“Why parties of the left can be so vicious”

A comment by ‘kiwi in america’ at Kiwiblog (kia is an ex Labour Party member) with my two bobs worth added:

I’ve often pondered on why parties of the left can be so vicious in their approach to politics even to their own. Being identified as a Rogernome inside Labour in the late 80′s early 90′s was a recipe for constant nasty attacks.

One of Clark and the sisterhood’s key goals was to purge the party of the heresy of Rogernomics and they succeeded. Anyone with an inkling towards free market policies, regardless of the fact that they may have been in Labour because of its history of seemingly more compassionate social policies, was driven out.

When all that remains is the more doctrinaire activist core, you are dealing with people for whom the process and power of politics is THE biggest driving factor in their life. They eat, sleep and breath politics and the goals of a progressive nirvana.

When I got out of the vortex of the ‘beltway’, the machinations of the inside of a major political party and the distorting world view of the permanent campaign, I realised most people are not driven by politics but rather family, sport and work/business.

Now there are ambitious and driven people on the right in politics but fewer of the pathologically life controlling win at all costs types that you find frequently on the left. Because centre right party activists tend to come out of the broad middle of society, they tend to gravitate towards policy proscriptions that fit more comfortably with the aspirations of mainstream society. Such policies require less of a ‘sell’ and so the persona, image shaping and policy spin for a broad church right of centre party like National requires less contorting and flossying up than on the left.

Parties of the left in the Anglophile countries find themselves led by (or dominated by) people more out of step with the middle of their country. This is because their party’s internal structures favour the ideological and highly committed and allow them to rise more swiftly through the ranks than an equivalent person farther to the right of a centre right party. Centre right parties have more centrist instincts politically and have more formal and informal mechanisms to block more hard core ideologues.

Leaders/senior MPs of left leaning parties then must face the electoral reality that their privately held views and preferred policy outcomes are too far to the left of the broad middle where electoral power lies and so the more politically astute of them must make themselves over, tone down their rhetoric and engage in more elaborate word games, messaging discipline and in some cases outright Orwellian doublespeak.

Pretty soon left leaning politicians trying to get elected in a centrist world realise that the tried and true electoral recipe is one based essentially on deceit – the demeanising and outright lying about your opponents on the right and the masking and spinning of the true left ideology so as to appear more electorally appealing.

Anything that gets in the way of this campaign of masking and deceit has to be dealt with. I feel this is one of the reasons why the left are so nasty because, when they run up against the truth (that implimentation of their true progressive policy pathway has never worked), they can’t cope.

I’ve tried to have calm rational fact based core principals discussions with doctrinaire lefties with whom I have enjoyed long friendships and they just cannot get past their ideology. They resort to distorted talking points, propaganda and outright falsehoods when even the most easily proven facts are raised.

It explains why The Standard and Red Alert are so heavily censored. The left never believe that they are voted out because a majority of people don’t like their policies, they always believe it was because their policies weren’t properly explained, or the media were out to get them (laughable given how far the NZ media tilts left) or that the great unwashed were duped by ‘smile and wave’ John Key.

– kiwi in america

I have had a different (non-party) background to kia but have leant Labour-ish in the past. Over the past few years I have had extensive discussions on blogs right across the political spectrum. My experience with people from the centre-right and the left are very similar to as kia describes.

There can be nastiness and censorship on the extreme right, for example Redbaiter. And Christian conservatives can never be swayed, and some can tend towards nastiness too, especially in discriminatory topics like homesexualism. And there are a view nasty and abusive nutters, some fueled by evening alcohol.

But most political argument is uncensored and on an even playing field, certainly robust at times but fairly respectful of the right to have differing views.

In contrast on left wing blogs if you are deemed an enemy of the ideology you are condemned to neverending personal attacks and attempts to discredit and drive away. And the left wing blogs are far more likely to actually drive opposing views away by harrassment and banning.

My political views and blogging style are both relatively moderate and I rarely resort to personal attacks. I aim to introduce discussion points and promote debate. I confront things I think are wrong, lying or offensive, but usually with argument I try and back with facts. I can sometimes be provocative, and long winded, and boring. I sometimes get accused of link whoring – sometimes that’s justified, mostly I believe I add value to discussions and link to more detail.

I am periodically criticised on right wing blogs, with some commenters trying to ‘encourage’ me to shut up or not bring up certain topics ot link to things they don’t like. I’ve had differences of opinion and debate with bloggers – Whale Oil, David Farrar and Keeping Stock. WO and DPF moderate very lightly but do warn and ban sometimes, KS a bit more, but I’ve never been blocked from commenting or banned on their blogs. I have built a rapport with all three (minor but mutually respectful).

On left wing blogs I’ve been widely targeted, harrassed and abused, some of it quite vicious. Most of this seems to be because I have been deemed an ideological outsider. Blog moderation has usually supported this active discrimination.

I’ve been banned or blocked or deleted on a number of left wing blogs – The Standard, Dim Post, Red Alert. Some bans, blocks and warnings have been when I was the one being attacked and abused.

Clare Curran told me she banned me from Red Alert because she doesn’t trust me. I think that’s unfounded and bordering on paranoia – MPs from Red Alert don’t seem to trust anyone who doesn’t grease up their PR and bow at their greatness, going by the number they ban.

And as an example, yesterday I’m aware of three bloggers from the left (people who run blogs or are blog authors) who have taken aim at me – Lynn Prentice of The Standard (it’s hard to know how much is game playing, I admit I bait him), Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish) and Andrew Geddis (from Pundit but on another blog). It’s amusing, but I think their attention, snarkiness and arrogance reflects more on themselves.

The general theme here is that blogs and bloggers from the left are much less likely to tolerate opposing views and are far more likely to censor what they don’t like. They also seem to decide and never forget, once an enemy, always an enemy seems to be their way.

I don’t think this is something that can be changed (try suggesting improvements to lprent!) It’s just how things tend to be.

But this isn’t a totally right versus left impression. I’ve already mentioned some aberrations on the right. And some on the left are accommodating and will debate respectfully – for example, most MPs I have been able to establish discussions with have been from the left. Most Green supporters have mostly been fine to communicate with (with one notable exception).

Hissiness and nastiness seems more persistent through the ranks of Labour and Mana.

– PG

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