• Fall Guys

    The cyber-attack on the Waikato District Health Board is a follow-up to similar attacks elsewhere, and notably in Ireland. It has caused untold misery, anxiety and risk to many vulnerable patients, and confusion and worry to health administrators. It seems to be an instance of “ransom-ware”, whose purpose it is to extract money from the institutions affected; and, not content with threatening the lives of the sick, the perpetrators then threaten to publish private information about those whose records are held by the hospital authorities and to demand more money as the price for not doing so.

    It is hard to imagine a more reprehensible instance of pitiless greed or of the exploitation of hi-tech expertise by heartless criminals. Yet, sadly, it came as no surprise that someone could be found to demand immediately the resignation of Andrew Little, on the ground that he is responsible for the debacle because he is the Minister of Health and also the Minister responsible for the country’s security.

    There can be no more telling example of a growing current trend – that whenever something goes wrong or someone is disappointed or displeased by some action or inaction (of whatever kind), and irrespective of what other factors might be involved, a complainant will emerge from the woodwork to point the finger at the government of the day. This kind of knee-jerk version of the blame game is of course meat and drink for the media; they are presented with a ready-made story, with the added bonus of extending what is already a newsworthy story with a kind of “David v. Goliath” element of the “little man” or “ordinary bloke” hitting back against authority – and there is the pleasing additional opportunity to grill the authority figure complained about.

    The syndrome is constantly repeated, however tenuous may be the causal connection between the matter of which complaint is made and the person at whom the finger is pointed. In the case of the cyber-attack on the Waikato DHB, the intervention of international criminals, utilising a specialist knowledge for nefarious purposes, might have been considered not only as the prime cause of the crisis but also as a factor that was by definition difficult to foresee and counter – as other countries have also found to their cost.

    The reaction seems to be endemic in a society that is increasingly inclined to look to government to solve (and forestall) all problems, wherever and however they might arise. The surprising element, however, is that such reactions often come from those who resist and resent, as a matter of principle, the involvement of government in their lives. The best interpretation of the syndrome may be, in other words, that it is those who are hostile to government in general terms who will be the quickest to blame “the government” if they are displeased about something – anything – that could attract attention from the media.

    It may be futile to suggest that the media, in such circumstances, should exercise their own judgment as to whether such a complaint bears scrutiny; but we would all agree, surely, that free and active media are an essential element in a properly functioning democracy and that their role therefore involves more than simply reporting and amplifying attempts from whatever quarter to treat government ministers as Aunt Sallies or fall guys.

    Bryan Gould
    27 May 2021

3 Comments

  1. chris hurst says: May 27, 2021 at 7:58 pmReply

    Completely agree. Breakfast on TV1 has become a succession of people moaning about the government, aided by interviewers who seem to find it impossible to question the interviewees opinions and motives.

  2. Greywarbler says: July 27, 2021 at 8:32 pmReply

    ‘It is hard to imagine a more reprehensible instance of pitiless greed or of the exploitation of hi-tech expertise by heartless criminals. ‘
    I agree – but there is a lot of heartlessness around, and it is hard to set up a league table. Same with criminals. We need to understand that since the advent of the internet and social media, the whole of society has got more heartless and graceless.

    Tech replaces people’s jobs, and has been used in this heartless way, and with robotics may do so exponentially. Before the internet factory workers were replaced by machines, probably all the car factories have these fascinating arms doing stuff that Charlie Chaplin’s character would have hated in the old days. But it was a job and they could earn money to live and house themselves, now they are software that’s outdated in the heartless world. Note that Aldous Huxley told Orwell that the drive for efficiency would bring us down, not communism.

    Then ‘The reaction seems to be endemic in a society that is increasingly inclined to look to government to solve (and forestall) all problems, wherever and however they might arise. The surprising element, however, is that such reactions often come from those who resist and resent, as a matter of principle, the involvement of government in their lives.’

    The problem is that government is supposed, in a democracy, to be for the people, and when you have one like ours, that has shattered us from a great height with neo-liberal, freemarketism, people get confused, sad and mad. They suffer from the effects and both disdain governments and desire them to fix or ameliorate the position. If the hate speech laws are passed and all-embracing except for the dismayed and dislodged, and angry criticism is deemed unfair, or rabble rousing, or an indirect attack on a pollie or someone delegated as a Righteous Person, then there will be rising temperatures and not just from climate change.

  3. Greywarbler says: August 2, 2021 at 4:05 pmReply

    What I said before I believe is absolutely correct and denotes our reality perfectly, both from my observations and thinking about them. But it is a bit of a rude shock to run into a forthright, true opinion of ‘the way it is’, when one was fixed on a different line. I certainly won’t hold forth to my 90 year old father who knows it all, and judges from above. Luckily he has decided to include me in his favoured list though we sing from different song books (actually he doesn’t sing at all, but that’s neither here nor there).

    I came across Stephen Fry giving a short exposition on the differences between USA and UK comedians. He is a bright guy who has been around, and his comments on the UK style, that they are actually ordinary guys trying to be achievers and failing, miserably funny and interesting. That. might have something to do with the NZ style – of folks looking to government to actually flex its muscles and enable all to be motivated people in this country, but be a bit hunched from the lack of assistance to upward social mobility.

    While the USA citizens are no better off, they have sold themselves a vision of smart guys who are self-winding and smart and when some find that lacking in themselves, take a gun and angrily shoot a number of people who stand in place of government which promotes the ‘self-made’ man as a rational possibility for all.
    Stephen here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k2AbqTBxao&t=4s