Hypocritical narrative blames the victim rather than the cause for economic ‘failings’



Alarmist New Zealand Herald headlines condemned a Housing New Zealand tenant for taking in boarders. The article repeated neighbours’ complaints about the woman tenant; that she was renting out rooms, and had built a structure in the backyard. According to the media article, the woman and her occasional tenants live in a $1.4 million home in upper-class Freeman’s Bay, as if poor people shouldn’t share their expenses, or live in ‘flash’ areas, though $1.4million is hardly a huge amount for Auckland these days. You’d think our main daily newspaper would have more important things to write about than hearsay based on apparent jealousy from wealthy residents aimed at the poor. But then at the same time the Herald uncritically celebrates the elite British Prince and Princess’ ‘Royal Tour’ of the Indian region, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Gossip and celebration of elites is what passes for news there these days.

Elsewhere, the tax department pursues tradesmen doing cash jobs, while hypocritically mega-rich multi-national corporations evade taxes with legal trusts, offshore investments and other dodges, and Facebook and Google Inc et al in New Zealand pay only slightly more tax than the above-average citizen. Other times there’s the hysteria, because, of the 285,000 beneficiaries across the country, 927 defrauded the state of about $30million. A 2014 report estimated total benefit fraud at about $80 million a year while tax fraud was off the scale at $2billion. And of course tax fraudsters are much less likely to go to jail for their crimes than those who claim benefits to which they are not entitled.

There’s careful crafting of a public perception that overstates the impact of benefit fraud and crimes committed by the poor, and downplays institutionalised racism, inequity and inequality that create poverty to begin with, so that if you have a big family, or you’re a young male Maori, you’re really only half the citizen of someone white, or rich or living in a big, privately owned house in Freeman’s Bay.

There are the claims from businesses that paying workers a living wage or improving health and safety at work will cripple the economy and undermine the very profitability of business, while CEOs are paid millions of dollars a year. The Minister of Finance complains that New Zealand workers who don’t chose to work long dangerous hours on farms are ‘pretty hopeless’ as a justification for preferring immigrant labourers who don’t know or care about their rights to safe work.

Widows and cancer sufferers are made to actively seek employment. Councils consider a ban on begging so even if there are increasing numbers of poor, homeless, addicted or dispossessed, shoppers won’t have to see them. Housing speculation drives the prices up and out of reach for many, especially the young, while those born at the right time with access to equity are able to acquire multiple houses. Low paid fast food workers in global chains are forced to threaten strikes for basic rights and security as employers seek to maximise profits and minimise costs at workers’ expense. Even in the public sector health care workers are reduced to threats of strike action to get their own employers to address capacity limits, dignity and safety in the workplace.

Transnationally, the TPP promises free trade and open access to our markets by overseas producers; read as job losses, downward wage pressure locally and environmental and labour exploitation offshore. It represents a victory of consumerism and globalised production against nation based struggles for workers’, consumers’ and environmental rights.

Be under no illusion, the narrative and the practice of the unholy alliance of state, corporations and the media, is one that continues to come from an increasingly powerful elite, the dominant capitalist class, directed against the poor. The narrative carries the line that workers are lucky to have a job, they should put up with what they get, and should be grateful for accommodation, employment, social welfare safety nets, and other concessions offered by the ruling political and economic class. It’s like employees owe their bosses a duty of obsequious genuflecting gratitude, and should put up with anything, especially if the workers are uneducated, desperate or young.

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The struggle for any wage, for a living wage, for job security, for safe work; and the call for state assistance in times of desperation, as offshore manufacturing increases and domestic jobs disappear, remains a struggle based on class inequalities and resistance to exploitation. Capitalists continue to seek reduced costs, taxes and tariffs and to engineer instruments that allow them to maintain and increase their property and monetary wealth. Workers hope more simply for jobs, homes and food for their families, maybe retirement at 65. But modern capitalist economics continues to be based on long term exploitation of natural resources, the environment, workers and the working class.

The extreme accumulation of wealth using legal (if immoral) instruments while elsewhere in the country and the world, people starve, highlights the contradictory -and ultimately destabilising- nature of capitalist exploitation. But every time there’s a headline that highlights the ‘antisocial behaviour’ of a minority, a beneficiary, a homeless person or an addict, there’s an implicit judgement condemning the poor and poorly functioning citizen for failing to contribute economically and for bringing the capitalist model into disrepute. Having a residual pool of labour is one thing, but we don’t want them ‘sponging off the government and the taxpayer’ or living in state houses in wealthy suburbs or making our streets look untidy when we’re shopping on the high street.

You will read about the negative impacts of the demands of workers, or the burden of the poor or poorly educated, on society, but you won’t read a critique of the wider conditions that created their poverty or the indignities they suffer in poorly paid jobs or overcrowded houses, or when dealing with state agencies. The class struggle will continue in both the workplace coal front, but also in the media as the ideological apparatus of the capitalist elite promulgates its distractions and disguises and continues to blame the class victim instead of the cause – the class structure itself.


  1. Excellent article Rose,

    I will depict where this evil Government are taking us all to.

    We agree this Government has turned NZ into a very mean and uncaring society now.

    It seems that the Ministry of Employment & Innovation (MBIE) is running this campaign as they are thousands of other local government issues with their own “Black opp’s underworld agents literately sitting on every conceivable committee and town planning board now.

    So this heartless issue is simply driven by the “Minister of everything” and chief propaganda machinery for this harsh uncaring Government, who has driven so many flawed plans beginning with NOVAPAY and many others since including the whole messy prison issues we have today.

    There should be more independent probe into how this MBIE is actually causing so much of a mess here and Minister of everything must be fired for his failures.

    MBIE should be called MBIE as “Ministry of Bullies, intimidation & enforcement,” as it carries out this role of a Nazi style Government deep control agency as the German “Ministry of Enlightenment & propaganda” run by Hitler’s favourite hard line Minister, Joseph Goebbels’.


    In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany, he named Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), his trusted friend and colleague, to the key post of minister for public enlightenment and propaganda. In this capacity, Goebbels was charged with presenting Hitler to the public in the most favorable light,

  2. Thanks Christine, that’s a really timely article. People are also picking up on George Monbiot’s similar one published on Friday: “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot

    Feels like we are turning a corner. I’m starting to recover some hope for the human race!

    Here’s something I wrote yesterday that puts some of the shaming agenda into perspective:

    “The idea that there is a huge amount of bludgers out there is absolute bullshit. I looked up the actual amount of long-term unemployed before the recession (December 2007).

    Out of a workforce of 2.1 million people in New Zealand, only 9,900 had been unemployed for more than 6 months. That’s right. Less than half a percent. Less than 1 in 200.

    If you consider that it’s likely that many of these people had reasons other than being lazy, the number of actual “bludgers” in New Zealand is far lower than 1 in 200.

    We need to call this bullshit for what it is – simply an attempt to divide and conquer.”

  3. I would like to know how large the “working poor” sector is and how they can be motivated to vote for a change in direction. As it stands, I think that’s more likely than those comfy with their property portfolios having a change of heart.

    • The ‘working poor’ see so little difference between tweedle dumb (NATZ) and dweedle dee (Labour), they are not disinterested in politics they just can’t see their vote making any difference. What is the difference between Labour and NATZ economic policies ZILCH! Nice to see Gareth Morgan having a go about all of this on The Nation.

  4. Thanks Christine – Maybe the Herald will write up this one as a warning to all:
    Will NZ asset rich will be on the hit list:
    Maybe it’s called leveling the playing field. Will our “elected” leaders, who have racked up our national debt thus paving the way for corporate takeover, include themselves in the hit list? Maybe not not – all off to http://elitedaily.com/envision/billion-dollar-luxury-shelter-built-for-apacolypse-photos/1066446/

      • I second that. Thanks for that most informative post Helena I’m gobsmacked !! National have pumped billions of dollars into the IMF and changed the law so they no longer have to disclose the amount in parliament. This is the kind of crap that John key would go for. Didn’t Greece steal peoples savings that they had in the bank? And what about local councils? costly mistakes often with conflicts in interests comes out of the ratepayers pocket, not the culprits who screwed up.

  5. ‘the narrative and the practice of the unholy alliance of state, corporations and the media, is one that continues to come from an increasingly powerful elite, the dominant capitalist class, directed against the poor’

    Although I agree with the sentiment, I do not like the word ‘elite’ in this context because an elite is a person who stands out from the crowd because of special skill or athletic ability.

    Why not say it how it is, the people who are exploiting the masses are not elites, they are scumbags, arseholes, psychotic sociopaths, manipulators and liars. Most are covert fascists.

    Unfortunately, gang rule is not going to change any time soon. The ‘peasants’ have to be starving before they will revolt, and at the moment they opposite applies: they are becoming obese and apathetic on a diet of low-nutrition junk food.

  6. “Alarmist New Zealand Herald headlines condemned a Housing New Zealand tenant for taking in boarders. The article repeated neighbours’ complaints about the woman tenant; that she was renting out rooms, and had built a structure in the backyard.”

    Forgive me, but where is the link to that story, I cannot find it anywhere, having searched the NZ Herald website. Or was it pulled after some discrepancies were discovered?

    As for state housing tenants, same as other tenants who may be dependent on benefits from WINZ, there are clear rules, that include that one has to declare who one lives and shares the accommodation with. That is within reason, as short term stays and visits do not count ans sharing accommodation.

    Also are boarders allowed to a degree, that is up to two, that is for WINZ beneficiaries, as any higher number of boarders gets you into trouble, as it will affect your benefit.

    Having a boarder longer term, where the board paid may be more than the costs incurred, can also affect your benefit.

    I know that Housing NZ are rather strict with their rules, they do not really allow boarders in most cases, as they only provide accommodation for the person who are covered by the contract with them, not boarders or flatmates.

    That is where an issue may have arisen. But those properties valued so highly in places like Freeman’s Bay, they are going to be on the block. Housing NZ did during Unitary Plan Hearings before the IHP here in Auckland present evidence to upzone the areas where they have homes for a number of reasons. Firstly they want to build up and use the land for intensely, creating multi level blocks of units to accommodate more of their clientele. They also want to upzone many areas where they intend to sell property, as upzoned property usually increases the value of the land, so they get a higher price.

    But the divide and rule within society is a fact, as Christine writes here, we have Bill English stir up sentiments with his comments about “hopeless Kiwi workers” or those younger Kiwis on benefits, referred to jobs.

    That is beneficiary bashing, we can add the usual other bashing, and Housing NZ tenants will also be at the receiving end, as usual.

    The media already appears to have put the Panama Paper release behind them, and they are back at their usual game of stigmatising the weak and at the bottom, letting the rest be entertained with celebrity stories, lifestyle and much other “news”, that they think the working and earning middle class members are interested in.

    Business as usual, I fear.

    • Here’s the link to the article in Stuff, as I can’t find it in the Herald now either. Interestingly it was modified from its earlier version which I suspect was even more knee jerk and failed to properly investigate and refer to the rules regarding boarders in Housing New Zealand homes. My observation wasn’t about boarders per se, but the scaremongering, uncritical reporting of what appeared to be hearsay complaints, and the wider implications that this ‘beneficiary’ was bludging and cheating, and bringing down the tone of the area much to neighbour’s dismay.

      • Thanks Christine, how disgusting, showing a big red ‘for rent’ sign in the photo, which probably never existed, and misrepresenting the law as it is.

        We are talking about a two bedroom home, for God’s sake, that leaves only one room in the house, and perhaps a provisional sleepout of sorts that may have been “created” (if true) for housing a second boarder, which is totally acceptable.

        Also if people are boarders, they do NOT PAY RENT, they pay board, which has a totally different legal meaning, usually meaning that most of it simply covers accommodation, utility and perhaps meals that may be offered also.

        We have people work in the MSM who have NO clue about the law, do not bother doing any research, have to go back and rewrite their stories, once people expose the lies and inaccuracies in their articles.

        What a disgrace for “media” and “journalism”.

        Last not least, if people stay only short term, e.g. less than three months, WINZ are usually not concerned about board or rent share paid, as they are rather looked at as temporary visitors, not boarders or flatmates.

        Stuff “stuff.co”, I reckon, disgraceful.

        A friend of mine wrote to an author of another Fairfax outfit, the Central Leader here in Auckland not long ago, where he misrepresented facts about Housing NZ presenting evidence to the Unitary Plan hearings.

        They wrote a story sounding as if a massive social housing expansion was planned by Housing NZ here, which is total BS. My mate made them aware they are actually selling homes and want to reduce stock, the additional capacity for more homes they want to achieve through upzoning is for private developers to exploit, whom they want to sell homes and land to, for a nice gain.

        So much for Housing NZ and “social housing”, the BS just got a lot thicker and stinks abominably, reading this new report about a “posh” home in Freeman’s Bay.

  7. Ah yes. Well, some people are arseholes while other people must take shit from them.
    Seen ” Team America ! Fuck yeah ! ? ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_America:_World_Police#Music

    Weld that to ‘Idiocracy’ and there you have it. Contemporary humanity in a digital nutshell. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

    What you’re describing @ C R is the modus of a bully. And do you know what you must do to bullies ? You kick the shit right out of them.

    And that’s easier said than done these days.
    One’s toaster can go tits up. Then? You have no toast. None.

  8. well put sometimes beneficiaries,solo with children , mental health eg pts, anxiety disorder etc is a full time job an over time. therapy meetings workshops winz hnz mowin, mopping, laundry in out up, dishes creatin dinners , meals school activities, neighbour watch, fixing your own car, food bank , school holidays, drs, hospital, granchildren, taxi ride local older neighbours, sick neighbours,try an visit family in holidays, ol folks home weekly visit , maybe fit in local school pool attendant casually cleanin, shopping, paperwork, check the kids are on right track, life is busy for some beneficiries trying to do good an survive a bit of peaceful time is often well earnt

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