SOLO-NZ Op-Ed: Unwrapping the Riddle of Winston

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Sun, 2008-08-31 04:06

SOLO-NZ Op-Ed: Unwrapping the Riddle of Winston

Lindsay Perigo

August 31, 2008

Winston Peters was named after Winston Churchill, we are told. Certainly he's reminiscent of his namesake's description of Russia: a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." The person we know as an arch-Muldoonist actually started out in politics as a near-libertarian — his maiden speech extolled small government, low taxes and individual freedom. His formidable talents could have worked wonders in reversing the descent into full-blown statism. Instead, he became a shameless poster-boy for populism, unprincipled opportunism and conspiracy theories, pandering to the retarded and the psychotic on the Geriatric Left. It's no surprise to learn today that New Zealand First supporters are disproportionately represented among those who believe that New Zealand is manipulated by Big Business, the All Blacks were poisoned before the 1995 World Cup final, Bush planned 9/11, Princess Di was assassinated, Elvis faked his own death and governments are covering up alien invasions. It's no surprise, either, that his support was eroding long before the current scandal in which he is embroiled — the simple fact is that his constituency is geriatric and is disappearing by attrition.

The equally simple fact is that Winston is better than all this. This is the Winston Peters who, as Foreign Minister, has drawn America closer to us than we have any right to expect given our insane anti-nuke policy. This is the Winston Peters who disdains the theology of Political Correctness. During my time in the Press Gallery, when some dopey MP uttered some dopey PC inanity, Winston would sometimes look up at me and roll his eyes, confident that I would understand. Winston is great company over a ciggie and a tipple — a huge point in his favour which in itself, in our neo-Puritan times, is bound to garner him enemies. Add to that that he treats our contemporary media with the contempt that is their due and you’ve got a fellow who’s never going to be out of trouble for long.

Of the current scandal it should be pointed out that both Winston Peters and Helen Clark have been hoist by their own petard. If they hadn't both performed such a prolonged song-and-dance about the wickedness of wealthy folk donating to political parties and the wickedness of wealth itself (perfectly epitomised in Michael Cullen's "rich prick" jibe at John Key), they wouldn't be in this pickle now. If they hadn't given us the vile Electoral Finance Act making it impossible for anyone to donate significantly and quietly, they'd be able to tell the clamorous media to get lost. Contrary to the loathsome egalitarian ethic which they have championed, it's no sin to be rich. Contrary to the totalitarian ethic which Clark has championed, anybody, rich or poor, should be free to donate any amount to any political party, anonymously or publicly. For their part in making this impossible, Clark and Peters deserve all the odium they are copping, especially given their brazen hypocrisy in soliciting donations from the "wealthy" and then covering them up.

But other things should be pointed out too.

One is that, in this matter, Rodney Hide is not acting on behalf of the libertarian principles I've just enunciated. Hide opposed the EFA, to be sure, but that's not what's driving his present vendetta, and you won't hear him talking up Peters' right to accept money from Owen Glenn. In a manner straight out of a Peters conspiracy theory, Hide's agenda is heavily influenced by Alan Gibbs, Douglas Myers and the Business Roundtable. These luminaries have had it in for Peters since the days of the Winebox Inquiry. Of course, Peters' protagonists in that saga were no more interested than he in the generic right of folk to protect their own money from the illegitimate attentions of the state; indeed, they have been studiously useless in and absent from the battle for freedom overall. They were, however, very interested in getting away with their own dodges, and were mightily displeased when Winston crossed them. They still are. Here, now, at last, is the opportunity for payback — along with the means for Rodney to do a populist number of his own and pull his party back from the brink of extinction.

Another is that there is no nobility in the media's feeding frenzy over this matter. The spectacle of breathless Labour-loving political reporters hoopin' it across town in hot pursuit of Clark and Peters has been comical rather than inspiring, given the identity of the parties involved. Lefty Guyon Espiner's screechings at Peters to resign are as incongruous as a similar demand from John Campbell to Jeanette Fitzsimons, or John Pilger to Hugo Chavez. Doesn't Guyon get it that Winston is his own philosophy writ large? The media's long acquiescence to statism has helped nurture statist politicians who play as fast and loose with the facts as they do with Other People's Money. Welcome to your world, Guyon!

Yet another point that seems to have eluded the media mullahs is that, for better or worse, it's premature to write Winston off. They seem to have forgotten all the previous near-death experiences from which he emerged blithely, insouciantly unscathed. Deborah Coddington puts it very well in her Sunday Herald column:

"I've always said you could set Peters' feet in concrete, bind him in chains, douse him in kerosene, set him alight, dump him in the harbour and he'd still emerge from the depths, brush off his suit, shake out his pocket hanky, smooth down his hair, light up a smoke and then just smile right back into Parliament."

The tragedy of Winston Peters is not some shenanigans over funding of the kind of which all parties are guilty. It is not his idiosyncratic, incomprehensible temporisings on the subject. The tragedy of Winston Peters is that he has used his great talent, on balance, for evil rather than good. The tragedy of Winston Peters — and the answer to his riddle — is that he has chosen to be the opposite of his namesake. Churchill fought evil; Peters has appeased and embraced it.

Lindsay Perigo 021 255 8715,


( categories: )

"high ideological contrast"

Robert's picture


Tell me that you didn't write that tosh with a straight face! Especially given the fact that Labour under Lange pursued policies that Labour under Clark would have called right wing.

Not only that, but it has obviously escaped Roccato & Ricolfi's attention that more of NZ's economy was nationalized under Muldoon (considered right wing no doubt) than under Clark.

Which makes mince-meat of their 'High ideological contrast.' The followers of National (then and now) don't know what capitalism is. And as such, they have and will continue to ape Helen Clark's policies provided that Helen isn't the one proposing them.

There is only one ideology in NZ: Statism. And the fleeting life-span of the 'Right-wing Rogernomic reforms' underlines that fact. Had there been a high ideological contrast, then the best of Roger's reforms would have been far more staunchly defended then they were. History suggests that Roccato & Ricolfi are guilty of interviewing their word-processors.

But let us suppose that your research methodology is correct. How do you explain the fact that the adherents to Buddhist and Hindu religious doctrines - both of which restrict meat consumption - have been assailing one another (with pogroms and suicide bombers no less) on the island of Sri Lanka for longer than I can remember?

And as Christopher Hitchens points out in God is not Great Japanese Buddhists fully supported the fascist Imperial Japanese Government of the 1930s & 40s to the point of training and furnishing Kamikaze pilots. Belief in reincarnation seems to have insulated these people from considering the consequences of their political actions. Indeed, Islam's hatred of ham has not diluted the affection for fascism and violence among the most fanatical of its devotees - as any Bin Laden proclamation will attest.

Are these contradictions to your mentor's theory merely to be written off as 'n=3?' Or will you finally address Cresswell's contention that statistics tells you nothing about causation? Or to put it more precisely: Correlation does not imply causation.

[Note: I have edited my posts here and below to replace causality with causation because I have incorrectly used the two interchangeably given the nuances between their definitions].


Luke H's picture

 And NZ's puny population is no where near cosmopolitan enough to
enable you to validly restrict your random sampling of the human
population to those shores.

Of course, and we took that into account.  This paragraph, straight from my thesis:

The collection of data in Wellington, New Zealand ties this study to a cultural location and context. Wellington is a notably liberal city, being the capital of New Zealand. The New Zealand psychological and political landscape features a high ideological contrast (i.e., between left and right) as described by Roccato and Ricolfi (2005). This tends to produce a high correlation between SDO and RWA, as observed.

Agreed on the threadjacking, but Marc did do the research referred to in the PR, and Linz (or anyone else) hasn't complained.

Left/Right divide = wrong.

Robert's picture

In quoting those 'findings' from Psychology Today etc. you seem to have forgotten the lesson hidden in the 'World's Smallest Political Quiz'

Left (Liberal) and Right (Conservative) wing is an idiotic simplification that tells you precisely nothing about the scope of someones opinion on social and economic issues.

And again: statistical correlation is not causation. All statistical hypothesis tests can do is ~disprove~ a link. And even then only if the hypothesis that is being tested is properly defined and the data collected appropriately.

And this is enough on this topic on this thread. I think we have moved sufficiently away from Winston Peters as to be guilty of thread hijacking.

Post your retort on another thread if you wish.

And you say you are a statistician...

Robert's picture

"I am also amused at Robert's suggestion that the research is invalid because it did not measure various cultures and poverty-stricken nations around the world. "

No, your statistical methods are flawed because your survey subjects were not selected at random given the nature of your subject and conclusions you have chosen to draw.

Humans are (he says in a hand-waving and imprecise manner) essentially the same biologically (anatomically, biochemically, genetically)

Humans are in no way the same in philosophy or their culture or their religion or their material wealth or their level of education - to mention five essentially independent variables that would have a bearing on whether one becomes a violent thug and a vegetarian or both. Populations with distinct combinations of these variables are easily discernible through a simple perusal of even the most elementary text on the topic of Geography.

And NZ's puny population is no where near cosmopolitan enough to enable you to validly restrict your random sampling of the human population to those shores.

And accusing me of pomo-wankery does not change the fact that your method has no where near the statistical power your mentor requires to draw the correlations he has - according to you.

And that's before I reiterate the fact that statistical probability tests - even when performed correctly - tell you nothing about causation.


Luke H's picture

Here's a New Yorker article about the links between politics and food, as used by US pollers.  A few of the tidbits in there echo Marc's research, for instance:

“Anything organic or more Whole Foods-y skews more Democratic”

Psychology Today has a good article reviewing research into political psychology (and it also uses the liberal vs conservative consideration) .  An example of the kind of research:

"Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio. Liberal men like romantic comedies more than conservative men. Liberal women are more likely than conservative women to enjoy books, poetry, writing in a diary, acting, and playing musical instruments."

It covers criticism of the research as well:

"critics retort that the research draws negative conclusions about conservatives while the researchers themselves are liberal. And it's true that over the decades, a disproportionate amount of the research has focused on figuring out what's behind conservative behavior."

I am scratching my head at the inability of SOLOists to understand that Marc's research, which found a correlation (tendency, trend, link) between eating more red meat and being conservative, cannot be disproved with a single example of a conservative or non-leftist vegetarian.  This is statistics, people.  We use large data sets, not personal anecdotes.

I must confess that I feel somewhat responsible for this confusion (although I did try and explain the ideas in more detail several posts ago).  Please re-read my descriptions of the research, replacing "right winger"with "religious conservative" and "left winger" with "environmentally conscious bleeding-heart liberal".  :-)  Maybe then it will make more sense.

Also remember that the people on this site are likely to be libertarians, who do not fit neatly into the left-right spectrum, and would appear as somewhere in the middle in this research.

I am also amused at Robert's suggestion that the research is invalid because it did not measure various cultures and poverty-stricken nations around the world.  This is a quintessential "pomowanker" question: are humans fundamentally the same, or is our psychology governed by our environment and culture?  I would have thought a SOLOist would argue that human psychology is universal rather than culture-bound. Sticking out tongue


Robert's picture

is a rapidly growing economy is it not? I was thinking more of basket cases like Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, and North Korea.

I would be interested to know if those living in the rubbish tips of Bombay are picky about what they eat. I guess we'll never know because I don't recall seeing them ever being polled...

Only in first world countries?

Phil Howison's picture


We were young once and stupid...

Robert's picture

The thing that Marc needs to keep in mind is that vegetarianism is a revolutionary change in life-style and one that can only be successfully & rigorously pursued by those in first world countries.

Like I said, Marc's conclusions (as reported by you) appear to be applied across the entire human race. And that's a ~BIG~ leap given the limitations of his statistical survey (to say nothing of the fact that a statistical correlation is not causality).

Now contrast this with the way political allegiances wax and wain over a lifetime - provided that they leave the protection of the University campus that is. Look at Christopher Hitchens or Linz! People's out look changes as they get older.

But we can go round and round all day. You still haven't shown to me the causal link between political allegiance and diet - and you can't do that with statistics alone.


kaiwai's picture

The research about NZ First voters being more likely to believe in various conspiracies was carried out by Dr Marc Wilson,
who was the research supervisor for my own psychology Masters research,
which discovered, in a nutshell, that right-wing people are slightly
more physically aggressive and hostile than left-wing people.

Marc was criticised a few years ago
over some of his research into the links between diet and political
preferences.  For example, right-wingers eat more red meat,
left-wingers eat less red meat and are more likely to be vegetarians,
etc.  It was very interesting research, actually. 

Well, that theory is broken as I am 'right wing' and yet, I eat no red meat, and lean slightly towards being more vegetarian than eating meat.  These theories are nothing more than theories. It is like the 'right wing people are more logically based, left wing use emotional reasoning".


Luke H's picture

You've just demonstrated the point of Marc's research - the kind of person who becomes a vegetarian IS more likely to have greenpeace badges, quote Noam Chomsky, wear a Che T-shirt, etc, etc, and similarly that kind of person is much more likely to vote for the Greens and Labour.


Robert's picture

Being a vegetarian can be a conscious choice made out of deeply held beliefs. These people are the ones who stick with it for life come hell or high water.

But I've also met people who do it for a while because it is trendy or because they think it can help them loose weight or because their current favorite deity or celebrity told them too. These people are the ones who give it up at some stage when their experimentation becomes boring. You'll recognize them because they'll be wearing a Che(TM) T-shirt, a CND badge (which they'll erroneously call a peace symbol), two Green-peace badges and beret. They'll quote Noam Chompsky - badly - and spout shit like Walmart is the most evil entity on the planet and Global warming is real.

And if you are really unlucky, they'll graduate and become a lecturer at your University without ever setting foot in the real world. Which is a shame, because if they did, they'd learn that Chompsky is a git, Che was a murdering bastard, CND was only for nuclear disarmament of the Western Democracies, the world is cooling and Walmart makes a shit load of money selling Che(TM) T-shirts to middle-class airheads who think that they're speaking 'Truth to power' by wearing one.

But that's just my opinion based on my own personal observations. Post your thesis findings if you like, I'll read them.

Vegetarianism is accidental?

Luke H's picture

Vegetarianism is accidental.

Er, I don't think this is correct.  Going against the status quo (eating meat) by becoming a vegetarian is something that is motivated by very deep-seated personal preferences, which are usually linked with political preferences (such as environmentalism, animal rights, philosophical leanings, etc).

I must get around to posting some extracts from my thesis - I think many here will find a lot to agree with about the threat to freedom presented by right wing authoritarians.

Duly noted.

Robert's picture

Thank you.

And no, I did not mean to patronize. I am truly shocked at the dross turned out by NZ Universities - more so now I've been able to compare with the US. Luke wasn't clear as to whether he was still studying under this guy. If he was, I wanted to sound the alarm bell that I wished someone had sounded for me when I did my Masters.

As for vegetarians, I think you'll find that a more consistent & believable link predictor of political persuasion is career.

Middle class tenured academics the humanities departments tend to be lefties. Even on a Uni campus, untenured Profs in reality-grounded areas like the hard sciences, business and law tend to be more varied. In these professions, it is harder to get ahead by dealing in bullshit.

Vegetarianism is accidental. Becoming a happy vegetarian is a lot of work (Notice how many of them are rail thin and morose about the future of the world).

Cooking interesting & tasty vegetarian meals requires a lot more effort and thought than cooking similar meals with meat. As a vegetarian, not only must you think outside the frypan, you need to spend more time thinking about how to season your meal and what to put in it to banish bland.

Tenured academics are in secure highly paid 10am-4pm jobs and employees to help them deal with the teaching/research duality. Its a cushy life if you can get it & one that lends itself to eclectic pass times.


Phil Howison's picture

Not trying to defend Luke's research - he can do that himself, and I'm sure your comment is well-intentioned - I just want to correct a few misconceptions:

  • Luke's research wasn't about diet. It was about agression, RWA, SDO and political leanings. The vegetarianism/political attitudes research was entirely separate and carried out by Dr. Marc Wilson.
  • He has a biology degree, and statistical training.
  • He also has friends such as myself who frequently act as vigorous "devil's advocates" wrt his ideas.
  • He is working in the private sector, having completed his research, and is not considering an academic career.

That's all.

The bias of academic psychology is clear - they have the concept of Right Wing Authoritarianism or RWA, but no similar concept of Left Wing Authoritarianism, which seems to me like an attempt to treat conservatism as a mental illness. Despite this I don't know why a link between political views and vegetarianism should be surprising, given that many vegetarians (PC excluded of course) refuse to eat meat because of their belief in animal rights and environmentalism.

" own psychology

PhilipD's picture

" own psychology Masters research, which discovered, in a nutshell, that right-wing people are slightly more physically aggressive and hostile than left-wing people."

Luke, wouldn't you have expected that they would be more hostile after all these years of a leftie, thieving, PC government?

Lets see how well the lentils go down when we take a turn to the right.

Should that ever happen.


"The ultimate result of shielding men from folly is to fill the world with fools."

-Herbert Spencer 

Taxpayer funded B.S.

Robert's picture

Soft scientists like Psychologists should always run Ockham's Razor over their pet theories:

"The explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory"

For instance: if your Prof's theory were true, then increasing his meat intake should change him from a Hippie Academic moonbat into a gun-totting, bible-thumping, GWB-loving, Double-wide-owning, Limbaugh-quoting Red-neck.

But let us pretend that William of Ockham never was.Here is a short list of a few statistical blues inherent in your brief description of your work:

Your sample size limited to ~1,000 NZers who volunteerily completed your written questionnaire.

From those answers you have drawn a conclusion applied across every human on the planet. A conclusion purporting a link between specific diet (not just calorific or nutrient intake) and political/psychological factors. Note that biologists & neurologists have (to my knowledge) yet to even suspect a link, let alone speculate on the physiological nature of it.

Of the 6 billion humans on the planet, your questions were filled out by ~1,000 literate, New Zealand volunteers.

That is a tiny proportion of the New Zealand population, let alone the human one. Likewise, it is a subsection of a geographically, politically and ideologically isolated part of the planet. NZ is a country dominated by Christian sects by with a secular parliamentary tradition.

Surely, then your correlations can only apply to NZers with above average literary skills. You haven't tested variables such as indoctrination with religious & political beliefs as yet alien to NZ shores (e.g. Wahabbi Islam). Thus even your correlation between diet and politics seems tenuous.

If you're willing to take advice (and I have a Ph.D myself & 10 years in NZ Universities) I would suggest running your ideas past a few more people than just your supervisor. A statisticians from your maths department (check your method) and perhaps a biologist from the Science department (check your hypothesis), would be a good start. In other words begin checking your premises before you get so close to the deadline for your thesis that you can't adjust your methods & the hypothesis you are testing.

And the best way to start checking your premises is to show your work to some trusted friends who will play devil's advocate while you defend your decisions.

Your supervisor has nailed his colors to a particular balloon that he is keen on floating and I'd hate for you to find out in the future that the balloon is filled with lead - if you get my drift.

This is important for your career & your pocket book (you are paying some of these bills!). Sooner or later the funding 'Happy Time' in NZ academia is going to end and you may have to look to the private sector to fund your research. And people who risk their own money are more likely to be skeptical of employing someone with a resume full of shoddy work.

You see, your investigation is attempting to draw a conclusion based on the evidence gathered by a very, very limited tool. You need to be aware of those limitations in order to avoid 'making too much stew from one onion' as Peter likes to say.

Then we come to the hypothesis itself. I know of no definitive & testable biological, neurological, biochemical, genetic, psychological, philosophical, emotional, historical, evolutionary or even spiritual link between diet and psychology. There appears to be no real physical basis for your even suspecting that diet predicts politics. To even suspect such a link stinks of rationalization. Worse it stinks of the PC political predisposition of the person proposing it: ie, your supervisor.

You are a student attempting to learn the ways research is conducted. And glancing at your comments thus far, it seems to me that your teacher isn't doing his job properly. My suggestion is to take the initiative and correct any errors intrinsic to your research before they poison the conclusions you will eventually draw in your thesis.

This, of course, is just my opinion. Take it or leave it.


Luke H's picture

Robert:  Pray tell what was his response when he learned that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian?

Our usual response is "Oh, an anecdote where n = 1".  Psychological tendencies need to be studied over large groups of people.  Which is PC's point:

PC:  (and given the usually trivial sample sizes from most of these 'surveys,' it would be foolish to draw any conclusions in any case).

Sure. The questions about diet and political preference were included in several different survey, including half of the questionnaires given out in my own study.  Those alone amounted to more than 250. At a guess, over a thousand people have answered Marc's questions about political preference and diet.

 PC:  Besides, what would your trendy psychologists make of the inordinate number of vegetarians in the 'right wing' Libertarianz?

Well, it is interesting evidence that we are NOT 'right-wing'.

The questionnaire which we have been using to describe people's political preferences (which I simplified below as left-wing or right-wing) consist of two separate measures which are usually highly correlated.  One measure is how conservative, religious and authoritarian one is (the right wing authoritarian scale) and the other is how much you prefer social equality versus inequality (ie, is it OK for some groups to dominate society) (social dominance orientation).

Your typical Labour/Greens voter is low on both measures; your typical National voter is highish on both measures. ACT voters score even higher on the social dominance scale (being a party of "rich pricks" Smiling ).

I have measured approximately 5-10 libertarians (ie, a very small sample size) and we tend to be very LOW on the conservative/religious/authoritarian scale, and average to high on the equality vs social dominance scale (because we reject social equality as an ideal).  Obviously these are extremely tenuous, preliminary results, but it does tend to support our conclusion that "we are neither left nor right".

Bollocks on stilts

Peter Cresswell's picture

"The current trendy psychological explanation is that right-wing people believe in dominating other social groups, and this is expressed in their diet..."

It should hardly be necessary to point out that the collection of some small set of statistics in no way provides any sort of explanation for those stats. None at all (and given the usually trivial sample sizes from most of these 'surveys,' it would be fooslish to draw any conclusions in any case).

The main point to pass on to your trendy psychologist mates is this: Correlation is not causality. Mathematics is blind to causality - as is the collection of poll data.

Besides, what would your trendy psychologists make of the inordinate number of vegetarians in the 'right wing' Libertarianz?


Robert's picture

From Dr Wilson's website:

"Broadly, I am interested in the application of social psychological theory to important social issues..."

Narrowly speaking, it is apparent that he deals in gobbledygook.

Pray tell what was his response when he learned that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian?


Luke H's picture

The research about NZ First voters being more likely to believe in various conspiracies was carried out by Dr Marc Wilson, who was the research supervisor for my own psychology Masters research, which discovered, in a nutshell, that right-wing people are slightly more physically aggressive and hostile than left-wing people.

Marc was criticised a few years ago over some of his research into the links between diet and political preferences.  For example, right-wingers eat more red meat, left-wingers eat less red meat and are more likely to be vegetarians, etc.  It was very interesting research, actually. 

The current trendy psychological explanation is that right-wing people believe in dominating other social groups, and this is expressed in their diet, ie, eating more red meat shows that you believe more in 'dominating' (killing and eating) lower forms of life like animals.

Superb PR Linz

Sandi's picture

And by far the very best comments I have read regarding Winston.

(Yes Marcus, very good point).

"Who is John Galt?"

I always said that MMP is inferior....

Marcus's picture the old 'first past the post' still here in the UK.

It gives creeps like Winston Peters too much power after each election to determine which party and policies get into Government with his slim 5% to 9% of geriatric voters.

Imagine if we had MMP, the likes of creepy George Galloway would become the Winston Peters of the UK, determining Government policy over Iraq, Afghanistan and Isreal!

Just as well it is just a small-fish like NZ!!!

Yep, that's the better one

Mark Hubbard's picture

Yep, that's the better one Linz Eye


Well done. Great release.

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