Delusional And Irrational: The Rise Of Paranoid Politics



WHAT IF EVERYTHING we currently think about politics in New Zealand is wrong?

We assume that our political parties correspond more or less accurately to the shape of our society. National stands for businessmen, farmers, wealthy professionals and all those temperamentally conservative New Zealanders opposed to radical change. Labour represents wage workers, public servants, people engaged in what might be called the “caring” professions, along with the young and/or idealistic people who hunger for “progressive” reform. The so-called “minor” parties: the Greens and Act; cater to smaller, more ideologically driven, groups of voters. Finally, NZ First represents those mostly older Kiwis nostalgic for the less confusing, economically cut-throat and culturally diverse New Zealand of yesteryear.

So far, so straightforward. But what if these familiar descriptions of our political parties no longer correspond to what they truly represent? What would that mean? What would it tell us about the people and organisations charged with making sense of our politics? Could it be that we are being deliberately misled about what is actually going on in the precincts of power and influence? Or, are the journalists and pundits, the PR mavens and academics, no more aware of what is actually happening than the rest of us?

Over the weekend, Twitter began to fill up with video-clips of individuals, in supermarkets and dairies, turning around women’s magazines with covers featuring photographs of the Prime Minister. Persons also recorded themselves turning over copies of Jacinda Ardern’s biography in bookshops. These bizarre actions were presented as acts of political resistance. Those responsible clearly believe themselves to be living under a dangerous and oppressive government – whose leader merits literal effacement.

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Many of those expressing bemusement at the antics of these #turnardern effacers, were convinced that they were yet another expression of the National Party’s increasingly spiteful anti-government propaganda campaign. They marvelled at the oddness of the perpetrators’ mindset and questioned the common-sense of allowing the rest of New Zealand to glimpse the sheer loopiness of the Prime Minister’s detractors. How could such behaviour possibly boost National’s chances of re-election?

At the heart of that last question lies an assumption that the National Party, its leaders and campaign strategists, continue to be guided by a rational assessment of New Zealand’s present condition, and that the policies formulated and articulated by the party represent a rational response to that condition. We assume this because the alternative explanation: that National is in the grip of seriously deluded individuals, driven by profoundly irrational impulses, is simply too frightening to contemplate.

But, contemplate it we must, because the people we used to describe as the “Right” have, indeed, succumbed to delusions, and no longer appear to be engaged in rational political behaviour.

If there is a single word to describe the current mood of the people in charge of the National Party – and their followers – it is “paranoia”. The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes Paranoia as “a mental illness characterized by systematized delusions of persecution”. For the purposes of this post, however, Merriam Webster’s second definition is the more useful. It describes “a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others”.

The New Zealand farming community is very much the poster-child for political paranoia. The fear and anxiety, suspicion and distrust, triggered in the typical dairy farmer by the formation of a Labour-led government is disturbing. It’s as if, at some point in the past, angry columns of working-class militiamen had invaded the countryside, hellbent on subduing farmers’ freedoms, robbing them of the fruits of their labour, and driving them into penury. That New Zealand history records exactly the opposite happening – Massey’s Cossacks anyone? – is conveniently forgotten.

Very much at the front of rural and provincial minds, however, is the urge to punish and humiliate the urban poor – especially the brown urban poor. Install a listening device in any venue where farmers and their families are confident they will not be overheard and you will hear the most appalling sentiments expressed. Not just hostility, but visceral hatred. The sort of dehumanising language that generally precedes physical assault – or worse. So speak the paranoid guardians of rural and provincial virtue. To fathom the fury of  National’s policies towards beneficiaries, state house tenants and the homeless – just visit the country.

It would be wrong, however, to locate the paranoia currently afflicting New Zealand politics exclusively on the Right. On the Left, too, suspicion and mistrust run riot.

Fuelling the Left’s paranoia is its awareness of the Labour Party’s sociological contradictions. Founded by, and for many decades dominated by, the trade unions, Labour’s culture was uncomplicatedly working-class. In simple terms: its members and voters tended towards economic radicalism and social conservatism. Yes, they were fervent believers in state intervention, but they were also, consciously or unconsciously, racists, sexists and homophobes.

The new social movements of the 1960s and 70s complicated this picture considerably. Tensions between the old social conservatives and the young social liberals grew steadily – most particularly in response to the party’s conservative stance on abortion. So long as all elements within the party cleaved to the state interventionist “democratic-socialist” thrust of Labour’s economic policies, however, those tensions remained manageable. It was only when the social liberals abandoned democratic-socialism for the “free market” that the party tore itself asunder.

When the smoke and fire of the 1980s had cleared, a very peculiar picture emerged. The party organisation had taken on an unmistakably middle-class, social-liberal countenance. It’s electoral base, however, remained stubbornly working-class. A wide gulf had opened up between the values of the party and the values of its voters. This was especially true of its conservative Christian supporters from the Pacific Islands.

Somehow Labour’s leaders had to finesse these profound sociological and moral divergences. Not only was Labour now required to conceal from its staunchest “have not” supporters a radically different set of values and beliefs, but it also had to obscure the fact that the people who actually controlled the Labour Party should now be counted among the “haves”. In other words, Labour found itself committed to living a political lie. Understandably, it grew increasingly fearful of its contradictions being exposed. Its suspicion and distrust of its own electoral base grew. Labour, too, was becoming paranoid.

Plant a listening device in any Grey Lynn Labour household and the inhabitants’ recorded conversations are likely to prove as hair-raising as that of any farming family. The working-class Pakeha male, when he’s not a cross-burning white supremacist, is an eager participant in rape culture. It is, therefore, vital that the freedom of expression of such dangerous people be curtailed as the processes of full-scale decolonisation are set in place, immigration increases, and gender roles are radically reconstructed.

The most important conclusion to be drawn from the paranoia into which New Zealand politics has fallen is that its ugly manifestations are driving more and more voters out of their old political pigeon-holes. Those who still see a point in voting are casting their ballots more out of habit than conviction. There may already be an electoral majority in support of a political style that is neither delusional nor irrational.

All it needs is a party.




  1. Sick is one word that comes to mind for these types of people and what does it say about the national party and the sort of people they have following them when they start doing shit like this.

    • If you read the article it refers to the worst leanings of both parties. It is not surprising you only mention the National faults and ignore the Labour references. I was not unhappy with Labour getting into power last election as National had not done a good job in education or mental health over the years. Labour has worked well in these areas but even the most left wing voters would have to admit they have been hopeless in other areas of running the country. Housing worse poverty worse gang crime worse social deprivation worse race relations worse. Why would the voters want this to go on for any longer ?

  2. The taxes are too high – #TurnArdern

    Single working people don’t get the benefit of WINZ, Working for Families, Accommodation Supplements, Increased first-home-grants, free power, etc.

    Household formation is low, single WORKING people can’t afford relationships, let alone children.

    Nobody looks after their property better than the owner. Stop the over taxation of workers. Stop importing cheep, substandard labor. #TurnArdern

    Also National suck – Vote Top or Act

    • Why would anyone think it harder for a single person to afford a flat than a couple?

      And how many couples can afford children without WFF?

      A vote for ACT is a vote for National, that fools no one.

    • At very best Labour is no better for working class people than National and might actually be worse.
      It’s not about empathy, it’s about how people’s lIves are improved (or not).
      National would never have shelled out squillions of dollars in middle class welfare for free fees.
      This money would have best been spent on other social programs (Labour) or infrastructure (National).
      I am no longer willing to vote out of “duty” but am considering abstention or even ACT because at least they believe in free speech which Labour and Greens seem quite happy to sacrifice.

        • About the only thing I’d tell those leaving university with debt is to get organised and get this stupid American import thrown off the statute and policy systems.
          But they haven’t.
          This peculiar ‘user pays’ infection has been around for decades now. Weak little hands flap around. ‘Oh, how Dreadful It All Is’ – and no one – but no one has put the squeeze on the pollies to get it out of our lives.

          Has it improved our universities and tertiary education? Hell no. So why are we even tolerating it?
          As for ‘saving for a home’ – that’s a whole economic house of cards and BS. The illusion of wealth while the occupants endure life-long debt, Or gaily flick it off to enjoy the ‘capital gains’. Monopoly for a peculiar type of adult.
          Enjoy – if you can. Endure if you can’t.

  3. Act really is that the best you can do Zack they (act) a one man band propped up by national and as for top , top of what they wont make it either.

  4. You poor thing Zack actually single people can get a benefit they can also get home grants i think you need to do your homework on this issue

    • “Increased first-home-grants”

      If you buy a property with other people who qualify for a First Home Grant, you can all apply but the most you can get for one property is: $10,000 (for an existing property)

      If you buy an existing home, you can get $1000 for each year you’ve paid into the scheme. The most you can get is $5000 for 5 years.

  5. Just asked my local Paper Plus about Jacinda book/magazine turning. He said it’s been going on for about 3 weeks, and that it has happened about 14 times. He doesn’t know who’s doing it. I said that it was the Young Nats, simply because it did not occur to me that it could be a grown-up activity. However given some of the half-baked semi-literate rants that can appear here, it could be anybody.

    He also said the Spectator sells well; this publishes Nelson’s Amy Brooke, who used to write for the Dom-Post as Agnes-Mary Brooke, and is anti Ardern, anti- abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti Maori, anti Treaty – may have been an early member of the Libertarians.

    I think Brooke’s Aus Spectator column is pay walled online, and I don’t read her blog. But I know she wrote recently about Maori being a “made-up language,” and that made me laugh. All languages are made up. I can walk around my home and identify made-up words for objects which didn’t exist 100 or 50 years ago- they evolve as society evolves.

    Shocked to receive a fairly irrational email blaming Maori gods for the White Island catastrophe, with equally irrational links to the Treaty. I had already noted it as possibly resultant from the laissez-faire-ism of neo-liberalism.

    What I want to suggest is that a hater doesn’t just hate one thing, that they hate many things, because that is their nature.

    The fact that the objects of their hatred may not impact upon their own lives – which applies to many middle class Pakeha – makes no difference, they need to have that hatred, and wallow in negativity.

    I suggest that it may have been this way for some time, but that we are more aware of it now because of social media.

    The demonisation of the down-trodden may have been a deliberate ploy, certainly by the Nats. On the one hand there was the genuine, I think, concern of public speakers like Doug Graham, about the historical injustices inflicted upon NZ Maori, while at the same time, policy has been formulated for the benefit of the few. I don’t know how clear it is whether the Coalition govt will effectively address the misery of some people’s day to day lives, and there is zero justification for children’s lives being blighted.

    I regard all extremes – left, right, middle, or deep-earthed- as deranged, and a paranoiac suspicious society
    partly the outcome of being a very geographically isolated country, parochial, and with an entrenched conservatism which benefits few, and which injures many. I have just finished Lynley Hood’s outstanding, Sylvia, and am delighted to find that Ashton-Warner’s views about NZ’ers echo mine – which probably puts me beyond the pale too.

    Expanding our gene pool could help, but that takes too long. I was a school girl working in a job I was too young to be doing when Dutch immigrants were establishing themselves here, and I remember how very much they were resented for being industrious and hard working – just like Asian immigrants are now.

  6. That is why there will need to be terror and war, to sort out the future, endless misleading, lying, abuse of power and what else there is, it will NOT solve climate change and other issues, people will have to take matters into their own hands, governments and business cannot be relied on, they are TRAITORS.

    • Marc We can rely on the NZ govt to behave correctly and honorably if there are politically significant others involved.

      Erebus Commission of Inquiry. It took an indecent length of time for the National Govt to decide upon that, but there were too many overseas tourists killed for the Nats not to be seen to be appearing to doing the right thing. Justice Mahon crucified as collateral damage. It happens.

      Pike River Mine. All NZ’ers. Nats sweep under carpet. Coalition Govt now sorting it.

      SAS in Afghanistan. A tragic corrupt traumatised country with zero political clout, and safely ignored by the Nats – even when along came pilloried Hager, Stephenson et al. Inquiry now proceeding under Coalition Govt.

      White Island Volcano Other foreign nationals also killed and terribly maimed, including a number of Australians, and at a personal level Aussies are angry. Given the inherent risks involved, and that at this moment in time there appears to be no one body in NZ identified as actually responsible for safety, the eyes of the world, and of a few lawyers will be glued upon what happens next, and questions asked.

      However. Traitors may be too strong a word for political shysters – it suggests a depth which charlatans
      rarely possess. Given that we cannot count upon foreign nationals always being on hand to compel governments to behave in an upright way, and in a socially responsible way, the time may be ripe to sweep away the current jaded lot, and to support a new party. It could happen. TOP had very impressive candidates last time; I’m not up to date with their climate change policy – but we could be under someone elses’s control in the not too distant future anyway.

      If the National Party’s book/magazine turning campaign is more than just juvenile delinquency, then yep, there’s a desperate agenda going on there.

  7. The political party over there sounds really terrible! Why in the world would politics want to pick on the less fortunate!? It’s like a bully picking on little kids! I thought adults were supposed to be mature and responsible!

  8. Paranoia is it?

    So let’s look at the facts:

    We have a party that created a divisive media campaign that attacked our farmers, gun owners, landlords, the oil & gas industry and while men in general. Then we had gun confiscation followed by a planned introduction of arbitrary ‘hate speech’ laws that run contrary to the Bill of Rights Act in order to allow Andrew Little to control political discourse running up to the next election.

    It reminds me of the old joke: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…

  9. ‘ Just because you’re paranoid ‘ ,,, means the Nacts will exploit your delusions ,,, and dishonestly fearmonger to the targeted voters prejudices.

    With the help of their dirty politics media network, and low grade Trolls like Andrew ,,,they divisively and dishonestly try to heighten the fears of those holding false beliefs ,,,, Spreading bullshit that they are ” under attack “.

    The ‘messages that National sends is clearly received ,,, although of course National washes its hands when delusional paranoid recipients receive the inflammatory alarmist hype ,,, like a bonfire having petrol thrown at it.

    Everyone should know about the ” migration compact” message written on the Christchurch Subpremacists Military style guns ,,,, ” Migration Compact” was an obvious nod to Nationals cynical marketing ,,,, But the number 14 written alongside it, well that speaks directly to Nationals marketing message ,,
    ‘”Waves of refugees ” is incitement ,,, ” under attack” justifies the 14 word delusion ,, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,”….. National and our media have been pouring petrol on this fire forever and a day.
    ““Whale Oil: “the only solution is to kill them (Muslims) before they kill us” (later edited to refer more specifically to ISIS, but only after an HRC complaint was laid against him).”

    Farmers are not “under attack” ,,,, “Far from “doing it tough” under the yoke of excessive red tape, farmers have enjoyed decades of a “Wild West” situation where meaningful regulation of farming has been virtually non-existent, where water use has been free, where irrigation schemes have been generously subsidised by the taxpayer, and where democratic oversight of water use in Canterbury was erased by the sacking of Environment Canterbury in 2010 by a National government.”

    “In opinion polls, an overwhelming majority of the public has been expressing deep concern for years about the serious impact of dairy-generated pollution on the water quality of New Zealand’s once-pristine rivers and lakes. ”

    “arbitrary ‘hate speech’ laws that run contrary to the Bill of Rights Act ” ,,Is a repeated inflammatory lie by Andrew ,,,, “Section 61 of the HRA prohibits the “incitement of disharmony” on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour or national origins. …BUT the HRC has long called for its review, saying it has major omissions – currently, it doesn’t not cover hate for reasons of religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation. “. Andrew is bullshitting by describing this as Arbitrary .

    And then he pushes a diabolical left wing conspiracy theory ,,,that curtailing Andrews right to incite disharmony and cultivate hate against religions, gender, disability’s or sexual orientation ,, is all a smokescreen ,,, ” in order to allow Andrew Little to control political discourse running up to the next election.” .

    Although to be fair to Andrew, he may be confused as National bullshitted and lied when passing their Internet “anti Troll / bullying” laws ,, That was REAL dishonest law making done by National ,,,and which HAS been used in an attempt to get This website , TDB, to remove true material and facts about sleazy right wing political operators ,,,

    Free speech was ‘under attack’ by National ,,, and no doubt they will tweak their legislation to make it work like the muzzle they intended ,,, especially if judith collin gets given another chance in power.
    “The legislation was drafted after the so-called Roast Busters case, in which teenage boys boasted on-line about sex with drunk and under-age girls.
    But it wasn’t at all.
    It was drafted in April of 2013 and the Roastbusters scandal did not emerge until November 2013.
    Later in the article, a dissenting opinion confirms this:
    …the Independent Police Conduct Authority had examined the Roast Busters case and found that it could have been dealt with under existing law.”

    Finally as another example of reckless incitement by the National party,,, involves the very first poster in this thread ,,,, Rachel Stewart.

    For telling the truth and facts about unsustainable intensive dairy farming and the accompanying environmental damage of our rivers. water-ways and lakes,,,, For trying to protect New Zealand, she along with other scientists such as Mike Joy have faced anger generating ‘attack’ language from those with power and platforms ,,,,

    ” political lobbyist Mark Unsworth emailed Joy, accusing the Massey University ecologist of economic sabotage and describing him and his cohorts as “the foot and mouth disease” of the tourism industry. “Most ordinary people in NZ would happily have you lot locked up,” he wrote. Political activist Cameron Slater blogged that Joy ought to be “taken out and shot at dawn” for his treachery.”

    “Joy also said he was also referred to as a “traitor” by Sean Plunket on Plunket’s Newstalk ZB Wellington show, and that when he was granted an on-air response, Plunket raised his Facebook links with Green co-leader Russel Norman as evidence of his political motivations.”

    Its not hard to understand where extreme levels of resentment and anger get built and sustained with the language and imagery of ” Traitors” and being “under attack’ is used by right wing political groups.

    The resulting death threats, other vile anonymous intimidation, harassment and vandalism is real for the targets ,,, be they NZ scientists

    Or those who bear the brunt of anti Islam ‘ Jihadi brides’ type fearmongering ,,,

    National and its trolls should stop being such awful cynical wankers ,,,, ” Hate does not grow in a vacuum “

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