When a spade’s a spade, let’s not be afraid to say so

March 19, 2014
This piece was published today on New Matilda.

Andrew Bolt’s ‘hurt’ over Marcia Langton’s comments was confected to force another humiliating backdown from the ABC, at a time when it’s already under threat, writes Martin Hirst

Andrew Bolt’s crocodile tears over being called a racist fool” by Marcia Langton were calculated to stir up more anti-ABC bile among his hardcore fans.

Despite claims to the contrary, Bolt himself would not be too much bothered by Langton’s comments; he is, after all, a champion of verbal abuse, nasty insinuation and downright mistruth. That makes this week’s apology on the the ABC’s Q&A program by host Tony Jones even weirder and more inappropriate.

If there was any offence at all, surely it was delivered by Langton and not by the program itself. That the ABC would apologise on behalf of a guest’s informed personal comment is extraordinary.

Where will it end? Will Mark Colvin have to apologise every time a guest or interviewee on PM criticises News Limited or the Prime Minister? Will Fran Kelly have to apologise to The Australian for daring to continue breathing?

This week, Langton herself apologised to Bolt on-air, on a different network, but in my view it was an apology born of hectoring and badgering, a token “sorry” offered to get Bolt and his trolls off her back as much as an indication of Langton’s real regret.

Langton issued a 19-page clarification, published on the Q&A website after the episode went to air, in which she said that she had only apologised for causing offence and hurt feelings, not “for my beliefs or my intention of trying to explain my beliefs”.

“I conclude that his singling out of ‘fair skinned’ Aboriginal people goes to the issue of ‘race’ and could be construed as racist,” Langton continued.

Anyone who pays even passing attention to Bolt’s disjointed meanderings in the Herald Sun can see for themselves that he is a hardened campaigner and a warrior for all that is good and right. A few pointy words would hurt him as much as a slap with a feather.

After all, in Eatock v Bolt, the Racial Discrimination case Bolt lost in 2011, he was judged to have failed to act “reasonably and in good faith”. His infamous comments about “light-skinned” Aborigines that landed him in court in the first place “contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language”, according to Justice Mordecai Bromberg

Let’s not forget he was not keen to apologise for that offence and also claimed to be the victim in that case.

If Bolt was serious about taking offence at Langton’s comments he could have made an official complaint to the ABC, which I understand he did not do. Instead he chose to make a media circus out of the issue in order to maximise the damage to the public broadcaster.

He was successful in that aim. Jones’ apology on behalf of the network was another abject pre-emptive retreat by the ABC in the face of ongoing and concerted bomb-chucking from the News Limited bunkers.

The conservative commentariat is emboldened by such moves and by the tacit support given to their feigned outrage and conveniently hurt feelings by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his senior ministers.

That the Prime Minister also considers it appropriate to comment on an ongoing legal stoush between the ABC and another News Limited hack, should signal that this government knows no bounds in its desire to nobble any independent and critical reporting of its actions.

His thinly-veiled warning that Cabinet will consider cutting the ABC’s already stretched funds even further in the May budget, because the public broadcaster has dared to defend itself in the Chris Kenny “sex with a dog” defamation suit against The Chaser, should send shivers down the spine of every comedy producer in the country.

If satire can be curtailed so easily through defamation actions, and a flagship current affairs program bullied into an unnecessary and uncalled for apology, then those of us who appreciate the ABCs independent take on the world will need to mobilise.

If we stand back and watch as the political attacks on the ABC gain in strength and frequency, we will only have ourselves to blame when the national broadcaster goes down in flames.

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Free speech fetishist Tim Wilson is nasty, racist and wrong: he should resign

March 16, 2014

Australia’s recently-minted ‘Human Rights Commissioner’ says he believes in the rights of individuals, not of groups. In the Fairfax press Wilson is quoted thusly:

“I believe in individual rights, not in group rights,” Wilson says.

I’m not really sorry Tim, but this is utter cant and crap that completely underlines the point that your appointment was politically-motivated and entirely inappropriate.

I have written this open letter to Tim Wilson, urging him to resign.

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A crackdown on the boats – but who is the message aimed at

July 21, 2013

The politics of Kevin Rudd’s lurch to the right on asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat are horrible and predictable from a desparate man who wants to wedge his political opponent and neutralise a damaging election issue.

That @KRuddMP is a hypocritical piece of racist shit goes without saying, but it’s worth saying anyway.

In 2010 he rightly criticised Julia Gillard for a proposing rightward shift in an attempt to appease the horribly racist core of Australian voters who think refugees are stealing jobs, etc. In a bid to hang on the Prime Ministership at that time, this is what Rudd had to say:

In 2010, Mr Rudd called a press conference after former Prime Minister Julia Gillard tapped him on the shoulder for a ballot.

His speech was his plea to caucus to keep him, and the main point he made was: “this party and government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum seekers as some have counselled us to do”.

After spectacularly promising that there would be no lurch to the right and after calling for a more humanitarian approach to asylum seekers, Rudd has done a 180 degree ‘pivot’ on the issue so that disaffected Labor voters who might be toying with voting for the #Abbocolypse because of the Mad Monk’s cute little three-word slogan “STOP THE BOATS” would think again. He is now saying he won’t “lurch to the left”.

What the PM has done is launch a cynical attack on potential refugees — he called them a “scourge” this week — knowing full-well that no matter how much it upsets and alarms refugee supporters it is not going to make them vote for the coalition. Any protest vote we make to the left of Labor will eventually flow back in preferences.

Rudd knows this and so in his maniacal and overwhelming desire to regain and hold onto the Prime Ministership he is prepared to abandon every principle he ever had.

We should not be surprised by this. Rudd is like all the other creatures in the Parliamentary wing of the ALP — including the fake lefts Kim Carr and Albo, Cameron, etc —  he is a careerist and an opportunist and, it seems, a heartless bastard to boot.

Not one of the left-bum-cheek excuses for a Labor Party caucus member, not even the caring and sharing women, will dare to say anything against this travesty and denial of what they claim to stand for. Instead, they will sit quietly and look away, pretending it’s not about them and silently praying that this monster will deliver them another four years on the Treasury benches.

As a piece of political theatre Rudd’s ruthless demonising of Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans, Sri Lankans and other asylum seekers was brilliant. But, it won’t stop the boats. As many have pointed out, dealing with the causes of the exodus from source countries requires more aid and more humanitarian policies.

It might also require an admission that Australia’s role in the global (and laughable) “war on terror” and decade long occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan might have something to do with the humanitarian crisis that causes global population flows (‘refugees’, if you like). None of that is likely from KRudd and his spineless caucus colleagues.

I think that the real target of Labor’s new slogan: You won’t be settled in Australia, is not asylum seekers waiting for the next leaky boat in Indonesia and it’s not Iranians contemplating leaving Iran because of political persecution (Rudd’s so-called ‘economic’ refugees — at this point I need to expel one almighty “GET FUCKED!” in his direction).

The real target of the reactionary and inhumane slogan – which incidentally breaches just about every UN protocol on the treatment of refugees – is Australian voters.

It has to be. How else can you explain the decision to spend a boatload of cash on placing full-page advertisements in the Australian national press this weekend.

How many copies of The Australian, the SMH, the Daily Telegraph, the Age and the Herald-Sun are sold in Jakarta, Colombo, Kabul, Baghdad and Teheran? “Diddly-fucking-squat minus infinity” might be the right answer.

Of course News Limited and Fairfax Media give away hundreds of papers each day to the airlines so maybe the idea behind publishing the offensive ads was to make sure that the low-paid cleaners who service Qantas flights in far-away airports might pick up a discarded newspaper and show it to family members of friends thinking of making the perilous journey to Christmas Island by boat.

It is sure to change their minds.

Incidentally, now that this new ‘policy’ (excuse me while I barf copiously and wipe up the vomit with my Kevin 07 T-shirt) is in place and going forward, try Googling Immigration Department Australia, it is an interesting exercise:

The paid-for Google listing

The paid-for Google listing

The top-ranked hit is a paid-for spot and the link takes you straight to this.

I haven’t seen a television commercial carrying this message yet in Australia, but it can’t be far away.

And it won’t be tagged with “authorised by the Australian Labor Party, Canberra.” It will be badged as an “Australian government” ad, just like the others that are cloggiing up our TV screens at the moment, for the NDIS, the NBN and family payments.

I bet we won’t be seeing ads for the removal of FBT benefits for people who salary sacrifice cars though. This is a very unpopular policy and it seems to be the direct cause of hundreds of clerical workers losing their jobs in the novated lease industry.

Fucking great KRudd, you’ve staggered so far to the right that now middle income Australians who get a small tax break for buying a new car on a novated lease are being demonised as ‘fat cats’ by your government.

Next thing you know, anyone who complains about the disgusting, vile stinking mess that the modern Australian Labor Party has become, or who dares to remind people that it once had a strong working class ethos and actually defended the rights of workers who were fighting bosses for the eight-hour day, or that Labor fought racism to unionise the Chinese furniture makers of Melbourne, will be carted off to Manus Island and resettled in Papua New Guinea.

Lucky for us, KRudd regards that basket case as an “emerging democracy”. I, for one, can’t wait to enjoy my future there.

I know, this is an angry post, it needs to be. Sometimes it is good to get stuff off your chest.

In the end, I can always calm myself down. This time it might take a dose of jumping around the kitchen, singing loudly.

Let’s start with this one.


Another posting of the herbal baby soup hoax with racist overtones

June 26, 2012

Attention: EM’s explanation for reposting this:

It seems that some people cannot accept that this so-called news ‘story’ is a steaming bowl of racist crap, not real babies in soup.
I am always gob-smacked when the traffic to my ‘herbal soup’ thread jumps.
In the last couple of days I have tracked this back to Singapore.
It surfaces regularly. Same photos from Zhu Yu and same blood libel jibber jabber.
Even when one sane soul joins the thread and points out that the whole thing is fake some dribblejaws continue to want to believe it.

Update: 10pm Melbourne time:

I left a comment on the Singapore site of Breathing Asia, but they were still in moderation some 18 hours later.

Could be innocent, but for the record:

Breathing Asia, Living Singapore

I am beyond disgusted and being Chinese, I still need to say this, what is wrong with people in China?  WHy would you even come up with this?  Why are people drinking this?  Why are people proud to be able to purchase this?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!!

“The Baby Soup is called in the local jargon ‘Spare Rib Soup’ and is not available on a daily basis. The reporter who originally wrote the article in Chinese said that he had to wait a couple of weeks until a baby was available. A couple who had two daughters already had a third pregnancy which they aborted when they found out at 5 months it was again a girl. So they contacted the restaurant and sold their aborted daughter. Babies which are close to term (i.e. 9 months) cost 2,000 yuan (about US$ 290) The ones that are aborted earlier only…

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Oh Henry #4: He’s not a ‘legend’ and it’s not about freedom of speech

October 9, 2010

There are two or three types of ‘defence’ that supporters of Paul Henry are using to deflect criticism, or to argue that he’s not racist, just misunderstood.

None of them are really robust, but I’m sure that we’ll see more of it over the next few days as his future hangs in the balance.

At least today TVNZ boss Rick Ellis has signalled that Henry’s future – and indeed, his return to the Breakfast gig – is still far from certain.

“I think that as the week has progressed and the complaints have continued to roll into the company, you’ve really got to reassess things each day and I’ll be reflecting over the weekend and again on Monday as to where we go from here.”

[Paul Henry’s job future looking shaky]

Whatever Ellis might decide in the next few days, Henry’s defenders will try to make the following arguments:

  1. he was ‘only joking’ and shouldn’t be thought of as racist
  2. he went too far this time, but he’s generally a nice guy and very popular so allow him one or two mistakes
  3. you’re only picking on Henry because he’s conservative and he was only exercising his freedom of speech.

I don’t think the first two really stand up and they’ve both been analysed and discredited over the past week by many commentators. The ‘joke’ defence doesn’t stand up when you realise that Henry is a serial offender as I pointed out in ‘Oh Henry’ parts #1, #2 and #3. Henry may be a ‘nice guy’, but his image has taken a battering and his nasty streak is on display in concentrated form this week as everyone’s joined the dots.

[Note to new readers, or those stumbling on this at some distant future date – the background to all of this is contained in my earlier posts (linked above)]

And there’s no freedom of speech issue here either. Hate speech and blatant racism are not protected by any reasonable notion of free speech. That’s why these comments from Murray McCully are totally fatuous (I think that means ‘fart-like’):

Mr McCully this morning issued a statement saying he would also indicate to the Indian Government that Henry’s comments were the actions of one person.

He said freedom of speech was important in New Zealand.

“However it is always regrettable when a prominent individual abuses the freedom of expression, which is one of our basic rights, to cause offence to others.

“That is especially the case when the person offended against is a prominent public figure in another country.

[Henry’s remarks the actions of one person – McCully]

Were they really the actions of one person? Herald columnist Paul Thomas doesn’t find Henry amusing either and his comments about Ellis appearing to defend Henry on free speech grounds are spot on:

Henry’s stuff doesn’t crack me up.

Nor do I get what TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis is on about when he says Henry “pushes the boundaries and that’s important in a country that values freedom of speech”.

Does Henry engage in cutting satire at the expense of the rich and powerful? Does he champion unpopular causes? Does he challenge middle-class New Zealand’s complacent assumptions? Is he a subversive figure like the American comedian Lenny Bruce who suffered police harassment and blacklisting?

Henry’s such an anti-establishment gadfly that he has a weekly audience with the Prime Minister which is apparently a laugh a minute.

[Penny drops for Henry and his employer]

Yeah, Henry’s apologetics for John Key are awful and now, thankfully, they may be over and Key won’t get a free spot to talk up his lame-arse government at our expense.

There’s a number of issues here that have been highlighted by two comments on my post #3. In particular, how complicit is TVNZ management in Henry’s juvenile posturing and insulting banter?

One of my postgrad journalism students, Josh Gale, points out that Henry’s co-hosts don’t call him out, particularly on the infantile “dick shit” episode:

While I agree with you that in the Dixit video one of his colleagues is trying to correct him, the woman sitting next to him has a big fat grin on her face the whole time. This seems to be quite common. All of his co-hosts sit there and giggle at Paul’s ignorant comments, maybe, but only maybe, saying “oh Paul, you’re being silly” in the usual vacuous manner, but not showing any spine whatsoever. The money must be really really good to sit there like a coward and not say anything.

And media commentator John Drinnan also picked up on this point in his comments:

Josh makes a good point. I’ve also been surprised by TVNZ’s willingness to associate key journalists with untarnished reputation – like Peter Williams, Pippa Wetzell and Alison Mau [with Henry]. Why would you ask key editorial presenters -with reputations to protect- to laugh along at those sort of comments.

So really there are some good questions brewing that I think TVNZ news management now has to answer:

  1. What is the editorial policy regarding Paul Henry? Does he have carte blanche?
  2. What are the instructions given to producers to hold a line, or to rein in some of Henry’s more outrageous moments?
  3. Does Henry have instructions to be outrageous?
  4. Does TVNZ management approve of Henry’s clowning and insulting behaviour because it drives up ratings points?

I’m sure I’ll think of more over the next couple of days and feel free to add yours in the comments, but this last question is particularly interesting given the sort of positive response Henry’s actions have got from his loyal fans:

 

A reader poll from the Herald website

 

Government squirms …and so it should

It is great that John Key is still being criticised for his lame response to Henry – he laughed along with the joke – and the government is wriggling on a nasty hook at the moment.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully is also flapping and yapping in a vain attempt to hose down the growing international disquiet that Henry’s comments have set in motion.

Key has also said that the High Commissioner’s response is enough, but he has not apologised himself, nor has he adequately explained his complicit silence.

However, the Nationals may take some solace in the Dominion Post’s editorial from Wednesday last week. The paper’s leader writer opined that Henrygate should lead to the selling off “to the highest bidder” of the emotionally and financially crippled national broadcaster:

//

TVNZ’s belated recognition of the untenability of its position is yet another reason for the Government to consider the broadcaster’s future. With its puerile news service and near-constant diet of reality shows and foreign programmes, TVNZ is indistinguishable from its private-sector rivals. It should be sold to the highest bidder.

[Henry slur a sign of TVNZ’s weakness]

This is a disingenuous argument. One could [and I will] make the entirely opposite argument and suggest that the failure of TVNZ to control Henry’s child-like humour and nasty streak  [two sides of the playground bully] is a result of the unsatisfactory fence straddling that TVNZ has to do as a malformed public broadcaster with commercial imperatives.

It is the chase for ratings that brought Henry to TVNZ in the first place and it is the addiction to advertising revenue that has kept him there. If TVNZ was a real public broadcaster that was adequately funded then they could afford to ditch Henry and the peurile audience he generates.

Audrey Young hints at this in her column from the Herald today:

Paul Henry was respected by a cross-section of politicians in the past because he often subjugated his own right-wing opinions and played devil’s advocate.

He was more careful when Labour was in office, whether consciously or not. Helen Clark welcomed him to New York to do her first big media number of the United Nations.

But under National, he has taken and TVNZ has allowed him a freer rein.

That has morphed into a situation where he will say outrageous things – things he hopefully doesn’t believe – to get the attention he and the channel’s advertising executives crave.

[Careless words now diplomatic incident]

 


Oh Henry #3: What a dipstick! Does Paul play with his poos?

October 8, 2010

In the contretemps surrounding Paul Henry’s racist comments about the governor general we’ve (well I have, any way) forgotten about the also notorious and recent ‘dickshit’ remarks and juvenile giggling. But it can’t be left aside any longer.

The incident, from a  week earlier, is now front page news in India and the New Zealand High Commissioner has had to apologise to the Indian government for Henry’s actions.

Henry deliberately mispronounced and ridiculed the second name of Sheila Dikshit, who has been in the news after taking charge of the Commonwealth Games preparations.

Henry mispronounced the minister’s name as “Dik-shit” on air, despite being told it was pronounced “Dix-it”.

The Times of India is carrying the story prominently on its website.

This clip is very embarrassing. You can see how Henry’s colleagues are grimacing and trying to shut him up. But Henry is an out-of-control clown.

The man is a national liability. He certainly doesn’t showcase the clean, green image of New Zealand that the country is trying to project overseas.

There’s quite a bit of chatter now about Henry, including an interesting attempt at psychoanalysis by media commentator Brian Edwards. But does it end up excusing his juvenalia?

Update: I just need to say a belated congratulations to Ben Gracewood the technology guy who resigned his Breakfast gig to protest Henry’s racism.
What dignity and courage.TVNZ should sack Henry and ask Ben Gracewood to come back.
Check out Ben’s statement at No more breakfast.

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Oh Henry #2: Don’t shoot the messenger, but what will Beeza do?

October 7, 2010

It would be a travesty if TVNZ publicist Andi Brotherston is obliged to fall on her sword in the Paul Henry broohaha.

Brotherston made the now infamous comment that Henry was expressing what we all think, but are too scared to voice when he made racist comments about the New Zealand governor general.

She subsequently apologised in an email to TVNZ staff and now, inevitably, the email is in the public domain and Brotherston is taking the heat. This is a shame, Paul Henry has been allowed to slink off to wait it out under whichever muddy rock he currently calls home, but Brotherston is blowing in the wind and the story today is all about her.

The real issue here has to be what will Beeza do? So far Henry’s been suspended for two weeks by TVNZ, but he’ll be back on air soon enough and that will be don’t miss car crash TV. How long will the ill-tempered tosser be able to bite his tongue before bursting into glorious flaming wreckage? Let’s hope that this latest gaffe is enough to sink forever his chances of taking over from the talking moustache on Close Up.

But you know, I’ve just reviewed some Beeza cases against Henry over the past few years and most of the time he gets away with it and TVNZ is in there fighting for his right to be offensive. As they say: “That’s entertainment”. Actually, it’s not, as you will see…if you get to the end of this long post.

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