Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Graham Adams: Will the racists please stand up?

Accusations of racism by journalists and MPs are being called out.

With the election less than three weeks away, what co-governance means in practice — including in water management, education, planning law and local government — remains largely obscure. Which is hardly surprising when anyone who suggests that co-governance may not be fair or democratic has to be prepared to be accused of being racist. Or, perhaps, the target of the slightly less direct term “dog-whistling”, which has become the slur du jour.

However, one encouraging — albeit belated — development in recent months is that more journalists and politicians are asking those crying “racist” to be much clearer about who they are referring to.

Ryan Bridge, the co-host of breakfast show AM on Three, led the way when he interviewed Chris Hipkins in May. The Prime Minister has been quick to imply critics of Three Waters and other forms of “partnership” — such as bilingual road signs — are racist and he was obviously surprised by Bridge’s line of questioning.

Bridge asked the Prime Minister, “You have accused Chris Luxon of dog-whistling [over bilingual signs], which is a hugely provocative and damaging thing for him to be wearing. Who was he dog-whistling to, in your opinion?”

Hipkins sidestepped Luxon as an example and referred to comments by Simeon Brown, National’s transport spokesperson, that road signs should only be in English because “most people speak English”. He described the comments as a “dog whistle” and said National should be called out over them.

Bridge said he fully supported using bilingual road signs himself, but persisted in his interrogation over the words Hipkins had used. “Who was [Luxon] dog-whistling to — to ‘get votes’, as you put it?” he asked the Prime Minister. “Are you saying he is dog-whistling to racists?”

It slowly dawned on Hipkins that Bridge wouldn’t be deterred from his mission to expose his lazy and disreputable tactic. He blustered about there being “nothing to fear” from bilingual signs until Bridge asked again: “Are you saying that anybody who opposes the signs is inherently racist?”

Hipkins: “No, I’m not saying that at all.”

Bridge: “So who is he dog-whistling to?”

Backed into a corner, Hipkins offered a lame explanation: “There is a racist underbelly in some of the public dialogue around this, and that does seem to be an audience the National Party are trying to appeal to.”

So, it turned out that the problem in Hipkins’ mind was a vaguely defined “racist underbelly” — presumably akin to those whom Hillary Clinton famously and disastrously called “a basket of deplorables”.

Television host Moana Maniopoto took a similar tack as Hipkins when she interviewed Winston Peters in a sit-down interview last week, accusing the veteran politician of “dog-whistling”.

“Why would Māori vote for New Zealand First when you’re chucking out words like apartheid, when you’re against co-governance?… You‘re dog-whistling.”

“Oh, they are dogs, are they?” Peters asked. “So, according to you, these Māori are dogs?”

When Maniopoto claimed he was “twisting words”, Peters replied: “No, that’s what it means.”

The doozy, however, came late last week in the panel discussion after the first of the leaders’ debates that pitted Christopher Luxon against Chris Hipkins in what was a thoroughly anodyne match.

The panel discussion however, was anything but anodyne.

NZ Herald journalist Simon Wilson thought it would be a good idea to reprise the theme he had presented when he was interviewed by Moana Maniopoto in July, alongside like-minded panellists Tapu Misa, a journalist, and Rob Campbell, the former chair of Te Whatu Ora.

In that roundtable discussion on Te Ao with Moana, the discussion turned to co-governance and Three Waters. Wilson told his sympathetic crew: “The big thing that is driving opposition to the government — or one of the big things — is racism. It’s that simple. Racism underlines opposition to Three Waters. It underlines a whole lot of things and it’s at the level of ‘Māori have just been getting too much.’”

Presenting that view months later during the post-mortem of the leaders’ debate, however, went down like a lead balloon. Wilson was sandwiched between NZME head of business Fran O’Sullivan and the Taxpayers’ Union Jordan Williams, with the libertarian Damien Grant at the lectern.

Wilson claimed Act’s David Seymour had opportunistically “stirred up racial hatred” by his opposition to co-governance and that constituted racism on his part. He also maintained the topic was of relatively little concern to most voters.

Williams declared himself to also be a critic of Three Waters and the RMA reforms because he believed that “dividing us and our rights based on race” is the “biggest threat to our long-term prosperity”. He asked if Wilson thought his “genuine concerns” made him a racist.

Wilson tried to avoid giving a direct answer. But Damien Grant, as moderator, would not accept such evasiveness. He told him emphatically: “It’s a yes or no question. Is Jordan Williams a racist because he does not agree with co-governance?”

Wilson said “No” — which sparked an explosion of indignation from Grant. “So if Jordan Williams isn’t a racist, what about all the other people [like him]? Are they ‘They’re not racist,’ either? You cannot, sir, you cannot turn around to somebody and say, ‘Because you disagree with me on this issue, ipso facto, you must be a racist.’ The people who are stirring up racial hatred are [those] who infer, from someone’s political views, malice. And that, sir, is wrong and you shouldn’t do it. You are a member of the Fourth Estate. You should do better.”

Grant might have also quoted an observation at that point by economist and political philosopher Thomas Sowell: “Racism is not dead, but it is on life support — kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as ‘racists’.”

Fran O’Sullivan then added to the withering fire with another impassioned statement of her own, which also received a burst of applause. She referenced a “whole range of topics that aren’t talked about” — including gender ideology — and concluded, “There is something pretty damn evil in society at the moment” that stops civil discussion and cancels people or labels them “racists, Terfs, or whatever… and this has got to stop”.

It shouldn’t be at all remarkable, of course, that a journalist or anyone else in public life should so directly and forcefully speak in favour of free speech as Damien Grant and Fran O’Sullivan did, but unfortunately it is. Consequently, the response on social media has been overwhelmingly one of jubilation — and gratitude.

The fact that commentators mounting a public defence of free speech have been so rapturously applauded must also be seen as a sad indictment of the stifling and oppressive atmosphere that has become entrenched under the Ardern-Hipkins government over discussing contentious issues. Not least because of the requirement that any media organisation wanting to access the $55 million on offer via the Public Interest Journalism Fund has had to view the Treaty as a “partnership”.

The hope for more direct and open public debate is one of the propellants for a change of government next month. After all, David Seymour is a fierce advocate of free speech and Christopher Luxon has echoed him, albeit much more faintly.

As the USSR’s leader Mikhail Gorbachev said in a speech in 1986 referring to his new policy of freer dialogue and transparency known as glasnost: “Those who attempt to suppress the fresh voice, the just voice… need to get out of the way.”

Graham Adams is an Auckland-based freelance editor, journalist and columnist. This article was originally published by and is published here with kind permission.


Anna Mouse said...

Graham, what is actually sadder for New Zealand is that free speech has been killed using a planned method with deliberate affect. A similar plan was used in a European country during the 1930's.....

Even today we still have an ex PM that espouses views that free speech is a weapon of war and the UN, the WHO, the elites and academia seem to love those views.....

The current 'government' if you can call them that because governance has not been a forte but rather a regimented doctrinised ideology at play have in fact spent millions force feeding lies, propaganda and outright mis-truths through every sector of its communication channels.

Media companies, government ministries, quangos, charities and any single organisation or club that take any modicum of government money have been corrupted, bribed or blackmailed to hold the 'narrative' alive at every single turn.

We have become a nation state fearful of speaking truth, reason and fact primarily because free speech is now deemed hate speech. Every issue the left hold dear from gender, race and climate can not be broached in a reasoned critically analysed way because the ideology falls apart when reflected in a mirror.

Free speech is always the first casualty in a coup for peoples thinking and make no mistake this regime has assaulted every New Zealander from every corner across ever age group with a narrative that is based on ideology that is not fit for purpose.

It is not fit for purpose because it cannot be defended without these people removing your rights to defend it first. When politicians or any person has to take your ability to speak so that their voice is the only one heard, they are both cowards and bullies and as such should be treated with the contempt that cowards and bullies deserve.

DeeM said...

The only ones "dog-whistling" are so-called journalists like bull-terrier Simon Wilson who round up their MSM pack with a shrill whistle every time someone stands up to their overt racism.

And like well-behaved, but largely stupid hounds they come trotting out, all barking the same way and following the pack leader.
Most don't even know what they're barking about but you mustn't be seen to split from the pack or else they'll turn on you.

The NZ media most certainly has gone to the dogs!

Robert Arthur said...

Terms like gas lighting and dog whistling and a myriad other code expressions are very extensively used by commentators, journalists and Net addicts. But I suspect very few of the public know immediately what is meant or can give a succinct definitions. Journalists live in a world of their own. I guess I am reasonably informed but for a long time was uncertain of the exact meaning and even now do not find it easy to succinctly summarise. The labels are very seldom applied to maori utterances, despite being prime qualifiers for. The extensive maori press is riddled with examples.

If Hipkins thinks there is nothing to fear from cluttered bilingual signs (with conjured te reo prominently on top and in more readable colours) he has not read any of the submissions. Confusion, distraction, safety, efficiency at stake. It is these factors as underbelly which were the basis of my submissions, not racism.

It is incredible that critics of co governance (effectively maori control) are accused of racism but not the proponents and advocates of it.

When I was at school, not very long after WW2, we were told that it had all been about preservation of freedom and free speech. Yet in NZ now, with cancellation rampant, thoughtful persons are near as constrained as in pre war Germany. it appears that the the (confidential) election will free them.

Anonymous said...

Suppression of free speech = a totalitarian regime.

Anyone who cannot see the damage still being done by Ms Ardern in this regard must be dim witted.

Anonymous said...

It is going to be interesting to see how the Simon Wilsons of this land will fare when, please God, this corrupt government is history. I yearn for the day!

Anonymous said...

The Biden administration is allocating $5.7 million for mental-health counseling to protect journalists and experts from what they perceive as 'misinformation-driven harassment campaigns.'

This government-funded program, known as Expert Voices Together, aims to provide support and best practices for journalists facing online threats and abuse.

While framed as an initiative to ensure the well-being of media professionals, critics argue that it raises concerns about potential censorship and government intervention in online discourse.

This move highlights a growing divide between the media elites and the general public's perspectives.

What is the word for state/corporate collusion?

Graham Adams said...

Robert Arthur... ironically Labour has recently backed away from bilingual signs (for now anyway) on the grounds they could be "confusing" and might cause accidents!
So it appears Simeon Brown saying they could be confusing can no longer be classed as "dog-whistling" by Hipkins — unless Labour accepts the slur describes them too.

Grumpy said...

Just a quick comment on bilingual road signs - I'd say they're very much on the back burner now, but the idea will resurface at some stage. So, how do would-be drivers gain their licences?
Yes, they study all the road rules and pass an exam - all conducted in the english language, no matter how the individual might otherwise communicate.
It is not complicated; English is the accepted common language for this purpose, and must remain so.
Place names, now they can relate to Maori, English, French and so on, not an issue - but not instructions to drivers.

Anonymous said...

Apropos the bilingual road signs, in the Leader's Debate, Luxon (our PM in waiting, by default) expressed his agreement with them. How any sensible person, especially in these financially straitened and safety sensitive times, could endorse that is more than puzzling and speaks very much to the underlying character of the individual.

In terms of the 'slur du jour' and the cancel culture that goes hand in hand with it, it typifies today's "soundbite" society and when the context is explored in any depth, the claim usually founders for want of substance and it is the claimant who invariably is guilty of the charge made.