MyThinks: newer and improveded

From time to time in the world of pseudojournalism, there comes a point when a lack of funds forces one to take stock and reassess one’s place in the world.

Recently the crew at MyThinks has been doing a lot of soul-searching. We began by going back to our core values with this simple question: why do we exist and how does our existence impact on those around us, the community and the wider cosmos?

We were unable to answer that question, so we changed it to: how can we get more clicks?

For some years now MyThinks has delivered quality thinks in a concise and satirical way. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to point out the sheer hypocrisy of National Party and ACT politicians ahead of our own needs to earn tens of dollars from Google advertising. Sure, pointing out that Steven Joyce’s “pretty legal” defence of breaches of the Copyright Act was more ridiculous than, say, a Seymour twerk is important for the fabric of political discourse in New Zealand, but it doesn’t generate the clicks.

In recent weeks the answer to our question became clear to us very, very quickly indeed. We need to be more like Stuff or the New Zealand Herald. We need to have more stories about dogs who can bark the alphabet, or parrots that can utter, on cue, a vast range of expletive-laden poems. We need to feature wall-to-wall Royal Wedding analysis which we can resurrect at any time, particularly if the royal couple announce plans for a visit to New Zealand. Videos of angry motorists. Boobs on bikes. Anything that will up our clicks is on the menu. We might even do what Kiwiblog does and open up our comments section to only the most racists of New Zealanders. Or maybe a couple of guest posts from convicted criminal and tough-on-crime muppet David Garrett. I’ve heard that’s working out pretty well for them.

Sure, wedged in between the dancing badgers and the spiderman racoon there is bound to be the odd mention of National Party policy or Simon Bridges’ latest attempt to criticise the government for trying to do something about the mess they left us in when they won last year’s election. However, Stuff and Granny Herald have proved to the world you no longer have to be a purveyor of quality journalism to get people to browse through your website.

We also thought we could make it look a bit prettier. So we’ve done that too.

Until next time, here are some kittens. #toomuchcuteness

Advertisements

National Party are trying its very bestest

Since we won the election last year, the National Party have been trying its hardest to implement policy. Having been in parliament for nine years, we worked really hard over that time to implement loads of policy, or, in the very least, make many, many policy announcements so it looked like we were working really hard over that time to implement loads of policy.

However, since our election win, our time on the opposition benches has not been as fruitful as we’d like. Sure, we’ve had plenty to say and we’ve traded in our old Southland tractor for a late-model Corolla from Tauranga, but in terms of having any say over policy, or being heard over the thunderous noise of raining stardust, we appear to be coming up short.

It’s almost like nobody cares anymore.

That aside, when we heard the government was scrapping National’s standards and our beloved charter schools, we had to act. It is not good enough that this government has removed the requirement from schools to report to parents how their child is faring against an arbitrary standard made up by a public servant in Wellington. We all know how much parents love hearing year after year that their child is a failure. What better way to prepare a child for the future? They need to be labelled and labelled early.

In light of this nonsense from the government we’ve decided to launch a petition. Our petition is calling for the National Party to be given much more coverage in the media when we are talking about anything. Since our huge election win last year the National Party have not received the sort of media coverage we should have been receiving. We have the most MPs. We won the election. We should be getting the most media coverage.

It really is very simple.

Please sign our petition so that our voices may be heard.

Fury and Fury 4: The Run-off

In our final extract from the scintillating new book Fury and Fury from author Wolf Michaels, we look at the fight to replace former Prime Minister Bill English. It seems our author had spent some time in the Collins camp during her campaign. 

The day dawns slowly in southern Auckland. I’ve spent last night at the home of former lawyer Judith Collins. We are sitting with her husband enjoying a breakfast of six different kinds of meat accompanied with a tall glass of ice-cold Orivida milk. An icy silence hangs over the breakfast table. Collins is perusing her beloved WhaleOil blog on an unspecified tablet device while her husband and I look at each other suspiciously. It’s obvious he wonders why I’m there and I have to say I’m also having the same wonderings.

We were back in Wellington last evening. I was enjoying some drinks with the far right neo-fascist wing of the National Party. They don’t enjoy using that moniker in public but the pictures of Stalin and Mussolini upon the wall suggest they definitely enjoy using it. Bill English has just announced his resignation as National Party leader and the committee are meeting to discuss their plans. Judith is leading the discussion with the three other MPs who are there.

I’ve followed New Zealand politics for over two decades and I have absolutely no idea who these people are. I have never seen them in parliament, either in the chamber or walking around the building. None of the three have made any media appearances. I think back to the campaign last year and despite the amount of brain racking going on I am just not able to place them. Are they from the South Island or from further north? I suppose that is probably the price a party pays for getting nearly 45% of the vote. The lower ranks of your party list is peppered with all manner of unctuous committee members from around the country. Last year they were deciding on whether or not to spend $650 on repainting the downpipes of a local hall; now they are about to decide on a possible future Prime Minister.

Collins calls the meeting to order and tells the others present she is running and they will be voting for her. Her three new friends all agree with short nods of their heads. No words are returned. Although these are fresh, new members of parliament have not been around the scene very long, they are completely aware of the need not to say the wrong thing around Judith Collins. Crusher is well-known the world over for her passive aggressive responses to any questions.

Back at the breakfast table in Papakura, Ms Collins retrieves her phone and announces to the room, “It’s time.”

Both her husband and I look at each other wondering what it is time for and whether or not we should know anything else at this point.

Collins begins mumbles away to herself while she taps away on her phone before saying, “send,” and tapping the send button with a small flourish. Several short minutes later the phone starts ringing. She answers it and with a gentle voice of sugar syrup confirms whatever questions she is being answered. The phone call ends and Collins puts the phone down on the table and recommences her breakfast. Again her husband and I look at each other. Both of us have a what has just happened look on our faces. However, we’ve been around long enough to know the easiest way to face the wrath of Crusher is to ask her a question about anything involving her life.

Luckily, thanks to the caller being a member of the media, I was able to read a report that Collins was standing for the leadership of the National Party.

****

Fast forward two weeks and all three of us are enjoying another meat breakfast in the Papakura conservatory. What started with a distinct possibility of someone becoming the next Prime Minister has ended in abject failure. Last Tuesday the National Party held their secret ballot and the only result we know for certain is that Simon Bridges is now the party leader. Who received what level of support in the preferential vote remains unknown. My sources within the party have remained silent but the fury with which Collins has fumed in recent days suggest she definitely didn’t do well.

I look at her husband and subtly raise an eyebrow. He, equally as subtly, shakes his head. We are in agreement that mentioning anything about any subject at all during this breakfast would not only be a bad idea but would also endanger our lives. Ms Collins finishes her breakfast.

“I’ve had enough of your nonsense,” she announces, “I’m off for a nap.”

As she leaves the conservatory and returns to the coffin room, we again exchange subtle gestures communicating clearly to each other that no words will escape our lips until the head of the house is well asleep. Let us hope she is rewarded with some kind of front bench role in the new shadow cabinet, otherwise all future meals at the Collins household will be held in deathly silence.

Deathly Silence. I feel the murmurings of a new book beginning in the depths of my cerebral cortex. Nice.

Fury and Fury 3: The Announcement

In our third extract from the Wolf Michaels’ new book Fury and Fury, we look at that most tortured of times for the National Party – the announcement they had lost the coalition negotiations when Winston Peters decided to side with Labour. 

I place myself gently off to the side on a wall near the rear of the caucus room. Following several days of negotiations, Bill English’s leadership team are at the front of the room quietly confident. Gerry Brownlee attempts a high-five, but those around him are not accommodating. Is it because he is too forthcoming with his emotions, or is it because he still has gravy on his fingers? All eyes are on the television screen at the front. An announcement is imminent.

We are watching the NewsHub feed. Patrick Gower is salivating at the prospect of something happening at some point in the near future. He tells viewers Winston is due to make an announcement any minute. There is, however, no sign of anyone of any note floating around in any corridors except Gower’s press gallery colleagues. They cross to Lloyd Burr at the lift for the seventeenth time and the doors remain closed. Suddenly there is the unmistakable ping of a lift arriving. Burr just about explodes with political excitement. The question on everybody’s lips: Could this be Winston Peters ready to make his announcement? As the doors open and the cleaner wheels out his trolley the answer on everybody’s lips remains no.

After several more minutes of Gower’s padding and a couple more Burr explosions, the leader of New Zealand First finally appears from the lift like some kind of harbinger of doom or a hallowed saviour. It’s unclear which he will be. Certainly, in the National Party caucus room there is a definite air of confidence. The feel they have achieved the rare feat of a fourth term. Brownlee’s energetic gravy-fuelled high-five attempt earlier suggests as much.

Winston Peters walks towards the podium. He arrives at the podium. He removes some papers from his suit jacket pocket and places them on the podium. I like the word podium.

Peters clears his throat and has a sip of water. He begins his speech by spelling out the view he has about New Zealand being at the precipice of disaster. He says the markets will implode and the housing market will crash and everyone will die. Interestingly there are a few sniggers in the National Party caucus room. It is unclear whether these are because many National MPs are cushioned from any economic shock because of their many millions or whether they find news of doom particularly amusing.

Peters continues. After several minutes of padding that would have made Patrick Gower proud, Peters finally announces that New Zealand First have decided to go into coalition with the New Zealand Labour Party.

Instantly, the mood in the caucus room changes from one of triumphant hubris to one of seething outrage. All eyes slowly fall upon deputy leader Paula Bennett. It is clear the members of her caucus believe she is at fault. Was it because she was involved in the leaking of Peters’ superannuation details or was it all that election footage of her singing on the campaign bus. The venom in some of the glances suggest it may be a bit of both. She smiles nervously but one wonders whether that might be it for her political career.

The leadership team at the front of the room can’t quite believe what they have just witnessed. Steven Joyce points out they don’t actually have a concession speech prepared. He holds up a piece of A5 paper telling everyone they only, “…had this one for the win.” It is evident from where I’m sitting the number of face palms suggest Mr Fixit might have broken something. Will he go the same way as Paula Bennett?

Sitting near my position next to me is Judith Collins who has removed a small nail file from her handbag and is already sharpening her fangs.

To borrow a phrase from an author far more erudite than myself, it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Fury and Fury – Chapter 2: Negotiations

Welcome to part two of our series extracts from the scintillating new book Fury and Fury about the 2018 election result viewed through the eyes of esteemed fictional journalist Wolf Michaels who spent several months with National Party. In this extract and fury we join the National Party during their Coalition talks with Winston Peters of New Zealand First. 

It’s hot in Wellington. Not temperature wise because it happens to be still be spring and a massive storm has journeyed from the  Southern Ocean and without being too scientific, it’s bloody freezing, but it’s also hot. Politically hot.

I’m sitting on a bench outside the National Party caucus room with Gerry Brownlee – a man from Christchurch who has managed, through his handling of the earthquake rebuild, to become an enemy of the city. I think back to last week in the garden city when Brownlee was verbally abused by several passers. When I asked how this torrent of abuse made him feel he said nothing although a long guttural growl rumbled somewhere in the back of his throat. I turn and face the Ilam MP and he has a similar look on his face now as he did that day in Christchurch.

“I’m bloody angry,” he announces. I want to ask why, but I also don’t want to. Asking Brownlee a question is going to lead me down a path I don’t wish to travel. It’s too late. He has decided to answer the question I didn’t want to ask.

“I don’t know why,” he offers, “I’ve been angry ever since I can remember. I’m just bloody angry. Bloody damn angry.”

Little else happens between us apart from Gerry expressing his anger and me not really doing anything else other than writing down the words that he is saying about his anger. In the room next to where we are sitting the National Party leadership team and the New Zealand First leadership team (Winston Peters). These talks are highly confidential incredibly confidential. Nobody knows what’s going on, when it’s going, what’s happening, who’s involved, or what they are doing.

I try to ask Gerry Brownlee about what he thinks is going to happen. He says he doesn’t know and then starts grunting angrily to himself about being angry. We both sit on the bench from 9:30 in the morning until around about 12 o’clock – around the time leadership teams emerge.

It has been a long and fruitless morning and Brownlee suggests we head to Bellamy’s for some lunch. I order a chicken salad sandwich and Brownlee orders the “everything.” When the food arrives I am uncertain whether my lunch buddy will be able to complete eating ahead of the caucus meeting which is due to begin in around 20 minutes. By the time I have finished that thought, however, the interim Foreign Affairs Minister is already asking if I am going to finish my sandwich.

Shortly afterwards we head to the caucus room for an update on the current status of the coalition negotiations. We haven’t been there long when Bill English arrives. He has a few pieces of paper and sits down in a chair at the front. The Prime Minister takes a second to loosen up his tie before realising it is a mistake and tightening it again. English settles in and gives everyone present the low down.

“So far,” he tells everyone, “there have been two days of negotiations with Winston Peters. At present we know nothing. We do not know if he will go with the Labour Party or whether he will he go with the National Party.”

As English clears his throat to begin his next sentence the door opens and in walks Judith Collins. She surveys the gathering before turning to Bill and smiling a smile one would find on a mythical god whose special power is turning people into stone.

“Don’t stop on my account, Bill,” she says in a voice peppered with soothing knives, before she heads down the back of the room to take a seat.

English takes a few minutes to outline Peters’ demands. Cabinet posts for all New Zealand First MPs. He reads out a list. Peters for Foreign Affairs; Ron Mark for Defence; Tracey Martin for Education. The list goes on and on. The longer it goes on the less familiar I am with the names being read out.

I turn to Gerry just in time to witness a pulsating vein on the side of his head explode.

“That’s my job!” he yells, “I’m the Foreign Minister. I’ve got the Koru card. You can’t bloody give that to bloody Peters. It’s mine.”

The former Earthquake Recovery Minister starts shaking and dribbling. English, seemingly aware of this anger management issue, extracts an emergency Toffee Pop from his bag of prime ministerial tricks and flicks it towards Brownlee who hungrily snaps it out of thin air before quickly calming down. This is an obvious National Party tactic as several more of the chocolatey treats end up in or near Brownlee’s mouth.

The meeting quickly draws to a close. There is nothing to vote on and nothing anyone can do but wait for Winston. As the crowd meanders their way out the door, Gerry turns to me to suggest, or rather, demand we head back to Bellamy’s for some afternoon tea.

What a fine idea.