Friday, October 15, 2021

The cabal that controls the national conversation

Cabal (noun): 1. A secret intrigue. 2. A political clique or faction.

These are the two main definitions in my Oxford Dictionary. There’s a third, historical one which reveals that the word originated under King Charles II, who had a committee of five ministers whose surnames happened to begin with the letters C, A, B, A and L (who knew?).

But it’s the modern understanding of the word that I’m concerned with, because in many ways “cabal” seems an apt description of how New Zealand is being run in 2021.

Okay, cabal implies a small, secretive group, which is not what I’m talking about here. The cabal I’m talking about is neither small nor secretive. On the contrary, it’s big and far-reaching, with an agenda that’s very much out in the open. It’s a cabal so supremely confident about its power that it feels no need to be furtive.

In fact as I’m writing this I realise I’m effectively proposing a new definition of cabal. Mine would read something like “a group wielding power and influence disproportionate to its numbers, characterised by a common ideology and constantly reinforcing itself through mutual support”.

The cabal I’m talking about reaches across politics, the bureaucracy, academia, arts, the media, the churches and even sport and business. It dominates the public conversation to the extent that dissenting voices are largely excluded, at least from traditional mainstream platforms.

The common ideology that unites this cabal is not easily summarised, since it’s multi-faceted. Some would call it “woke” – an unsatisfactory term because (a) it’s too easily resorted to and has therefore been diminished by over-use and (b) its meaning is so diffuse that it can be hard to pin down.

If forced to define the groupthink that binds the members of this cabal, I would suggest it’s an adherence to the ideology of identity politics – the idea that disadvantaged minority groups (more of which seem to emerge with every passing month) have needs, grievances and interests that, when push comes to shove, supersede those of the majority.

Identity politics involves a relentless focus not on what unites us – in other words, the interests and values that all New Zealanders have in common (such as freedom, prosperity, peace and respect for the rule of law) – but on grievance and division. Proponents of identity politics see society as an aggregation of disadvantaged groups that must compete for power and influence against a privileged and hostile majority that’s indifferent to their needs. It’s a world view that arises largely out of Marxist theory but which, oddly enough, is not endorsed by all Marxists.

These aggrieved minorities may define themselves by their ethnicity, their gender, their religion, their disabilities or their sexual identity. The desire to protect these groups and promote their interests, even if it means over-riding the wishes of the majority, has become an all-consuming objective for the cabal that now dominates New Zealand politics.

We see this reflected in many of the political initiatives pursued by the Labour government since it was freed from the restraining influence of New Zealand First. Obvious examples include proposed hate speech laws (still conveniently vague), Maori co-governance proposals, taxpayer-funded government capture of the media, centralisation of power via radical new arrangements in health and local government (e.g. the Three Waters), indoctrination of school pupils through a distorted history curriculum, and the imposition of Maori place names and Maori terminology unfamiliar to most New Zealanders without any mandate.

Now, I know what some people will be thinking as they read this. They’ll be thinking: “Hang on, there have always been cabals in politics.” Which is true: in virtually every government, there’s a select group – sometimes known as the kitchen cabinet – which calls the shots.

But what sets the 2021-style cabal apart is the sheer scale of its influence. A homogeneity of thinking extends across virtually all the public institutions that influence New Zealand life. What debate there is mainly takes place on the margins – for example, on talkback radio (which the media elite regards with contempt), in social media and on blogs like this one, where dissenting opinion can be quarantined as if it were a contagious disease.

The dangers hardly need spelling out. A country where government policies largely go unchallenged by the institutions that normally hold politicians to account is a country that risks acquiescing in the face of an authoritarian state.

Two obvious examples are academia and the media. In liberal democracies, both institutions typically subject governments to close, and often harsh, critical scrutiny. But in New Zealand in 2021, academics and the media sing from the same song sheet as the people in power. Media outlets publish just enough dissenting opinion to avoid the accusation that they function as compliant government mouthpieces. Academics, apart from a tiny minority of courageous dissenters, serve as cheerleaders.

Some media go further, actively promoting narratives that favour the government; witness Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien’s sustained, malicious and deliberate undermining of Judith Collins. Contrast that with the same organisation’s very occasional (and mostly polite) reporting of government failures. O’Brien’s exposure of Kris Faafoi’s inability to explain his own hate speech proposals, and Michael Morrah’s valiant chronicling of the government’s failings and dissembling over Covid-19, stand out precisely because they contrast sharply with the deferential tone of most Newshub journalism, especially in relation to Jacinda Ardern.  

Some political journalists appear to compete for the prime minister’s favour, like school children begging for the teacher to notice their upraised arms. The penalty for asking awkward questions at Ardern’s “Pulpit of Truth” sessions is that the questioner is likely to be snubbed in future. It’s a more subtle form of control than that exercised by Robert Muldoon, who banned journalists he didn’t like, but just as effective. Small wonder that Barry Soper, the most experienced member of the press gallery, has exposed Ardern’s promise of transparency as a sham.  

We even see media outlets actively suppressing content for no better reason than that it’s ideologically unacceptable; witness the New Zealand Herald’s shameful refusal to publish an inoffensive advertisement for the feminist group Speak Up for Women, which has struggled to have its voice heard against a barrage of  rhetoric from the fiercely aggressive transgender lobby.

Once the guardians of free speech, the press has become complicit in the suppression of opinions that run counter to the tenets of identity politics. That media outlets like the Herald now align themselves with radical fringe groups such as transgender activists, who only a few years ago would have been regarded as deranged, demonstrates how out of touch they have become with the public they purport to serve.

But back to that cabal. For a micro-example of how it operates, and of the cosy symbiosis between government and the media, look no further than Newshub’s recent coverage of an Official Information Act release to blogger Cameron Slater relating to two of the cabal’s most feted figures, Ashley Bloomfield and Siouxsie Wiles.

On the BFD blog, Slater had called microbiologist and media darling Wiles a rank hypocrite after she appeared to breach Alert Level 4 rules – and contravene her own public advice not to go out and socialise – by sitting with a friend on an Auckland beach, in close proximity and both unmasked.

A delighted Newshub crowed that in an exchange of text messages released to Slater, Bloomfield (or as I prefer to call him, Dr Spin) told Wiles that “I don’t think that Cameron Slater has much cred these days”. The focus of the story was thus obligingly shifted from Wiles’ flouting of the lockdown rules – a matter of clear public interest – to the denigration of the right-wing blogger who potted her. It was the perfect illustration of how the cabal works to protect its members and turn its wrath on anyone who challenges it.

In this case the self-supporting mechanisms kicked in big-time. First, there was Bloomfield reassuring Wiles in a chummy, we’re-all-in-this-together spirit that she shouldn’t be too concerned about Slater, followed by the insipid bromide “Take care” and adding: “Keep up the great work and plenty of good people … will stand by you”. Then there was the sneering tone of the Newshub report, which implied that the only person tarnished by the affair was Slater himself. (After all, if the sainted Bloomfield pronounced that Slater had no cred, who could possibly argue otherwise?)

Others soon piled on. “Kiwis on social media thought the whole affair was hilarious”, Newshub reported – citing, as evidence, a sniggering, sub-literate tweet by Hayden Donnell from RNZ’s Mediawatch: “Imagine OIA’ing a government official’s comms all their texts are just about how much you suck.”

Let’s just consider that for a moment. Donnell is paid by the taxpayer to provide fair, measured, non-partisan analysis of the news media, and here he is (a) revealing himself as unable to string a few coherent words together, and (b) joining in a social media gang-up on a figure the cabal loathes because they can’t abide anyone holding political views different from their own.

I supposed we should be grateful to Donnell for confirming just how puerile and bigoted he is. We now know not to rely on anything he says about the media we pay him to comment on. In an ideal world he would be sacked because he has forfeited his credibility, but we know he won’t be. He can make comments like this with impunity because the cabal protects its own – in fact, applauds people for displaying bias, just as long as it’s the right type of bias.

The cabal’s influence, incidentally, reaches beyond New Zealand, and I’m not just talking about the Guardian, which is the cabal’s newspaper of choice. In a recent BBC World Service discussion, Newsroom political journalist Marc Daalder, after playing down a key failure in the Ardern government’s management of Covid-19 by saying the tardiness of the vaccination rollout was due to “supply constraints” (not true), then smeared the country by making the claim (also untrue) that the vaccination programme prioritised whites and left "marginalised" communities behind. “The government hasn’t always been the friend of Maori communities,” Daalder said, citing the smallpox (1913) and influenza (1918) epidemics as evidence of New Zealand’s supposed indifference to Maori suffering. (Neither could be compared with the current pandemic, but hey - let's not get too picky.)

Daalder’s casual slander aligns with a commonly held view within the cabal that New Zealand is so irredeemably racist even Ardern’s enlightened leadership can’t fix it. Overseas listeners would have formed the impression that Maori had been denied vaccination opportunities as part of a deliberate strategy, when both Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare placed the blame squarely on Maori themselves for not coming forward despite government publicity campaigns targeted directly at them.

Distortion is just one of the weapons in the armoury of the cabal that controls the public conversation. Ridicule and scorn are others, as evidenced by Newshub’s report about Slater. The purpose is to intimidate dissenters into silence. And we’re paying for it, because the media elements of the cabal are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer through the Pravda Project, aka the Public Interest Journalism Fund. That's the cabal’s master stroke.


Doug Longmire said...

Excellent article Karl.
As we have seen since comrade Ardern took office, the media have been purchased ($55M) and become the New Zealand Pravda.
It is squirmingly embarrassing to watch TV1 "News", which is pure government propaganda, with long details on Covid, and little else.
Ardern is always portrayed looking positive and answering cute questions from Tova or Jessica with her usual waffle/word salad.
Any awkward questions are muted and low key, and quickly dealt with (just so TV One can at least LOOK like they are being seriously journalistic)
Any portrayal of Judith Collins is brief, and carefully selected to catch her in the middle of a frown.

Odysseus said...

What is happening in New Zealand is an offshoot of the triumph of postmodernism which was born in the late 1960s, among mainly French thinkers like Michel Foucault, and which rejects liberal values and the idea of objective truth bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment. It promotes "social justice" and "identity politics" in the belief that society is formed of systems of power and hierarchies. It is in fact a deeply irrational and corrosive philosophical system that has been embraced by academics throughout the West, by politicians like Ardern, and by very wealthy and powerful oligarchs who own much of the media and control Big Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook. It is extremely elitist and indulges in luxury beliefs whose consequences would impact most severely the poor and the powerless. Extinction Rebellion whose antics are directed at the disruption of working peoples' lives and the promotion of climate catastrophism are topical examples. It can be summed up as fascism for the 21st century.

So how does one fight back against this would-be totalitarian monolith? The system's main vulnerability is the fact that the rigid beliefs about race or gender or climate change etc which it tries to impose are greatly divorced from ordinary people's everyday experience of the world around them. The Emperor in reality has no clothes. It is a belief system that continually engages in breaking down and destroying structures; it is deeply nihilistic and incapable of creating anything positive or good. It rules by fear, not love.

Derision is a potent weapon against it. One must speak out where one can, and refuse to consume the lies and fantasies promoted through the media or by certain politicians. Above all during this pandemic which is a godsend for authoritarians - it is stamped "made in China" after all - we must not allow politicians to rule by fear. It is a sad commentary that almost two-thirds of New Zealand women hang on Ardern's every word (according to polls this week) while she replaces our constitution with an ethnostate; to such an extent has their hysterical protective anxiety been exploited by this government during the COVID crisis. The postmodernists however are incapable of producing long-term solutions for real world problems and even now the COVID crisis is spinning out of control. We can only hope the scales will begin dropping from people's eyes very soon.

Terry M said...

Having just read Totaitaria By Ian Wishart I don’t really have any doubt.
Both JA and Aunty Helen are pretty much acolytes of the UN. At the UN there is what is called the Meditation Room with a stone altar. The Lucis Trust is the Official Custodian of the Meditation Room and has been for decades. The altar is dedicated to Lucifer.
The UN is also the instigator of the World Core Curriculum(responsible for NCEA more indoctrination than education),climate change (a manufactured crisis) Agenda 21 and Agenda 2030. But wait there’s more.
As for the media and academia holding government to account. That was back in the days of academia being somewhat related to intelligence and not bullshit degrees, activism, wokism and cancel culture. It was also back when the media reported news and not opinions based on their own weird ideology.
Still, save a miracle, a snap election to achieve a mandate for all this antidemocratic manoeuvring or a bloody revolution I can see another couple years of crap heading our way.

Karl du Fresne said...

Readers please note: I can't vouch for the veracity of Terry M's claims. The supposed dedication to Lucifer in particular sounds a bit lurid, even for the UN.

Doug Longmire said...

There have been many examples of biased, unequal application of the “rules” in this chaotic Covid situation:-

a/ Early on in lockdown, a man in a Christchurch Countdown carpark was accosted by the police (for not wearing a mask !) Two Police officers involved. They pepper sprayed the man, then wrestled him to the ground, using a George Floyd style, knee on the neck, stranglehold to suppress him. His crime, remember, was NOT wearing a mask.

b/ Recently reports of the criminal conviction of a 74 year old man with cancer whose crime was going whitebaiting alone in a boat on a river. Wow !! high risk there !!

c/ However, Souxie Wiles goes for a 5 miles bike ride to meet her friend, out of her bubble. They sit on the beach together, no masks, friend goes swimming. Breaking multiple rules. No problem Soozy – just text your old mate Ashley and you get off Scott free. And on top of that, any media who criticize this situation are dissed by Saint Ashley.

pdm said...

Siouxsie Wiles clear leader in New Zealand's hypocrite of the year awards.

Green Party male co-leader James Shaw has 3 entries live in this competition but, even if combined they would still be overwhelmed by Associate Professor Wiles single essay into hypocrisy - well that is as far as I know of course.

Terry M said...

Sorry. Typo. Fat fingers. Totalitaria is the book p216.

Michael Johnston said...

Very nice article Karl. The only thing is that I think there's already a term for your expanded definition of 'cabal': Ruling class.

Rob said...

Oligarchy is perhaps another word?

It seems to me that critical race theory has found a home with the Treaty and is operating in New Zealand with its own characteristics. Whereas in the US its about destructive iconoclasm and attacking institutions without replacement. Here the cabal have a clear understanding of the way forward. That is the ethno-state governed under 'Te Tiriti o Waitangi' principles. They see such a state as being the logical and correct path to a more equitable future. A future that also promises the left endless power due to co-governance and the Maori vote. They're confident because they are entrenched in positions of power, control their successors and don't think they can be stopped. At the moment its difficult to see an off-ramp.

Unknown said...

Don't forget including the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), or rather its leadership, in the list of government departments in the cabal Karl.
Bernard Isherwood

Unknown said...

At this time in our history, we find ourselves in a perilous position. This Labour Government seems to act with impunity with no censure from any quarter. You mentioned that the media and academia are firmly in the pocket of this Government acting as cheer leaders and advocates and I agree with you 100%. What is also disappointing is the lack of scrutiny from the opposition political parties, particularly National. What are they waiting for? They must have plenty of ammunition to sink Ardern's Pirate ship but seem woefully unorganized and strangely silent.
People in general seem too complacent about the erosion of our freedoms and think that a double jab will return things back to the status quo! When and if they actually wake up it may be too late. I'm glad that the Mayors throughout NZ are finally pushing back against the 3 Waters reform. If it progresses any further it would perhaps be the largest armed robbery in NZ history.

Eamon Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

As previously commented on this site the hit job by Tova from Newshub on Judith Collins after the release of the Mood of the Boardroom review bordered on propoganda. Here is a smattering of some of the comments from leading business people on Ardern in that report.
"...only turns up to radio shows where she will be asked inane questions of no substance and avoids the tough questions...because they show her lack of command of detail"
"...a legacy of being a great frontperson who shows care in a crisis but who couldn't lead the country economically or socially"
"I think it is incredible how this government has failed on everything (including their own priorities) across Covid, education, housing, poverty, infrastructure and she remains as popular as she does"
"I can't believe that constantly saying 'I'm disappointed as everyone' works as a response to ongoing non-progress across all these things"
"Without the platform that Covid has provided she and Labour would be polling appallingly"
"...doesn't have the bench strength to get things done, or generate quality advice"
"...has ideological settings that appeal to an international media-led 'woke' community, but will not create real advances for New Zealanders"
This is just some examples and yet all Newshub focused on was negative sentiment for the leader of the opposition who is not even running the country. I cannot understand how the people that work there can call themselves journalists, it seems not to mean what it used to.

Daniel said...

Hi Karl

First time commenter, Really enjoy your blog.

Just wanted to say, what you are describing is very similar to the concept of "the cathedral", a term coined by Curtis Yarvin.

Many of Yarvin's ideas, which a decade ago were considered fringe political philosophy (Most still are), are becoming much more relevant today.

Unknown said...

For me the scales fell from my eyes in 2009 with the release of the "climate gate" emails. Proving the doomsday narrative to be a fraud.
"Thank God" I naively thought, "now the media will tear them to pieces!"
Alas, no, instead we saw nearly all media work overtime covering up and discrediting anyone who thought the issue an important one.
Fast forward to today, I view the media as a bellwether for most important events, but assume the truth lies in the opposite direction to the narrative. I am not often wrong.

Glenn Jackman said...

I'm so grateful for all who engage in critical thinking, and who apply their various expert skills and knowledge. My worldview is biblical and in relative terms, an expert in this field. As active bible believers many of us have completely given up on MSM, particularly in the last five years. The lies/propaganda are to prolific and constant. The global convergence of malevolent media, oligarchic business, global socialist (would-be communist) politics are not unexpected. This present scenario is well described in biblical prophecy, the exact details are a revelation and darkly fascinating, but not any real surprise.

Unknown said...

the cabal as you call it is quite obviously an arm of the Davos crowd with Klaus and George and the old boys club of european aristrocracy and the usual new world billionaires. Keeping joe public at each others throats by serving up total fabrications as if it were truth is an old strategy designed to demoralise and depress the inmates.

Mike Pinkney said...

Awesome work Karl. Thank you.

Unknown said...

The current CABAL has certainly harnessed the power to destroy a person.

They biggest force aside from Race based politics is what Dave Chappelle refers to as "The Alphabet People"

LBGTQI. They have suborned 20% of the Alphabet, and the power to dictate to others in a way that was normally reserved to the church.

As Chapelle says, “I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?” How far does this Cabal want to control us, and how we are supposed to think.

Karl du Fresne said...

To the two other "Unknowns" who posted comments yesterday: sorry, but I found them hard to follow.

Unknown said...

Gender Identity politics - particularly the scariness that is the BDMRR where the government are contemplating a law change where if you “identify” as a woman then you can change your sex marker on your birth certificate. So any dude who decides he is now a woman can enter women only safe spaces i.e. changing rooms in a gym, and get undressed in front of women and young girls and there will be nothing we can do about it. I am a victim of rape and a survivor of breast cancer - I want my privacy in woman only changing spaces and don’t want to share these spaces with “men” who now decide they are women. This will trigger me all over again - women have fought for years to get equal rights and to have areas protected for women only - now any person who says “I’m a Woman” can now enter these spaces? I have no problem with trans gender - but maybe they should fight for their own space rather than trying to claim women’s. And I refuse to take on the ridiculous terms that I am hearing - apparently breast feeding now has to be called “chest feeding” as to not offend the transgender community. I have heard “person with a cervix” as we can no longer stare only women can have a cervix. And to top it all off, period products and marketing has to be respectful of the trans community even though you will never have a period as you are not a woman. Insanity - feels like we are trying to erase the concept of women - as a woman I despair

Unknown said...

Hi Karl, what an awesome article. Pity it will never be picked up by the biased left wing main stream media. The people of the left are generally the biggest hypocrites as can be seen by the trans activist protesting Dave Chappelle. I made a video about this on my new you tube channel which I started as frustration with the left wing media in New Zealand.

If you don't mind me posting the link here:

Feel free to delete if not appropriate. Keep up the great work.

Unknown said...

Karl you have been a newspaper editor. I've been curious as to who The Press editors have been . We had the Anna Penn affair where Spoonley and Ramsden accused the editor of silencing voices (he called it political correctness and is still using that argument against any member of the majority who criticises a minority). Later there was the smacking referendum where the editor threw his toys out of the cot ("the referendum is a farce").
I didn't realise Joanna Norris was an editor but under Christchurch NZ she says (in a promo) "We're so proud to be a city of love and social change".
Grant Shimin wrote that "we are trying to get balance back and when you have been used to privilege sometimes [fairness seems unfair]. He reads letters to the editor.
The government has mandated 11m height restrictions at the boundary fence. The editor thought it was good and didn't acknowledge any harm to existing properties (imagine N/E/W). I haven't told my wife about that regulation change,

Karl du Fresne said...

Hmmm ... not sure what point "Unknown" is trying to make here, but perhaps I can fill in some gaps for mystified readers. Anna Penn: Christchurch nursing student, expelled from her course in 1993 for questioning the concept of "cultural safety" (an early pointer to the intrusion of identity politics into New Zealand life). Spoonley: Massey professor and champion of multiculturalism Paul Spoonley, though I don't remember what role he played (if any) in that affair. Ramsden: presumably Irihapeti Ramsden, influential Maori nursing leader who promoted the idea of cultural safety. Joanna Norris: ex-editor of the ChCh Press, who I see is returning to the Stuff fold after some time in the public sector. Grant Shimmin: Stuff editorial executive and enthusiastic promoter of wokeness.

As for the cryptic references to 11-metre boundary fences and his wife, perhaps "Unknown" can explain what the hell he's on about.

Unknown said...

When the majority of people decide to NOT BE INVOLVED in the political system and their own government, the minority that do participate take over and do whatever they like.

Democracy only works for the benefit of the majority of the people when they are involved in choosing who will appropriately represent them in their government.

Participation in our main political parties is extremely limited with maybe 50,000 or less paid up party members and a small fraction of them actively involved.

The membership fees cannot sustain the activities of the parties and so influential "donors" gain significant influence on decisions that benefit them.

Local party meetings are usually attended by 12 or less people and most of them are older, financially secure and oblivious to the reality of ordinary people's lives.

Our system is no longer democratic.

It is now an oligarchy. Rule by a politi9cally active and influential minority of the people.

It's our own fault for failing to support democracy by joining the political parties and actively participating in choosing who will represent us in our government.