Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dave Witherow: Jabberwocky

For more than a year our state broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, has concealed the fact that it is engaged in a campaign to “change the linguistic landscape”. This radical new mission was far from voluntary. It was imposed from above, forced upon a supine RNZ staff following amendments to the Maori Language Act in 2016.

Few New Zealanders were aware that one of their most trusted institutions had been so fundamentally subverted, and no-one at RNZ, it would seem, thought fit to tell them (or even, as many of us might have hoped - to protest). But no, they just quietly went along - some of them minimally and probably reluctantly, but others with servile enthusiasm.

How long the deception would have persisted is anyone’s guess - not too much longer, I suspect, since more and more people were beginning to wonder what was happening to their once-familiar service.

The cat is now well out of the bag, and RNZ, its institutional duplicity exposed, has become increasingly defensive. What, after all, is RNZ’s proper role, and why should a taxpayer-funded and ostensibly independent broadcaster be covertly engaged in reconfiguring the language we all speak daily?

Damage control was urgently required, and thus, on 2nd December, Dr Don Brash - who had expressed some unease at the Maorification of RNZ, was interviewed on the Kim Hill programme (see HERE).

Hill started off with legalities. Did Dr Brash not realise, she said, that under RNZ’s charter the protection and promotion of te reo by RNZ was now a statutory responsibility?

This proved less than a king hit, with Dr Brash quietly pointing out that if so the charter was at fault. Te reo, he said, was more than adequately “protected and promoted” with 22 dedicated radio stations plus a television channel on air already, and, since the primary mission of RNZ was to communicate with its audience this should surely be done via English -the one language understood by everyone.

Hill continued in hostile fashion, and it soon became obvious that this “interview” was not intended to be an interview. There was no attempt to discuss the substance of the issue, or elucidate Dr Brash’s point of view. This was to be a ritual performance, with Dr Brash cast as the apostate, the malignant cell, to be reviled and scourged by Saint Kim of the Righteous Airwaves.

Kim did her hectoring best. She fired what she thought were killer questions and unanswerable propositions - and then, when reasoned responses were forthcoming, she huffed and blustered and shifted ground to the next “unanswerable” assertion.

The Treaty, inevitably, had an airing. It was a good treaty, opined Dr Brash - it enshrined our common citizenship, our equality before the law, and our democratic property rights. It was, as originally signed, a “wonderful foundation for nationhood”.

But this was not what Kim wanted to hear. The Treaty that she had in mind was a different one: a much more correct and up-to-date one - the latest revised product of the Waitangi Tribunal, perhaps, with different rights depending on race, and “principles” sprouting like mushrooms to the advantage of the usual suspects.

Dr Brash demurred. The original Treaty has been very clear. There had been no confusion about what it said: no confusion about citizenship, or equality, or about the vital matter of ceding sovereignty. But even these basics were now being questioned by self-interested revisionists (backed by the wretched Tribunal) and the Treaty, in Dr Brash’s view, was being turned into garbage.

Mistress Hill, for all her hectoring, made little progress. She tried the standard, familiar excuses for the preferential treatment of Maori - the legacy of colonisation, our domineering culture, our obligation to the tangata whenua.

But this backfired somewhat when Dr Brash quietly explained that Maori, in historical terms, were recent arrivals in New Zealand. The Moriori were here already - and thus it was they, not the newcomers, who were the genuine tangata whenua.

One could almost, over the airwaves, sense the Hill blood-pressure rising. Yes, said the Don. The real tangata were long gone - slaughtered by the Maori. Conveniently they were no longer around, and their claims could be heard no more.

Kim’s gaskets blew at last. Exasperated and spluttering, she terminated the “interview”.
It was all good theatre, and I must say I enjoyed it. Kim Hill’s bulldozing never worked, and by his unruffled good-manners Dr Brash showed once again the superiority of reason to prejudice.

But beyond theatre it must be said that the Brash/Hill interview exposed something very significant. It revealed, beyond any doubt, that our state broadcaster is now deeply committed to an unprecedented political project. No longer a neutral service, it is now engaged in the overt manipulation of its captive audience. And whether the listeners like it or not, it has accepted the authoritarian task of “changing the linguistic landscape”.

No objective observer should be surprised by this development. For twenty years and more we have been subjected to an insidious subversion of every aspect of New Zealand life - a government-backed racist programme that the general public is mostly unaware of.

Treaty-clauses, inserted by stealth, now permeate our legislation, each one transferring its quantum of preference to Maori. And thus our democracy is being chipped away, little by little, in a deliberate attritional process whose endpoint is apartheid.

The quislings of the liberal left invariably applaud this sedition. Blind to all but their own delusions they have colluded in the inversion of our most basic values. We are no longer all one people - as the original Treaty specified. We have different rights now, depending on race, and equality has been redefined as a dirty word - a synonym for racist prejudice.

Kim Hill does not speak Maori, and neither does she understand it. Her defence of its enforced intrusion on RNZ is essentially ideological - as her encounter with Dr. Brash so unequivocally demonstrated. But, as always with true believers, she can never confess to error, and when her orthodox defences were shredded by Brash, she sought refuge, ostrich-like, in an altogether novel direction.
“Obligatory te reo on RNZ?” Well, ventured Kim, plaintive now: “it’s kinda nice to listen to”. Three times, in different ways, she repeated this: “It’s kinda nice to listen to”.

We have, at this point, passed beyond anything that may be debated rationally. There is no accounting for individual tastes, and what sounds pleasant to one person may be cacophony to another. Orchestral music, the sound of the sea, wind in the trees, or the Buddhist chanting of OMMMMM - all have their adherents, and there may even be an idiosyncratic few who, for relaxation, listen to languages they don’t understand.

Kim Hill, as RNZ’s resident big-brain, is an unexpected candidate for self-deception. She believes, obviously, the we would all be improved by regular doses of te reo, and she is entitled to that belief. But to defend it - to persuade those beyond her own insular and self-regarding class - she must advance convincing arguments - and these she has failed to make.

“Kinda nice to listen to”.

Please, Kim, get a grip.

Dave Witherow, who is a long time columnist with the Otago Daily Times, emigrated to New Zealand from Northern Ireland in 1971. He's an author, script writer, and worked as a scientist for Fish and Game.


Wino Eliott said...

Great stuff Dave.

Grandad said...

Well reasoned comment. Thanks for your efforts.

Barry said...

I think it's time to close down NZ on Air. It's time to stop forcing taxpayers to fund RNZ with its ugly braying at us by our own employees such as Guyon Espiner and Kim Hill.

Wallyjr said...

Very good article Dave hope RNZ take note...

Nicklebum said...

I used to like Kim Hill & her style of interviewing which USUALLY had intelligent Questions. This sis not. In fact I wonder if she was put up to this by some higher authority in RNZ? Like the time the new cast of breakfast did the same thing in a discussion in his absence. That plus Kim's effort is tantamount to "bullying".
If you saw the same comments on a juvenile's phone about another, IT WOULD BE CLASSED AS BULLYING & be subject to legal action.

Ray S said...

You're tipping over a hornets nest here Dave, Go for it. Very reasoned assessment of the show. Well done.

Anonymous said...

I have lived overseas for many years and coming back on a regular basis I see the change in RNZ. However Air NZ has stepped into this mode as well. It is tiring but the "Progressives" continually require new material. The PC Brigade have reached such new heights it is now almost an Olympic quest. Not to be outdone the papers when reporting criminal activity seem to have lost the ability to give the reading public a meaningful description of the criminals but we have figured it out.


BiteMe said...

I heard Kim Hill hectoring and sneering away at Don Brash that day. Her inference, "stale, pale and male". Her liberal rod of moral superiority and smarmy self righteous correctness was cringe-worthy. Thankfully, legacy media is in rapid decline with the arrival of the Internet. Citizen journalists have more insight and enlightenment on display on platforms such Youtube and Twitter now than the staid old hacks of the MSM, plugging their same old tired horse manure narratives.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, very well reasoned. Good work!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting - something I could see was happening but had no idea it was sanctioned so. It has concerned me for quite a while now that most newsreaders, presenters and commentators have better Maori pronunciation than their English.

Russell said...

Wow, a ray of sunshine amid the gloom. Thanks so much for your common sense article.

Unknown said...

But this backfired somewhat when Dr Brash quietly explained that Maori, in historical terms, were recent arrivals in New Zealand. The Moriori were here already - and thus it was they, not the newcomers, who were the genuine tangata whenua.
That's a myth, based on the fact that moa hunting Maori appeared to be a different people. On the wairau bar the two cultures were found merging and it was concluded that Maori culture adapted to the loss of the moa by concentrating on growing kumara. This required building forts to protect areas with good growing conditions.
I don't agree Maori can be held to the treaty given that they had no conception of the numbers which would be arriving.
The rest of the post i agree with.

Kerry H said...

It's about time the CEO of RNZ is asked the question: "what do the listeners of this station want to hear?" I am so fed up with their obsession with the Maori language that I have stopped listening to all but a few programmes that are not pushing this barrow.

I've given up listening to Morning Report because of their bias and because Guyon Espiner has gone too far. And the news reporters signing off their articles with some words I don't understand make me realise that RNZ is not concerned about its listeners - they are proselytising instead and I don't like being preached at.

Kim Hill's attack on Don Brash was the finish for me so I don't listen to her anymore.

If the listener numbers keep falling then don't the rules of accountability kick in?

Anonymous said...

I think this te Reo thing and RNZ's fascination with the Maori wars is a smoke screen as Asians will overtake Maori in 2023. massey has been busy with RNZ (Noelle McCarthy - A Slice of Heaven Series - Immigration - "the arguments against are unsustainable) and TVNZ - Nigel Latta's The New New Zealand. Ranginui Walker clearly showed that the government side stepped Maori over immigration while RNZ sounded the clarion for immigration.
Notice how Brian Edwards criticised and then apologised Espiner and Espiner's wife's response to criticism: The complaints about Te Reo being used in mainstream media give me great heart looking to the future. This positive response might surprise some, but I believe we can view these people (and they're always the same people) as the rearguard of progress. As society shifts, they will continue to yap at our heels and protest, but the trend for Aotearoa is against bland mono-culturalism and fearful mono-lingualism.  A decade ago it was Māori Television. Today, it's using Te Reo on Morning Report and Breakfast TV and putting macrons in newspapers. In ten years time these things will be completely normal and there will be another battle, which the rearguard will again resist and lose. One heartening aspect is the trust survey which show journalists and politicians at the bottom.

Anonymous said...

Biculturalism involved a separation of nation and state and biculturalism is just a step towards multiculturalism (in the big scheme of things). What it means (I ponder) is a) picking representatives who represent the essence of a particular ethnic group b)giving them resources in the form of salaries and grants (grassroots have to scratch for donations -which usually looks like money down the drain) c) giving them positive media coverage. d) a general "institutionalisation of public discourse". The ultimate goal is a (successful) super ordinate national identity (that's why RNZ/TVNZ come up with the occasional "how Kiwi are you?" capmaigns with the aim of showing us well actually, we are from everywhere and anywhere

BiteMe said...

"Bland mono-culturalism" she says. So how's that multiculturalism working out for the good people of the UK, France and Germany. Those people whose countries are slowly but surely turning into what Donald Trump allegedly referred to as S...thole countries.

Dave said...

I used to work for RNZ back in the 70s, 80s and 90s it was a great organisation then, very good training and unbiased principals. Sadly RNZ or what is left of it has become a sad reflection of its former self taken over by liberal socialists intent on forcing their PC world view on everyone. Most journalists I mixed with over the past 30 years have been taught by our Polytechs and university's who have a very leftist view of the world, big business and re written history that fits their own agendas. This not only applies to Radio but also Television and the print media.
Unfortunately I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

One thing that is insidious is that they have the ability of hide (not tell us) how much resistance they are getting.

That was when comes the backlash came, or perhaps it was a white lash. I have two screens up while presenting Morning Report – one with the scripts and the programme run down and the other to watch the feedback coming in from texts, email and social media. I get a thrill speaking te reo live on radio. I love the sound of it coming back at me through the headphones and out into the world, mixed up with the very real fear that I might drop this new treasure I’m clutching but can’t fully control.

Then you read the text messages. Now I’m only talking about maybe ten messages from hundreds of thousands of listeners but grouped together straight after I’ve spoken they have quite an impact. “RNZ. Gee. Listen to Guy Esponsa go with his Maori,” wrote one listener from Gisborne, butchering several languages at once. “Dose he come with a grass skirt and dance with a spare too? How long before you have to wear shoe polish on your face?”
This pattern continued for a few weeks and then a funny thing happened. The barrage of texts and emails stopped. Oh a few still come in – more recently from Pākeha saying they are learning and want me to slow down so they can pick up the days and the dates. They’re genuine messages sent in good faith.

The moaners might not like it any more than they did but mostly they’ve stopped voicing their complaints. In a small way a new normal has been established. On Morning Report, a ‘mainstream’ news programme, you are going to hear greetings, temperatures, phrases, sentences, questions and place names – in Māori.

I decided to push it a little more. Kei hea te pūtea? I said to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, asking where the money was coming from for a transport project. Pātai tuatahi ki a koe, I said to National leader Bill English, signalling my first question. E rua, e rua, I nudged Marama Fox, on whether National and Labour were just the same.

I waited for the pushback from the audience but nothing came. Great. They must be ready for more.

Or could it be that without feedback people give up. It is highly unlikely a few people are offended.

The argument Brash advances reflects the view that colonised people should be grateful for the supposedly superior way of life they were given when Governor Hobson pronounced them citizens. He finds it aggravating (it makes him "utterly sick") that a culture he can't understand should make its way into his world.

He is, as the saying goes, on the wrong side of history. But we should not dismiss him as out of date and irrelevant. That was the mistake many Americans made as they cracked jokes about Donald Trump. Brash represents a view that has an audience. That is why his Orewa speech had such an impact. We should debate with him making it clear that hearing Maori on Morning Report is the future. And there is much more to come.

Maharey on Pundit

What we need is a worm

Anonymous said...

More on reaction (controlled feedback - ten of you 5000 of us)

RNZ chief executive and editor-in-chief Paul Thompson
RNZ's small but significant move to encourage staff to use Māori language as a natural part of their work has been generally well-received by audiences and most commentators.
Some of the commentary in the past week again aggravates a raw spot in the nation's consciousness. It is the same itch that Don Brash scratched so effectively while he led the National Party from 2003-2006.
Theirs is a world view that seems deeply uncomfortable with any shift in the pecking order and the rise of new sources of power, mana and cultural and intellectual authority.

So may be touching a nerve and be deeply unpopular?

Those who are discomfited by the rising currency of te reo will express their dismay in different ways.

Some will write incendiary opinion columns that read like satire. Or they will find fault in the quality of the pronunciation or pace of delivery, as if this is merely an issue of execution and not of deeply-held opposing principles.

Others will genuinely feel upset that they cannot understand what is being said and will switch radio stations, vainly seeking a source of unadulterated New Zealand English.

These are all legitimate responses and are views that should be aired, tested and discussed. Indeed, one of the good things about RNZ's use of te reo is the way it has been a catalyst for this conversation, almost as if we are all at a marae frankly debating an issue of contention and trying to reach a common understanding.

Is that a half-baked argument that there is some sort of discussion about it?

Followed by a justification:
RNZ has a statutory duty set out in its charter to "reflect New Zealand's cultural identity, including Māori language and culture". That is why we adopted a Maori strategy last year. We are having a crack at using the language usefully, without thinking we have to be perfectly fluent before doing so. And we will keep working hard to get better.

This seems a fairly basic undertaking for a public broadcaster that wants to reflect all that is unique and important to a nation of many parts but with a single destiny.

Diversity without unity

Juliet said...

I don't know Kim Hill personally but from listening to her programme for many years I know she thoroughly researches her interviewees and subjects. I have never heard her use Maori. Has anyone considered that she may have known her approach in the interview with Dr Don Brash would not faze him but would enable him to get his point across in his usual cool, calm, collected way? It worked.
As Dr Brash says there are many stations available for those who wish to hear Maori spoken. I do not and hearing it on my supposedly English speaking station does not encourage me to want to learn more. It is merely an irritant.