How little it takes to send this country's commentariat into a prissy lather

The ironies just continue to pile up in this saga.

On the first night, we saw unionists outside the TVNZ mothership demonstrating, demanding that Paul Henry be sacked for his racist statements in the workplace.

John Minto, who seems to pop up everywhere these days, like some sort of seasoned actor in a small town repertory theatre group, was waving a placard also demanding this "racist bigot" be fired immediately. He thrust his face into the camera, quite frighteningly and aggressively, which brought home the first of the ironies - not only was Henry being racist, but he had a history of recidivist bullying because he was in a position of power.

I would not have liked to be a TVNZ employee that evening, having to walk through the gamut of the picket line to catch my bus.

Furthermore, here were people demanding an employee lose his job immediately. He'd had his "three strikes", one wit quipped, it was time he was out. What? No warning? No process? These are people who campaign to bring an end to employers' right to fire employees at will. It is well nigh impossible to terminate someone's employment these days, without going through a tortuous process, and even then there is always a strong chance of being sued.

But suddenly when it suits, we have a large group of noisy unionists demanding Paul Henry be thrown out on his ear.

Is he a bully? No more than the teacher unions who, when the Minister of Education delivered her speech at their annual conference, organised a co-ordinated placard-waving demonstration each time she mentioned the words 'national standards', then sat in stony silence refusing to applaud when she'd finished.

I have to declare I don't watch Breakfast. In about 1990 I wrote a profile on Paul Henry for North & South magazine, when he was a journalist with Radio Pacific. He struck me as very intelligent, quick, and experienced as a foreign correspondent. I have since seen him do some extraordinarily good interviews on Close Up.

However, I think he's a potty mouth when he comes out with comments like moustaches on women, and Susan Boyle being a retard, because that's just really unnecessary and hurtful. His question to John Key about the Governor General was ignorant, and possibly deliberately provocative, and as far as journalistic standards go, about as low as it's possible to go.

As Bruce Slane said on Jim Mora's programme today, if he'd worded it differently, as in, we've had two female governors general, and a Maori, are we going to have a white male now, it would have been entirely different. But he didn't. He invited the Prime Minister on to his programme and he was totally rude, and adolescent. Not even cheeky.

As a senior television presenter, Henry must have heard Sir Anand Satyanand speak at some time, so he would have known he has a very New Zealand accent. Therefore his remark, 'sounding like a New Zealander' was just inexcusable. Was it racist? Yes, if you take racism to mean the superiority of one ethnicity over another. Henry compounded this by his later apology, and referring to himself "just as a gippo" (where my family come from, actually, but I'm okay with that).

So here's another irony, pointed out by David Cohen on Facebook (where good discussion often unfolds). John Minto calling someone a bigot is enough to make a cat laugh. Bigot, as defined in the Oxford Concise, is "an obstinate and intolerant believer in political theory".

Invited as an MP by John Minto, wearing his Coalition for Quality Public Education hat, to speak to a large education group in Ponsonby one time, I started to talk passionately about my belief in parental choice, and the voucher system I had studied in Holland and Sweden. I could make no progress, as Minto and his group hissed loudly, and drowned me out with their bigotry and intolerance. And yes, bullying.

But back to Henry. Should we be so outraged? No, but we have become such a prissy country, we love to feel morally superior. On the journalism discussion group Journz, there are some who would like him to blow his brains out, it seems, yet Henry has probably forgotten more about journalism than many of these name-callers have learned. It seems we cannot have a debate in this country without reverting to personal abuse.

Which leads me to the next irony. Sent home on gardening leave without pay, Henry was chased by journalists for a comment and – oh dear – told them all to **** off or he would sue their ****ing paper.

Well, for one thing there is no more silly sight than a journalist suing for defamation. And Henry dishes it out, he has to learn to take it. It's not nice being chased by a swarming pack of media, but you have to Just. Say. Nothing.

If you make your living reporting about other people's lives, then you cannot whine when reporters come clamouring to report on your life.

Final irony. Henry is in the gun for name-calling and personal insults, but in most of the debate online, that is exactly what his critics are giving back to him. And even his supporters are flinging personal insults at his critics, and critics personally abuse his supporters....oh, it's all quite head-splitting.

Yes, Paul Henry has been very, very naughty, but must we all lie down and join him in the gutter?

Comments (28)

by Mark Bennett on October 07, 2010
Mark Bennett

"How little it takes to send this country's commentariat into a prissy lather"

"But back to Henry. Should we be so outraged? No, but we have become such a prissy country, we love to feel morally superior. ... It seems we cannot have a debate in this country without reverting to personal abuse."

I do not consider it 'prissy' to take offense and object to someone saying that people of certain ethnicity are not really New Zealanders and should not represent us in high political office. What Henry said was not some 'little' transgression of political correctness. It was nasty racism, posing as a legitimate political question to our Prime Minister.

So, yes, we should be outraged, and we should feel morally superior, to those who make and condone such comments.

Also, it would also be racist, contrary to what you say above, if the GG did have a 'non-kiwi' accent: last time I checked, your accent wasn't a factor in determining whether you have a place in our social, economic, and political life.

And I'm not sure what Henry said can be paraphrased into 'it's a white male's turn'. It was more like 'it's a New Zealander's turn'.

by Mr Magoo on October 07, 2010
Mr Magoo

I really have never had any delusions about the undercurrent of racism in this country. Typically it is of the sort in this post or in henry's disgusting display as in just good ol kiwi back slapping. And it is not limited to "white people" as Hone has shown us via email.

We are all hard uns and we speaks our minds.  You lily livered prissy fools dun no wot yer talkin about. Take it like a man. etc.

(Sorry, watching a lot of the deadwood series at the moment...)

Its pathetic and the amount of back peddling and double speak that goes on to justify such complete and utter crap is just dumb founding. This is not about being PC or any such thing, its about not being a bigot or defending bigots as having acceptable viewpoints.

If that idiot's non-offensive displays on breakfast are a fine example of journalism then I suggest we need to invent a new name for what I want being the 4th estate of my democracy because that certainly is not it.

by Mr Magoo on October 08, 2010
Mr Magoo

An update:

http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/india-calls-in-high-commissioner-over-he...

It appears that the indian government has also been worked up into a prissy lather and our country has had to apologize. I quoted the TVNZ link also.

Its unfortunate that their statement that his views don't represent NZ when so many "real kiwis" seem to support them. (10's of thousands on facebook for example...)

by Andrew Geddis on October 08, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Now, Mr Magoo ... before concluding that the 10s of thousands who have expressed their views on Facebook are "real kiwis", we'll need to see how many are 1st generation New Zealanders and/or lawyers and/or Ponsonby dwellers. It's a pretty exclusive club, the "real kiwi" one. In fact, it has but a sole member - who lives in South Korea.

by Andin on October 08, 2010
Andin

"He thrust his face into the camera, quite frighteningly and aggressively,"

Wow you got that off the tele! Must have had you rushing for the meds. And a new tele.

" I could make no progress, as Minto and his group hissed loudly, and drowned me out with their bigotry and intolerance."

Ahhh you two have history.

" No, but we have become such a prissy country, we love to feel morally superior."

Pardon, as unintentional self diagnosis it works. But the whole country? Puleeze.

by Deborah Coddington on October 08, 2010
Deborah Coddington

Mark: There's a huge difference between objecting to Henry's fatuous comments, and spending time marching up and down the street working yourself up into a lather calling for his dismissal. Also, I think you should read my post again. I was paraphrasing Bruce Slane's comments on Jim Mora's programme when I said Henry could have asked the question in a dignified journalistic manner.

"Mr Magoo": Isn't it time you had the courage to use your real name, if you are going to insult the people who do use their real names who write for Pundit? You really are a coward, hiding behind a pseudonym, accusing me of racism, and I never justified Henry's remarks at all, or said it was a fine example of journalism.

"Andin": Another one too scared to use his/her real name, but a perfect example of what I am talking about, descending into the gutter. I just hope, my darling, you are looking at the stars.

by Mr Magoo on October 08, 2010
Mr Magoo

I am not hiding from you. My real name is in the email address I registered with. I am hiding from the nutters that frequent the internet. You are a paid personality of sorts and posts on this site are part of advancing your career/public profile/etc. They are not for me.

In the end I don't particularly care what anyone out there thinks about me personally. Calling me a coward does not invoke the irrational male ego reaction you may have been used to in the past - I apologise.  I am in it for the debate and the exchange of ideas. This does not require my real name. Nuff said.

I never said you said what he said about the GG was a fine example. I am saying I think that what Paul does on breaky is an embarrassment to good journalism, even when he ISN'T making bigotted comments. he may have been a fantastic journalist at some stage. That is great he WAS. I even agree that many of the journalists that might be sticking the boot in are not the best examples themselves (given the current state of the field) and just a bit green with envy.

You minimise the extent of Henry's comments. In fact you referred to people who are outraged about public displays of racism by a NZ celebrity as being "prissy". If this is not tacit endorsement of such I am not sure what is?

On rereading your article I see you have not referred to the "Dikshit" incident. Perhaps you were unaware of it at the time because that story broke after the other I think?

If so then I apologise for casting my net too far. See? I am now even more than a coward because I am able to admit when I am wrong and thus retreating from my previous position. Unlike some brave, macho guy called 'stuart' (or 'Fonzie', 'Rambo' or some such) on another thread, you are not actually defending his statements about the GG.

Paul Henry may not be a racist and is perhaps just ignorant, but he has displayed two incidences of racism now - one beyond the pale that has now become an international incident.

It is indefensible. It MUST be spoken against. Loudly.

 

by stuart munro on October 08, 2010
stuart munro

Come clean Andrew, I do not propose a universal definition of New Zealanders - I just don't accept your right to define them for me.

by Mark Bennett on October 08, 2010
Mark Bennett

"Mark: There's a huge difference between objecting to Henry's fatuous comments, and spending time marching up and down the street working yourself up into a lather calling for his dismissal."

Yes there is. I was saying that being outraged at his comments was not being 'prissy'. Whether that outrage warrants calling for his dismissal or protests is another matter entirely.

"Also, I think you should read my post again. I was paraphrasing Bruce Slane's comments on Jim Mora's programme when I said Henry could have asked the question in a dignified journalistic manner."

I read it well enough the first time. The paraphrase, which you endorse ("as X says..."), is not the same as what Henry asked - in fact, that's the whole point of this saga: many people can't see what's wrong with suggesting that is is necessary to look a certain way to be a New Zealander. That's why I said that the paraphrase should not be 'are we going to get a white male', but 'are we going to get a New Zealander this time'. If he said the former paraphrase, it would have been a different question, not a more dignified way of asking the same question.

by Andin on October 08, 2010
Andin

"Another one too scared to use his/her real name,"

Ohh cutting.

"descending into the gutter."

There's that moral superiority again.

by Mark Wilson on October 08, 2010
Mark Wilson

Debora of course you are right.

The left are always vicious when they get someone on the right in their sights and yet are silently hypocritical when the left transgress.  

Paul Henry bad, Hone Harawira good.

Watch the silence if it is proven that there has been election fraud (In case someone wants that censored it is Andrew Little's phrase in todays Herald) by a Labour candidate.   

by Andrew Geddis on October 08, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Gosh then Mark. Lucky the writers on Pundit aren't on the left, then!

See here. And here. And here. And here. And this might interest you, too. Glad this proves how straight down the middle we play things, and no doubt will result in your wholehearted endorsement of our objectivity. So thank you in advance.

by Andrew Geddis on October 08, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Goddam, but facts can be inconvenient! Much better to rely on the gut and the truthiness it engenders ...

by Tim Watkin on October 08, 2010
Tim Watkin

Magoo, can't agree with you on the journalism front. Do you define your entire career by your worst day at work? I'm not here to defend Henry's question by any stretch, but for the sake of balance, I think it's worth recalling many, many other very good questions he has asked as a journalist.

On Close Up especially, he has done some top drawer work. If you don't believe me, I refer you to Dr Brian Edwards, from last year:

Henry is an obnoxious prat.  His ego is out of control and, as a broadcaster, so is he. He has done more than enough to deserve the boot.

BUT he is also one of the most intelligent, most incisive, most accomplished, most polished, and most entertaining broadcasters this country has ever seen.

As for the international incident, can anyone tell me what convinced our government to wind up our diplomats? Other journalists, perhaps? The delicacy of a free-trade deal under negotiation?

by stuart munro on October 09, 2010
stuart munro

It has to be the Dixit thing. The GG comments were possible, but there was no merit in Henry's Dixit comments whatsoever, it was grossly offensive, and she does not enjoy vast compensating privileges.

by Chris de Lisle on October 09, 2010
Chris de Lisle

"It has to be the Dixit thing."

Agreed. That seems to have provoked a portion of the Indian public who were, perhaps, already sensitive because of our media's attacks on the organisation of the Commonwealth Games. (Though I suspect our media is playing up the actual influence this story has had in India- because it's about what other people think of NZ, which is NZ's favourite topic & it fits into the Henry-saga)

We're a small country, which markets itself as friendly and welcoming. The govt has to try to prevent damage to that brand.

by Craig Ranapia on October 09, 2010
Craig Ranapia

But back to Henry. Should we be so outraged? No, but we have become such a prissy country, we love to feel morally superior.

 

Well, yes, "we" do, Deborah.  You might like to sit down and contemplate the reason why you haven't spend your journalist career writing about pikelet recipies and the new season frocks on the "women's pages" -- might find one or two prissy, uppity feminists in the background.

by Petra Paignton on October 09, 2010
Petra Paignton

"Final irony"

 

Not quite:

 

"Henry is in the gun for name-calling and personal insults, but in most of the debate online, that is exactly what his critics are giving back to him. And even his supporters are flinging personal insults at his critics, and critics personally abuse his supporters....oh, it's all quite head-splitting."

 

Then... to your critics:

 

"You really are a coward, hiding behind a pseudonym"

"Another one too scared to use his/her real name, but a perfect example of what I am talking about, descending into the gutter. I just hope, my darling, you are looking at the stars."

 

Dear, oh dear.

by Mark Wilson on October 09, 2010
Mark Wilson

I am sorry but you don't get off that easy - look at the difference in the level of response by the left.

At the end of the day the general response by the left, other than the odd lefty with integrity, to Harawira's comment was respectful and mild.

Where was the Unite, Minto and the rest of rent a protester's march, or the calls for the sacking of Harawira?

If someone on the right had made the equivalent statement then they would have made the knives out big time as they have had for Henry. The response would have been as vicious in the extreme as it is in Henry's case, where the left are looking to destroy the guy.

I have no interest in defending Henry for what was a really stupid comment, but where is the proportionality?

A useful description of the left is someone who has a deep seated psychological need to tell otherpeople how to live their lives, and the need to suppress any speech that they don't agree with.

How many of you on the left criticised the Labour / Green attack on free speech with the Electoral Finance Act?

Goff has apologised for it (Nov 2008) so if you didn't criticise it at the time of introduction then you should man up and apologise now.

 

by Mark Wilson on October 09, 2010
Mark Wilson

Ps - Is "a lefty with integrity" an oxymoron? 

by Mark Bennett on October 09, 2010
Mark Bennett

@Mark Wilson

"A useful description of the left is someone who has a deep seated psychological need to tell otherpeople how to live their lives, and the need to suppress any speech that they don't agree with."

"Ps - Is "a lefty with integrity" an oxymoron?"

Way to foster rational debate; you make raise some interesting questions, but because of the above I doubt it is worth discussing them with you.

by Mark Wilson on October 09, 2010
Mark Wilson

Sense of humour bypass there Mark B?

Lefty trait if ever i saw one.

Still doesn't answer the question about Minto and Co's hypocrisy does it? 

by Petra Paignton on October 10, 2010
Petra Paignton

To quote Kurt Vonnegut: "Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative."

Sad, but true. *sigh*

 

by Dave on October 12, 2010
Dave

Check this out and post your opinion.

 

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=421095&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=2444556303&aid=-1&id=100000429125798&oid=2444556303&fbid=160341830656787#!/group.php?gid=2444556303

by on March 07, 2011
Anonymous

I think Henry's comment was not well received. !!

As to who is a real new zealander, in 1769 I'd say just about anyone with a musket and a pile of blankets.   New zealanders are a bunch of every nationality on the planet who tried to make a better life, in a so called better country.

The facts are now people all over the world are growing tired of being put down and lied to ,sick of high food prices, sick of governents that waste money on themselves when others go hungry because there are no jobs. You only have to look at around the world to see the unrest, the have's and the underclass as Key puts it, well the tide is changing it is no longer acceptable to be discriminate, comments like he made did not only damage his image, but the image all of new Zealanders.

That was not and will not ever solve any situation of conflict.  No harm in asking, he could of asked for a maori elder, to reflect our history, but no he just had to add an insult to please his own ego.  Patience is not in the worlds vocabulary anymore, and few people use it.

 

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