A whole bunch of things in the New Zealand media and blogs are quite perplexing to watch from the other side of the world... For example, what's with the Kiwi media's swine flu excitement?
Columnists turn to Lists of Questions for several reasons. Such as laziness. They might have thought of questions which – if they were more energetic – they could actually go and get the answers to themselves. Or they might have one bright idea, but no idea how to make a whole column out of it. Or they may have in-jokes they want to make. (Public intellectual David Cohen does this all the time.) (See what I did there, David?)
In my case, I'm resorting to a bunch of questions for all of the above reasons (other than the ‘having one bright idea' thing. I don't have one of those).
And, mainly, because I am reading New Zealand news every few days, online, from the other side of the world, and there are some things back home that really don't seem to make that much sense from here....
First up, one for the weekend paper editors: You've published previous stories in your own papers about Tony Veitch's instability. The court case is now over and he's no longer a public figure. So, what is the argument for publishing stories like the weekend's ‘Veitch couple break-up' one, other than that it sells papers? Got anything at all?
Next, for all of you: How come the New Zealand media's so panicked about swine flu, compared to Europe? Yes, I know, it's a global pandemic, etc, etc. But New Zealand stories just seem a lot more excited than those I read here. Is anything about it worse in New Zealand than Europe? Are the Kiwis who are suffering sniffles feeling slightly worse than Europeans suffering sniffles?
Third, when and how did WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater become the new David Farrar – the right-wing blogger that the media turn to to make sense of things? When Close Up booked him to speak as an expert on the National Party, had they read his blog, which includes gems like "Why Homos Are Worse Than Chicks"? (He describes himself as "puerile". At least he is self-aware). In short: Did anybody do any research at all – or did they just think, "he's a Tory, it's late, nobody else will front, and he'll know what's going on"?
In the ensuing painful interview, Slater plainly knew less than his interviewer about what was going on in the National Party. So, can we assume he won't be asked on again, and can go back to writing in his special corner of the interweb?
Speaking of the likes of Slater: this whole trend of calling a certain gossip columnist "Pork Chop"... We get it: you think you are really cool and she's not, but was being twelve really that exciting for you that you just can't let go?
Moving on to gossip columnists: Did the New Zealand Herald ever actually settle with that woman mistaken for Donna Awatere-Huata? (As DAH's one-time press secretary, I believed it was her, and thought she was looking fabulous. Apparently, I hear, she actually is looking fabulous. Just not quite so... Asian.)
Wasn't Matt Chisholm's interview with Bridget Saunders captivating television?
But isn't it a bit sad that, as Kiwis, we only ever do hatchet jobs on people like Saunders after their careers are over? They're down on their luck, so we jump all over them, declaring that we always knew they were crap.... (Recent example: Richard Worth. Now, we all apparently knew that he was sleazy). Wouldn't it be nice to see more public figures taken on in this way when they still actually have some sway about town?
Speaking of Richard Worth, then: Sure, Phil Goff seems to have waded through the muck in this whole thing. But isn't David Farrar going a bit far when he calls Goff's "strikingly beautiful" description "hugely important" in outing the recipient of those text messages? Is it that much of a giveaway?
Didn't Wendy Petrie's wee fist-pump just show that she's endearingly human?
Is the Supercity thing interesting to anybody who doesn't live in Auckland?
Would the Immigration Minister have had more time to get to the bottom of, uh, immigration issues like this one if he hadn't been running around after Melissa Lee for the last little while as her ‘campaign manager'?
Is he to blame for it all going so badly for National there, then? Or is Cameron Slater (see above) right to say that Lee was "spiked by Labour's 3-1 spending on buying the election, a media intent on lobbying, and a party facing their Stalingrad and... so desperate to win they literally spent the taxpayers money to win it"?
(NB: when considering your answer to the above, perhaps consider that Slater also believes that Phil Goff was a "loser" in the Mount Albert election, although his candidate won.)
As for Labour, wouldn't you hope that Opposition MPs would have more to do with their time than inventing "Name the Budget" competitions on their shared blog, a la David Farrar's beloved "Count the Corks from the Wine I Drank Last Year" annual competition?
(And isn't it a bit sad that more people count Farrar's corks than want to answer a Labour MP's call to come up with witty names for the Budget).
Now that I've asked the last question: it's inevitable even fewer people will answer these questions than attempted either of those, isn't it?
Answers to any of the above are welcome, be they from public intellectuals or other readers. Alternatively, you can use this space to guess how many wine bottle corks David Farrar is up to now.