Sometimes it’s the apparently offhand remark, the casual throwaway line, that gives the game away. A journalist can convey almost as much with one loaded word as with a full-on rant.
In an item on National MP Georgina te Heuheu’s impending retirement last week, TV3 political editor Duncan Garner referred to her falling-out with former National leader Don Brash following Brash’s “now infamous Orewa speech” – Garner’s words – in 2004.
Let’s get this straight. “Infamous” means evil, vile or disgraceful. Brash’s Orewa speech, in which he attacked race-based privilege and advanced the perfectly laudable principle of one law for all, was infamous only in the eyes of Maori radicals, the political Left and much of the parliamentary press gallery.
The media attacks on Brash that followed his speech were some of the most savage I can recall, but his message resonated with the wider public and took a previously down-and-out National Party within a whisker of victory in 2005. That election gave Labour such a fright that it threw its previous fiscal prudence to the wind and embarked on a desperate three-year vote-buying campaign that substantially contributed to the mess we’re in now.
Garner’s use of the word “infamous” suggests that elements of the media are still determined to portray Brash as racist. But if Garner really considers the speech to have been infamous, he’s hopelessly out of touch with what most New Zealanders apparently think.
Nothing new there, of course. Political journalists may be up with the play in Wellington, but they’re ill-equipped to know what people are thinking in places like Dannevirke, Hamilton and Timaru – and don’t believe them when they try to convince you otherwise.
I have noticed in the past that Australian political journalists, who lean overwhelmingly to the Left, are never more vicious in their attacks on centre-Right politicians than when they sense conservative ideas are gaining traction. Perhaps we’re starting to see the same trend here.
On the other hand, maybe we should give Garner the benefit of the doubt. It’s entirely possible that a political editor who can’t pronounce Tuwharetoa (he insisted on inserting an extra syllable into it last night, not once but twice) doesn’t bother to check a dictionary to find out what “infamous” actually means.