Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sound of the suburbs

Is Democracy under threat or not? Last week the NZ Herald told us we were doomed, yes doomed, if the Electoral Finance Bill were passed. The Herald felt compelled to warn us what would happen if the bill passes, with a front-page editorial and pages of polemic, each headed "threat to free speech."

This week they seem to have lost interest. Tuesday's front page and back page were filled with photographs of a bloody big shark trying to eat a rubber seal (not the sort of rubber seal you use in offices to mark mail as Received, but a rubber representation of the sea mammal, just in case you were visualising a Great White Shark attacking office supplies). It wasn't even a local shark; it was all happening in South African waters. Since then, they have kept banging on about the Bill but without the crusading zeal of last week's editions.

So, why does the Herald now care more about marine life than Democracy? Perhaps it was because of the rather lacklustre response to the demonstration in Auckland on Saturday, which the Herald was promoting. Perhaps the Herald had envisaged a more stirring response to its call to save Democracy. The Herald had advised that the organisers were requesting that protesters from immigrant communities should carry the flags of their home countries. As it turned out, there were none, although a Dutchman did wear an orange shirt decorated with various incoherent slogans, somewhat in the manner of the Letterist International or The Clash. He carried on his shoulder not a flag but a full-size effigy of Winston Peters, which itself was adorned with a helpful sign identifying the subject and describing him as a traitor.

The Herald had also advised that the organisers wished lawyers to come wearing their gowns. This was a rather naive request: most lawyers do not possess gowns, since we are not living in an Ealing Comedy set in 1950s England. As it turned out, one man turned out wearing a gown over his jeans. He looked somewhat uncomfortable.

Of jeans there was no shortage. Reader, I can tell you that never before have I seen so much grey hair and blue denim in combination. Obviously this is what they are wearing in the suburbs. Not, of course, 501s or stovepipes but those generously cut jeans which make allowance for advancing waists and descending behinds. Later, I checked at the official outfitters of middle management, the charmingly miss-spelt Rodd and Gunn, and found that their designs have names like "spike," "rover," "tex" and "digger." Not that any digging has ever been done in these trousers, some of which looked as if they had been pressed for the occasion. They were worn with polo shirts or long-sleeved, striped shirts of the kind suitable for working hard and playing hard. It was all very smart-casual.

It was a little bit fundy, as well. The organiser was someone called Boscawen, who had never done this sort of thing before, but he was helped by others who had: the Sensible Sentencing Trust and Family First. Although some Democrats for Social Credit and some Libertarianz had come along, the majority of protesters seemed to be God-fearing rightish folk. Those who want the repeal of the repeal of Section 59 had brought along a trestle table and a couple of petitions for badly-drafted referenda to reclaim their right to beat their children. Despite temptation, I refrained from asking the rather delectable girl behind the table whether she had been spanked recently. Instead, I signed another petition, promoted by some other people, for a railway to the airport; the political equivalent of a cold shower.

When the march got going, it became obvious that these were not people accustomed to protesting. They started off at rather too brisk a pace, leaving some of their elder comrades behind. Some began singing a hymn, which was quickly stifled by the organisers. Instead a chant was offered by an organiser with a megaphone. Here too, the crowd showed their inexperience; obviously they had been busy during Vietnam and, equally obviously, they do not go to churches where the liturgy includes responses.

They were keen, however. Some had brought along home-made banners, on one of which the word "communist" was misspelt. Several representations of the Prime Minister in various Nazi uniforms were noticed by your correspondent. Other protesters used the banners provided by the organisers, which claimed that the legislation is fascist (if you have not been receiving your mail recently, it is probably because your postino has been sent to a concentration camp) and that our boys fought the Second World War to stop this sort of thing.

The speeches were scarcely better. References were made to Pakistan, Fiji and other countries with electoral reform issues, as well as to The War. Mr Boscawen had promised to speak for five to six minutes when the marching was done. He spoke for at least twenty-five, referring to everything which had happened in the previous week, regardless of its relevance to his cause. Mr Garth McVicar of Sensible Sentencing claimed that New Zealand was one of the most violent countries in the West. Mr Bob McCroskie of Family First said something, I'm not sure what; it was probably about sex. Finally, that man from the talkback radio was asked to make an impromptu speech; such was Leighton Smith's mana that the crowd parted to let him through. And there was an old soldier with lots of medals, which just goes to show.

Then everyone went home. The organisers asked that the banners be returned, since they had another demo on Wednesday. As everyone packed up, they played Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord" on the PA, which rather let cat out of bag; it is on the new Clapton compilation, which doubtless is a big hit in Glenfield.

Still, nothing much there to give the Herald cold feet; it's not as if Bishop Brian had come to the party. Perhaps the Herald realised how ridiculous it had become, squealing about the threat to freedom and democracy made by rules based on those of Canada. Perhaps even the Herald is a bit uncomfortable about its growing reputation as a mouthpiece for the National Party. Or perhaps bloody big sharks sell more papers.

28 comments:

A. J. Chesswas said...

"Or perhaps bloody big sharks sell more papers." ha!

highly entertaining post again paul...

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, across the Taz, the Exclusive Brethren have come out to play...
see http://www.theage.com.au
for details...

Craig Y

Danyl said...

This was a rather naive request: most lawyers do not possess gowns, since we are not living in an Ealing Comedy set in 1950s England.

Heh. 'Kindhearts and Coronets' was my favourite.

Anonymous said...

Ah. Labour and the Greens seem aware of the aforementioned Age pieces. I wonder who told them...

Craig Y

http://www.peebs.net

(See forum section)

Anonymous said...

Paul Spake thus:
"The speeches were scarcely better. References were made to Pakistan, Fiji and other countries with electoral reform issues"

That one caused me to laugh out loud, fortunately I was alone and I don't think the neighbours heard. Please be more careful in future, children may have been passing.

Peter in Dundee

Blair said...

I don't know what protests you have been on lately, but that was pretty massive by my standards. The only one I've seen that was comparable in size was the anti-GE march. Nor was the behaviour of protesters any more embarassing or naive than many marching on the GE issue.

I think the fact that this bill is based on Canadian law is precisely the problem, since Canada is neither much of a beacon of democracy, nor beyond corrupt centre-left administrations itself.

Peter Jenkins said...

Only one comment on this;

You mentioned that "Mr Garth McVicar of Sensible Sentencing claimed that New Zealand was one of the most violent countries in the West."

As it happens the statistics back him up;

Assaults per capita
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_ass_percap-crime-assaults-per-capita
(NZ in the top seven)

Total Crime per capita
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_tot_cri_percap-crime-total-crimes-per-capita
(NZ second only to Dominica)

Rapes per capita
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita
(NZ twelth from top, and many of the coutries with worse stats are not developed countries, e.g. Jamaica, PNG, Montserrat)

Whatever you may think of the rest of the protest or the rest of the speakers, the above clearly indicates that we have a problem and that Garth's assertion has some substance

Anonymous said...

Er, Blair. Are corrupt centre-right administrations neccessarily any better?

See http://www.citizensforethics.org

Craig Y

Blair said...

Er, Craig, when did Paul ever compare the EFB to the American system? Go back to sleep.

Anonymous said...

Well at least they all got out doors for a nice walk, right?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you would have found the protest march more to your liking if the usual rent-a-mob rag tag bunch of losers turned up with their cause of the moment banners - free palestine!, gay rights now! which one is it this week?

The fact that you have to attack the jeans they were wearing or GASP! their inexperience in protesting as shown by their marching pace rather than what they were protesting about unveils you as the pompous prat you are paul

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I suppose I didn't spot rent-a-bigot counterparts at anti-EFB marches..?

Craig Y

Anonymous said...

Did you craig? Who were these people? What did they look like? Who were they bigoted against in your opinion?

Still no comment on the EFB itself I see, why is that?

Anonymous said...

EFR bill is now a dead issue. What will be will be.

MandM said...

Oh dear Anon you simply don’t get it do you

And as "Dr" Craig Young has rigorously argued in his carefully reasoned and informed analysis. The EFB is good because, in Australia, a religious group expresses views he disagrees with.

You see “Dr” Craig Young and Paul are the defenders of reason, freedom and enlightenment values against religion and all the bigotry associated with it. ( such things as the abolition of slavery, rise of science, banning of infanticide, agitation for freedom of the press and all that) That’s why they can advocate the restriction of freedom of speech in the name of religious intolerance and on the basis of ad hominen arguments.

Is it clear now?

Sam Finnemore said...

"You see “Dr” Craig Young and Paul are the defenders of reason, freedom and enlightenment values against religion and all the bigotry associated with it...That’s why they can advocate the restriction of freedom of speech in the name of religious intolerance"

I lol'd. Do you do stand-up when you're not commenting on blogs?

Seriously though, if you actually read the Fundy Post on a regular basis rather than just being directed here by irate anti-EFB overlords, you'd notice that Paul is equally hard on Christianity, Islam, Scientology and many other religions besides, when they deserve it (which is depressingly often).

Anonymous said...

I see. And S&M are absolutely sure that there were no Confederate US Christians defending slavery?

And in the case of William Wilberforce, his laudable opposition to slavery went hand in hand with anti-union fanaticism and the foundation of the rabidly pro-censorship Society for the Suppression of Vice. Slight contradiction there, given the range and scope of the SSV's targets.

Moreover, how is it ad hominem to cite Exclusive Brethren malfeasance in the context of an ongoing Australian Federal Police investigation into their activities?

Craig Y

MandM said...

Sam

1. Actually, I don’t have an EFB overlord, interesting that you immediately postulate some orchestrated conspiracy from the mere fact that I offered a rival opinion.

2. I read the fundypost fairly regularly and have done for several years. Sun Tzu put it well “know your friends and know your enemies and you need not fear the result of a thousand battles”

3. Most of what Paul (and Craig) writes in criticism of Christianity is poor. If you think its good then I am sorry you simply have a poor grasp on the issues.


Craig

1. I don’t recall mentioning Wilberforce nor did I ever state that no Christians defended slavery in the southern US. How about, just for once, responding to what a person actually says.

What I suggested (using irony) is that the 19th century view of history which sees Christianity as ushering in kind of dark age where bigotry and superstition and oppression reigned which had to be overthrown by reason and science in the 17th century is a myth. The abolition of slavery (of which Wilberforce was in many respects simply an end game figure was simply one example of how this picture is false. ( see Rodney Stark’s work For the Glory of God.)

Oh and why are you so opposed to Wilberforce’s views on censorship. I Thought it was acceptable to curtail freedom of speech if it prevents radical sects from influencing public policy. And laws with a wide range and scope are no problem, its simply that those who applied the VSA didn’t follow the law of common sense in its implementation.

2. ad hominen means against the man. This fallacy occurs when instead of criticizing the conclusion, premise or form of an argument you attack a persons character. So for example when instead of either (a) arguing that one can restrict free speech of any one who wants to criticize the ruling party once every three years is justified or (b) showing that arguments against this policy are unsound. You instead start talking about how some religious sect may be criminals. You are engaging in the ad hominen fallacy.

3. Calling me names that suggest I am into S&M is juvenile; many of us learnt that this way of criticizing others is invalid before we did post graduate programs. How about you (a) Grow up and (b) learn to reason and (c) actually get that degree instead of pretending you know what your on about when you don’t. (d) stop blaming your own unscholarly and unethical behavior on mental problems.

Matt

Sam Finnemore said...

MandM: apologies. I should have realised your expertise on the topic - I remember reading your blog semi-regularly a while back, and also recall your enterprising defence of one Liz Shaw.

Sorry to fisk your posts again, but I just found this too funny - first:

"ad hominen means against the man. This fallacy occurs when instead of criticizing the conclusion, premise or form of an argument you attack a persons character...You are engaging in the ad hominem fallacy."

Then:

"How about you (a) Grow up and (b) learn to reason and (c) actually get that degree instead of pretending you know what your on about when you don’t. (d) stop blaming your own unscholarly and unethical behavior on mental problems."

Irony much, Matt?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sam.

Oh, and...

Does the name Leo Strauss ring any bells, before we start getting misty eyed over conservative political ethics?

Craig Y

MandM said...

Sam

You contend that I criticize Craig for engaging in the ad hominem fallacy and then engage in it myself. Actually I suggest you read a little more carefully. Or at least learn to read and cite people in context.

I said that this fallacy occurs when “instead of criticizing the conclusion, premise or form of an argument” you criticize the person’s character. Now if you read the earlier parts of my post you omit you will see I did criticize Craig’s argument with counter arguments.

The section you cited in fact was in its context not proposed as a rebuttal to Craig’s argument at all what I said ( in context) was.

*Calling me names that suggest I am into S&M is juvenile; many of us learnt that this way of criticizing others is invalid before we did post graduate programs. How about you (a) Grow up and (b) learn to reason and (c) actually get that degree instead of pretending you know what your on about when you don’t. (d) stop blaming your own unscholarly and unethical behavior on mental problems.*

Here you will see that, I was responding to Craig’s reference to me as S&M (not his main argument) moreover I responded by attacking * the argument* as invalid. The comments you cite was not offered as a rebuttal at all ( which had already been made) but rather as advice on how Craig can not continue to make these mistakes in the future (he makes them quite often and the comments based on my familiarity with Craig’s work). Telling a person how to improve their scholarship after one has responded to his arguments and shown that they are invalid is not a fallacy.

On the other hand trying to get people to reject a line of argument on the grounds that person Z who has some association with this position has done terrible thing Y is a fallacy.

Craig’s post and counter posts are good example of this fallacy. The contention is that the EFB proscribes unjustified restrictions on political speech. Craig's response is to note that some people in Australia who share the religion of some people in NZ who once criticized the government are under investigation. So what?

He now attacks Conservativism by noting that one person Leo Strauss ( yes I have heard of him) who can be described as having similar political views to some conservatives has done or said something he thinks problematic. Again totally irrelevant.

One person I knew at high school who supported Labour was convicted of rape. In fact criminals tend to vote to the left ( as political squabbles in Florida a few years ago noted) does this mean that Craig’s views are all screwed. No.

I maintain that anyone who seriously reasons about religion and public life in this way over and over again is simply incompetent in their analysis. I suspect almost any Philosophy of Religion department in anglo american world would agree with me.

Anonymous said...

One, I am amused by the above. As I am a trained political scientist, I deal in the concrete, not quaint archaic abstractions. Fact- the Exclusive Brethren tried to buy influence in NZ's 2005, Australia's 2004 federal and 2007 federal elections. Fact- they have fallen afoul of the law, and are being subjected to investigation. Fact- all of the above is documented in the Melbourne Age, and I fully intend to provide commentary on any forthcoming Australian investigations into the sect in question.

Two, as for Leo Strauss, he is credited with the Bush administration's foreign policy direction, which is hardly irrelevant, Matt. Just ask anyone
with any interest in Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Three, do the words 'network' and 'policy formation and exchange' and 'strategy' mean anything to you in this context?

Craig Y

Sam Finnemore said...

MandM:

I really appreciate the time you took to produce that comment, and I'm sorry I didn't get to it earlier. Let's take a look at your 'advice' to Craig again:

"(a) Grow up and (b) learn to reason and (c) actually get that degree instead of pretending you know what your on about when you don’t. (d) stop blaming your own unscholarly and unethical behavior on mental problems."

I fail to see how this could be interpreted as anything other than a verbal beatdown, given the way it's phrased. The way you've attempted to justify these comments gives me hope that your stellar career in law will continue to blossom, but somehow it all rings false. Craig made an off-colour play on words with your username, and you responded in kind. Sorry I called you on it, but there it is.

Second, there's probably a much better case for Strauss as a significant conservative figure (being a major force in the policy of a Republican government) than for your mysterious schoolmate as the archetypal Labour supporter (who as far as we know had absolutely no significant connection to Labour at all, or else I'm sure you would have spilled the beans).

Don't have any more information on this allegedly rock-solid "crooks vote left" argument, do you? Links would be appreciated.

MandM said...

Sam

1. I am not a lawyer nor a law student (you are confusing me with my wife I think)

2. It’s difficult to respond to your interpretation of me. You suggested I was committing the ad hominem fallacy (arguing a proposition is false because the person who holds it has a bad character). I *argued* that I did no such thing; you now simply *assert* that I was. Perhaps the following will advance discussion, lets assume for the sake of argument you are correct, then it follows that both Craig’s argument and the paragraph I cite is invalid. It does not call into question any other of the points or arguments I made. Moreover it confirms my claim that Craig’s arguments are invalid.

3. Re Strauss, here I think you miss the point; the issue is not whether he is a significant figure. The issue is whether it’s justified to call into a question a political philosophy or a single policy associated with that philosophy because of the character of one practioner of the philosophy. It seems obvious to me that it is not. The rational merits of a position depend on the cogency of the arguments for the position not on the character of one of its proponents. Moreover the truth of a proposition depends on what the facts are not on what the character of one person who asserts the proposition.

4. Re the crooks vote left issue, my source is the Democratic Party in the US, I seem to remember them arguing that one reason AL Gore lost a vote in Florida was that Florida did not allow convicted felons to vote. But there is an article published in the American sociological reviewhttp://www.soc.umn.edu/%7Euggen/Uggen_Manza_ASR_02.pdf which argues, amongst other things, that laws barring convicted criminals from voting biases elections in favor of the republicans. This is because criminals are more likely to vote left than non criminals are.

Matt

MandM said...

Craig

First, you are not a trained social scientist, you claimed to have a PhD in this subject but then it was discovered you did not and had lied about this. You admitted this in our last e-mail exchange. Moreover your methods (as published in Massey women studies journal) of relying on the testimony of alternative personalities to verify your findings is hardly conventional social science methods.

Second, the exclusive bretheren did not try to buy the 2005 election several members of this church spent there own money expressing their own views. The fact that several members of a church do something does not mean the church does.

Third, even if the exclusive brethren did all these things, that is irrelevant , because the fact that some people committed a crime does not entail that the political or moral views they expound are false, this any trained philosopher and logician could tell you.

Social scientists deal with descriptive facts ethicists deal with normative values, you cannot deduce the latter from the former. If you want to pull rank and cite your status as a �trained social scientist� to provide people with reasons for accepting your analysis of religious and social issues my own qualifications as a trained ethicist and philosopher/theologian would easily trump yours. However, I prefer to rely on my arguments.

nznative said...

jesus mandm would be the most boreing twat that I've never bothered reading.

................ verbose self important idiot springs to mind.

Is that what universitys teach ??????

No surprise he's a natianal supporter .....................

Anonymous said...

Er, no, Matt, actually they wouldn't. Are any of your various Calvinista organisations still operative? If not, that infers some serious inability to transcend purely charismatic and personality centred leadership, which usually proves inimical to long-term organisational survival.

Craig Y

MandM said...

Craig

Your welcome to believe that failure to aquire a PhD in woman’s studies and then lying about means that you have more credibility to comment on issues of religion and ethics than an actual PhD in Theology and ethics does if you like.

Your also welcome to advocate a policy on the grounds that some individuals who are associated with those who support it broke electoral laws and then support a policy proposed by a government who also broke electoral laws.

You are also welcome to dismiss the views of Rodney Stark ( whom I cited in my original post ) a qualified social scientist and former president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion with a publication record of over 27 books and a 120 articles in sociology. And then claim that because you are a qualified social scientist people should listen to you.

I prefer to try and have views that a rationally defensible. And one feature of rational views is that they are consistent.