Friday, September 16, 2005

politics from the untrained left: wallowing in fulity [article]

I’m forever skeptical of the news media in New Zealand. Whether it’s print, television or radio, it’s hard to swallow the majority of material put out there for consumption. Every time I’m faced with aspects of news media, I tend to withdraw further into arts, music or just less political aspects of pop culture. And while this isn’t such a bad thing, I can’t help but feel a little oppressed as a result of being subservient to this. A feeling of resignation towards the biased media system that dominates New Zealand culture isn’t too satisfying, especially when that media is the biggest. It’s a shame that due to lack of information and bias of information. We never know if what we’re getting is the full truth – it’s the same anywhere in the world. The fact is, though, we’re probably not.

This article doesn’t aim to give examples of this, or even explain why this is true. That’s way to big an area to delve into. Instead, I’ll just mill around the issues a bit. Okay?

Now, my own politics are certainly located quite far towards the left. And this skepticism is probably shared with many others of my political disposure – the right, to me, seems unthinkable. I feel that I should have a higher capacity for understanding this, but I can never seem to see the logic behind right wing politics. I guess I’m just close-minded, despite how open a liberal like me would hope.

Either way, my interest in politics aren’t particularly high. It’s off-putting that Politics are about obscuring the truth – an obvious idea, perhaps, but it has come especially to light with the weeklong media façade that was the exclusive brethren flyers. At first, I was pleased with the slandering taking place towards Don Brash, who, let’s face it, is a pretty hard character to like. But there were far more truths at hand that didn’t come to the surface as readily as those regarding the exclusive brethren and Don Brash’s failure to tell the public the truth about them. Labour has surely told lots of lies, which have been hinted at sporadically through the week in the media, but it’s hard to pinpoint any (except the whole motorcade thing) because of the dominance of news dedicated to national’s screw up.

Further pessimism is aroused through the political advertising campaigns. The tricks of a trade such as advertising have clearly come into play a lot in the lead up to the election. Just as adverts for food or perfume target consumers, the political campaigns utilize television in similar ways. The latest Labour ad features kiwi indie-rock band The Clean, so by completely butchering what was a great song because of this context, students like me are targeted in the same way as by an advertisement for skincare products would target a female. It bolsters the “nice guy” image (an apt term for Helen Clark’s party – zing!) for Labour, and as the ad is filled with red, like the seats in the lecture theatre where an obviously attractive (in a down to earth way) female looks up studiously from her papers. Clearly, a lot of money has gone into these types of things.

It’s not just the evil Labour and National that embark on such campaigns. Green party too utilize clever marketing strategies through advertising on the “alternative” station, RDU 98.5fm. I was startled when I first the ad, but I had to admit that it’s a good idea. Hippies like the average RDU listener are very likely to vote Green, so it seems.

But advertising does work. Of course it does – if it didn’t , why would it even exist? Even the biggest of postmodern pessimisms and cynicisms can’t save you now. My current voting preference lies with the Greens, and reading through the leaflet that just arrived in my mail, I can’t help but think feeling like a sucker when I agree so wholeheartedly with what it entails. And at the same time, I scowl at the the same times of pamphlet from parties I don’t agree with. Either way, there’s a “no circulars” sign on my mailbox!

It must be my healthy cynicism taking over again. Maybe it’s just being sensible. It’s a tough one, though – politics that is. I seem to go through phases with it. Whether its international or local, there are moments where I care passionately about the events taking place, but they never last long. I was very affected the morning of John Kerry’s consession speech, but as much as I wanted to do get up and do something political, I had pretty much totally forgotten about it by lunchtime. I wasn’t about to go to spray any stupid stencils of George Bush’s face with a clever, subversive messages written beneath. That’s pointless, isn’t it? But so is sitting there and doing nothing. Whatever the issue (or whatever the political preference), one can’t help but feel a little helpless being situated in New Zealand. It’s probably not too different living in America, though. In fact, it’s probably more frustrating that it’s still nearly impossible to make any real changes. Or is it? Am I just being defeatist?

It all really is confusing though, for someone not overtly politically-minded like myself.
It’s not that politics in general are hard to understand, but that the particulars of the individuals running and the finer details of party policies that are difficult. Even after attentively watching and reading the policies of both National and Labour, I still have absolutely no clue what either party will actually be like in power – probably a common problem amongst voters. Make sure you do go out there and cast your vote, though. It is important if you even remotely care about the country's future.

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