Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Toxic politics

So, apparently National MP Jian Yang is a Chinese spy. Or went to university in China. Or is Chinese. Or something. Apparently, this is something we should all Care Deeply About because National Security and Agent of Influence and Yellow Peril and so on. Except I can't, because raising it during an election campaign just makes it seem like a nasty smear of an MP based on their national origin, designed to whip up fear of the Other.

I have no idea if the allegations are true or not. I'd be uncomfortable if they were, in the same way I'd be uncomfortable if a former member of the CIA or MI6 were a member of our government, because our MP's should work for us, not for other people (also, spying is an inherently unethical profession, so anyone who has ever worked for a spy agency fails the sniff test). But the problem is that we can never know one way or another. Calling someone a spy is pretty much irrefutable. It's like calling someone a meat-suit-wearing demon or a witch: any evidence to the contrary can (and will) just be viewed as another layer of deception. There's just no way of ever overcoming it.

(And on the flip side: if the SIS called a press conference tonight and announced that they'd been investigating Yang for years and were planning on arresting and charging him with espionage, given their past record of paranoia, delusion, and outright fantasy, I don't think we could take that as any evidence whatsoever. If the SIS said the Prime Minister had once defrauded the NZ taxpayer of $32,000 by lying about where he lived, I'd have to check, because they probably just read it on the internet somewhere, put the worst possible slant on it, then presented it as irrefutable truth. In fact, they're probably going "Jian Yang is a spy" right now, based solely on these media reports...)

But while I'd be uncomfortable if the allegation was true, what makes me even more uncomfortable is that it is being made at all, and especially during an election campaign. It's a sort of toxic, paranoid politics seen in xenophobic places like Australia and the US who are obsessed with Foreign Enemies (you know, things NZ doesn't have, because we want to get along with everyone). We've been here before with Muldoon calling people "communists", smearing people as foreign agents based on their political beliefs. Here, we're invited to do it on the colour of someone's skin, with an implicit premise that any kiwi born in a foreign country (or at least, a foreign country blighted with a repressive government) is untrustworthy and Not A Real Kiwi. But if the cost of "national security" is accepting premises like that, then I'd rather disband NZDF, SIS, GCSB and the rest of their corrupting apparatus, and be done with the whole vile idea.