In some ways, Ardern’s stardom reflects the triumph of political style over political substance. For all the talk of credulous Trump voters being won over by the sparkle of celebrity, Ardern has precisely that effect on a certain type of metropolitan ‘liberal’. She was more of a totem than a politician, an influencer who could be relied upon to mouth all the right platitudes about climate change, wellbeing and empathy.
But that isn’t to say she has no politics to speak of. Indeed, she has also become a figurehead of a ‘liberal’, ‘respectable’ authoritarianism that has essentially taken over the Western world, from Canada to Scotland to the United States.
During the pandemic, Ardern pursued a severe Zero Covid policy, locking out New Zealanders abroad, stopping many of them from returning home to say goodbye to dying relatives, before having to abandon it in the face of new, more transmissible variants. As New Zealand was forced to live with the virus, its vaccination rate lagged behind. Ardern’s answer was to usher in a two-tier society, with unvaccinated citizens facing tougher restrictions. So much for that famous empathy and inclusiveness.
Beyond New Zealand’s borders, Ardern became a vocal advocate for censorship. In a striking speech at the United Nations last September, she declared ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ – dissent, in elite-speak – a modern ‘weapon of war’, one that must be confronted by international leaders if they are to defeat ‘fake news’-spreading warmongers and climate-change deniers alike. She stopped short of saying exactly how this should be done, but the message couldn’t have been clearer: the easily led masses can no longer be trusted; it’s time for the elites to take back control.
Revelations this week, hat Ardern personally overruled her scientific advisors who were expressing doubts about the safety of Covid vaccines for young people and the wisdom of mandates, have circulated very widely and no doubt this further undermined confidence in the government.
Ardern introduced rule by regulation. Adopting the enabling model favoured by fascists in the 1930s, her government has empowered authorities to tell us all what to do, when to stay at home, and where not to go. The courts, the Human Rights Commission, and the broadcast regulators have all followed the government line meticulously, which had a devastating effect on business, families, communities, and professions. To cement her policies, Ardern introduced massive government funding of our media and broadcasters.
In perhaps one of the least shocking revelations of 2022, countries with zero-Covid policies came to realise that their policies resulted in painful economic consequences.
New Zealand, which once boasted to be ahead of the curve thanks to draconian policies, found itself lagging far behind: forced to abandon lockdown policies many months after countries like the UK had properly reopened.
As a result, New Zealand found its economy contracting for two quarters across 2021 and 2022, from which it has since been trying to recover.
During this process, the public also came to discover just how devastating Ardern’s public policy was for business, and how long the road to recovery would be.
Also weighing in on the fall of Jacinda Ardern is Fraser Nelson. Here’s his conclusion:
You might call it the curse of Covid: the leaders who locked down have either lost power, or look set to. Zero Covid failed on its own terms but it was the authoritarianism – especially over vaccine mandates – that was never quite forgiven. New Zealand now wants to turn the page and rebuild, as Australia did last year. And that’s what explains the Passion of St Jacinda: she thought her choice was to be thrown out by voters after an acrimonious election campaign – or bow out now, and soak up the world’s acclaim. For a global icon, there really was only one option.
Many public health officials think telling ‘noble’ lies saves lives. On the contrary, lies undermine public health credibility so that when they do tell the truth, many do not believe it. Public health lying and manipulation kills.
Mr. Daukas deserves credit for an incisive summary of the serpentine distinctions in Supreme Court decisions attempting to find a rational basis for racial preferences. The resulting case law represents an ill-conceived attempt to forge a pathway to a presumed beneficial end, but one lacking a firm legal foundation.
As a result, the high-minded goal of diversity has produced a quantitative and manufactured decision-making process in universities. This is a good example of the court turning the law on its head. The essence of law is supposed to be the avoidance of arbitrary standards that superimpose advantage on some over others. If courts pick and choose situations to exempt from the law against racial discrimination, the law itself is compromised. You can’t eliminate discrimination with more discrimination.
Last June, when the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California, issued a statement, not in his personal capacity, that included this edict: “The Court’s decision is antithetical to the University of California’s mission and values.”
So, any UC faculty member or student who believes that Roe was produced by shoddy constitutional reasoning — which some supporters of liberal abortion policies do — was, because of their deviation from the official orthodoxy, declared discordant with their institution. Of course, Drake’s institution has a large, muscular bureaucracy to promote and enforce “diversity” (but not regarding public constitutional reasoning) and “inclusion” (but not full inclusion of deviationists). Drake’s announcement was notably gratuitous, given that Dobbs will have no effect on access to abortion in California, where state law is maximally permissive.
An essay in the Jan. 6 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education is titled “The Apolitical University: Should Institutions Remain Neutral on Controversial Issues? Is that Even Possible?” Of course it is possible; they have done it for generations; abandoning neutrality is a choice. The essay, however, quotes Brian Rosenberg, visiting professor in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, who insists: “You cannot escape politics. Your choice is to act as though you have no stake in those arguments or you can have a little more courage and actively engage in those debates.”
Now, this is defining courage down: The courage of academics consists of hopping, like frogs on lily pads, from one progressive choir to another, fearlessly expressing what the campus majority believes. Note how Rosenberg transforms a progressive aspiration — saturation politics, everywhere, always — into an inevitability: “You cannot escape politics.”
Today’s thoroughly saturated academia is a reminder: The defining characteristic of totalitarian societies is not that the individual cannot participate in politics, but that the individual cannot not participate.