Political blogs in New Zealand serve as a useful enough niche in discussions on democratic matters but are waning in influence and newsworthiness.This is largely due to the growing dominance of Facebook as a forum for just about everything, but is also an effect of ‘Dirty Politics’ on the two largest blogs.
Twitter has it’s uses in monitoring news, and views of the news writers, but as a forum it is also diminishing in importance. It has been tainted by misguided and often bitter social crusaders with too much bashing of anyone with different views.
Kiwiblog still chugs along as one of the biggest and most worthwhile blogs to watch. David Farrar was rocked by ‘Dirty Politics’ but kept going and is still a knowledgeable and very well informed political commentator. He is trashed by some on the left because he is closely associated with National but gives some good insights into the Government without being a yes man, he is prepared to criticise his own side and praise opponents albeit with an obvious preference overall.
Amongst the daily noise there are some good comments and a number of commenters are worth watching out for.
The Standard has had a difficult year, with internal divisions causing more than a few problems, and a couple of long serving and prominent authors/commenters being banned over differences. While it there are still strong Labour connections there is a growing influence – often negative – of Green supporters, active in effectively censoring The Standard by shutting out and driving away views and people deemed unwelcome.
There are some commenters worth watching out for but there is a lot of repeat bleating and unrealistic idealism.
The Daily Blog has waned. A lot of effort and resource went into Waatea Fifth Estate which was designed as a great alternative to the struggling traditional media, but failed to get repeat funding for next year -it was interesting at times but didn’t build an audience. Some posts are good but the messy site design and too many rants and ridiculously slanted assertions from Martyn Bradbury detract from overall credibility.
Commenters have been heavily filtered since the beginning a The Daily Blog, with Bradbury’s lack of confidence in his arguments resulting in him protecting them from examination, so the comments threads are rarely of much value.
Whale Oil is still the biggest blog stats-wise, mainly due to having by far the most daily posts (25 yesterday), by many of these are fillers and click bait. Slater sometimes has some fresh and breaking content but not much these days, and tends to bang on about a few topics repeatedly. Insider sources have diminished markedly. He also now relies a lot on other media content, ironically heavily criticising that same media for being past it and irrelevant.
The commenting community is still very active despite major purges in 2014 in particular but you have search for good content, which can be tedious with the often very slow Discus system.
On blog comments – while Whale Oil keeps conquering the click stats their number of comments gives a better idea of comparative interest, with most posts getting few if any comments. There are often as many comments per day at Kiwiblog, and The Standard usually isn’t far off in comment numbers either (but not the last few days).
Public Address sometimes has some very good posts – Legal Beagle is always worth looking out for and Russell Brown’s posts on drugs are worthwhile – but they are barely daily so it’s more of a magazine style blog. Comment numbers are spasmodic.
The Pundit is still there but only has the occasional post. Andrew Geddis is always worth checking out but otherwise, from a 16 strong line up of authors there isn’t much content, with only 9 posts this month.
No Right Turn is worth keeping an eye on but with no commenting allowed it lacks community and variety.
Blogger of the Year
For me there has been a stand out political blogger in New Zealand this year – Danyl at Dim-Post.
Dim-Post evolved from a semi-satirical site with an interest in literature into political activism to an extent in 2015. Danyl helped James Shaw in his campaign to take over Russel Norman’s co-leadership of the Green Party, and became a part of the Green campaign committee.
But this year, especially in the second half, Danyl has done something unusual for a political blogger – he has been prepared to examine his own political views and critique his own side, the left, with some very good insights and challenges. He has also been prepared to look across the political spectrum and mix criticism with praise and acknowledge positives with the current Government.
It’s rarely refreshing to see someone involved in politics prepared to break out of the bubble and look at the bigger pictures, even when they are not painting what they prefer to see.
Comments are also often worth skimming through as there are some good contributions there.
For a sort of a lefty Danyl is notably different to the idealists with entrenched views and no tolerance for alternative views.
Some of Danyl’s thought provoking recent posts – if you have spare time over the holidays it could be interesting to revisit these posts and comments.
I think Key’s tendency to blow with the wind has more to do with political expediency than intellectual honesty, and I said so. But I agree that the ability to change your mind is an important trait, and since then I’ve been trying to think of recent instances in which I’ve changed my mind on political issues, and I couldn’t really think of any, which worried me a bit.
I guess I know what twitter and all of the Green and Labour Party MPs have been talking about today. This poll conducted by a Feminist charity in the UK is a pretty typical example of the various surveys about public attitudes to feminism (I’m not aware of any similar work in NZ). Most people will say they believe in gender equality but very few people will self-describe themselves as feminist.
I’m not a fancy media strategist etc but when you’re twenty points behind in the polls and there’s a huge, unpredicted political change, probably not that smart to go around saying ‘nothing has changed.’
One of Key’s strengths was an apparent indifference towards his government’s policy agenda. There were no bottom lines, no hills to die on. With the exception of major natural and financial disasters, everything else in the country was pretty much fine as it was but could be changed, preferably slightly, if the public mood seemed to call for it. ‘We think we’ve got the mix about right,’ was Key’s first response to any problem. It gave him enormous flexibility, and he’s leaving his office with popularity and political capital unmatched by any other Prime Minister.
A series on Marxism:
The Standard has one of those ‘Maybe Marx was right‘ posts you see a lot on the left nowadays, linking to a column in the Guardian suggesting the same thing. Reading the Trotsky biography I’ve mentioned on here before has lead me to a lot of secondary reading about Marx and Marxism, and my half-informed take is that Marx was right about some things but very wrong about other, very major things, and his total wrongness on those major things hasn’t yet sunk in for the radical left, which is a source of a lot of their failure and irrelevance. I want to talk about one of the wrong things.
One of Marx’s big ideas was that history operates according to scientific laws. This was a much more sophisticated way to think about history than people back then were used to. A lot of intellectuals thought that history was shaped by a ‘world spirit’, viz Hegel. Most normal people – In Europe, at least – thought the Judeo-Christian God made everything happen. Most historians thought that ‘great men’ shaped history. The idea that technological and economic change and other materialist factors drove history was, well, revolutionary.
Yesterday a few people asked me why on earth I wrote a long confused rant about Marxism. Like, what does that even have to do with anything that’s happening in the real world? Possibly nothing, increasingly so, but I think it’s relevant to some of what’s happening on the left. The post is a culmination of stuff I’ve been thinking about for a while.
When I wrote my screed about Marxism one of my fears was that Scott Hamilton would show up and tear it to pieces. Happily he has not done this, instead he directed me to this post he wrote a few months ago also critiquing the base-superstructure model.
Giovanni Tiso has written a post about Why he is a Marxist.
I like forums that challenge norms, that provoke thought and encourage discussion. It’s lacking in the big blogs. I think that Danyl has done this better than anyone this year.