Performative Caring


SKY NEWS AUSTRALIA has reformulated Jacinda Ardern’s championing of “kindness” as “performative caring”. While the network has long displayed a strong right-wing bias, its derogatory re-casting of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s “brand” may nevertheless strike a chord with the growing number of her detractors on this side of the Tasman.

Sky News’ owners have a very real interest in undermining Ardern’s support in New Zealand. While she remains the Shaky Isles’ prime minister she will continue to remind Australian voters of what they do not have – likeable politicians. It’s a comparison Australian conservatives could do without. Especially when it encourages Aussie voters to focus on the extraordinary unloveliness of the Liberal and National parties’ leadership.

Hence Sky News’ willingness to do all it can to aid their ideological soulmates in the New Zealand Parliament. The sooner Ardern’s Gospel of Kindness is laid to rest, the sooner Australians can be reconciled to the unchangeable nature of the monstrous regiment of boofheads that has dominated their politics for decades.

It will be interesting to see if National and Act make use of the rhetorical gift Sky News’ Rita Panahi has given them. Of Iranian extraction, Panahi won her spurs as a right-wing political commentator by heaping criticism on the Islamic radicalism her family had fled. Now firmly ensconced in Rupert Murdoch’s stable of conservative columnists, Panahi’s ability to deliver political invective is not to be sneezed at. That said, however, echoing the Aussie sledges of a Kiwi PM may not be the most sensible way to win the hearts and minds of New Zealand voters.

Even if National and Act decline Sky News’ hatchet, there can be little doubt that the “performative caring” slur will spread rapidly: mostly by social media, but also through plain, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. That it will damage Ardern’s “brand” is indisputable. How could it not, when the Ardern Government’s successful demonstrations of practical kindness are so very thin on the ground?

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Perhaps aware that it is not generally regarded as either fair or sensible for the journalists of one country to slag-off the prime-minister of that country’s oldest ally, Sky News’ morning line-up were careful to back their “performative caring” jibe with corroborative evidence. Panahi, in particular, pointed to Labour’s dismal failure to keep its promises to the New Zealand electorate. Not surprisingly, she homed-in on the Ardern Government’s failure to build the tens-of-thousands of affordable houses it had promised to supply.

New Zealanders could supply many more examples.

Where was the kindness – the empathy – in Health Minister Andrew Little’s blank refusal to acknowledge the obvious crisis gripping New Zealand’s health service? Where was even the most basic manifestation of political common sense? How is any government served by its ministers refusing to acknowledge truths plainly visible to the entire country?

Every New Zealander acquainted with reality knows that what the doctors and nurses are telling the news media is true. If they haven’t witnessed personally the tragic overloading of the country’s primary and emergency health services, then their family and friends have filled them in.

The fraught experience of operating well below optimum staffing levels is relived every day in their own workplaces. Between them, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and the winter flu are infecting New Zealanders by the tens-of-thousands. Owners and managers are at their wits’ end, trying to keep their farms, factories, shops and offices functioning. They can all-too-easily imagine the stress of doctors and nurses struggling to do the same – only with the lives of their patients potentially at risk if they make the wrong decision.

Little’s refusal to accept the term “crisis” is, of course, entirely rational from a cynically political point of view. Were he to recognise it, he would then be morally obliged to take the necessary steps to fix it. And how could he possibly do that when the entire health system is in the midst of a complex restructuring process which he, himself, initiated?

To remove the enormous pressure on medical personnel would require immediate and effective action from the Department of Immigration, and the full co-operation of the gate-keeping professional bodies who have for far too long lorded it over the nation’s health system. With a clear-sighted grasp of the crisis, coupled with an iron will to overcome it, both of these objectives could be achieved. Now, if we could only lay our hands on a clear-sighted health minister with an iron will!

In 2020, Kiwis were bowled over by a government that actually delivered on its promise to fight the global Covid-19 pandemic with kindness. Astonished, they watched it slap down a business community demanding profits before people. Deeply impressed and appreciative, New Zealanders rewarded “Jacinda” and her Labour Government with an extraordinary election victory. And why not? Their government had not only cared, it had performed.

That was the secret sauce; the cipher key; the magic formula: telling people what you were hoping to do – and then asking them to assist you in making it happen. So long as the people remain at the heart of a Government’s performance, it cannot fail. If objectives aren’t being met, then go out and ask citizens for their help, listen to their advice, and back their assistance with dollars. For a few months this is exactly what Ardern did. It worked. And the country loved her for it.

The problem, of course, is that listening to the people can get a government into all kinds of trouble. It is also extremely difficult to sustain. It requires a very special political talent to recognise the voting public as the country’s most important interest group, especially when everybody else in the circle of power is telling you that it’s the business community, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, academic experts, the news media.

Turned out Ardern simply didn’t have enough of that special talent. Turned out 2020 was a fluke. Six months of genuine kindness was the most “Jacinda” could summon forth. And when she could no longer make it, she faked it.

Sadly, “performative caring” sums up Jacinda Ardern and her Labour Government very nicely.


  1. Covid the original was launched upon an unsuspecting population with terrifying tales of a super infectious killer, so infectious that one needed to be at least two metres away from a stranger with masks to have any hope of seeing the following month above ground and woe betide you if you touched a surface, ungloved, that the virus had landed on. Experts were rolled out, virologists, mathematics boffins doing the numbers adding to the daily terror updates. The 1.00pm briefing from the pulpit of truth, stopped the nation. Society was duly shut down and police patrolled the streets to harass any escapees from their home detention. The Team of 5 million kicked in. Be kind everything! Our government appeared to respond in the dark and did their best, but…

    Not satisfied with that by 2021 with a government almost bemused by how much power they had at their fingertips, failed to push vaccinations then sealed Auckland off, from the world, for 4 fucking months, with the vast majority of quarantine facilities helping spread the disease from that city, just to allow every munchkin in the rest of our fine nation to get double vaxxed, but in relative pure freedom to that of Aucklanders who werent allowed to get a coffee, (we were gifted the freedom of a picnic with known people, mind!)

    No one thought to ask why 99.9% of infections never progressed past a week off work! Times between vaccinations changed like the PM”s earrings. People sacked who disagreed, then shunned to the feral fringes of civilised society. The team of 5 million was never spoken of again.

    Grant printed money like no tomorrow and a trillion dollars of wealth was quietly, but quickly, transferred to the wealthy.

    And then it turned out people weren’t dying of Covid in anywhere near the numbers it appeared, many (but not all) were crook, very crook of anything else but, and happened to also have or pick up covid. A man was shot and murdered in New Lynn. His death was counted with the covid deaths as he also, probably unknowingly, had it. And during the halcyon months of Aucklands imprisonment, the wheels fell off.

    Kindness was a PR line from a master of PR, our PM. Like “Climate Change is my generations nuclear free moment”. Just ask the thousands of families in squalid motels. Kindness was also applied to law enforcement, just ask the endless victims of our governments foray into that field.

    “Kindness” was pure unadulterated horse shit. Like most other PR sales campaigns from history, it’s well past its used by date!

    • What you are telling us is that our medical professionals don’t know what they are talking about. If that is the case then I guess you probably want to keep well away from out GP’s and hospitals. Maybe you might want to invest in some tin foil to wrap around your head.

    • What you are telling us is that our medical professionals don’t know what they are talking about. If that is the case then I guess you probably want to keep well away from out GP’s and hospitals. Maybe you might want to invest in some tin foil to wrap around your head.

      • No, triple vaccinated plus the flu vaccination and I bought into it fully. But as time went on some things said and done by our “medical professionals” didn’t make sense.

        And all the kindness shit as it turned out didn’t either.

    • Correct on every point. BUT it served it’s purpose.

      Jacinda got re-elected, and that’s all that mattered

        • What happened to “we follow the health advice” when the MOH were telling the govt to end the Auckland lockdown only for Jacinda to know better, and kept them locked down? I didn’t know that our Prime Minister is also an epidemiologist as well?

          The decision was purely political

          • Are you any better informed than PM Jacinda BG?? Seems to me you are full of it and don’t you think that before the decision was mad, that a whole lot of epi..s would have got together and consulted. And another thing there is no guarantee. No doubt in a past century you would have been yelling witchery – after all it is invisible to the undressed eye.

          • Thats BS BG – your’e a tory Luxon follower.

            The report stated in November to close the MIQ facilities/etc and luxon said to do that immediately by Xmas. But the summary of the report said to end lockdown in a controlled manner in the first quarter of 2022. That’s exactly what labour did.

            The tory biased MSM are good at making stories up. I suggest you make up your own decisions instead of getting your health advice from tory talk ZB and listening to luxon and the NATZ dirty politics team. Luxon’s long MSM backed honeymoon will come to an end soon and we’ll see if the tory media personalities end their biased reporting.

            • Yep BG is full of it and suits the network that has long displayed a strong right-wing bias. Anything Bob says you can apply the opposite as Greywarbler and Nikorima have stated, not only that but with evidence. Bob with his usual nonsense PM is terrible when she still polls the highest preferred PM.

    • 18 million people have died so far from this virus.(WHO is saying 15 million Lancet is saying 18million)
      a virus that mutates at a rate never experienced before by our species.
      As a result chaos has reigned for nigh on 3 years.
      You need to get out of your “kiwi” frame of mind and realise what has /is really going on on a Global scale.
      Anything our government does will be relatively untried and unique to our shores.
      Getting the vax rate above 90 % was what they could do ( it HAS protected us)the other thing they have to do NOW is a massive and immediate upgrade of the public health system. ( quick comparison Melbourne has a population of 5 million and 900 ICU beds NZ has a population of 5 million and 150ICU beds)So tax the rich FFS! and do your job Jacinda.
      Covid is REAL it IS causing havoc.
      Oh and nothing will ever be the same again.

      • Don’t disagree about the vaccinations, it’s being acknowledged that they probably do stop or at least mitigate against a level of illness that hospitalise people. But it is misleading in the extreme to strongly suggest, in a play on words from officials that it’s covid killing people with each new daily stat. Because in the fine print it’s died “with “, not of!

      • Too right Shona. Also help the health system and put a f’ing mask on in confined retail spaces if you can. Selfish bastards!

  2. ‘Performative Caring’ sums up New Zealand employers and the New Zealand propertied class very nicely.

    • It sums up the entire neo-liberal system nicely, from the people who have been further enabled to rort us since the demon Lange ruined this country’s government and economy, to the crooks making up those governments.

  3. Those who think that immigration would solve the health staff shortage should note that Oz, Canada and USA all have similar problems (worst ever situation).

  4. Well duh! I would say the political landscape in NZ is filed with performative caring. Go back and look and you will find more examples of refusing to acknowledge challenges faced or reluctance to set targets. Also tell me one thing you have actually heard from the opposition parties that would stop people “doing it tough” despite professing concern?

  5. Nailed it again Chris.
    Reminds me of when on a visit to the USA I quickly became irritated by the, “have a nice day” you would receive constantly. My wife said she would rather have an insincere kind comment over a sincere grumpy one any day.
    However it does wear thin after a while and although we would generally choose kindness over the alternative. If delivered in word only then eventually we see it for what it truely is and crave substance over the fluff.

  6. Ardern’s kindness died a self inflicted death with the divisive and destructive vaccine mandates.

    People lost their jobs, families divided, society pushed to the limit and all for what? Now we are told lockdowns aren’t on the agenda (because they obviously don’t work). A tacit admission of failure by the Gov?

    But will my friend who lost his job of ten years because he wasn’t vaccinated be getting it back? No of course not, Labour haven’t even acknowledged these people let alone tried to make amends.

    I cheered with joy when Ardern first got elected, she gave me so much hope for our future, Now. can’t stand the sight of the woman. She has brought this all on herself

    • Spot on.
      I miss the parliamentary protesters, they were far more honest than the people they were protesting against.

    • FFS X, I know of families divided because some in the family chose not to believe in any science or worse just believe in micro chips and fruit loop theories. That’s their right of course but you can’t blame that sort of stupidity on the government. Family members not choosing to respect each other opinions is the family’s business, the government can’t tell them how to treat each others opinions.

      Lockdowns did work absolutely work. We are no longer dealing with the same variant as we were pre Omicron so at what point do you move on? Probably when your vaccination rates are high enough, which they did.

      • wheel id lockdowns work(ed) why are we not using them now things are worse than they were when we actually had lockdowns?

        If high vaccination rates are meant to be so successful why are they so many unwell vaccinated people clogging the health system?

        Face it guys you have been played bug big pharma

        • X how do you know what the vaccination status is for those in hospital, when they were vaccinated, and how many actually have the flu as opposed to COVID? In addition how do you know those vaccinated that get unwell would not be dead if they hadn’t been vaccinated? The scientific community have never said anything other than the vaccine being less effective against Omicron.

          Why are we are not using lockdowns? Well Omicron is not as virulent for most as the early strains and, as pointed out by Frank the Tank, health measures have taken a back seat due to the political nature of the situation. We were for ever bombarded with messages of lockdown fatigue, and the rest of the world “moving on” blah, blah. Given that Omicron doesn’t kill enough people the measures have lost out.

          Lastly don’t give me that tired old big pharma bs.

          You would

  7. It was only ever performative. It also has done its job as a slogan. And most people have long ago stopped as seeing the PM as anything else but a PR figure. I doubt you will find many who still honestly believe that the PM is anything else but a constant performance act, and sadly for the PM they ain’t a good actor.

  8. Thanks Chris for writing this…Labour needs to actually deliver some wins for more Kiwis…otherwise new Government by the end of next year.

  9. aussie sky is just the okker fox news, for the same overweight underthinking blowhards….don’t give ’em the publicity….revoking their silly bullshit validates their supporters and makes them feel it’s important because WE have chosen to address it.

      • Totally agree! Yep, Fox News ‘hosts’ with Oz accents.
        Their flamboyant host, with his arms a-waving, eyes a-goggling and hysterical vocals, is much more dramatically performative than anyone on TV (except Tucker Carlson – he of the unequaled fake facial expressions).
        His vehement climate crisis denying is perhaps his most outrageous dramatic performance – tell that lie to Tvaluans and most who live on Pacific Islands.
        And his performative, ultra-conservative co-hosts are no better!
        But they are, if never educative and informative, entertaining – of sorts! (like most rorting righties!)

    • +1
      If SKY NZ were interested in increasing viewership numbers on channel 85, they’d be better off taking the SKY UK feed and leaving the Okkers to a couple of hours – preferably when bugger all people are watching. At least we’d all be better off not having to listen to the tripe delivered in shockjock okker accents.
      And hopefully under the new Labor junta, the Australia Channel might be returned to the ABC, perhaps with SBS contributions.

      I note the best of Sky Okkerland presenters and their commentariat got the fuck out of there a while back
      (Speirsy – or is it SpiersO, and the like. And they went running to Aunty ABC)

  10. ‘Performative kindness’ is rather a good phrase for Jacinda’s approach to things- much better than say, ‘virtue signalling’.

    Just look at the response to the Christchurch counterjihad attack. Jacinda did plenty of turning up to public events and mewling. Lots of inconveniencing of responsible gun owners. But what did she do about the hate speech from the Islamophobes who inspired the attack? Absolutely nothing. They even invited Juliet Moses to attack Muslims at the hui on the anniversary of the attack!

      • Appropriate censorship is good. Spreaders of child pornography and zionism and all other anti-human behaviour should be harshly punished.

  11. Xray’s first paragraph is a fair enough history of the pandemic. But i have more sympathy for Jacinda except for refusing to talk to protesters .
    The failure of the vaccine to live up to expectations was not foreseeable to her any more than to any of us, and except that she knows what they had to sign up to to comply with the WHO recommendation/instruction which i would dearly like to know. The mandates and now continued pressure to booster with a vaccine that is now starting to reveal itself as being not just ineffective but counterproductive can only be explained by whatever is in this agreement.
    D J S

    • Bullshit David.
      Unknown virus, Genetically engineered.
      Mutates at a rate never before known to homosapiens.
      All the un vaxxed folks I know have been infected some two times. Northland where I live has the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
      Vaxxed people are not being hospitalized up here. The unvaxxed are.
      People are not dying because of the vaccine FFS. The desperate crap being spewed out by the antivax lobby beggars belief . But the world is full of stupid people who must justify their dumb decisions.
      The new variants are on the rise because of the opening of the border.
      Join the real world.

      • Shona: “Unknown virus, Genetically engineered.
        Mutates at a rate never before known to homosapiens.”

        It’s a coronavirus: most emphatically not unknown to humans. And coronaviruses are notorious for rapid mutation: they’re implicated in the common cold. Nobody’s yet developed a vaccine for that.

        And the viruses which cause influenza also mutate, hence the need to have a vaccination annually.

        I’m not sure about the genetically engineered bit, though I do know enough about the evolution of viruses to know that it could not possibly have mutated in a wet market in China, as we were expected to believe in the early days.

        “All the un vaxxed folks I know have been infected some two times.”

        I know quite a few people – close family included – who have been infected despite having had all the vaccinations.

        “Northland…..has the lowest vaccination rates in the country.”

        The emerging evidence suggests that being vaccinated doesn’t offer the protection we were told it would. If folks in Northland get sick, it won’t be because they’re Maori, and likely even because they’re unvaccinated, if my family experience is anything to go by.

        There’s no question that viruses carried on human breath , as is this one, spread where people live or work in close quarters. Transmission is very unlikely out in the open air.

        “Vaxxed people are not being hospitalized up here.”

        That may be because the vaccination rate is very low: in other words, people are admitted to hospital elsewhere despite being vaccinated. Here are the MoH stats:

        You need to scroll well down the page to find the vaccination stats. There, you’ll find the following:

        “Age and vaccination status of deaths within 28 days of being reported as a case”

        “People are not dying because of the vaccine FFS.”

        Again, there’s emerging evidence which suggests otherwise: to the extent that a degree of scepticism about the issue is understandable. A young and healthy close family member has had a negative reaction to both the second and the third shots (and likely to the first, but they weren’t at home for that one). Having seen that, I’ve recommended that they don’t have any further shots, and I won’t have any more if I can avoid it. I’ve had the flu shot, though. As has said close family member: no negative reaction to that.

        “The new variants are on the rise because of the opening of the border.”

        Well of course. That’s how viruses work. If we hadn’t had the wholesale border closures, it’s very likely the virus would have mutated faster than it has, and away from extreme virulence. That’s the pattern of evolution of such organisms: it’s how they survive and leave descendants.

        It puzzles me that commenters can’t express dissent, without others taking exception. People are allowed to have different views, without being pilloried for them.

    • I foresaw the failure of the vaccines, it was as obvious as tits on a bull that it was never going to work as planned

  12. Let’s all do a sing along. Que Phil Collins:
    Well you can tell everyone I’m a down disgrace
    Drag my name all over the place
    I don’t care anymore
    You can tell everybody ’bout the state I’m in
    You won’t catch me crying ’cause I just can’t win
    I don’t care anymore
    I don’t care what you say
    I don’t play the same games you play
    ‘Cause I’ve been talking to the people
    That you call your friends
    And it seems to me there’s a means to an end
    They don’t care anymore
    And as for me I can sit here and bide my time
    I got nothing to lose if I speak my mind
    I don’t care anymore
    I don’t care what you say
    We never played by the same rules anyway
    I won’t be there anymore
    Get out of my way
    Let me by
    I got better things to do with my time
    I don’t care anymore
    Well, I don’t care now what you say
    ‘Cause every day I’m feeling fine with myself
    And I don’t care now what you say
    Hey, I’ll do alright by myself
    ‘Cause I don’t
    ‘Cause I remember all the times I tried so hard
    And you laughed in my face ’cause you held the cards
    I don’t care anymore
    And I really ain’t bothered what you think of me
    ‘Cause all I want of you is just to let me be
    I don’t care anymore
    Do you hear, I don’t care no more
    I don’t care what you say
    I never did believe you much anyway
    I won’t be there no more
    So get out of my way
    Let me by
    I got better things to do with my time
    I don’t care anymore…..

  13. So why not this comment ? What are we afraid of at the mighty blog ? Is it not germain to the discussion ? Jeffrey SACHS is no lightweight to be omitted from it ? And Since Covid is so richly part of the present dialogue of woe; all readers might be interested to read -unreported in mainstream- that Jeffrey SACHS, chair of the LANCET commission on COVID for two years; came out publicly, saying “I’m pretty convinced it came out of US lab bio-technology. Not out of nature….just to mention…after two years of intensive work on this; so its a blunder in my view. A bio-tech, not an accident of a natural spill-over. We dont know for sure, I should be absolutely clear, but, there’s enough evidence that it should be looked into and its not being investigated. Not in the US, not anywhere and I think, for real reasons; that they dont want to look underneath the rug too much.”
    So that, all the ailments above recorded, shuddering every country in the world into this chaos; the cause, convincingly, came out of a US bio-weapons Lab.
    I am wondering if the soon to be sainted PM brought that up in DC.

  14. Sky News Australia: Vile, in the Southern Hemisphere. Unlike the American plutocracy we can destroy these Fascists — or Oz’s new govt can. Unwillingness to confront their immensely powerful media families is an indicator. Don’t live with Fascists.

  15. Brilliant column. The non-understanding of our Left of the power of the people. Maybe they’ll learn from their high perches?

  16. I see Sky News Australia political reporter describes Jacinda Ardern as making about as much sense as a two bob watch.
    Think we have an abundance of two bob watches in New Zealand.

    • That caught your eye did it Bob. It’s the sort of snappy quip that you enjoy eh. Bit out of date though.

  17. It wasne ‘performative caring’, or even virtue-signalling. It was their intelligence faced with an ‘immediate’ crisis. Dear National would have done the same if … it’s in our tradition of kindness … they were equally intelligent. Guiliani did it in New York — it’s fucken no sweat for the intelligent.

    Your major complaint is correct. Hope the nits learn, but they’re above blogs. Their neoliberal advisors and focus groups.

    Hope you and Martyn are well despite not being as Scots as me.

  18. Recalling one of Sky News presenters moonlighting on Brisbane’s MMM radio station about 3:30am, Tuesday 19 July a caller phones in claiming that two hours after a lady hit a tree and passed away, he too was traveling cautiously (40-50km) and hit the same tree.

    The caller recounted how the road was very slippery. He’s traveled that road so knew to be cautious but still hit tree because it was raining.

    The radio host closes the conversation with “ah, so it was the trees fault.”

    You just can’t write this shit.

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