Out of whack Mack on the ‘far right’

I don’t know who Ben Mack is, apart from ‘columnist for the New Zealand Herald and associate editor of Villainesse’ (Lizzie Marvelly’s  blog), but he seems seriously out of whack in a column that somehow got published by Washington Post – How the far right is poisoning New Zealand

But for all the excitement around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new government, the real power lies with the far right. And, more terrifying: The far right seized power by exploiting the very system meant to be a fairer version of democracy.

Led by veteran politician Winston Peters — who has made racist comments toward immigrants and people of Asian descent and Trumpian abuse of the press — New Zealand First has traditionally been an afterthought in New Zealand politics. That all changed this past September, when the two largest parties finished close enough in the general election that whichever party New Zealand First decided to enter a coalition with would control enough seats in New Zealand’s German-style MMP (mixed-member proportional) parliament to govern.

In other words, a far-right party that received just seven percent of the vote had the power to decide who would rule.

That’s nonsense on multiple counts. NZ First is faar from ‘far right’. They have some fairly rightish policies, but far from all. Winston Peters has been campaigning against capitalism and for far greater state intervention.

Greens and their leader James Shaw are regarded as fairly left wing generally, and in his opening speech in Parliament Shaw said “Our parties, as has been documented, do not agree on everything, but we do agree—as has not been documented—on far more than we disagree”. That is far from ‘far right’ agreement.

If that wasn’t appalling enough, Peters and New Zealand First held the country for ransom, repeatedly delaying the announcement of their decision for several weeks as they extracted more and more concessions from suitors.

There is little evidence of anything like that, and negotiations involving both national and Labour lasted less than two weeks.

When Peters finally declared on Oct. 19 that New Zealand First would go into a coalition with Ardern and her Labour Party, it was only because Ardern had kowtowed the most to his increasingly extreme demands.

There’s little evidence of that either. In fact Labour negotiated successfully against NZ First’s more extreme policies like ditching the Maori seats and the anti-smacking law and slashing immigration.

The effects of the far right’s influence are already being felt. Amid pressure from New Zealand First, the government has vowed to slash immigration by tens of thousands by making it harder to obtain visas and requiring employers to prove they cannot find a qualified New Zealand citizen before hiring a non-citizen.

Labour had already vowed to cut immigration a bit, they stated that their policy stood after negotiations, and have decided to act cautiously – Ardern: No cuts to immigration coming just yet:

Ardern said the minister for immigration is working through various proposals but she does not expect any announcement soon.

“That was never within our 100 day plan, there were other priorities around housing, around health, around incomes that we were much more focused on,” she said.

The Prime Minister added that it absolutely bothers her that some have drawn parallels between her and US President Donald Trump, who came into office on a pledge to toughen immigration policies.

“For me, it’s a slight on New Zealand’s reputation to suggest that we are anything other than humanitarian, outwardly focused and built on the hard graft and work of migrants in New Zealand,” said Ardern.

That doesn’t sound anywhere near ‘far right’.

Like American white supremacists in the age of Trump, bigots in New Zealand have also been emboldened by New Zealand First’s success into taking action beyond ranting on Internet message boards and social media. In late October, clashes erupted when white supremacists rallied in front of Parliament.

From the link “Only a handful of members of the group, which preaches that diversity equals white genocide, showed up for a planned rally today.” No evidence the protest planned weeks in advance had any link to anything NZ First have done.

Threatening fliers have also appeared in public, calling on white people to “unify” in order to “preserve identity.”

Auckland University Students Association president (from the linked item): “Groups like that were gaining confidence and legitimacy after Donald Trump’s presidential win in the US”.

“It was the second similar controversy on the university’s campus, after another incident several weeks ago” – before the government was formed.

All this flies in the face of Ardern and her “more compassionate” government’s outward progressiveness. But Peters — who took the roles of deputy prime minister and foreign minister as a condition of working with Ardern — and New Zealand First can end the coalition agreement, which would trigger the need for new elections.

Put simply, while Ardern may be the public face, it’s the far right pulling the strings and continuing to hold the nation hostage.

Put simply, that’s nonsense, there’s no evidence of anything like that. There is evidence that Ardern is in charge and calling most of the shots.

What’s happened in New Zealand isn’t just horrifying because of the long-term implications of hate-mongers controlling the country, but also because it represents a blueprint that the far right can follow to seize power elsewhere.

New Zealand’s political situation under MMP and with long time politician  Peters leading a minor party in government for the third time in twenty years is a blueprint for nothing elsewhere.

Appealing to ethnically homogenous, overwhelmingly cisgender male voters with limited education and economic prospects who feel they’re being left behind in a changing world is nothing new for the far right.

The far right in New Zealand appeal to very few people. Peters is a populist politician who is adept at attracting minority votes but whose Opposition bark is far worse than his Government bite.

But what is new is its savvy at exploiting democracy by doubling down on these voters while mostly allowing larger political parties to attack each other on their own, thus positioning themselves as “kingmakers” who can demand concessions from those larger parties before carrying them into power.

New since we changed to MMP in 1996, when Peters chose to go into Government with National. I’m, not sure what Mack is getting at here – that smaller parties should have no say?

Then, they can rule from the shadows by threatening to leave the government at any time and plunge the country into chaos when things don’t go their way.

There is little to no risk of that. It hasn’t happened before and it is widely regarded as suicide option for a small party.

It’s a dangerous tactic that could prove brutally effective in other parliamentary systems like New Zealand’s if the far right is not confronted early for its bigotry, regardless of how marginal its support may seem.

The handful of people from the far right were confronted at their protest and shouted down and chased away by the left, who can be intolerant of different views as the right. But that had nothing to do with NZ First or the Government.

If she truly wants New Zealand to be a more tolerant place for all and to set a worldwide example that hate is not acceptable, it would be best for Ardern to end her unholy alliance with New Zealand First and the far right, even if it meant she might not return as prime minister. As long as the far right has power, bigotry and hate will continue to fester in Middle-earth.

This seems to be suggesting that Ardern plunge the country into chaos because things aren’t going Mack’s way.

The most likely outcome would be a genuine move to the (centre) right with a return to a national led government, quite possibly a single party government.

It’s embarrassing for New Zealand that Washington Post has published this out of whack Mack crap.

The column has been severely whacked on Twitter:

Fake news, elections, Facebook

Attention continues on how fake news is being used in political campaigns, how fake news helped win the US presidential election for Donald Trump, and how Facebook is a significant  part of spreading false news.

Gizmodo: Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash

It’s no secret that Facebook has a fake news problem. Critics have accused the social network of allowing false and hoax news stories to run rampant, with some suggesting that Facebook contributed to Donald Trump’s election by letting hyper-partisan websites spread false and misleading information.

Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the issue twice since Election Day, most notably in a carefully worded statement that reads: “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics.”

Still, it’s hard to visit Facebook without seeing phony headlines like “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide” or “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement” promoted by no-name news sites like the Denver Guardian and Ending The Fed.

Gizmodo has learned that the company is, in fact, concerned about the issue, and has been having a high-level internal debate since May about how the network approaches its role as the largest news distributor in the US.

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias.

One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

on Facebook:

1. Facebook is a perfect example for why government regulation is important.

2. The incentives are all wrong here:
  a) Users are happy with fake news
  b) FB is happy making billions
  c) Advertisers are happy with clicks

3. The fake news literally makes everyone involved happy–from producers and distributors to advertisers and users.

4. In this way, it’s not unlike, say, heroin, which also makes everyone in the chain happy–until someone dies. And that’s why it’s illegal.

I don’t know how government regulation will help prevent fake news being fed via other countries.

Guardian: Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election

We are fully ensconced in the post-truth world. The greatest editor this paper ever had, CP Scott, had it that “facts are sacred”. CP Scott, by the way, apparently used to have this thing where he brushed his teeth a certain way so the flecks of toothpaste would make a rude shape as they hit the bathroom mirror.

Zuckerberg has said: “Personally, I think the idea that fake news – of which it’s a small amount of content – influenced the election is a pretty crazy idea.”

The influence of verifiably false content on Facebook cannot be regarded as “small” when it garners millions of shares. And yes, it runs deep. The less truthful a piece is, the more it is shared.

In Zuckerberg’s follow-up statement, he seems to have shot himself in the foot, by saying it was “extremely unlikely” fake news on Facebook had an impact on the election, but also boasting that Facebook was responsible for 2 million people registering to vote. So which is it, Zuck? Does Facebook have influence or not?

Where do these stories originate? Well, some are created by teenagers in Macedonia. Wait, that one isn’t a joke – non-partisan kids looking for cash just catering to demand. Many more come from people we now term the “alt-right”, who cook up stories on boards such as 8chan, 4chan and social media, and are then co-opted either by genuine right-leaning sites or shill sites, and are then shared again on social media by accounts with Pepe the Frog or eggs as their avatars. It’s a bit like the water cycle, but if the water cycle were diarrhoea.

‘Alt-right’ is a sanitising term. Perhaps Alt[-wrong or Alt-deliberately-wrong would be more appropriate.

Some of these stories are frankly ridiculous (myth busted: Hillary Clinton is not the leader of an underground paedophile ring), and cater to an increasing number of conspiracy theorists. But others are relatively benign if wildly inaccurate. They have still begun on message boards created by the same people who – and I will not sugarcoat this – refer to people who are not white as “shit-skins”.

A better term for many of the alt-right, therefore, might be “far-right”. For “alt-right” is an ambiguous term and encompasses many forms. Sure, they are internet-savvy millennials who reject mainstream conservatives and despise Paul Ryan. But they’re also far-right lurkers who probably bid on Nazi memorabilia and have moved from white supremacist sites such as Stormfront. Then there’s the Russian faction; online commenters bought in bulk. And on social media, there are the bots and sockpuppet accounts to inflict automated insult to injury.

But let’s be clear: the internet alt-right is more successful as an In Real Life political force than the online left.

And that success is why it will be hard to combat.

Just like old media seem to put clickbait ahead of accuracy, and Facebook is driven by revenue, political activists are driven by a desire to win, and if they win with fake news they will keep peddling fake news.

And they will get better at disguising it as legitimate news, and they will get better at spreading it before it can get busted as fake.

The Internet was a great new hope for spreading information and communication to the masses, but it is becoming a means of duping the masses on an unprecedented scale.

This will evolve and change – for better and for worse.

Far left and far right obsessions

From a long post by Alex Andreou in London: THE TRUTH ABOUT JEREMY CORBYN

The far right is obsessed with purging the country from anyone who looks different.

The far left obsessed with purging it from anyone who thinks different.

While I usually try to avoid generalisations simplifications there could be some truth to that.