It is just impossible to dismiss the prejudice behind a lot of the criticism targeted at the rookie Green MP

The fact that Green MP Golriz Ghahraman now requires special security protection is an unqualified embarrassment. She's far from the first MP to get special security, but it is an abridgement of very rights and freedoms the MP's critics claim to stand for. And it is an indictment on everybody from the right of politics who doesn't stand up against harassment and bigotry perpetuated by their own side.

I think I may have come down on the opposite side of Ghahraman on almost every matter of public controversy. I don't think I've ever heard or read her say or write anything that I've found interesting or engaging. What's more, I take particular issue with her illiberal leanings on matters like freedom of expression. 

But the level of notice she attracts from some quarters on the right is deranged. There are so many people holding down-the-line, garden-variety liberal views that the special attention given to Ghahraman requires explanation. And it is just impossible to escape the conclusion that prejudice is a driving force in much of the visceral hatred some people feel for her. 

People like this are damaging New Zealand politics. It needs to stop. And if principled conservatives don't visibly separate themselves from that attitude, conservatism in this country will be justifiably damaged.  

I submit the following baby steps as starting points on the road to curing yourself of Ghahraman-Derangement-Syndrome: 

  • Don't call her "Golly". Using an infantilising nickname for somebody is childish at best and bullying at worst. Just don't do it. 
  • While you're at it, don't call her "Golriz" either. The woman is an elected member of Parliament. Accord her the dignity of not being overly familiar. If you're going to criticise her then, unless the you’re confident that it’s appropriate in the circumstances, use her surname in the same way that you would do for any other politician. 
  • Don't throw her origin story in her face. Ghahraman is a New Zealand citizen. She is entitled to all the rights of other New Zealand citizens. This includes the right to hold opinions that you think are bad to be bad. The fact that she was born in Iran is irrelevant to any critique of her ideas. 
  • Don't accuse her of being a secret Islamist theocrat. Ghahraman has said she is an agnostic, bordering on an atheist. The idea that such a person wants to implement an extreme interpretation of Islamic law is beyond ridiculous. People who argue that this is something she is secretly pushing for are also ridiculous. 
  • If you really can't bring yourself to treat an opponent with a minimum of dignity and respect, consider just not saying anything. Ghahraman is a first-term, backbench MP, not the PM. She's not even a government minister yet. It really isn't compulsory to be super-concerned with everything she says or does. Any compulsion to let Ghahraman live rent free in your head really says more about you than it does about her. 
  • Don’t bring her partner into it. Guy Williams can be something of lummox but it’s hard to see why Ghahraman should be answerable for the dumb stuff he says.  There are a number of politics-media pairings and there's not usually an expectation of joint and several liability. Not trying to make trouble for people’s domestic lives seems a pretty low bar to clear. 
  • Don't nod along politely to bad faith attacks. Far be it from me to advocate for a call-out culture. But when people cross the line, make your disagreement known. You don't actually have to be super-aggressive about it for them to get the message.  

None of this is really that hard. You don't have to agree with Ghahraman or even like her. You really just have to treat her the way you'd probably like to be treated yourself. 

It’s hard to believe the point has to be made. But here we are. Let's try not to have to come back again.

Comments (16)

by Matthew Percival on May 27, 2019
Matthew Percival

The cozy relationship between the Green Party and NZ journo's shows no sign of dissipating.

Firstly, Golriz doesn't "need" a security entourage. She's chosen to have one. There would hardly be an MP in the house who hasn't received a death threat yet there is only one who needs an entourage. Whenever she is criticised she always responds by playing the victim card. Her stock response is variations of "I'm a girl" and "I'm non-white". Lately an anxiety condition appears to have popped up out of nowhere to zero journalistic scrutiny.

Respect is earned, not given. Other MP's of the same political disposition are shown far more respect. Liam, you may wish to ponder for a moment why that is. Golriz herself does not engage respectfully, choosing to play identity politics bordering on hate speech against fair skinned New Zealanders. She has made anti-semitic statements all the while defending smiling selfies with people guilty of genocide.

Liam, you also re-invent the truth regarding Guy Williams. Guy involves himself by repeatedly making political statements. If he stayed out of the political debate nobody would engage with him. It's Guy's choice to get himself involved in the debate and that being his choice he can hardly expect people not to debate back with him.

The Golriz problem is exacerbated by our MSM who treat Green Party MP's differently to other parties. Can you imagine the reaction if any other MP lied through their first speech like Golriz did? Can you imagine the reaction if any other party recorded such an epic failure as the Greens and the Carbon Neutral Act? Russell Norman rated it 0/10 but in typical fashion the MSM continued on it's merry way cheerleading the Green Party and filling columns with more man bashing.  

by Alan Johnstone on May 27, 2019
Alan Johnstone

Largely agree, she seems entirely unsuited to the pressures and responsibilties of being an MP, unlike Chloe Swarbrick who seems to flourish in the role.

There's no need for the ad hominem attacks, many of them are truly awful and need to be condemed but that's no reason she should get a free pass for her iliberal attitude.

by Tim Watkin on May 27, 2019
Tim Watkin

Matthew, Liam has specifically said in his piece he finds calling Ghahraman by her first name disrespectful. To come on here and do exactly that is pretty childish, and disrespectful to him as well as her. 

You are more than welcome to disagree and make your case, but your comment is simply making Liam's point for him. As for Pundit, we welcome robust debate but expect some courtesy. Cheers.


by Matthew Percival on May 27, 2019
Matthew Percival

Tim, that people should call Golriz by her surname is Liam's opinion. It's his and his only, not mine. Be it Jacinda, Marama, Winston, Simon, Paula or David it is common place to refer to politicans by their first name. It is not a sign of disrespect in any way, shape or form. Where Liam derives this notion from is a mystery. Indeed you yourself have referred to me as Matthew, which is totally ok by me but hypocritical given your point.

I do however agree with Liam when he states she should not be referred to as Golly (or any derivative thereof). That is disrespectful in our society just as it is to refer to the Prime Minister as "Cindy" or a former Prime Minister as "DonKey". 

I don't agree that my post is disrespectful to Golriz or Liam. Your comment that I am childish in doing so is absurd and should be retracted.

by Liam Hehir on May 27, 2019
Liam Hehir

My personal view is that respect does not have to be earned but is to be assumed as an essential pre-requisite of a polite society.

by Dennis Frank on May 30, 2019
Dennis Frank

Seems like a reaction to what rabid commentators have written on other social media.  I don't inhabit such forums, but I agree with Liam that it's in the best interests of the political right to maintain standards of decency, and to be seen to act accordingly!

As for Liam's prescription, that seems well-conceived, although I have no problem with using christian names for politicians.  Such usage has gained considerable currency since the era when formality prevailed.

As regards her political stances, I haven't seen any that merit objection as yet.  The only valid criticism would be in regard to style, timing, and being open to considering the psychological reasons for the opposing point of view.  Politicians do need to be savvy and considerate.  Posturing just makes one seem a suitable target...

by Chris Morris on May 30, 2019
Chris Morris

I agree with a lot of the thrust of what Mr Pense wrote, but wouldn't have used those same words. It is very hard to feel much sympathy for Ms Ghahraman when she is just reaping a lot of the trouble from behaviour she has herself indulged in. One only has to see the Twitter comment she made in respect to her broadcast programme with Steven Franks “A lot of what he said was edited out for untruth and other legal reasons...imagine being that bad at debate” to see that she has a very elastic version of the truth. This is form as it is similar to her statements about being a war crimes trial lawyer. She was even caught out telling untruths; Rather than show contrition, or try to correct her statements with the correct information, she just plays the victim card.

She is only a backbench MP, but there is no reason why what she says and writes should not be treated with the same scrutiny as MPs in similar positions like say David Seymour. She chose to be a public figure. With that salary is supposed to go certain responsibilities and the attendant risks of public opprobrium. From what I understand, her “violence” threats were no worse than what many MPs receive. It was just she (or her party) decided to publicise them, playing the victim again and putting spin on the way. Not the police, just parliamentary security.

Ms Ghahraman would get a lot more respect if she treated the public, including those that would never vote for her, as she wants to be treated.

by Gregor W on May 31, 2019
Gregor W

" It is not a sign of disrespect in any way, shape or form. Where Liam derives this notion from is a mystery. Indeed you yourself have referred to me as Matthew, which is totally ok by me but hypocritical given your point."

It is absolutely disrepectful to refer people whose job infer honorifics by their first name.

Test: if you ever happen to be in front of a Judge, see how far you get calling them by their first name.

The fashion, particularly among the press, to forget this convention with politicians is a sign of arrogance and presumption, not cleverness. It's a shame it's being adopted wholesale.


To Hehir's point, respect for the office is not required to be earned. It's implicit within polite society.


by Lee Churchman on May 31, 2019
Lee Churchman

...use her surname in the same way that you would do for any other politician.

That rule is not observed in New Zealand. What about "Winston" or "Jacinda"? Hell, when I was growing up, most people referred to the PM as "Piggy". 

by Gregor W on May 31, 2019
Gregor W

"Hell, when I was growing up, most people referred to the PM as "Piggy". 

But never to his face.

I personally find it very strange when elements of the media refer to MPs by their first names. It's familiarity breeding contempt writ large.

by Gregor W on May 31, 2019
Gregor W

"Hell, when I was growing up, most people referred to the PM as "Piggy". 

But never to his face.

I personally find it very strange when elements of the media refer to MPs by their first names. It's familiarity breeding contempt writ large.

by Lee Churchman on May 31, 2019
Lee Churchman

but never to his face.

You wanna bet? Muldoon was quite happy to take it as well. 

by Gregor W on May 31, 2019
Gregor W

"You wanna bet?"

Yep - I'm pretty confident not a single reporter ever addressed Muldoon as "Piggy" rather than "Prime Minister" or maybe "Mr. Muldoon".

Some larrakin may have done it to be a smart-arse, but that doesn't detract from the point that it's inherently disrespectful to the office, irrespective of your opinion of the individual.

That's the distinction that I'm trying to make.

by Lee Churchman on June 01, 2019
Lee Churchman

Some larrakin may have done it to be a smart-arse.

So it's fair to say that were he alive today, people would call him it on social media. He'd probably laugh, like he used to at these things. 

by Ross on June 01, 2019

A rather unusual column, Liam. I've tried replacing the words Golriz Grahraman with David Seymour and it doesn't seem to work. Yet Seymour cops plenty of criticisim, much of it personal. Indeed Karl du Fresne said this earlier this week.

I was fascinated to learn last week that two years ago the "comedian" Guy Williams took a photo of Brash crossing a street in Ponsonby, Auckland, and posted it on Twitter with a comment indicating a desire to run him over.

Obviously, there was no real intent to carry out the threat and Williams later apologised. But the mere fact he expressed the thought, even flippantly, is telling.

It becomes even more intriguing when you learn Williams is the boyfriend of Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, who made a melodramatic pitch for public sympathy last week – supported by Williams – after ACT leader David Seymour upset her by calling her a menace to freedom because of her demands for tougher controls on what New Zealanders are permitted to say.

It's interesting to speculate on what might have happened if the names were re-arranged here and it was Seymour who had jokingly threatened to run Ghahraman down on Ponsonby Rd. I think we can safely say the Left would have been up on its hind legs demanding he be strung up.

by Ross on June 01, 2019

It should be noted that Grahraman is a master manipulator and you, Liam, seem to have fallen for such manpulation hook, line and sinker. I'm looking forward to your next column where you champion free speech.

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