The best of The Spinoff this week

Bringing you the best weekly reading from your friendly local website.

Nicky Hager: Dirty Politics, 2018: Nicky Hager assesses the Jami-Lee Ross saga

“The book Dirty Politics is not about awful people; it is about a negative and destructive style of attack politics that has infected New Zealand from US politics. This is the idea that success in politics is achieved by attacking, smearing and mocking your opponents (“dirty” because the attacks are often untruthful, unscrupulous and covert). It is too easy for attack politics to take over – to start to seem like the only way to do politics – distracting attention and stealing time from real issues and problems facing the country. Thus the book’s sub-title: ‘How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment.’

The recent controversy was all about this type of dirty politics.”

Madeleine Chapman: Are Auckland’s new Lime e-scooters any good? And how do they compare to OnZos?

“After being OnzO’s biggest user and advocate, I was ready to move on. The sole reason being that OnzO is bad. They’ve got a monopoly so I still check the app when I’m about to walk to work (they’re almost never nearby) but the product and the service is bad. On two separate occasions I’ve been charged $200 for a single ride because the bike malfunctioned during the unlocking process. I was refunded both times but their approach to customer service is, to put it mildly, hands-off. I’ve ridden a lot of broken bikes and looked forlornly into homes where people have hidden others.

The promise of an easy-to-rent machine requiring less effort than the single-gear OnzO was exactly the news I wanted. But the promise of something better is pretty much the only good thing about Lime e-scooters.”

Toby Manhire: Senior National MP sets ultimatum for Simon Bridges

In a series of interviews this morning, a very high-ranking member of the National caucus has set the clock ticking, laying out exactly what Bridges needs to achieve in the coming polls to remain in his job.

Tara Ward: The Spinoff reviews New Zealand #72: Kowhai Park, the nation’s best playground

“The magic of Kowhai Park began the moment I arrived. My children launched themselves out of the car and disappeared, joyfully sucked into the vortex of Nursery Rhyme Land. I had no idea where they went, and I didn’t care. I was too busy being The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, climbing inside a giant boot to squeeze my aged buttocks down a child-sized slide and slither through the worn-out toe.

You can be anything in Kowhai Park. I was just a girl, standing in front of Fred Flintstone, asking him to love her.”

Dejan Jotanovic: ‘He’d be more comfortable in the kitchen’: The problem with MAFS and masculinity

“Some politics are playful, others far less so: I’ve previously written about how Sam and Tayler’s scene on HIV prevention capitalised on drama at the damaging expense of public health.

But one narrative has provided both saliency and longevity in its politics: Julia’s issue with Dave’s masculinity… or lack thereof. Just watching the show you’d almost think it was 2002 and that David Beckham was relevant again just by the number of times Julia says the word metrosexual.

One scene has them both doing a little household DIY. It doesn’t end well.

‘I think he’d be more comfortable in the kitchen and doing the vacuuming, while I’d have to bang in the nails,’ Julia notes, ‘Does that mean our roles would be reversed? That’s not what I’m looking for.’

Ouch.”

Toby Manhire: 17 questions the inquiry into National Party culture can start by asking

“After a week-long fusillade from Jami-Lee Ross, Simon Bridges has announced an internal probe into the culture of the party he leads. Bridges says he wants to ‘make sure women feel absolutely safe in the workplace and feel they can confidently come forward on all matters’.

The results of the inquiry, said Bridges, are unlikely to be made public. But before partisans crow over that, it’s worth nothing that Labour’s inquiry into its own conduct stemming from sexual assaults allegations at a Youth Summer Camp was kept from the public, save for a few excerpts.

The breadth of scope for National is unclear, but given the range of issues raised by events since last Monday, it would make sense to allow the inquiry to explore anything pertinent. Below, some of the questions that warrant asking – and to be clear, these are not intended as insinuations, but genuine questions.”

Duncan Greive: The data does lie: how Facebook’s fake video stats smashed NZ journalism

“When we saw the numbers, we acted. We made redundant boring old print journalists, built multimedia studios and asked young reporters learning an already complex trade, made more so by the maelstrom of its social media, to learn yet more skills.

It seems like a collective madness, looking back. We already knew more than enough about Facebook – already knew that we were the product, that when we liked pages or posts we were providing data so that we could more efficiently be packaged up into different interest groups and sold. That when we did this diligently we were making the machine even more efficient at diverting money which previously sustained the mass media into Facebook.

We knew that Facebook would always act in the best interests of Facebook. That it had encouraged millions of brands and thousands of media organisations to spend heavily to grow their Facebook audiences based on the idea that they could speak to them through the feed, then changed the rules to show only a tiny fragment of the audience that content unless a toll was paid.

We knew enough already to know not to trust them. Yet we were desperate, starving, and easily seduced.”

Alex Casey: Feminism for men and women: Alex Casey on the furious, phenomenal Clementine Ford

“For all the many, many intelligent words Ford has written on the topic of rape culture in her two books and hundreds of columns, five simple words packed the biggest wallop: rape is in the room. Rape. Is. In. The. Room. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more succinct summary of the way that sexual violence lives in the air that we breathe. Make no mistake, every woman that you know has a story of sexual violence or harassment, or knows someone who does. Ford makes that abundantly clear, before posing the biggest question of all: who is doing it to us?”

Danyl Mclauchlan: The uniquely damaging betrayals of Jami-Lee Ross

“It’s not unusual for MPs to drift over the line from healthy self-confidence into the oncoming traffic of delusional narcissism. In many ways the parliamentary and party systems incentivise some of the harassment and toxic behaviour Jami-Lee Ross has been accused of. Almost everyone who works for an MP is on an events-based contract, meaning they can be sacked without notice or cause; serious incidents can be settled with confidentiality agreements negotiated via payments from the leaders’ funds; it’s in everyone’s best interest – the MP, the party, the unfortunate staffer with a future career to consider – for everything to be settled quietly. Whichever party you support has or had toxic MPs who were protected by the leadership.

But there’s a limit. Sometimes MPs who go off the rails step down quietly, shuffling off to repair their devastated marriages, broken families, ruined mental health. Sometimes they’re forced out, scratching and biting, clawing at their party while insisting they’re the only one who can save it. But Jami-Lee Ross just put all those previous flameouts to shame. No one has ever seen anything like it in New Zealand politics. What makes him so uniquely terrible?”

Hayden Donnell: The scandalous truth about the Huntly Deka Sign

Those letters had always been our real target. We wanted to secure them, and had arranged for me to appeal to the sign’s owner, Sid Patel, to give them to us on our last morning of filming in Huntly. The interview went well. Patel agreed to hand them over. Then as things drew to a close, he dropped a bombshell. He’d never given consent for the letters to be removed. He’d gone outside his store one day to find a group of men in a cherry picker taking his sign apart. He remonstrated with them. Why were they altering a sign that he’d loved and maintained for more 20 years without getting his consent?

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