Saturday, 19 January 2019

Talking about Scott Kuggeleijn

Scott Kuggeleijn is a name I thought I'd heard the last of when he was acquitted of rape charges at, it turns out, the second time of asking.

And then he was in a Black Caps squad and I thought, "What, seriously?" Because, you know, when he was accused and tried I'd decided he was being blown up... as in his cricketing talents were being misrepresented to make a better story. There was probably some truth to that. He's had years to improve.

But I then stopped thinking about Scott Kuggeleijn. Why? Because it was a T20 and, frankly, who cares? Because it's stupidly difficult to follow cricket these days but, at least, better than it was in those dark days in the post-Vettori and pre-2015 World Cup. There are people who actually bother writing articles about how few opportunities to the Black Caps get to play now. That's really sad but it's progress. And also because I pay attention to too many sports and, in particular, I'd started thinking about tennis.

But I'm back to Scott Kuggeleijn. Because suddenly... days after the fact... everyone and their mum is crawling out of the woordwork to talk about Kuggeleijn.

I'm not sure if he did well in the T20. I don't particularly care for the format. It's the ultimate glorification of the bat over the ball and... wickets are much more exciting. Christ! How do people not get that? But in any case, this is basically the takeaway people have:
I’m not saying that Kuggeleijn should never represent his country, or that he can never rise above this. But when a man represents New Zealand in a high profile sport like cricket or rugby he is automatically elevated to a position of unique status and potential influence in New Zealand society. And for that reason, the position carries a reasonable burden of expectation for decent behaviour. And an expectation of public accountability when he falls short.
Actually, she is saying that.

Also this silence you hear? Do you know how hard I had to look to find out why Tim Southee wasn't playing in one of the recent matches. Likewise Neil Wagner? These guys have been leading and key men in the pace attack for years now. In theory, their not playing should be big news. But it wasn't. And the reason for this is that NZers suck. Honestly, we're awful, small minded people who like to pretend that we're a bunch of friendly, down to earth, fair minded and honest people. What rot. What country are you living in? Look at the Unruly Tourist headlines that everyone's been going on about lately. The reaction of the public and politicians has not been commensurate with their behaviour. Tourists rob shop isn't the headline. It's not news when the criminal isn't a tourist so it shouldn't be when it is. And to the extent that there is some news to be made out of the family? Let's talk about how they were basically turned into NZ's favourite reality TV show. That's the story here.

The truth is that NZ and the rest of the wealthy English speaking world has some deeply problematic ideas about criminals, the criminal justice system and crime. What is interesting to the public is not the same as what is in the public interest.

Let me put it this way. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

Focus on that bit about time. If you're done for 24 years and you do every bit of that sentence you absolutely should be able to walk out of prison as though you weren't gone at all. If you're sent up for 2 years and put on a sex offenders register for life, then you should be on that sex offenders register for life. The thing is that every sentence for every crime plays out that way. Except, maybe, among some people who like to hero worship offenders for certain kinds of crime... hopefully crimes the supplicants believe shouldn't be crimes.

The justice system should be able to prescribe punishments and those punishments shouldn't go beyond that prescription. Furthermore, the system should be able to make accurate/useful prescriptions.

Neither of those things are really true.

It's actually a real mess. For every famous person, for instance, who gets away with [whatever] there's another who ends up having to pay a higher price than they should be. Why? Backlash. The court of public opinion is meant to be a metaphor but the reality is that people act like it isn't. Yes, a lot of judges are complete screw ups (both here and abroad) but we shouldn't be able to say things like this for good reasons. People are weak and tend not to do their jobs properly even without public pressure. Look at that petition trying to get that woman who killed a teenager a harsher sentence. That was a normal sentence. The story should either be about the vindictiveness of the petition or completely and utterly remove itself from that specific example. And you've just got to watch for the outrage the next time Peter Dutton ignores the punishment of some Australian court to deport some poor sod from Australia for having a "bad character"... this is almost always an excuse to fob someone Australia cocked up and turned into a criminal on to some other country.

Scott Kuggeleijn is not a criminal. You might think he should be but he's not. And if you think that, maybe, the justice system reached the right conclusion but the way Kuggeleijn's defence ensured that outcome was completely wrong... how long must Kuggeleijn suffer for that? It's not like these Indian cricketers who made offensive remarks this month. We're talking about remarks that were made in 2017. Don't make false equivalences. (And if Kuggeleijn was convicted on some other charge at some time or other and is, in fact, a criminal hopefully you understand I'm talking purely in relation to what he's most well known for.)

What Scott Kuggeleijn is doesn't require too much thought to find. There is a very long and extensive argument about what sports stars are. Not that Kuggeleijn is really a star. At least, not yet. Should we care if an athlete spends millions on cars and is just generally a complete arse environmentally? If he eats gold plated steak? If he abuses fans on Instagram when they abuse him for doing so, is that actually a problem? Or what about the more traditional stories? Sleeping around, get wasted and bar fights? Are they athletes? Are they role models? Why should athletes be role models? Should we tacitly endorse the idea of hero worshipping people who run, jump, shoot, race or throw for a living by even entertaining these questions?

I'm not going to answer those questions because they've been unanswered for a long time for years. They're complicated questions. But they are the context for Kuggeleijn. Not #MeToo.
In the sporting arena, there are inspiring models for how this can look. Around the world, a handful of high profile male sportsmen use their public platform to stand up for equality, inclusion and nonviolence. Scottish tennis champion, Andy Murray has attracted kudos for his support of equality for women in professional tennis, and calling out sexism in media interviews. Former NFL football star Colin Kaepernick is not only an inspiring campaigner against racist violence in the US; he is also a well-read proponent of Black feminists, who amplifies their insights against sexism and racism. And closer to home, Australian Wallaby David Pocock promotes equality and inclusion on lots of social and environmental issues. He is also “interested in the idea of challenging patriarchy”.
There's an enormous problem with taking this approach. There's a reason this role model question is always coming back... we're talking about people who find it very easy to go from hero to villain.

Maybe I come across as a bit paranoid... rambling... contradictory. I should. That's largely by design. If you can look at these issues and come away without a headache, you're not looking at it hard enough. And you might say, "Hold on Harry that article you quoted... and still haven't linked... isn't really talking about the media. It's talking about what NZ Cricket should be doing."
In the wake of MeToo, this position seems strikingly tone deaf to wide global concerns about sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence. We see the interconnections. We know that the criminal justice process is a blunt instrument. And that a not guilty verdict does not mean there is nothing to account for. No-one is asking for “relitigation”. But doing nothing is not a neutral position. When Kuggeleijn appears on the field and the commentators talk up his glory with bat and ball, it’s as if his actions off the field have been forgiven and forgotten by the cricketing fraternity.
You see, this is the problem and it's why this author actually is talking about consigning Kuggeleijn to the dustbin. Also, here's the link.

In an ideal world we could all go back to forgetting about Kuggeleijn. In an ideal world might instincts would be correct and he'd never quite be good enough to break into the Black Caps. We'd never have to use him as any kind of test case.

That probably sounds... very far from ideal. But it is. Because today it's Kuggeleijn and we don't have any answers for what to do with him, same as we had no answers about what to do with Ben Stokes or Doug Bracewell or any other athlete who has ever been in the same rough position: caught doing something illegal, immoral or just irresponsible. We're not even sure what exactly Kuggeleijn counts as. Should we be treating him as a rapist because he was acquitted:
The judge in the second trial, in his ruling, said “Consent given reluctantly or later regretted is still consent.”
Well, no. Consent is enthusiastic and communicated.
It seems that Kuggeleijn’s defence rested on an outdated and incredibly damaging notion of what consent is and common rape myths. And it worked.
I'm not sure if this author is really aware of the implications of expecting people to conform to standards that they can't be expected to know... the judge is correct about "consent" is: that's the law and that's what we have to expect people to know. Whether we can expect people to behave to evolving standards of morality that are held by some people and rejected by others and which aren't enshrined in the law (see: the quote from the judge) is a very complicated question. And if you want to pretend it doesn't exist and doesn't inform what you're saying like this author then I am sorry but you're dishonest, irresponsible and ought to be muted. Or should you? What is the appropriate moral punishment?

Treating Kuggeleijn as a test case... treating anyone as a test case... means that we need to be confident of our answers to a host of troubling questions... not just about what I've discussed but also about what actually happened. It requires expert knowledge and sometimes impossible knowledge. We can use hypothetical people for these purposes. We don't need test cases. We shouldn't experiment with peoples' lives.

There is an alternative, though. And it's not the same as silence.

NZ Cricket is absolutely correct to just ignore Kuggeleijn's rape charge, trials and acquittals. They're not Kuggeleijn and they didn't do anything wrong. And we're not sure what exactly it is that Kuggeleijn did do wrong. Not in a sense that we can have any clear answer about what to do with him, anyway. Is he a rapist? Or is he just the same as those Indian cricketers just timeshifted back several years? And what's the correct response to either of those when we remember he was acquitted? Well, I'm saying we don't need any answer at all. Instead, what we must simply do is talk about Scott Kuggeleijn. 

Think about it for a moment. We can't know what happened for real. We can't know what to do about what we did know happened. But by remaining silent NZ Cricket can provoke a conversation about Kuggeleijn. It doesn't have to go anywhere... although it should be more responsible than the two articles I linked... and it doesn't have to do anything. All it has to do is remind people that he was acquitted of rape charges. You, as a journalist, should go up to someone from NZ Cricket or associated with the national cricket scene and ask them, "Does Scott Kuggeleijn's acquittal in a rape trial matter?" And they should say, "We have selected/not selected Kuggeleijn and are aware that he was tried for rape." It's the perfect non-answer. It's enough to keep the conversation firing on all cylinders!

And, look, this really is perfect. I'm not being sarcastic. If you're willing to act as judge, jury and executioner over a situation where there's no accountability, the stakes are enormous and everything is unclear, then you are a deeply problematic person. But if all you're doing is saying, "Well, maybe we should talk about Kuggeleijn?" or saying... as I have been... "Here's what we should be talking about when we're talking about Kuggeleijn" then we're not being problematic. Instead, what we're doing is... well, let's use erosion as a metaphor for morality. Our moral standards are constantly evolving... just like a cliff... and subject to various forces which also change... such as water and wind.. but we can never know what the final state will really look like and there's no intention to the whole process: morality just simply is. Talking about Kuggeleijn is the equivalent of not building a sea wall.

The other option is, of course, to say, "We're not sure what Scott Kuggeleijn's done or has not done. We know that he was acquitted of rape and that many people are disappointed with the arguments his defence team advanced. What we do know is that Kuggeleijn is a talented cricketer and under normal circumstances would likely be selected. However, it is unclear what the best way forwards is and the uncertainty is damaging to the game. Hopefully a time of greater clarity will arrive but for the foreseeable future, Scott Kuggeleijn will not be selected for any more full internationals." A lot of people would take issue with that statement. But that's my point. They wouldn't be doing so for the same reasons. And that's because this is a confusing story and the denied certainty of the two authors is, in that context, as disappointing to me as the defence team's arguments are to every thinking person.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

In Which an Old Approach to Blogging Returns

It's back! And it's a really long and really stupid article: Damien Grant: The baying mob of left-wing commentators aren't brave or radical – and they can barely spell or use a spreadsheet What a headline, eh? Anyway, without further ado... a paragraph by paragraph response... ill humoured, mean spirited and surprisingly well researched. (The article is complete tosh, though.)
The most photogenic US politician at the moment is a charismatic young congresswoman named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Well, I suppose everything needs an introduction. Cut it!
She is a publicity sensation and her charm and being savvy with social media has propelled her into the top rank of celebrity politicians. Also, she can dance.
"Celebrity politicians". Hmm. An unusual phrase. Who makes  them celebrities but people who describe them as photogenic? The people who present them in inane contexts and ask them similar questions. You know. Stuff like the intro we just read.
She isn't relevant to us in New Zealand, but she is newsworthy and one of the most interesting things she has said was in an interview with CBS's Anderson Cooper.
No. Either she's newsworthy or she's irrelevant... being the one precludes the other. More to the point, this dude is using her to make a point... it's sleight of hand, "I'll tell you I think she's irrelevant so maybe you won't notice that she's a relevant part of my argument".

Actually, I'm not sure I should be calling that sleight of hand. It's lies.
"Do you call yourself a radical?" Cooper asked.
Christ! A politician being asked a political question. This is how you know it's not a NZ politician.
"Yeah. You know, if that's what radical means, call me a radical" she responded.
I love how this is a conditional statement but as you can see we don't get any sense of what the condition is. Perhaps it's just an awkward interview to describe after the fact and Ocasio-Cortez is just saying, "If what I am is radical then call me a radical" in the same way a cigar might say, "I am a cigar, therefore call me a cigar". You know. If cigars weren't mute. No, wait. That's still not quite right.
Ocasio-Cortez is wrong. She isn't radical. Her brand of large-government activism and environmental alarmism are now mainstream. In New Zealand she'd barely be left of centre.
But she's not in NZ. She's not a NZ politician. She's not in NZ's political climate. We are not America. Never have been. Never will be. At least, not if I can do anything about it.

Let me make it crystal clear for the thickos... in the first part of the 1800s it was quite progressive to be anti-slavery. In fact, it'd be clearer if I pointed out that being pro-slavery was an entirely ordinary political point of view. Do you know what you'd be called today if you were pro-slavery? A lunatic at the very least. We are not living in the 1800s any more than we are living in the United States. It is wholly inappropriate to judge them (at least in this context) by our standards.
One of the great tragedies we face as a nation is a surfeit of radicals. Everyone, from Marama Davidson to the coffee-person at The Spinoff, considers themselves a radical.
Please, enlighten us as to what they think radicalism is and demonstrate what you mean by it. Also, provide some proof of this statement.
Like Ocasio-Cortez they are mistaken. These lost souls are the leftovers of a revolution that was won decades ago; yet they fight on. Like Japanese warriors toiling in remote jungle, they refuse to lay down their arms.
What revolution? Remember this? It's quite easy for people to hold contradictory views about what is what (consider the number of Americans convinced they won an important conflict known as The War of 1812 versus, well, everyone else... including a lot of other Americans) but you've got to give us something to grab hold of. Yes. Even lies would help.
They are a bit of a problem, these warriors battling against a Patriarchal Military Industrial Colonial Racist Rape Culture that, even if it ever existed, died long ago. We now live in a welfare state and no one, not even the libertarian Act Party, dares question the state funding of health, education and welfare.

Oh, he's serious. Does baby want a... actually what would baby want?

Let's get this straight... the welfare state is a conservative invention developed in the context of colonial societies in an era where Social Darwinism was a completely normal idea. The welfare state consensus that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century was, again, that same world... just a bit older and closer to its visible decay.

The idea that racism is gone is completely and utterly laughable.

Rape Culture is a term so abused it's not really worth learning a succinct statement of since the odds of finding someone who actually does understand what it's about are very low. I would compare, for example, binge drinking culture. It refers less to the idea that people completely trivialise and/or condone rape and more to the idea that it's seen as completely normal, unordinary and disinteresting. It's a culture of normalisation. Other definitions are.... frankly... untenable and I'm perfectly willing to argue with you about this. Come at me bro, I've got a comments section. (Also you don't exist so my bluster is entirely consequence free...)

But let's think about those ideas of state funding regarding health care, education and welfare. They are definitely questioned. And in the US? Where our opening example is from? The very idea that these ideas are not continually threatened is absurd. Read this 538 piece about the current US shutdown. Notice what it's not talking about? You know, the idea that Trump actually wants the Shutdown. That he'd be completely happy for it to continue indefinitely for the same reasons other 538 articles have used to explain certain appointments to posts or the absence of appointments.
The problem with revolutionaries, after the battles have been won, the barricades dismantled and bayoneting completed, is that they don't have many useful skills. What do you do with a parade of bright-eyed gender-studies graduates who want to change the world but can barely spell much less use an Excel spreadsheet?
Where's your proof? Your evidence? Your substantiation? This is nothing but the fevered dreams of a child.

Also, he's confusing different kinds of revolutionary. He's trying to describe the Eureka Stockade style revolutionary... perhaps even the Che Guevara type... with the kind who publishes articles in left wing magazines, newspapers and (now) blogs. Hobbyists versus practitioners. It's a convenient muddling of two extremely different groups.
Few employers will touch them and they have a distain for honest toil. Their parents have told them they are special. And so right they are. For these darlings of the Ponsonby set, these cohort of comrades, are special. They are also unemployable.
Now... you see... I can use Excel and I know this kind of data basically exists. So, in other words, were I to produce something like this I would try and find out if some kind of evidence that at least approximates my claims exists. And having done so I would... actually, as soon as I do research I tend to stop writing. It may even be possible to find figures which basically support or basically do not support the argument simultaneously.
Well. Almost.
I feel to not quote it would be to betray my worthy readers. Well. Almost. (I don't have any.)
The mainstream media has seen its revenue gutted by Facebook and Google and its ability to retain competent, objective and literate staff has gone with it. In desperation the media has taken these entitled preening self-obsessed flotsam and given them all by-lines and Twitter accounts.
You, bastion of standards, give us some standards.

Hypocrisy is not an argument, but nor is this.

I mean... this is a country whose most famous newspaper columnist probably wishes he wrote this same column!
It's been a disaster. To read the product of a modern newsroom requires an antenna to filter out the activism from the journalism. Anyone with any talent is promoted to management, scooped up by the PR industry or finds themselves doing communications work for Grant Robertson.
You remember how I mentioned left wing newspapers and magazines? Those used to exist. If this dude is actually old enough to remember a pre-digital era of media, he's grossly misrepresenting it.
For those who the deadlines and grubbiness of the media is beneath them, there is always the soft couch of academia.
How much you want to bet that if this was actually published in a print edition of the Sunday Star Times there was also a headline about job losses in... academia? Not much, right? You know it's quite likely.
Between them these two lost battalions of yesterday's war have been marvellously successful in shifting both public opinion and the political agenda. Their ideas dominate, almost to the exclusion of all other voices. They are, even if they do not know it, in power, if not in office.
I am again reminded of Mike Hosking.

Also, you know, the 9 years of National government and several weeks of whining about who won the most votes at the election.
They define the parameters of allowable discourse and define what is permissible yet fail to see their own power. Their identity is wrapped up in fighting the system, having failed to see that, today, they are the system.
I dunno, mate. John Key, Bill English and Jacinda Ardern are all highly problematic leaders. And at least two of them are highly problematic not just because of what they did and/or tried to do but because of what they'd have wanted to do freed from the constraints of budgets and parliamentary democracy.

Wake up sheeple! Remember when you could just say sheep instead of having to stick the "le" on the end? What is the world coming to?
Alas, for these contemporary radicals, almost everything demanded by the 1960s left has been achieved. Out of necessity they now look for new dragons to slay. The wage gap, global warming, child poverty, racism. The list of real or imagined social crises that needs to be fought against is endless.   
Seems legit.

And did you seriously just question global warming and racism in one breath? Again. Racism. You don't even need to look at graphs to notice racism. And it's not like you need to be all that clever to understand the global warming ones. If you can tell a lie, you're probably smart enough to grasp global warming.

Frankly... I'm beginning to wonder if I missed a disclaimer somewhere on my first read through.
Given their power, especially in the media, and the innate conservatism of commerce, most business leaders cower in the face of any criticism and fall over themselves fawning to the agenda set by these new commissars. Long gone are the glory days when a businessman would gleefully punch a journalist square in the face.
Punching Nazis and journalists is bad.

Actually... that you could get away with punching Nazis and journalists in Weimar Germany goes quite a long way to explaining why people punch Nazis now.
Frankly, it is pathetic the way our titans of industry refuse to confront the manufactured hysteria of 25-year-old journalism majors. We saw the appalling spectacle this year when the entire legal fraternity fell over themselves in self-criticism rather than stand up to the shrill bullies of the #MeToo brigade.
At this point I remind the reader that we're talking about the victors of decades old revolutions who are unemployable now that the revolution has finished... which, again, was decades ago... that also happen to be 25. I small a rat!

Or is it a witch?

We are in an internet age. When we make passing remarks we can justify them by links. Make the medium work for you, my friend. That you don't is precisely why you could easily find a job at The Spinoff. There's simply no need to avoid cluttering your article with the statements justifying your claims: you can link them cleanly and simply, as I have just done. I am reminded of the first heuristic of critical thought:

If it were true, it would be easy.

If it were easy, it would be done.

If it were done, it would be true.
Such acts of abasement are becoming common. The owner of the Powerstation caved in the face of a few angry tweets and Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas tied herself in knots in her determination to prevent Don Brash giving a speech on her campus.
That Chancellor was cleared.

It was true, so it was easy. It was easy, so it was done. It was done, so it was true.

I honestly have no idea what that Powerstation thing's about but I don't think it's likely to be represented honestly by our friend here.
Even as something as simple as my fireworks display brought me to the attention of a gleeful mob of the self-righteously indignant so it is small wonder that most business leaders prefer to keep their head down.
At this point you realise this is just one very long way of writing:

Don't @ me.

This is a mistake. Business, individuals and academics should, indeed have a responsibility, to push back against this monoculture for to fail to is to surrender much of what has we hold to be valuable.
For, today's radical isn't the woke feminist railing about rape-culture or the campaigning Twitter activist ranting into the wind about the lack of state funding for transgender pre-teens. It is the handful, for that is all we are, who defies the increasingly oppressive strictures being imposed on us.
Where is the evidence? And it's still not really clear what a radical is meant to be for this author. Could we, as I suspect, substitute the term Millennial? What about turnip?
The radical of today does not believe that Tax is Love; they believe that Tax is Theft. They argue that collecting taxes by force to educate the children of the poor in government warehouses is not only ineffective it is immoral and is opposed to it on principle.
Okay... because, as I said, these are entirely mainstream so by the argument advanced above...

The truth is that radical does have a meaning:

A person who advocates thorough or complete political or social change, or a member of a political party or section of a party pursuing such aims.

One of the Craccum editors post-2014 (Caitlin Abley, I think), dumb though Craccum's editorials tendeo be, did make a good point once buried amid all the dross about how it's somehow seen to be childish to quote dictionaries when, of course, it is so childish to not try and get everyone on the same page at the start.

The proposals we see to overhaul welfare or education or even health are all much more total or complete than anything to do with simply arguing that tax is theft. That's not innovative at all. It's an ordinary position that has never gone out of favour. The idea that people shouldn't pay any taxes whatsoever is more radical but it's not seriously advanced so how can we call those people radicals? If you don't have any influence over a political discourse, you are not part of that discourse. You are, therefore, not a radical. But if you're suggesting we rip out Tomorrow's Schools and put something quite different in, instead? We're meant to believe that this isn't radical because... what? Some random waffling BS introduced with a completely ignorant approach to comparative politics and sustained by lying first and lying hard?

The real radicals are those who do not want to see New Zealand troops battling away in pointless battles over sand nor see tax money pay for Peter Beck to send rockets into space, Grant Dalton to sail his boats anywhere or Peter Jackson to make his movies.
I feel this is meant to be about leftwing radicals now. It's a bit confusing.
The most courageous business person in 2018 was Denise L'Estrange-Corbet who magnificently decried the attacks on her business as "gutter journalism" and refused to apologise for some labelling snafu.
False Advertising. That was a story about false advertising.

Oh, and they totally caved. Sorry. Oh, et ils ont totalement cédé. (At least, according to Google Translate.)
Being part of a baying mob, for that is what much of our modern commentary has been reduced to, isn't brave and nor is it radical.
Because this counts as commentary? Dogwhistling for the choir?

There's no substance here because it's got no sense of responsibility. Sure, it pays lipservice to a couple of ideas it theoretically believes in but it doesn't respect them at all. This is a fundamentally dishonest piece of crap and implying that it's anything but? Let's just think about what the implication of that is.
Standing up to them is.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and is shaped like a duck... it's a duck. Everything we're meant to hate according to this article (except the bad spelling, although maybe I missed something) is in this article.