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Angels and Demons

Entry 2039, on 2020-04-21 at 21:54:59 (Rating 4, Politics)

I quite enjoy Dan Brown's books, and I know they are based on true events and real material, but that some of his books - like Angels and Demons - take these to sometimes unjustified extents for the benefit of the fiction, which is fast paced and intriguing. Fair enough, we know that is a reasonable process in fiction, but what about fact? Well, obviously not. In factual material only the actual facts should be reported.

But the media seem to like to take the facts and twist them to suit their preferred narratives as much as a lot of writers of fiction do. And they like to choose significant figures - especially politicians - and decide that some of them are angels and others are demons. And it doesn't seem to matter too much how angelic or demonic the people really are, because all that really matters is perceptions, rather than facts.

At this time in history it sometimes seems that New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is the ultimate angel, and US president, Donald Trump, is the demon!

Of course, it's all mainly BS, and dangerous BS too. Because, despite calls for cooperation, understanding, and "kindness" we should be watching all politicians and criticising them as much as - if not more than - usual. Because at this difficult time good political decisions are more important than ever, and most people are too ignorant to look beyond the stories they see in the media, and are incapable of reaching their own conclusions.

In a rather silly article in the Atlantic Magazine the claim was made that Ardern is the most effective leader on the planet. She does seem to have captured the attention of the international media, and for all the wrong reasons, of course. But it's quite difficult to find any balance here in new Zealand either, although a little bit sneaks through, occasionally.

So in response to a Facebook post referencing the Atlantic article and making the silly claim that "No doubt... she is the most effective leader on the planet" I posted the following...

1. I think there was a typo. They meant "defective", not "effective"!

2. It's like the media have their little favourites, and then those they really hate. The two extremes currently are Ardern and Trump. But both of these "leaders" have good and bad points; not that you would ever know that watching, listening to, or reading the news!

3.This mindless adulation for Ardern is dangerous. She is not a great leader; she's a very mediocre person who really has achieved very little. She has one strength: bullshit. She is very good at giving the appearance of competence and caring. To be fair, she isn't the worst "leader" we have ever had, but she certainly isn't close to being a great leader. But you can only fool people with BS for so long. Soon more people will catch on to how useless she really is.

As I said in a previous post (titled "I Rate the PM 5 Out of 10" from 2020-04-09), I don't think the PM is a total failure (despite some of my rhetoric above). In fact I suggested that the Labour Party should make her leader in response to an email they sent out, and I voted Labour at the last election. But suggesting she is the most effective leader in the world is utterly stupid.

Let's look at her record and see why I say this. Here is a list of major incidents she has been involved in, and attempted changes to New Zealand, since she came PM...

1. Poverty. She promised to eliminate poverty quickly after taking power. It is worse now than it ever has been in recent history. And that is nothing to do with the pandemic, because she was already failing in that aim before that happened.

2. Housing. The Labour Party's efforts at fixing the housing crisis have been embarrassingly bad. Again, the problem is worse than ever, so that is another epic failure.

3. Transparency. She promised a highly open, honest, consultative, and transparent style of government, but there is no reason to think any of that has happened. All media events are carefully managed, only certain members of government are even allowed to speak, and her speeches are more an exercise in propaganda and (yes, there is only one word for it) bullshit.

4. Her handling of the Christchurch shooting. This is the incident which brought her into the international spotlight. Whether she handled that well or not is a matter of opinion in many ways, but many people (me included) were not impressed. The new gun laws are unfair and poorly thought out. Her supplication to the Mulsim community is just sad. Wearing a head covering, and making it a badge of honour is an attack on feminist principles everywhere - of course, I am also deeply cynical about feminism, so I find that more funny than sad!

5. The coronavirus pandemic. I covered this in the blog post I referenced above, but here is a brief summary of my thoughts: New Zealand has done quite well, but no better than many other countries. We have had a relatively low infection rate, but we are very isolated and so could delay action until many other countries had already made mistakes, and learn from that. Also, it is easy to stop a health disaster by implementing a highly restrictive program of controls which causes many other negative side effects. Other countries value their freedom and economies more highly than she does, obviously. Again, she has done OK here, but just OK, which is why I scored her 5 out of 10.

6. What about her popularity? Well, her supporters are very vocal, and she gets a free pass from the media, so maybe it looks a lot better than it really is. But despite the conspicuous lack of alternatives, she is only favoured as PM by about 40% of New Zealanders. That result came from a poll done earlier this year, before the pandemic hit, so who knows how that will change between now and the election. But it clearly shows that in no way is she rated highly by the majority of New Zealanders.

So, you can see about the most generous conclusion you could make the PM is that she is OK, or mediocre, or maybe as good as we can expect given the lack of good alternatives. Does that mean she is the most effective leader in the world? Well, no. Would other leaders or parties here have done any better? We will never know, but that is hardly the point because I am evaluating her performance, not anyone else's.

I don't think the problem is Ardern herself. It is the media. In fact, our previous prime minister (who was leader of our other big political party, National) was also a master bullshit artist, and he was also rarely criticised by the media.

Many mainstream media companies were already seemed to have an uncertain future before coronavirus. Now things look a lot worse. Will we lose them? Somehow, I just don't care.

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Comment 5 (5263) by OJB on 2020-04-27 at 10:52:13: (view earlier comments)

Well, maybe a "good leader" belongs in the same category as a "good manager": a contradiction in terms. In other words, why would I feel the need for a leader? It seems to be that people who enjoy being told what to do are kind of pathetic. I prefer to make my own decisions, usually after collating ideas from various people. However, if I did need to choose one, it would be one of the "maverick" leaders who are unconventional but effective, like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.

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Comment 6 (5264) by Anonymous on 2020-04-27 at 12:49:03:

Hmmm. Both examples are extremely creative but narcissistic and flawed. Interesting and revealing examples you’ve chosen. I think you need to understand that it is possible to have good leaders but nobody is perfect. Ps do you have any plans to make this site USABLE on mobile devices?

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Comment 7 (5265) by OJB on 2020-04-27 at 21:23:05:

Well, everyone is flawed, aren't they, so that hardly counts for anything. Narcissistic? Maybe. Creative, definitely, but there are many creative people who aren't great leaders. As I said above, I object to the idea of leaders. I really don't feel the need for one, and have never met one I think is inspiring in any way. I realise other people do feel more comfortable when they are lead, and that is fair enough.

As far as the site is concerned: yeah, I guess it needs to be modernised, but as I have said before: its a big job and I just need to get motivated enough to get started!

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Comment 8 (5372) by Anonymous on 2020-08-14 at 15:52:42:

I was the first person to call Jacinda the tooth fairy. As it turns out,like the tooth she is a fantasy. She is herding us to the shearing shed to be fleeced but, unlike sheep, we don't jump up and down afterwards

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Comment 9 (5373) by OJB on 2020-08-14 at 15:52:53:

Whether you are a Labour supporter (or a left-oriented person in some other way) or not shouldn't matter. This hero-worship of the PM is both ridiculous and dangerous. Her performance has been mediocre at best, and it seems that her successes are more due to luck than anything else. But even if you think she is the greatest leader ever, I still think it is important to have some perspective, and see her obvious faults for what they are. Also, a strong opposition is important to prevent the (inevitable?) downward spiral into arrogance which most popular governments suffer from.

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