To Kind Of Catapult The Propaganda

By David

The title of this story is a George Bush quote. Bush was explaining what he meant by the phrase, “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again.” His opinion is similar to the more famous quote of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister in Nazi Germany. Goebbels said, “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

Of course, in 2014, it is unacceptable to compare anything to the monsters that led Nazi Germany. Nothing in modern New Zealand compares with those brutes. New Zealand lies are trivial in comparison. However the principle of repeating more modest lies until they are believed is frequently practiced, even in New Zealand. Swimming New Zealand often use the ploy. Their latest example is on the Swimming New Zealand website today. This is what it says. “Swimming New Zealand has employed the services of two past national swimming representatives to assist in the coaching of the country’s greatest talents.”

There they go again; the arrogant belief that Swimming New Zealand’s swim schools in Auckland and Wellington are the source of all that’s good and best; repositories this time of “the country’s greatest talents”.

Who wrote this insulting rubbish? Was it Christian Renford? His background in matters swimming is sufficiently limited he could well be the author. Was it Luis Villenueva? Embellishing his recruiting skills would be an understandable fault. Was it David Lyles? False promotion of the swimmers he has been recruited to coach would be silly. If he has inherited New Zealand’s greatest talents, how is he going to explain it when they lose a race? Or was it Melissa Ingram? Was this her final effort at writing exciting prose even if the facts didn’t quite fit? I hear Ingram may have resigned. If she has her career at Swimming New Zealand has hardly matched the fanfare of her appointment.

Whoever it was wrote the website nonsense, it would do Swimming New Zealand well to remember most of swimming’s greatest talents live, work and train elsewhere. Swimmers like New Zealand’s best Open Water swimmers Kane Radford and Philip Ryan; World Junior Champion Gabrielle Fa’amausili; USA based Glen Snyders and Sophie Batchelor and National Champions Natasha Lloyd, Kurt Crosland, Jane Ip, Ben Walsh, Max Polianski, Kate Godfrey, Cameron Simpson, Caroline Baddock, Daniel Bell, George Schroder, Chloe Francis and Erik Kahr. There are other “great talents” I will have missed. For this I apologize. But I’m sure you get the idea. Writing these fine swimmers off as somehow second tier simply because they are loyal to their home programs is typical of the arrogance of power.

The arrogance represented by the idea that New Zealand’s greatest swimming talent belongs exclusively to Swimming New Zealand is pretty typical of what we have come to expect; pretty typical of the conduct Swimming New Zealand has indulged in for ten years. Miskimmin’s policies and his money have cultivated a coterie of privilege; swimmers, coaches and administrators with ideas well above their station or performance. A comment like “the country’s greatest talents” proves that point.

In fact some readers may be aware that in my undergraduate degree I majored in political science. During one period I studied the Soviet Communist Party. That was an arrogant organization as well. I recently managed to find an essay describing the Party’s membership. Set out below I have repeated a paragraph from the essay word for word simply converting Russian political terms into New Zealand swimming expressions.

Membership in the Millennium Institute ultimately is a privilege, with a small subset of swimmers becoming an élite class. The members of the elite class enjoy many perquisites denied to the average swimmer. Such perks included fake national uniforms, free coaching, free entry into meets, flash cars, free dry land training and plentiful overseas travel. It became virtually impossible to join the New Zealand swim team without becoming a member of the Millennium Institute. To become a member, one had to be approved by various committees and one’s past was closely scrutinized. Ultimately, if one had shown the proper adherence to Swimming New Zealand discipline or had the right connections one would become a member of the Millennium Institute itself. Membership also had its obligations. Swimming New Zealand expected members to carry out appropriate “social tasks”.

Uncanny isn’t it? Uncanny how easily the Miskimmin world of membership privilege and outsider poverty fits into a description of the Soviet Communist world.

That world is not the New Zealand way. That exclusive, supercilious world of money and power is not the way of Lydiard or Jelley or Laing. I see that Duncan Laing’s most famous pupil, Danyon Loader, has been appointed to the position of Assistant Coach at the Millennium Institute. I knew Duncan Laing pretty well and I doubt he would approve. Why? Well, let me tell you a story.

In 2002 the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships were held in Yokohama, Japan. One of my swimmers, Jane Copland, was on the New Zealand team; selected to swim the breaststroke events. Because I was not in Yokohama I asked Duncan to look after Jane. When I was unable to be at an event I made the same request with Toni Jeffs and Nichola Chellingworth. Duncan seemed to handle swimmers from our team very well.

In addition to the breaststroke races Jane was entered in the 200 medley. As it turned out Jane’s heat included a member of Jan Cameron’s Millennium squad and the rising star, or was it the “greatest talent”, of New Zealand medley swimming. I was told later by Duncan Laing that the race between the two New Zealand swimmers was amazing; together at the end of the butterfly, the Millennium star ahead after the backstroke, Jane even again at the end of the breaststroke, with it all to play for down the length freestyle. Duncan told me that the last length was a classic. “A win,” he said, “for the good guys.” A man who spent his life in Dunedin quietly coaching eleven Olympians without once referring to them as “the country’s greatest talents” was clearly delighted. In the Laing world there was no free coaching, no Miskimmin check books, no flash Mazda cars and no fake New Zealand uniforms. His Moana pool was about honest toil. And he just loved it when time after time his journeymen took down those of unearned privilege from Auckland’s North Shore. And, we will do it again.

That sentence was meant to close this post. But before ending I must tell you another Duncan Laing story. One evening Duncan was asked to take a Pirates Rugby Club junior team for lineout practice. The normal coach said he was teaching the boys the calls to be used prior to throwing the ball into the lineout. Duncan arrived at the practice and asked the team to demonstrate the calls they had been taught so far. After an impressive set of calls the ball was thrown in and no one could catch it. “So I took them instead for an hour of catching practice.” Duncan told me. I’ve always remembered that story. I’m sure it was central to Laing’s coaching success. The frills are fine but the basics are essential.



  • David

    Should we, do you think, complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.