on the right. No one could really care less what bands David Farrar hangs around with, and he is certainly no more “aggressive” than Brown. Yet Brown does exert a remarkable sway over the discourse at PA System, intentional or not.
This I would attribute to the existing “right wing” bloggers being largely disinterested in personalities as such and being aggressively oblivious to the Wellington in-crowds of public servants or Auckland media personalities which dominate even the blog writers of the left. These same writers naturally have an interest in preserving the comfortable state of PA System (and their own blogs), or at least the illusion of that state which is momentarily cracked from time to time, in order not to attract too much attention from their employers whose time and resources they use to maintain their sites. It would not do for a public servant to contribute too much to real debate and bring reflection on their ministry, nor questions about the use of their paid-for time.
Ultimately I read the PA System comments as little as I do Kiwiblog’s. While the latter interminably descend into baiting and fighting, the former is a dreary round-after-round of predictable comfort with just as little information.
In short I can only agree with Deborah in her summation:
I can see why Tze Ming Mok is leaving.
I don’t think PA System is going to be an interesting influence for those of us outside the public service and media industry until they get some real diversity. And I don’t mean instituting ethnic or gender quotas on writers but the complacent commenters subjecting themselves to some diversity of commenting even if it does get a bit loud or challenging. In the meantime it will continue to stifle much interesting happening on the left side of the blogs in NZ.