Libertyscott has written a good post on why the Greens get such an easy ride in the media. In essence he argues that their brand conjures wholesome images of a cool, fresh breeze blowing through open fields on a clear summer’s day and children frolicking in sparking streams and the such like, and that no-one wants to attack children playing in streams. Americans would recognise the Green brand as motherhood and apple pie.
I think that Liberty’s assessment is on the money, but I also think there are a couple of other factors at play.
One of which is the fact that the Greens are the only party currently in Parliament unsullied by the actual business of being in government (except for Mana, and Hone Harawira was a government MP, and unlike the Greens he wears his racism on his sleeve). Should the Greens ever be given the opportunity to implement any of their more ridiculous policies, I predict a much rougher ride for them in the media, and a significant contraction of their vote share.
Another factor is that it’s not just their brand that people don’t like to attack. Green MPs talk so passionately about wanting to alleviate other people’s suffering that they are seen as philanthropists. Who could criticise such transparently kind, generous people? Few actually question whether being generous with other people’s money is really being generous at all, or whether genuine generosity might actually require some personal sacrifice. The Greens, even more so than Labour, employ a form of generosity that Seamus Hogan refers to as “offering the other kid’s bat”, in that the money they promise to spend so liberally in exchange for your vote doesn’t belong to them.
In contrast, pointing out that while throwing more of other people’s money at the problem will alleviate the immediate problem, it will merely result in more of the same problem in future is cold-hearted. Pointing out that, at some point, we must demand personal responsibility from parents for their children’s well-being is uncaring. Asking whether we can afford to ensure that no child is in poverty no matter how utterly feckless their parents is plain callous.
A good example of this is provided by the debate about Bryan Bruce’s documentary on the subject of child poverty. The response from most on the Right has been that the documentary is factually incorrect, unbalanced and politically biased. Karl du Fresne and Lindsay Mitchell excoriate Bruce and his documentary far more eloquently amd concisely than I could, so I shall leave it to them.
Those on the Left, meanwhile, have taken the view that responding to a documentary on such an emotive topic by pointing out that it’s inaccurate, unbalanced and biased is somehow avoiding the issue. They argue that the mere existence of any child poverty merits ever greater government expenditure until the problem is erradicated. As such, so long as the documentary wasn’t a total fabrication, it’s gross inaccuracy is not a problem because “it raises an important issue”.
That said, I still don’t think the Greens’ (presumably renewably-sourced) teflon coating will survive their first term in government, whenever that may be. The entirety of their time in Parliament has been spent not merely as just a minor party, but as a minor party excluded from government. So the daft things their more junior MPs say get very little air time. Most people I know who consider voting Green have very little idea about the Greens’ policy platforms beyond environmentalism and sustainability. Should they ever make it into government and their MPs start pushing to implement policies further down on the Green agenda, and as the financial costs associated with them become clear, I suspect their privilaged position would become a thing of the past.