Sunday, 9 December 2012

Ranking full stop

Some political commentators, while still reporting them widely, at least noticed the annual Transtasman political rankings favour National MPs over those on the left, but no one seems that interested in exploring exactly what these rankers are ranking.

The Transtasman editors say they are interested in MPs and:
"how they’ve performed in Caucus, Cabinet, Committee, the House, their electorate and the influence they bring, or are likely, to bring to bear in their various forums."
Semi-impossible to contest, in a way.  The difficult to capture criteria may become clearer when you read the comments:
Chris Finlayson: "Has made big strides this year as one of the most effective ministers."
Russel Norman: "Looks and sounds like the leader of a much larger, more mainstream party."
John Key: "The PM has a party united behind him and his policies (unlike his opponents)."
Bill English: "Supplied the ballast to complement the effervescent Key in the coalition."
Gerry Brownlee: "Has one of the most difficult jobs in Cabinet."
John Banks: "Even if National did not run against him in Epsom again he would still lose."
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: "There to make up the numbers at this stage."
Rajen Prasad: "His presence in Parliament remains a mystery, but he seems to enjoy it."
Hekia Parata: "Had difficulty answering questions when they moved off her prepared script."
Catherine Delahunty: "A nice, well-intentioned but slightly barmy hippy."
We're not just looking at a ranking system which seems to privilege right over left, but one which seems to privilege being male and white over being female and any ethnicity of colour.

I thought I'd check this out explicitly after talking about it with a friend.  You know, by adding up the rankings and stuff.  Science.

So Transtasman white dude editors have ranked:

The 39 women MPs with an average of 4.1; the 82 male MPs with an average of 4.6 (notwithstanding John Banks' zero).

The 29 MPs of Maori, Pacifica and Asian descents with an average of 3.7; the 92 white MPs with an average of 4.7 (notwithstanding John Banks' zero).

Does that mean women and people of colour are worse politicians (notwithstanding John Banks)?  Or does it just mean that our media privilege dominant people and power structures without making this explicit?

There is some interesting data out of a New Zealand Political Studies conference paper presented recently by Corin Higgs, which looked at gender and ethnicity of television media pundits for the 2011 general election.  No real surprises - those interpreting politics for the general public, shaping our perceptions, explaining what's important to us - white men.

White men working for public institutions which value them giving positive assessments to white men working for public institutions which value them is one of those-not-so-invisible-ways our world works to privilege whiteness and masculinity over people of colour and women.  Notwithstanding John Banks.

Imagine a political ranking system which valued people competently doing their jobs, not abusing their privileges? (Hint: Nick Smith wouldn't get 5.5.)  Imagine a political ranking system which valued people consistently speaking up - in our representative democracy - for people like say, those making sure older people are nourished, healthy and comfortable get cost of living wage increases?  (Hint: Catherine Delahunty wouldn't get a 2.)  Imagine a political ranking system which valued people fighting for human rights - in our representative democracy - for people regardless of their sexuality? (Hint: Louisa Wall wouldn't get a 4.) 

Someone needs to design that political ranking system, then persuade our white malestream political media to publish it. All white, boys?


Captiver said...

Really interesting post. Thanks for crunching the numbers LJ and putting it together. As to: "Does that mean women and people of colour are worse politicians (notwithstanding John Banks)? Or does it just mean that our media privilege dominant people and power structures without making this explicit?" Um, yeah, the second one.

The "slightly barmy hippy" ref to Catherine Delahunty is a fine piece of evidence for that (not to mention its being lots of other things, like insulting, stupid, substanceless etc. etc.). Sadly, it seems some things never change, including the tendency to simply name-call anyone who doesn't fit the dominant power structures you refer to. "Hippy." "Feminist." "Greenie." "Commie/Leftie." etc. etc. The idea is that you just call someone a name, after which you don't have to take anything they say or do seriously. Because, after all, it was said or done by a mere "Hippy." "Feminist." "Greenie." "Commie/Leftie." Or whatever...

ChundaMars said...

Captiver: otherwise known as an ad hominem attack.

The slightly barmy hippy comment really seems out of line. By all means, disagree with someone's politics or arguments but being that dismissive and childish just makes you look like an idiot.

Brett Dale said...

Well perhaps they ranked MPs such as Hone and Peters lowly because they're idiots and not because of their race.

Any politician who uses the phrase "MF" in describing people is probably not worth commenting on.

Psycho Milt said...

Nice photo of Key and the lads sitting about planning how to make NZ a better place for people like them. Somehow I'm completely unsurprised Key's living room features a crushed velour lounge suite and a fake fireplace - no doubt there's a copy of Brothers in Arms in the CD collection as well.

Re calling Delahunty a "slightly barmy hippy" - it's not so much "ad hominem" as "statement of the obvious."

MeToo said...

MSM commentators have consistently labelled Asian MPs as invisible. I've always wondered if they are invisible in their own communities? I mean, if I can't read mandarin, how do I know if the ethnic Chnese MPs are being covered in Chinese-language media?

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