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Manipulating our deep, primitive fears


Facts fade when faced with false fears

The Right Honourable Winston Peters is political genius. There's nothing to compare with him.

He has made his political career flogging just two hot political issues. Through the flogging he has got himself and his party elected again and again.

For two decades Mr Peters has bashed Asian immigration and beat the pensioner drum. They have propelled him to Treasurer and to Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Sure there have been hiccoughs. It’s been an up and down ride. But through his most recent sabbatical Mr Peters has refined his two hot button issues to their economical essence.

His two campaigns are now one. He has fused them to a single thought: the pension problem is Chinese immigrants.

Now that's pure genius. He now only need push one button to fire two hot political issues. The economy of political effort is sublime.

Nitpickers rush to explain that the political thought isn't true. That without the talent, the energy and the enterprise of recent immigration, New Zealand would have turned in on itself and collapsed.

But the nitpickers don't comprehend the obvious: Mr Peters is not sitting an exam in Aristotelian logic. His aim is votes, not the perfect syllogism.

His votes don't come from truth and logic. They come from articulating the dark and deep primitive fear that foreigners are putting at risk all that is ours.

Mr Peters at once awakens that fear and quells it. He's defender and protector. A simple vote is all that we need do to secure our fair share.

That dark and primitive fear lies so deep and strong within many of us that it’s totally immune to fact or reason. The fear is especially strong among the elderly. So strong indeed, that any counter argument or evidence only heightens the fear.

The Prime Minister recites cold hard objective facts showing the fear to be absurd. But to the fearful that only proves the Prime Minister himself is part of an uncaring conspiracy ridiculously trying to deny the obvious.

Thank goodness, they cry, for Mr Peters.

The economy of political effort is such that in a thought Mr Peters awakens the fear, quells it, and renders himself saviour. The fear is replaced by the comfort of Mr Peters in his proper place in power.

That’s genius.

But that's only the half of it. It's not enough to announce the thought. The thought must be widely and repeatedly reported into a drumbeat. It must be repeated and repeated to penetrate the consciousness of the fearful.

That's the where the specificity of the number comes in. Mr Peters declares that there are 22,000 recent Chinese immigrants sponging on the pension. The magnitude and precision of the number makes the thought reportable.

The number gets widely reported. That starts the drum beat. Then it gets widely scoffed as wildly inaccurate from the Prime Minister down. The beat gets louder.

Then Mr Peters teasingly reveals his source: an anonymous elderly Chinese gentleman! Genius. The coverage runs and runs. Smarty-pant reporters mock the saviour but the fearful already know that's exactly what they would do.

And best of all? Mr Peters never has to do a thing. He never has to deliver. Why? Because the fear is groundless. There is nothing to it. It simply isn’t true.

I imagine Mr Peters’ success is distressing to believers in government and the righteousness of democracy. But to me he’s just a perfect illustration of the idiocy of both.

More by Rodney Hide

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Comments and questions

I never thought I'd find myself in almost total agreement with Rodney Hide and certainly not with anybody from neo con ACT., past or present.

But this opinon by Rodney is right on the button and his prose and metaphors likewise.

Genius Peters may be in the jungle of raw politics of political survival, but such "genius" is also poisonous, as its total raison d'etre is based on ignorance, prejudice and fear. One day he will drown in a tank of his toxicity in the Darwinian way he has suvived thus far.

Very poisonous. I had thought he was gone for good in 2008. He clearly has a few days left.

Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate them very much.

This article pretty much sums up the inherent dishonesty in our Political system elections.
MP's are not being elected on pragmatic Policies which have a long term benefit to NZ, or in some cases are even necessary in NZ; but are elected on opportunistic publicity. The news media, and to a degree MMP, have a lot to answer for in this respect. When did we last read, or hear, an in depth analysis of policies; rather we get articles reflecting the ideology of the media.
This only encourages electors to be lazy, and not think for themselves; being easily lead,
The result is we have a Parliament controlled by opportunists with no practical policies; and frequently with a 'hidden agenda'; one certainly hidden from the minds of the 'easily lead'.
These opportunists never have an practical alternative, if they have any alternative. It is much easier to criticise and condemm, than to offer viable alternatives.

I don't think we can blame MPs and the media. I think both play to what the public want. In many ways we are getting stupider and stupider.

I think that you will see, that I mentioned MMP and the media together.
My reference to MP's was about the 'why' of electors vote for their Members of Parliament. BUT!! there are certainly some MP's who play on this nonsense. They are the ones who can talk for 10 minutes, and say nothing, frequently the fringe parties; spouting politically attractive cliches.
Like some of the other Bloggers, I am enjoying your new series of informative articles. You are correct the country has become stupider ..(oops not PC!..).One thing that struck me upon returning after an extended period of overseas employment was how 'Dummed Down' the country had become; and sadly, how far backwards Maori had gone.. lost their motivation of the 1950's. Something to do with being patronised by certain Groups for the Political advantage of that group(Party) I suspect.

Rodney, Surely all politicians use this wheeze. It's called framing the debate. In the last election, it was all about "debt".. Phil Goff will give you more, John Key less. Less debt is always therein ends the argument. Labour uses the same tactic with "Asset Sales"....again proper analysis (both pro and con) is lost in the primordial fear.

Politicians then become someone that people "like" because they trigger certain emotions and feelings....but that's politics for you.

True. What's annoying is that Mr Peters is just so good at it. Plus I would say that every other MP thinks there's more to politics than just the "wheeze". For Mr Peters, it's everything.

I have no doubt that all MPs hope to help create a better world and represent their constituents as best they can. That begs the question as to whether the current political framework actually serves the people. We're in the 21st century now and perhaps it's time for our political system to evolve. Any thoughts on changing the system so it delivers better results, rather than acting as a platform for egomaniacs?

Mr Hide, your talent was wasted in Wellington. Your last two weeks' artcles have been right on the nose - well done and keep them coming. You never know, maybe there will be enough people reading them to evince some realism into how this country is governed!

Thank you. Your comment is very encouraging.

Goodness me I'm enjoying Rodneys articles.

Me too!

I asked you once Rodney Hide, why you did nothing when you were in Parliament about this. Very easy for you write about such scapegoating/nazi techniques, when you also have to do nothing just like Peters but need a subject to write about to earn your daily crust.

When I mentioned the abuse I got arising out of this leader's diatribes against Asian, his henchman from Pakistan?, somebody Jones, he was truly offensive saying to me "you people don't like to share" when I raised that NZ was seeen as a "soft touch" and the dire future ramifications of new arrivals from EVERYWHERE, get free/cheap university education, and/or social benefits without contributing anything: e.g. why are white tourists eating up $400,000+ of health care after touring/living here with no health insurance, or receiving counselling over years?

There are some NZers receiving $40,000+ to marry "immigrants" because that pretty cheap to get a lifetime's passport to our stupid social welfare/ACC system which rewards the lazy able-bodied who have far fewer worries than the working householder who has so many bills.

We early Chinese (who used to be the most self-employed/most educated per head of popln/lease criminality etc up to the 90s) have been paying more than our fair share for white assisted immigrants/their state housing/glidetime jobs etc. and elderly parents arriving for decades, and Maori welfare, whilst not having the same rights and/or being sufficiently independent and resourceful not to bludge, believing we had to contribute to this wonderful land as continuing civil society requires.

I have paid taxes for nearly 54-yrs, done voluntary work, participated on committees/brainstormed re civic facilities etc? I have created my own work to support my family when my husband was seriously ill for l3 yrs all the while keeping nasties like Peters and Jones who caused me a lot of grief. Maybe they were so desperate to keep their perks at all costs: Peters spent the most in overseas travel before he was booted out and I hate that my taxes helped him in his jetsetting when it could've gone to the truly needy for whom our taxes were meant to help. We lived off savings when my husband needed 24/7 care in his final years yet paid for these cheapskates to live extravagantly via our lifetime of paying taxes..

You've got to hand it to Peters, he had Helen Clark jumping to his tune as well as all the journos who find him newsworthy so kowtow to him, because he has behind him a growing strident army of oldies (sometimes who have squandered all their assets so as to qualify for all the freebies as they have an overwhelming sense of entitlement) to exponentially multiply the burden on our young and all future generations. How is NZ ever going to reduce it's per head of population debt...initiative seems to have flown out the door because hardly anyone does anything without government subsidies/incentives which are garnered by mostly the elite with connections.

As used to live in nice suburbs I wasn't aware of the huge number on benefits - the policymakers, MPs etc. have very little sense of the dependency in this country: such beneficiaries use the behaviours of crooks in business, MPs, public bodies etc. as their excuse for having the right to grab as much as possible themselves.

I know only too well the hurt and pain Mr Peters' and it was Dail Jones' cause. Thankfully they are not my problem any more!

You are becoming very cynical Rodney.
It is just a fact of nature Rodney, every district and village has an idiot, it therefore follows that parliament should have one, maybe two/three as well! If it wasn't Mr Peters, it would surely be someone else. Nature abhors a vacuum.

True enough. I would say skeptical and iconoclastic. Never cynical.

Apparently Muldoon liked him. Enough said.

Okay here we go again, you might not like him but who was it who proposed a super annuation policy in the 90s that had it not been voted down by the short term thinking muppet voters would have transformed this country's savings history in a massively positive way and we'd have a war chest of money to deal with current problems rather than selling off the our precious power generation platform to who in the end? Chinese Government SOEs? who was it that got NZ seniors back on their feet and up and running again via the Gold card, probably the single biggest positive development in senior's health in generations, not to mention free doctors visits for under sixes, oh and who has pledged to buy back our power system if sold... having the balls to draw a clear line in the sand while the girlie men of Labour and the Greens wring their hands like the all talk do nothings they have always been and always will be, who is the only poly who talks about the need for a national 'call to export strategy' while the rest of them sleep walk to mediocrity and talk as if we can never do better and who being a Maori is the only poly who asks maoridom the hard questions and rallies against creeping separatism and apartheid in NZ and lets also mention a political come back like no other in our history... you might not like him, you don't have to but you can't argue with the actual 'runs on the board' he has achieved, sorry Rodney what did you ever do? dancing with the stars ?

What can I say Anonymous? He's a genius!

He has no "runs on the board"
Gold card?/
A rort to get aucklands greedies over to waiheke and back, paid for by the taxpayer.
Buy back?? With whose money??

Not too hard to understand how this Machiavellian phoenix was able to rise up from the ashes, when NZ is renown as the "Land of Sheep". And given that it has political acumen to match, it doesn't take much to be seen as a "political genius".

It's harder than it looks. And only he has been able to do it.

Good luck with the election mate, you'll need it!


Winston plays to the most basic instincts and is a master at it - he does not pretend otherwise.

You played at the same game too - tilting at the perks and excesses of Parliament so loath by the average New Zealander. You pretended otherwise.

Get the picture?

Thats true Rodney. Your credibility took a fatal blow over this issue.

How does an honest, sensible, caring politician get to make a real difference to NZ? Being honest will make you irrelevant within a week in our headline driven society. It's time we had more Rodneys telling us how it really is, so we can punish the guilty and make real progress.

Sigh. Too big a job for me!

Sigh. My nearly 70 year old mother loves him.

She has an IQ over 140. But when it comes to politics her IQ drops to like 80.

She says John Key only wants to be the prime minister, doesn't care about anything else. I say Winston wants this even more.

She says John Key doesn't really have any ideas, he's just a populist. Again, I say this is more true of Winston.

How anyone can be so sensible and capable in most of life's areas, but totally idiotic in one area is beyond me.

There's just no common sense in the debate. The oldies love him.

The oldies hark back for an era when life was 'simple' and 'good.'

When hard work was rewarded with proper pay and there was loyalty.

Today, they feel cheated by the crooks who make millions by sleight of hand and by influence.

They look at the finance companies, the Fay Richwhites, the property developers who are bankrupt but still live pronely lives and they say 'Enough.'

That's why they vote Winston.

And good on them exercising their rights to show disgust at what the John Keys, Helen Clarks, John Banks and Rodney Hides of this world represent - greed for power and corruption as far as they are concerned.

Rodney - you had a lot of potential until you were seduced and decided to go to the dark side.

Shame on you.

The oldies do not "hark back (for) an era.........".
They come from an era that borrowed from the next generation and generations yet born so they could live the easy greedy life.
And yes they do vote for the snake oil salesman, and yes I am of that same generation, but I wouldn't vote for the prat if was he last poli standing.

Got to hand it to Winston, at least he's consistent, and you can't complain that when he hits the press, it's ever boring.
These sorts of people can be found in a lot of areas of society, unions, boards etc; They're the types who like to rattle cages, beat drums, be a little outrageous and extreme in their ideas and policies, but end up hanging themselves at the end of the day by doing/ or saying something stupid. This guy certainly has done this numerous times over, but like a bad penny always shows up again and has become a professional at it.

While I have never supported Winston, I feel we need guys like this in the back benches asking the hard questions and keeping the rest of them honest, however that's about as much power as you would want to give them. Having him in any position of power would not, I believe be in the countries best interests.

I reflect on another example of shock value and its effect on popularity and exposure such as Air NZ's Rico advertising. Although there was knowingly by AirNZ going to be mixed criticism, nevertheless it had the desired effect and worked to their advantage regardless. It created exposure and views from those that wouldn't normally all over the world.
Like it or not it paid dividends.

Yup. He's a master at it. I think if he stayed in opposition it would be fine for both him and the country. Sadly, every now and then he ends up with real power!

Kiaora Rodney.

I will admit that I liked you when you were a perk buster - then you turned around and did it yourself...On your taxpayer funded trip to attend her brother's wedding, with your then partner whom you later married, Louise Crome I called you all the expletives under the Sun and even made some of my own up.

Regardless of the fact you repaid the money, it was that you did it, after making a career out of perk busting , complaining about the waste of taxpayers money...From perk buster to perk abuser

After that, you lost credibility with many, many Kiwi's.

Also, From the Press report:

He told the table guests before his formal speech that a person could get a “s…load” done in government as long as “you set the agenda” and have a clear direction.

He had been amazed at how much he was able to achieve in the Cabinet because “you turn up with your papers” and “they are too busy with their own stuff; they’re not bothered”. …

His ability to make progress on the Auckland super-city plan had been an example of his achievements, he said, and he talked about getting rid of 700 bureaucrats and saving $66 million. “You’re thinking, s…”

That is the Minister of Local Government, talking about his job.

Add one more to that 700 Bureaucrats - You. I was "thinking, s..." alright. So, who really was a manipulator?

Well at least you can be proud of one thing...Dancing with the Stars, even though you dropped your dancing partner in front of the whole of Aotearoa.

I'm sure Winston appreciates your endearment ..."The Right Honourable Winston Peters is political genius. There's nothing to compare with him." Makes him rather unique, one of a kind being a "political genius."

Actually it was 2,000 in the finish.

This article is brilliant; very true, and very well written. Good work Rodney!

thank you for that Cameron.

So typical of a l

So typical of Rodney as a cowardly politician to only respond to the replies agreeable with his views.

Nope - he is still the same and classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

To view this as genius would only highlight ones own intellectual deficiency. How about an article on John Key's lies, deception, conning & marketing /campaigning strategies?

Of all the PMs that NZ has had, John Key is the worse - a snake oil salesman with no vision and no morals. He is selling future generations out but he thinks it is all okay as his family, mates and hanger-ons are already taken care of.

Well written article. I hope he goes down like Pauline Hanson in Oz when his supporters will finally realise what a baseless argument this is. It takes at least 10 years of living and contributing to NZ before one can qualify for the super. On top of that, one would need contributing dependants to even qualify for permanent residency under the parents category. At the end of the day, the policy intends for family reunion and a psyche that one can pay more taxes by earning more if you have family to support you.

I have a couple of youngsters and genuinely worry about one of them ... she looks Asian. No place for a kid like that in NZ with the prejudices here.

Winston perpetuates prejudice against Asians, in much the same way that Pakehas do against Maoris.

No place for this stuff in NZ politics.

Correct and factual position is that our Govt immigration policy has till recently been out of whack in terms of eligibility of mature non tax paying Chinese immigrants effectively being able to obtain residency here under Family Reunion Parent Category - Supetannuation just a drop in the bucket lassies - much more to it than that including health care etc etc.

Our immigration policy makers probably never properly considered impact of China one child policy (resulting in virtually all Chinese parents being eligible for PR if sponsored by their adult kids whereas parent reunion category requires equal or more adult kids here in NZ than any other country .

Difficulty therefore = how to stem tide of increasing elderly Chinese non-contributing Chinese immigrants without being overtly racist eg quota or suchlike. Response from INZ recently was to take a couple of years to process and more recently addition of consideration of wealth status ( quicker for richer etc

Anyway 1) let's not let facts get in the way 2) some of what Winnie says is a little bit right 3) Rodney's critique is also on point and insightful in terms of cheap political gain 5) great to see Rodney getting some fascinating commentary going.

Rodney - given your recent spadework and our mutual connections in deep south I will not steal your thunder further - however if you want to share the princely sum you are commanding for yr commentary I would consider collaborating - the man who lives in the trees might let you know where to find me - righto - Max