David Farrar and the story of the Strawman

The first I heard of the Population Policy Brouhaha was earlier today as I was campaigning on Queen Street with Zachary Dorner and Gareth Hughes encouraging young workers to take advantage of their legal rights to paid time off work to vote on Saturday the 8th…

Needless to say I was a little confused…I hadn’t watched TV last night as I was cooking for friends, and I hadn’t had a chance to read the newspapers today, so I was unsure what the story was.

So I did what every good informed citizen does, I went home and read the population policy. Then I watched TV3’s news story, and, mouth agog, I had a read about what everyone was saying.

Elections are critical times to get the stories right. You don’t get a chance for corrections or alterations if someone gets it wrong, even if you do. You get one chance to get your message across and that’s it. Unfortunately, we were denied that chance.

TV3’s reporting was shoddy and sensational on a very important issue A global storm is coming in the form of climate change that will uproot hundreds of millions of people, developing countries continue to experience economic and population growth as living standards improve, a fact that we should not begrudge or seek to curtail.

The Green Party are the only mainstream party that has the gumption and the courage to look at the challenges of the future and start some discussions about how we are going to support our nation with finite resources.

Enter David Farrar and his Strawman. Normally I’m a regular reader of Kiwiblog: Farrar is a relatively cogent writer two thirds of the time, but it seems that election years bring out the worst in him.

An issue that would normally have led to some rational discourse on his part – whether be it new energy efficiency building codes or this population policy – inexorably causes the the blinders go up and the blood pressure to go through the roof. Suddenly any screaming hysterical response is fair game, in order to whip up a frothing at the mouth frenzy among his substantially angry readership.

It doesn’t matter if those responses are incorrect or false. It doesn’t matter if they’re deliberate misinterpretations. It doesn’t matter if they’re cherry picked out of context. What matters is if you say something often enough, it becomes common sense. And to the Dad4Justices of the world, those angry men who predominatly read Kiwiblog, Common Sense is what really matters.

According to Farrar:

“The Greens want negative population growth

Wrong. If Farrar had bothered reading our FULL Population Policy, rather than relying on that bastion of objective analysis, the New Zealand Herald, he would have noted nowhere in our policy to do we advocate or promote negative population growth.

Current projections from Statistics New Zealand indicate our population is likely to level off at around the 5.5 million mark. Funnily enough this is under the predicted ecological carrying capacity of New Zealand anyway. Nowhere in our policy implicitly or explicitly do we advocate negative population growth. But that’s not important to Farrar or his readers: why let the truth get in the way of a good angry ignorant rant?

If Farrar had bothered to read our population policy – hell, if he’d bothered to browse the policy summary so kindly available for him on the Greens website rather than cherry pick some things to twist out of context – he would have seen that the maximum sustainable population for New Zealand that will keep allowing him to enjoy the lifestyle he’s so hell bent on ruining by voting for National is not final or fixed, but flexible. That means that if we get our arses into gear and stop consuming natural resources beyond what our systems can provide, then we can support more people. But if we insist on, and indeed advocate for as Farrar and the National Party do – consuming more than our fair share and beyond our means, then we’re up shit creek.

Methinks the reason Farrar and his ilk are so angry is that they recognise the truth in what we’re saying. The fat over fed chickens that have eaten beyond what they can afford are coming home to roost, and the roof is caving in.

You will have to build up enough carbon credits in order to get permission to have a child.”

Wrong. This line’s so retarded I shouldn’t even have to address it. Yes David! And if you have more than the limited number of children, we’ll turn them into organic fertiliser. Would you like to take that line and run a wild eyed post on that too?

“So let’s make sure we have this right. NZ already has a shrinking population from fertility. But in order to allow India, Libya, Saudia Arabia, Pakistan and the Niger to carry on with their over-populating, NZ families should have less children.”

Wrong. Again. If Farrar had bothered to read the damn policy, he would understand that we do not advocate people having less children. What we suggest is that people and are informed about the issues of constrained resources, something that Farrar clearly isn’t. I especially find this part deliciously ironic because you can bet your bottom dollar that it would be someone from the Kiwiblog Right who would make the first utterance about Bloody Useless Maoris Breeding For Business™. Maybe it’s only ok to talk about how many children people should have if they’re brown? Wasn’t it National that advocated putting a limit on how many Useless Teenage Mums could have last election?

“What this means is taxpayer funded bureaucrats working on pamphlets and seminars to frighten parents off having more kids. Can you imagine every school in NZ having some dour faced do gooder preaching to all the kids they they should not have children, in order to save the planet.”

Wrong. Unlike the National Party, the Greens don’t believe in frightening people into making decisions. Communities need to know about the consequences of their collective decisions. People are free to have as many babies as they want. People also need to know that lots and lots of babies will put pressure on our resources, and we need to get prepared now to deal with extra pressure if we collectively choose to go down that path.

Farrar is of course aware of all of this. It doesn’t matter – real ideas and arguments are irrelevant to him. You see, Farrar is the master of the strawman – a fake argument that’s put up by someone to falsely represent another’s position, only to have it torn down in a raging frenzy. It gets people angry. It gets people upset. It gets the Anti PC, Nanny State crusaders chafing at the bit. That’s what it’s all about in Election ’08

It’s a real pity that he chooses to engage in that type of rhetoric. It doesn’t do him justice.

10 thoughts on “David Farrar and the story of the Strawman

  1. Being deliberately misinterpreted to whip up an irrational frenzy?

    I guess that’s a sore point, yeah…

  2. Yes, the ‘P’ (population) word is something that humans seem unable to discuss coherently. It is a quantuum leap from our other prejudices such as race and religion. This incapacity alone could prove to be our ultimate undoing on this planet.

  3. Is the ‘A’ word mentioned in the policy? Abortion (or family planning) is related and also an issue many humans seem unable to discuss coherently. I don’t think any of the 8 parties in parliament have a well-defined policy on the matter, I assume this includes the Greens?

  4. Sean, family planning is clearly and specifically discussed in the policy:

    Ensure that potential and existing parents have full and free access to countrywide Family Planning services so that informed decisions about the number and spacing of children can be made at the appropriate level, by the parents concerned.

    The policy doesn’t propose any changes to the abortion laws, but I think most Greens would agree that reliance on abortion is the worst form of family planning.

  5. I found it really interesting that TV3 took their news item down, presumably because they realised it was not borne out by the facts, but the Herald’s is still up. The difference between the two is that it was the reporter that was spouting the drivel, so they couldn’t let it stand, but the Herald mostly had it coming from the mouths of politicians, who can say anything they like.

    I’m just gobsmacked at the hypocrisy of all this, though I shouldn’t be, because of where it’s coming from. Parties on the right claim to big on personal responsibility, and no doubt think that prospective parents should consider their personal resources – financial, social and emotional – before choosing to have a child. They’re quite good at lecturing people about this, especially people in “other” social groups. But to suggest that people should even consider their environmental resources and limitations somehow gets you branded as an econazi type.

  6. Thanks Toad. It is brought up, but not so sure it is very clear or specific on the matter of abortion. I guess if the Greens want to stick with the status quo w.r.t. abortion law then they are no diffierent from the other main parties.

    It will be interesting to see what politicians have to say on the recent legal challenge that the law isn’t being applied as intended when it appears back in the news. The squirming will be fun to watch!

  7. Sam –
    Family Planning are the most sympathetic of organisations if one is in need of an abortion, and they can find the necessary 2 certifying Dr’s.
    They also provide follow-up, and contraceptive advice, and will help those who are pregnant as a result of abuse to gain support to end the abuse.

    On Farrar:
    Remember, he was sacked after the last elections for not doing his job for Dr Brash properly.
    He is rabidly right-wing on most occasions, especially 3 weeks out from an election, and anything he can turn into a discussion about liberal views on population control will be seized upon like a rabid dog with a rabbit.

    Bill English is Catholic and anti-abortion, not sure about John Key’s opinions on this matter, which is always a conscience vote, but I suspect DPF is singing to the gallery here, and trying to get into the leaders’ good books.

    Totally the same kind of behaviour as they did with the leaflets just before the end of campaigning in 2005 – smear & distort perceptions, not elated to any honest appraisal of policy.

    Incidentally, not a lot of policy detail coming out of National, ‘cos they don’t want to fight this election on policy, they want to do it on personality and prejudice, then enact their agenda once they’ve conned the electorate to give them the jobs.

  8. I thought it was interesting that National didn’t put out a press release about their population policy criticisms, just leaked some false smears to the media and have kept on spreading them under the radar through blogs ever since. They didn’t want to have false claims on official record, I suspect.

  9. Not sure if Sam; was supposed to be me, or someone else….

    anarkaytie – I would like to raise a point you make. You said “Incidentally, not a lot of policy detail coming out of National,”. I think this is unfair as there has been heaps of policy in recent times – summaries and detail. It was a bit of a catchphrase a few months ago, but you can’t use it now.

    Another point – why have the Greens thrown away any leverage by unilaterally aligning themselves with Labour? The Greens have not learned anything from the post-election wrangling in 2005. They were shunned and humiliated then and it looks like they must enjoy that sort of thing because they are lining themselves up for a repeat all over again!! While ideologically the Greens are always closer to Labour (since they are on the left of them) they have just weakened their position. Now Labour definitely know that they are in the good books with the Greens again and that they will be soft when it comes to negotiating the terms of forming a govt (God forbid that opportunity ever arise). I just can’t see the sense in it. Your leaders need a good smack on the bum as it seems they never learn.

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