Political pressure petitions

Petitions to put pressure on politicians or to promote or oppose policies have become common.They sometimes demand that heads must roll, a very negative reaction to something that is often politically charged.

Petitions are very easy to set up online. Are they useful? Most are ignored, although some get boosted by media attention.

There’s currently a petition calling for the White Ribbon Campaign to dump John Key as an ambassador after Key was involved in crass ‘jokes’ on The Rock radio station.

Is calling for Key to be dumped the best approach here? It hasn’t worked so far as White Ribbon has accepted Key’s explanation that he had no idea what the content of his radio interview would be.

Wouldn’t it be better to encourage Key to turn this very unChristmas-like ambush on him into an opportunity to make a positive point about the misuse and abuse of sexual/criminal jokes? I would have liked Key to do something along these lines.

But some people have chosen to try to shame Key and get him dumped from White Ribbon.

Which people?

Ken Clearwater from the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust said he found the stunt “bloody appalling”.

“Rape is not a joke, full stop. Regardless of the gender of the victim. The psychological damage done to men and boys is the same as to women.”

Fair enough for Clearwater describing the stunt as “bloody appalling” and standing up for victims.

The White Ribbon Campaign expects their Ambassadors to “embody the principles of the campaign” and they are chosen for “their willingness to challenge the behaviour of abusive men, and to convey key messages directly to their own communities.”

“I would certainly hope that John Key would not be treated any differently by the White Ribbon Campaign because he is the Prime Minister. The only question we should be asking is, does this behaviour uphold the principles of the White Ribbon Campaign?” says MacDonald. “If not, then he has to go. Personally I won’t be able to bring myself to support their campaigns in the future if he remains as an ambassador.”

But then he turns it into a pressure campaign, trying to get White Ribbon to do what he wants. I have concerns about this approach.

The petition was set up with Clearwater’s support by Action Station and Kyle MacDonald.

Action Station say they are “here to enable the large community of Kiwis with shared progressive values to take powerful, coordinated action on urgent issues we care about” and they are “independent and member-led, we are affiliated with no political party” but their formation had  links to Green Party activists – see How Green is ActionStation?

Issues currently featuring on their website as well as the dump Key from White Ribbon include “end the Serco fiasco”, climate change, anti coal, Key’s “abysmal track record backing sexual violence survivors” (from November), anti TPPA, anti flag referendum.

So they align quite left on the political activist spectrum.

And the person fronting the White Ribbon petition is Kyle Macdonald who describes himself as “psychotherapist and blogger”.

His blog is Off the couch – “a psychotherapist’s view of events and happenings in Aotearoa New Zealand”.  The Key/White Ribbon campaign features there.

The anti-Key petition also features prominently on MacDonald’s Facebook page, not surprisingly. But going back through his posts there you can get an idea of other topics of interest to him.

  • #‎TPPAnoway‬
  • Anti-John Key/flag
  • Got your ribbon on ? ‪#‎takethepledge‬ ‪#‎whiteribbonday2015‬
  • Looking forward to hearing @MaxRashbrooke talk at “Step it Up” on Monday – Tuesday ‪#‎inequality‬ ‪#‎nzpol‬
    Spending the day with some like minded folk
  • Listening to @GarethMP @grantrobertson1 outline the big issues for progressives in the next 10 years… ‪#‎NZpol‬ ‪#‎stepitup‬
  • I’ve encountered a fair bit of ignorance about poverty today. So I’m just going to repost this blog from last year..
  • On John Key and “child poverty due to drug abuse” – So even if this was true, and of course he hasn’t produced any evidence that it is, strong empirical evidence shows that socio-economic status, trauma and poverty strongly linked to risk for addiction.
    So he’s either lying, wrong or both…

It’s not surprising to see some of MacDonald’s political preferences. And they go back – here’s something from 2009:

I have received the following communique originated by NZ Association of Psychotherapists member Kyle MacDonald; an easy means for you to tell the Minister for ACC what you think about sexual abuse recovery rationing:

Grass Roots Political Action, a step by step recipe.

That details a letter to a Government Minister campaign, an update – “There’s also a petition, for what that’s worth”.

MacDonald also teamed up with Action Station on another petition campaign in June this year.

Psychotherapists and campaigners team up

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists have teamed up with grassroots campaigning movement ActionStation to call on the Government to drop new experiments using ‘social bonds’ to fund the delivery of mental health services.

“Over the past week a number of our members asked us to launch a campaign calling for an end to this experimentation with mental health funding,” says Marianne Elliott, National Director of ActionStation. “They were concerned about the perverse incentives this approach could create in the delivery of essential services to vulnerable New Zealanders.”

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists share these concerns and have publicly backed the petition.

“As we talked to our members, and I spoke with members of the general public it became clear that a lot of people are really shocked and worried about the idea of this Government using an unproven funding model with some of our most vulnerable Mental Health consumers” says Kyle MacDonald, New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists Chair of Public Issues.

Now none of this is a problem, MacDonald can team up with anyone and promote whatever issues he wants to.

But it puts some context around his John Key/White Ribbon petition and campaign.

I wonder if, from a psychotherapy angle, whether political pressure petitions and campaigns are the best way to achieve positive results.

I’d prefer some good came out of this rather than scoring a political scalp.

Leave a comment


  1. @ PG – “I’d prefer some good came out of this rather than scoring a political scalp”

    2 things –

    1) I very much agree with your sentiment. The problem appears to be the “political” part, as we currently accept it, which frequently looks for the bloodied scalp or the rolling head.

    2) Would you be saying this if it was a Labour leader’s head on the block?

    • Yes, I would say the same if it was a politician from any party. I have in the past done that. For example I have strongly argued against people calling for Helen Clark’s head over speeding and painting signatures.

      The latter was particularly ridiculous as it was done with good intent, to help raise funds for a worthwhile cause.

  2. Joe Bloggs

     /  22nd December 2015

    There’s no reason for Key to resign from the White Ribbon campaign. That’s a step too far. A simple apology and a statement condemning the actions of The Rock would be nice. And perhaps a little more thought about the maintaining dignity of the office he’s sworn to uphold…

  3. Joe Bloggs

     /  22nd December 2015

    Ooops, maintaining THE dignity…

  4. FarmerPete

     /  22nd December 2015

    His comments were framed as coming from a psychotherapist with strong views about sexual violence. That position in itself is perfectly acceptable but to couple this with an’ I will not support White Flag until…’ is a dead giveaway. This has nothing to do with psychotherapy and all to do with political opportunism.
    I am a survivor of extreme family violence and it just aggravates me hugely when people hijack ‘opportunities’ like this to ostensibly talk for victims whilst driving a political point. It is terribly dishonest.


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