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Martyn Bradbury’s emotional critique of emotion-driven politics misses the mark

In brief
  • Martyn Bradbury critiques the shift from rational debate to emotion-driven politics, and accuses the Government of being far-right racists without any evidence. 
  • Ironically, Bradbury’s own argument looks to us to be heavily laden with anger and frustration, reflecting the emotional bias he opposes.
  • His critique fails to consider alternative viewpoints, leading to one-sided conclusions about government policies and motivations.

Martyn Bradbury looks like an excitable fellow

Leftwing commentator Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s recent article is aptly titled “2023 was the year of ‘feelings’: The new politics of the neoliberal subjective!” In it, he laments a shift in the way we approach politics, where subjective feelings often trump objective truths and rational debates. The irony lies in the fact that he, too, in the expletive filled rant, appears driven by feelings – anger and frustration – when critiquing those he opposes. 

While we agree with Bradbury’s concerns about the influence of emotions in politics, his conclusions, clouded by feelings, looks to us like an exposé of his own emotional biasses and prejudices. Not to mention his extreme overuse of exclamation points. 

Unhinged ranting about feelings is pure irony

Bradbury asserts that the feelings-based approach to politics began with the left leaning “#metoo” movement in 2016. He thinks that this type of politicking has since been adopted and “perfected” by the “feral” right. According to Bradbury, this shift has led to the distortion of politics and the abandonment of evidence-based decision-making.

For instance, he argues that “Everything we are seeing right now from this far-right racist Government is ‘feelings’ based, not evidence-based!” 

He accuses the government of passing conspiracy theories into social policy due to “deranged anti-vaxxers feeling angry about vaccination.” Similarly, he suggests that limiting public funding for Community Sports, if they include a trans player, is driven by “angry anti-Trans voters feeling angry.”

Furthermore, he alleges that the government is “bashing beneficiaries, prisoners, renters, Māori, the environment, and workers because right-wing voters ‘feel’ angry, regardless of how counterproductive those culture war revenge fantasies may be.”

Image of Martyn Bradbury providing insights on emotion-driven politics
There’s a lot of unanswered questions about the previous government’s response to the COIVD pandemic. Perhaps it is reasonable those actions be investigated. Image: Ulysse Bellier

Yet, Bradbury’s narrative is devoid of evidence to suggest these moves are the product of a racist or bigoted animus as he lashes against his political opponents. 

His lack of comprehensive analysis leads to his suspect conclusion that the coalition Government – who he suggests is motivated by racism and hatred – are irrational actors who disregard logic and evidence. 

In fact, there is ample reason to suggest incompetent, wasteful, extreme, and divisive policies under a racist Labour government led to their rejection by a majority of voters. It’s just not a narrative Bradbury agrees with so he’s angry about it. He mirrors the very behaviour he condemns – substituting a balanced argument with emotional rhetoric. 

A more rational argument than “the far right Government is racist!” is needed 

Is accusing the government of being far-right racists the kind of rational thinking Bradbury says he supports? Is Bradbury even aware that what he seems to call racist is a very far left definition, which more centre or right leaning people often deride as Orwellian? 

Perhaps a broader investigation into the previous government’s COVID response is warranted, considering the growing number of unanswered questions and credible concerns about vaccines and extreme measures taken by the government.

It’s also worth acknowledging that some voters may perceive it as unfair for biological males to compete against biological females in women’s sports due to obvious documented advantages in strength and speed.

Evidence that life has improved for the working class under six years of Labour is scant, if any. And they pushed a lot of their idea of social justice, often surreptitiously, without first seeking a mandate from voters. Perhaps that combination is why they lost? Is it possible Bradbury disagrees with that perspective to such a degree that he can’t even see it? 

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