The deliberate dumbing down of the populace to enhance authoritarian control is a conspiracy theory that is rapidly gaining converts - mainly because the evidence that this is going on confronts us, daily, in every fake-news-is-real utterance of our friends, neighbours, and ordinary J Public in the media.
So I thought it might be useful to institute the "Left Hook Awards", shining a spotlight on ideas, incidents, projects and policies, particularly at a local level, which rely on the ignorance - or at best, indifference - of the public to come to any sort of fruition.
Here's this year's list, in no particular order:
The "What the?" award. Just in time to take this from a number of other governmental organisations was Hawke's Bay Regional Council, whose chairman Rex Graham tells us his council is "unanimous" on ensuring Napier Port remains in "majority community ownership" - when currently it is 100 per cent community-owned. Hmmm. Small (up to 49 per cent) sell-off factored in there already, eh?
The "I believe it so it must be true" award. A tricky one, this. The finalists include creationism and climate change is a myth. But the winners are anyone who thinks Donald Trump a fit and proper person to be president of the US. The "Trust me I won't run again" award goes to Bill Dalton, rumoured to be considering another tilt at mayor of Napier despite repeatedly saying this is his last term, apparently because he has "unfinished business".
Given the publicly surveyed performance rating for mayor and councillors has dropped from 72 per cent positive (fairly or very good) last year to 53 per cent this year - the worst since the 1990s - the electorate is likely to show Bill they're finished with his business.
The "One good conspiracy deserves another" award goes to the anti-1080 brigade, who when asked what they thought was behind the use of 1080 in New Zealand, listed just about every crackpot theory you could think of.
The most popular reason given was the deliberate extinction of humankind - 38 per cent claimed this! But my personal favourite was to kill off the "inner earthers" (a secret subterranean race).
The "We're taking good care of it" award goes to: the City of Napier, for claiming to have "carefully stored" the eternal flame and plaques listing the names of the fallen taken from the War Memorial Centre, when in fact the sculptured eternal flame's existence is in doubt and plaques have been damaged or broken beyond repair. Yes, I've seen the evidence.
The "I can't pronounce tangata whenua" award is shared by Craggy Range Winery, Hastings District Council, and supporters of the "Te Mata track" for naively thinking it's okay to scar the eastern face of "the most iconic landscape feature" in the Bay without consulting iwi. Or anyone else.
The "What's in that business case" award goes, unsurprisingly, to Napier City. First, for paying half a million on a study for a velodrome they said Sport NZ wanted, but didn't; then who knows how much for plans for a new pool complex on Prebensen Drive, which no-one supported because it was only trotted out after consultation on swimming projects finished; and now for putting $700,000 up to study revamping and enlarging the national aquarium, which they claim the HBRC (amongst others) supports - when that body has said no such thing.
Leaving the Supreme Award for Stupid. Something of a no-contest; yes, it's Napier City. My condolences.