A scourge of cockroaches might be among the culprits as commentators conjecture on the PM’s decision to quit

Buzz from the Beehive

There has been nothing fresh on the Beehive website, since Jacinda Ardern gave us a double whammy yesterday –  the announcement of her  resignation and the date (14 October) of the General Election.

But the mainstream media won’t be unduly bothered.  The first of the two posts yesterday looks likely to keep their political reporters and the commentariat busy for some time, mainly with conjecture and speculation about why she really resigned, who will succeed her, how the election campaign will be affected, and so on. 

Her own statement explained:

 “Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years.

 “With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not.  

 “I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along. 

 “Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple.”

 And:

“I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe Labour can and will win it. We need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three.”

 If we take the PM at her word, then indeed it is as simple as that.

But fodder for a media feeding frenzy is being provided by people who know – or profess to know – otherwise.

Distance from Napier does not temper their readiness to tell us what really is going on.  

Let’s start with this headline: Loose Women’s Carol McGiffin claims Jacinda Ardern is being ‘dishonest’ about resignation

The accompanying report tells us Ardern’s departure was discussed on Thursday’s Loose Women, a British talk show co-hosted by Carol McGiffin that broadcasts on ITV on weekdays.  

On the topic of quitting, Carol said: ‘Can I just say about Jacinda Ardern, I think there’s something a little bit dishonest about what she said because I think she’s been found out and she knows she’s not going to win the next election.

‘So she’s kind of quitting while she’s ahead, right?’ Carol added, which didn’t go down well with the audience, who booed.

A caption beneath a photograph of the co-host says: 

Carol McGiffin described the resignation as ‘admirable’ as well as ‘cowardly’. 

Admirable cowardice?

Back in this country,  current affairs commentator Josie Pagani – writing for Stuff – says the PM deserves full credit for making the tough call, and extra credit for doing the right thing once she knew her heart was no longer in it.  But:

“It’s unclear why she made the call now. Polls showing her approval rating steadily dropping can’t have helped. No one enjoys being disliked.”

RNZ seems more certain that hatred and misogyny influenced the resignation.  

A report headed The hatred and vitriol Jacinda Ardern endured ‘would affect anybody has been prepared by Anusha Bradley, described as an Investigative Reporter.

Bradley seems surprised that some people might welcome the resignation announcement:

Within hours of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation announcement in Napier, a small crowd gathers outside the city’s conference centre.

Unlike the steady stream of shocked Labour MPs still coming to terms with the news, these folks are celebrating.

“Ding dong the witch is gone,” a placard reads.

Bradley then turns to the internet for more evidence that some people welcome the resignation:  

Online, there are similar sentiments to be found among groups bitterly opposed to Ardern. The Freedom & Rights Coalition even takes credit for Ardern’s departure in a post on Facebook:

“We can now celebrate the departure of this leader of division. We did it!” 

The comments on the post are unfit to repeat here.

Bradley has recorded the PM’s stated reason for resigning (“I just don’t have enough in the tank for another four years”) but she proceeds to treat us to her insight from reading between the lines:

While it wasn’t explicitly stated, it’s hard to imagine the increasingly violent abuse directed at her was not part of the reason.

To fortify her belief that the PM became a victim of abusive comments and threats of violence, Bradley has turned to Disinformation Project director Kate Hannah who says:  

“It is no surprise to me at all … she could not, not be affected by this,”

The investigative reporter then shares more of Hannah’s expertise:  

Ardern probably tops the list for the amount of vitriol endured by any political leader in this country, Hannah believes.

In the past two years the misogyny and violence directed towards Ardern has increased in volume and become more dangerous, says Hannah, who studies online hate speech and disinformation.

“The language and imagery used to talk about the Prime Minister has become more violent, more vulgar, more crude and repetitive.”

Reference is made in the RNZ report to research undertaken by Hannah and her colleagues:

According to a recent study, published just before Christmas, which charts the rise of misogynistic language towards female leaders and women in the public sphere, the most prevalent word used to describe the Prime Minister in these circles is “the C word, and the most prevalent visual image is of witchcraft.

“And this is old data. This is data from the middle of last year. So it’s actually got worse.”

But let’s get back to the menace and misogynism of the “C” word …  

Hannah and her researchers have dived for data into something called Telegram,  described as a messaging app and social network with a global user base of hundreds of millions.

The researchers have braced themselves for a dirty and arduous search as they mine the network for evidence of hate speech, vitriol and so on. 

Starting late September 2021, The Disinformation Project now studies more than 165 public Telegram channels daily, searching for the usage of keywords and phrases in posts or commentary.

This process cannot be automated, is time-consuming, and can be distressing, given the volume of and violence contained in the content studied, including but not limited to memetic, GIF, video and audio material framed by, or featuring these keywords.

  • WARNING:  Readers should venture no further if naughty words upset or offend them, or in any way might induce discomfort.

A problem with RNZ’s mention of the “C” word is that the study makes 25 mentions of “cockroach” but only five mentions of “cunt”, two of these in one paragraph pertaining to the PM.

The study says:

Here is a non-definitive list of instances of the word ‘cockroach’ from November 2021 to April 2022 appearing in the domestic Telegram ecologies studied.

The first of these tells us “cockroach” is not a gender-specific term of contempt:  

• He ain’t a man of faith, he’s a criminal and is responsible for every death in NZ that results from the experimental jabb! May he be tried for treason and executed for crimes against humanity!! Fukn cockroach!

The next example brings the Prime Minister into considerations:  

• The only way to get rid of the fucking Cockroaches who squat at the expense of the good Kiwis is to grab the cunts by the scruff of the devil necks and fucking knife them- they won’t go peacefully! They are killing Kiwis!! Rise up and get rid of those cunts, starting with the fuck-ugly bloke Jacinda Ardern! Take back your country before they kill you all off!

Point of Order notes that in this case, the PM was not the sole target of the abuse.  Rather, she and an unspecified number of vaguely defined others were labelled both a cockroach and a cunt.  

“Ardern” is mentioned only three times in the study, although the PM obviously is the target of many of the “cockroach” examples listed in the study.  

Was she bothered by such vitriol?

RNZ’s investigative reporter tells us Hannah presented the paper’s findings to her and “a range of MPs” late last year.

How did Ardern react?

“As we all do … trying to laugh it off and saying the job is more important … and you just have to get on with the job,” says Hannah.

But this is no laughing matter, she says. This new virulent brand of misogyny is on the rise and it affects all women.

Fair to say, Hannah wasn’t the only source for Bradley’s report.

Massey University senior lecturer Suze Wilson, who studies leadership and has examined the vitriol aimed at Ardern, says she first started noticing a shift in sentiment towards Ardern during the first 2020 lockdown.

It didn’t come from the dark corners of the anti-vax movement, but on the mainstream business social networking site LinkedIn.

Wilson believes this must have taken its toll on Ardern.

“It’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t affect you, right? I mean, it would affect anybody … Having people talk about wanting to hang her, wanting to harm her child, the persistent rumours about her partner. She’s human, of course it’s going to take quite a toll.”

Wilson says she can understand why Ardern has rarely acknowledged the abuse publicly.  

“I can understand why she doesn’t want to highlight it, because it would be, perhaps for those that are engaged in that behaviour, some kind of reinforcement that what they’re doing is having an effect.”

To what extent this explains the PM’s resignation – of course – is another matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “A scourge of cockroaches might be among the culprits as commentators conjecture on the PM’s decision to quit

  1. Some people have very short memories, or in the case of some you quote here maybe aren’t old enough to know that John Key received a level of abuse that was described at the time by some commentators as the most vitriolic for any PM ever. And his family, son and daughter but especially daughter, were fair game too for the mentally deranged. At the time this was pretty much dismissed as the outcome of increasing “personality politics”, and the equivalents of the handwringers you quote didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Jacinda Ardern gave “personality politics” more than a nudge along in her tenure, so perhaps some of the resulting vitriol is no more than a response to that (unpleasant as it is)?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.