My apologies, gentle reader, for being somewhat inactive of late. For the last few weeks I have been preoccupied with events at Princes Street, all of which has been very distressing. These activities have prevented me indulging in the living part of life and caused me to miss the Hussell for Rustle, which I regret deeply, and The Clean. I have also moved out of Absurdist House and into The Edge of Niceness, that part of Grey Lynn where Bohemia meets the auto trade. Oh, and I have also been appointed News Editor of Craccum and invited to contribute to an encyclopedia of philosophy. Yay me.
Enough of excuses. Here is something I wrote for last week's Craccum.
Sometimes, it's hard to be a tory. Outside traditional conservative areas like Remuera, being right-wing isn't fashionable. People don't want to know about your views on immigration or political correctness (gone mad). In Grey Lynn and Ponsonby, being Right means being lonely.
It is not that there is any shortage of places to voice your opinion. Call any talkback show at any time of day or night (especially at night) and you can express your right-wing views to a sympathetic host. Write to almost any newspaper and your warnings of moral decline are almost certain to be published. But being a critic is a solitary occupation. Where can you go to be among your own kind, to share thoughts, make friends and get things done- the RSA, the Rotary Club, Church? Maybe none of these are really to your taste. And maybe you might find the opinions you hear a little short on substance, detail and, for that matter, thinking.
It's alright for the lefties; they love a meeting. At the drop of a hat they will gather round to complain about the oppressive patriarchal system of gravity and its effects on millinery workers. The left lives to meet, to protest, to talk, to argue, to split into factions.
What's more those lefties have so much to talk about. They have Theory. Lots of it: Chomsky and Gramsci and Trotsky and Laski. They have Opinion as well: Robert Fisk, George Monbiot, Jon Stewart, Tom Tomorrow. They also have Fact: statistics, indicators, all that Social Science stuff.
Worse still, New Zealand is full of lefties. They are everywhere. They have been in power for eight years and New Zealanders seem to like all that social democratic, pinko greenery. What is a decent, moral God-fearing right-winger to do?
Join a group. That's what to do. In a group, you can meet others, discuss things, get ideas. You can get together and share your grievances. As an added bonus, a group can give you a theoretical basis for your thoughts.
So, which group to join? There are so many to choose from. Some can be a little disappointing and possibly not worth the subscription. Take, for example, Catholic Action; that is, if you can find them. They are Catholic and they take Action, don't they? Well, yes, sometimes. Way back in 2004 they wrote a press release about the Civil Unions Bill which said:
"Any MP who votes for the 'Civil Union' Bill is diabolically disorientated. Any MP who votes for the 'Civil Union' Bill is on the road to Hell for all eternity. Any MP who is cast into Hell will burn forever in an unquenchable fire."
It didn't work. Most of the MPs were not afraid of the unquenchable fire and voted for the Bill. Later, in February of last year, they protested against the South Park episode that featured the Virgin Mary in a bit part. More viewers watched the show than ever before. Since then, Catholic Action has not found anything to be active about.
How about the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, then? They have a website and they have Objectives, which include:
To encourage self-respect and the dignity of the human person, made in the image of God.
To focus attention on the harmful nature and consequences of sexual promiscuity, obscenity, pornography and violence.
They are certainly active. If anything, they are obsessive. Their main target is the Chief Censor, the man who puts R18 on all those films you really want to see when you are 16. The trouble for SPCS is that he does not ban enough films, especially art films which include graphic depictions of you-know-what. He is also a homosexual and they don't like that one bit. What's more, his Deputy is a woman in sensible shoes, if you know what I mean. So they spend a lot of their members' money ($35 a year for individuals, $45 for families) taking him to court to try to get his decisions overturned. When the Chief Censor allowed a French film called Baise-Moi (translation available on request) to be shown at the Incredibly Strange Film Festival, the SPCS took him to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal.
The results were not quite what they expected. Baise-Moi originally was classified to be shown only at festivals and by film students. After the court decisions it was reclassified and made available for general release. The notoriety it gained made it rather popular. So, rather than being seen by a handful of swots, it was shown in several cinemas to many people.
Never mind. The SPCS carries on regardless. At the moment they are trying hard to have Big Boob Lesbian Cops II banned, because it involves the use of batons.
Perhaps spanking is your thing. In which case, there are loads of groups you can join, because the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act is going through Parliament. A lot of decent, God-fearing people are against this, because The Bible tells them they must smack their children to get the evil out of them. In fact, the SPCS are against the repeal of Section 59. So, while they don't like people spanking each other for pleasure and profit in movies, they do like it at home, for children. For the specialist, however, there is only one group: Family Integrity.
It's a family affair. Family Integrity (“our home...our castle”) is run by Craig and Barbara Smith and their eldest daughter Genevieve. Not only do the Smiths campaign vigourously for the right to spank, they provide a handy guide on how to do it. The Christian Foundations of the Institution of Corporal Correction is available as a PDF from the Family Integrity website. It includes this testimonial:
I freely admit that I do not understand the connection between a physical smack on the bottom and a rebellious spiritual condition of the heart, nor how the first drives out the latter. But the Scripture declares it is so, therefore I am obliged to believe and practice it. In addition there is the verifying testimony of untold generations who have gone before, my own memory of how it worked with me, my observation of smacking’s cleansing effect on my own natural and adopted and even fostered children, plus the positive testimony in favour of even more diligent and consistent smacking from my adult children!
Not enough for you? Well then try new, improved, Family First which has campaigned against the repeal of Section 59 and against Hell Pizza distributing condoms. As the smart new kid on the block Family First is the one to watch. Many more campaigns are to come. And it has a former TV weatherman, a former children's TV presenter and a former All Black on its Board.
Speaking of former All Blacks, we come to the Maxim Institute. John Graham - former All Black Captain, Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School and Chancellor of Auckland University formed the Maxim Institute right here in his office at the University. Maxim is a cut above the other groups of the Right. It likes to be thought of as a think tank or, more properly, as a social policy research group. It would like to be thought of as a lot of things but one little thing it likes to keep under wraps is that it is largely staffed and supported by members of fundamentalist Christian churches. Instead it poses as a “social policy research group:”
“The Institute has undertaken comprehensive analysis and made innovative recommendations to select committees and policy-makers on a range of issues...”
Ah, yes, but, when you look at this analysis, you find it is decidedly dodgy. Maxim's lengthy, ponderous submission on the Civil Unions Bill made much use of 'research' from crazed American right-wingers obsessed with homosexuality. It throws figures around with gay abandon and looks professional but there is not much behind the flow charts and footnotes. Maxim's staff don't have the background in social sciences to be able to talk about social affairs with any authority. Maxim is about marketing, not research.
Then there was the unfortunate business of Mr Logan. Since its inception, Maxim's intellectual gravitas was provided by Bruce Logan, whose essays and opinion pieces showed learning and erudition. Regrettably for Maxim it was not his own learning and erudition. He was copying large chunks of text from right-wing writers overseas and passing it off as his own. His plagiarism was uncovered in 2005 by the diligent research of an intrepid investigative writer (me, in fact). Since the scandal that ensued, Maxim has downsized its operations and rebranded itself as a more caring, sharing bunch of folk. It is now concerned with 'social justice' and 'compassionate conservatism.' Sadly, nobody takes it seriously anymore.
Still, at least it is active. Maxim produces pamphlets and books. It runs campaigns and helps its supporters write letters to the editors. Maxim tried very hard to get National elected in the last General Election, on the quiet of course. It didn't win that battle or any of the others it has fought; but it keeps on trying.
Try as they might and will, groups like Maxim have a problem: they don't like ideas. Conservatives despise intellectuals and they afraid of thinking. Their politics are based on emotion and on nebulous concepts like authority and tradition. Their opinions are reactive. Ideas are new and suspect. Religious conservatives are unhappier still: theirs is a politics of fear, stalked by the spectres of anarchy and moral depravity. You can talk as much as you like about the foundations of civil society and the centrality of the family but it all comes down to gays and girls – moral prejudices amplified into political concerns.
Perhaps all you can do is form your own group. Here's how to do it. Choose a name, preferably involving 'family' and something like 'foundation' or 'institute' to suggest a degree of academic respectability. Get a website. Get some corporate sponsors. Find an issue to complain about; something to do with sex is always a winner. Tell everybody that the sky will fall if the Government goes ahead with its plans to legislate on this issue. Generate some outrage and fear. Then you can sit back and enjoy the moral panic you have created.
Perhaps it's not so hard to be a tory after all; at least you don't have to think.