Monday, 25 August 2008

Trotter vs. Idiot/Savant

Ah, I knew that athe arrival of Chris Trotter on the blogosphere would cause distress. Barely a week in, and Chris 'Naomi Campbell' Trotter has decided to take Idiot "Claudia Schiffer" Savant to task for being too pretty naive in condemning militarism (1) and anti-democratic tendencies in Fiji. I/S, apparently, is "operating in a totally mechanistic ethical universe" (2) and that just isn't good enough. This is the real world we're talking about, not the blogosphere.

Trotter, an old hand at dealing with the real world - he's been on TV and the radio, after all - explains that Bainimarama was actually being democratic in overthrowing a democratically elected government and refusing to hold elections. You can tell Trotter is serious because he uses fancy words like 'insouciant' and Latin tags like ipso facto (3). One can almost sense his moustache bristling like a porqpine's quills.

Idiot/Savant, on the other hand, complains that Trotter is arrogant and anti-democratic (4). You can tell I/S is serious because he uses fancy words like 'predicated' and Latin tags like mutatis mutandis (5).

At this point, both these screaming queens should be sent to their trailers and forced to read Orwell's Politics and the English Language (6). Twice. And then the opening pages of the Fowlers' The King's English (7).

The main bone of contention is the Fiji coup (Trotter scores bonus points for referring to it as a coup d’etat, and doubles his bonus for following this foreign term with a quick ergo). Trotter argues Bainimarama was justified in overthrowing the government because Fijian democracy was stagnant and corrupt (8). I/S counters by pointing out that just because men with guns don't like a democratically elected government, they don't have the right to boot it out (9). Hair pulling, name calling and handbag action worthy of Tana Umuga ensued.

All of which silly supermodel antics doesn't alter the fact that there is an important point under all this squealing - when is it right to take up arms against a government? It might be useful to look back on the stance taken by both last year following the Urewera raids. Trotter was strongly supportive of the government, I/S generally supportive of those arrested.

Trotter has some explaining to do here. In his (inevitably orotund) Open Letter to John Minto, he stated:

But I have not heard one word from you about the right of a democratic society, such as ours, to be protected from people who think it's OK to run around the bush with semi-automatics and Molotov cocktails.

People who think it's OK to train young Maori men to be bodyguards for the Americans in Baghdad.

People who think it's OK to reach a level of preparation for organised political violence so alarming that New Zealand's most liberal police commissioner, ever, felt he had no choice but to launch "Operation Eight".

Because its NOT OK, John.

Political violence in a functioning democracy is NEVER OK. (10)

Now, I imagine he would point out the adjective, 'functioning,' and remind me (with several Latin tags and perhaps even refering to my comment as 'infelicitous') that Fijian 'democracy' was encumbered with "a corrupt government, plus a constitution that makes it virtually impossible to deal effectively with government corruption". Well, maybe. But by what standard is that judged? You don' get to make that call, Chris. The Tuhoe activists and environmental anarchists arrested last year probably felt the same about the New Zealand government - almost every post on IMC Aotearoa (11) contained the words 'oligarchy,' 'fascist reactionaries' or 'money power.' The Urewera rabble sought to use the same means as Bainimarama, though for different ideological ends. But if it is wrong in one case, why not in another.

I/S, on the otherhand, consistently supported the Urewera 17, albeit with a few early reservations (12). He/she referred to them, consistently, as "Maori, greens, and peace activists" (13) and similar, and railed against the possibility that the police might have had reason to take some sort of action. In this there, seems to be a trace of a double standard, similar to the one as he/she accuses Trotter of. When it is a bunch of leftie clowns running about entertaining Che Guevara fantasies, the the state should let them get on with it. When the Fijian military decides to play Pinochet, on the otherhand, he is to be condemned. As I said a few moments ago, it is the means that are the real problem, and the sought means in both cases were similar.

Which brings us to the nub of the problem. Contrarian Chris, I suspect, is still mad at I/S over the Labour's Trotter' comments (14) made on No Right Turn during the raids fiasco. This current outbreak of queenish behaviour is (here I go!) Trotter's quid pro quo.
1 - "The Multiple Personalities of Idiot Savant," posted by Chris Trotter on The Chris Trotter Blog, 25th of August, 2008. (
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.
4 - "Trotter vs. Democracy," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 25th of August, 2008. (
5 - ibid.
6 - 'Politics and the English Language,' by George Orwell, published in 1946. Available online (
7 - While The King's English by H.W. and F.G. Fowler, first published in 1906, doesn't appear to be online, Trotter or I/S can swing by their local Whitcoulls, which usually has it in a bargain priced multi-pack with other good stuff, such as Cobbett's Grammar of the English Language.
8 - Trotter, op. cit.
9 - Idiot/Savant, op. cit.
10 - 'An open letter to John Minto,' by Chris Trotter, in the Sunday Star Times, 11th of November, 2007. Reproduced on (
11 - A fairly typical thread from IMC Aotearoa is available here: Note how quickly references to the Gestapo, dictatorship and the 'unjust global order' creep into the rhetoric. Note also the measured and thoughtful comments by a poster designated lurgee.
12 - "Raids II," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 15th of October, 2007. The reservation expressed related to the possible involvement of criminals in the alleged organisation: "Some of those involved were reportedly planning serious crimes, and others had illegal firearms. This is bad stuff, and the sort of thing people should be prosecuted for."
13 - "Labour's Trotter," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 2nd of November, 2007. (
14 - ibid.


Idiot/Savant said...

In this there, seems to be a trace of a double standard, similar to the one as he/she accuses Trotter of. When it is a bunch of leftie clowns running about entertaining Che Guevara fantasies, the the state should let them get on with it.

Hardly and hardly. Instead, I had a great dollop of - entirely justified, in retrospect - suspicion of the police, a belief in open justice and the rights of the accused, and a desire that such clowns be treated with the seriousness they deserve (very little, especially given the police admitted they couldn't even apply conspiracy law) and charged with the appropriate crimes rather than beaten with the bludgeon of vague anti-terrorism laws. In short: protect the rule of law against the excesses of the police (who in our democracy, seem to be a bigger threat than the clowns - which tells you what a nice, safe little country we are). It's an entirely consistent position.

I will however admit to crimes against the English language. It's a dreadful post, where I struggled with trying to fit in too much. It could have done with a good day or two to think about and polish it. But then, this is the blogosphere, and my timetable really doesn't allow that.

lurgee said...

No matter what your crimes against language, they are nothing compared to Trotter's - if he uses the term 'felicitous,' I'll smite he with something so vorpal it penetrates his Aura of Smugness +10.

Glad to see I'm your early morning read. SHower ... coffee ... lefthandpalm. Best way to start the day.

Idiot/Savant said...

Glad to see I'm your early morning read. SHower ... coffee ... lefthandpalm. Best way to start the day.

More a late-night read; you have Blogger's time-zone set to somewhen else.

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