Category: pacifism

How to complain about Heather du Plessis-Allan’s racist comments

Women's_Mau_leaders_and_committee_in_front_of_octagonal_Mau_office_ca_1930_-_AJ_TattersallSome leaders of the Mau, a non-violent movement for Samoan liberation from harsh colonial rule by New Zealand. The New Zealand police killed eleven protestors at a Mau demonstration in 1929. 

 

What were her racist comments?

Some items from Mediawatch (Radio NZ) about radio host Heather du Plessis-Allan’s racist comments:

Broadcaster stands by Pacific Islands “leeches” claim (16 Sep 2018)

Mediawatch Midweek: 12 September 2018 (12 Sep 2018)

Media go OTT on PM as RNZAF VIP (9 Sep 2018)

 

How to complain:

The official process to complain to the Broadcasting Standards Authority is here. You have to complain to Newstalk ZB first, and then they have to respond within 20 days. If you’re not happy with your response you can escalate it to the BSA.

You can complain to Newstalk ZB either on their website here, or by filling out this BSA form and posting it to Newstalk ZB.

Here are some tips from the BSA about effective complaints. I wish I’d read this before I submitted my complaint.

 

The details you’ll need:

1. Station name, programme name, date, and time.

It is important to get these details right. ZB are using imprecise details as an excuse not to respond to complaints.

The station name is Newstalk ZB. The programme name is Wellington Mornings with Heather du Plessis-Allan, and it’s on at 8:30am to 12 noon on weekdays.

My best guess for the date of the first programme is Monday 4 September (as Mediawatch says it was the same day Barbara Dreaver was detained). My best guess for the second programme where she doubled down on her comments was Tuesday 12 September, because Mediawatch talked today about “last Tuesday”, but if it was Tues 5 Sep they could have covered it last week. I have asked Mediawatch on Twitter for confirmation of these dates, or – even better – for the full audio.

 

2. Precise details of what was said.

I suggest getting this from listening to the excerpts on the Mediawatch episodes. If I get the full audio, I’ll post that here.

 

What your complaint needs to say:

Your complaint should explain why the broadcast breached at least one of the eleven standards listed in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. There are some tips here about what each standard pertains to.

 

An example you can use (my complaint):

I just wrote this off the top of my head, and I would probably write it differently if I had read all the tips before writing it.

Nonetheless, it’s an example, so it may save you some time. (If anyone else has any examples, please let me know.)

Anyone is welcome to copy this as they wish for their own complaint. I don’t mind if you adapt it or not. No need to ask for permission or to cite me.

 

Which standards do you think were breached?

Standard 1 – Good taste and decency
Standard 3 – Children’s Interests
Standard 5 – Law and Order
Standard 6 – Discrimination and Denigration
Standard 8 – Balance
Standard 9 – Accuracy
Standard 11 – Fairness

 

Why do you think the programme breached those standards?

Please note that my complaint is both about the original broadcast from Heather du Plessis-Allan and also about the following Tuesday’s broadcast where du Plessis-Allan defends and stands by her comments. I have attempted to distinguish the two broadcasts in my below comments where practical.

Standard 1 – Good taste and decency. “Current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast.” Heather du Plessis-Allan said that the Pacific Islands (referring to independent countries and territories of Aotearoa New Zealand) “don’t matter”, asking rhetorically “what are we going to get out of them”, with the implied answer from her following comments being that we get nothing, as “they are nothing but leeches on us”. She also made other insulting comments about certain societies and people in them, as outlined in more detail below. This type of insult to entire societies breaches current norms of decency, as demonstrated by the widespread worldwide outrage earlier this year at US President Donald Trump’s comments referring to countries as “shithole countries”. du Plessis-Allan used a synonym for “shithole countries”, namely “hellhole” for Nauru. She also made similarly insulting and sweeping claims, such as referring to these societies as “nothing but leeches on [NZ]”, referring to “welfare sponging” in relation to some NZ citizens’ rights to superannuation in NZ territories, and suggesting in the following Tuesday’s broadcast Niue does not contribute anything to its own upkeep but that New Zealand aid is “funding all of Niue”.

Standard 3 – Children’s Interests. “Broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.” Whilst in the following Tuesday’s broadcast, du Plessis-Allan suggested that her comments were about the countries and their leaders, rather than the individual people in Aotearoa or in the islands, she also referred to individual people, such as people who live in New Zealand and then move back to Niue or other NZ territories with pension portability. Other comments in the original broadcast seemed also to refer to people, such as talking of “leeches” which is an insult that is typically applied to people rather than countries. (Other comments were more clearly about countries, such as calling Nauru a “hellhole”.) It cannot be reasonably claimed that no Pasifika children listening to the broadcast would take du Plessis-Allan’s comments as insulting to them as people, by reducing them to “nothing but leeches” who offer no benefit to New Zealand. It cannot be reasonably denied that this “might [have] adversely affect[ed] them”.

Standard 5 – Law and Order. “Programmes should not actively promote serious antisocial or illegal behaviour, including violence, suicide, serious crime and substance abuse.” Whilst not included in the list of examples, racism and/or xenophobia towards Pasifika peoples is serious antisocial behaviour. The programme actively promoted resentment towards Pacific Island nations as being nothing but “leeches” who “do not matter”, except, apparently, insofar as we should be upset at funding them.

Standard 6 – Discrimination and Denigration. “Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.” “‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment. ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.” du Plessis-Allan encouraged discrimination against a particular section of New Zealand citizens, namely Nieuan, Cook Island, and Tokelauan NZers who have moved from Aotearoa back to one of these three NZ territories. She opposes their right to receive NZ superannuation, whereas she does not oppose this right for other NZ citizens who also qualify for superannuation by living in New Zealand for the requisite number of years. du Plessis-Allan also encouraged, and indeed engaged in, denigration of a section of the NZ community (Pasifika people in NZ and its territories) and a section of the global community. She devalued the reputation of this section of the community by saying they do not matter, and that NZ does not get any benefit from them, because they are “nothing but leeches” on NZ.

Standard 8 – Balance. “When controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.” du Plessis-Allan brought into the public conversation a controversial issue of public importance, namely whether the Pacific Islands have any value or whether they are “nothing but leeches on us” that “do not matter”. While I have not listened to every Newstalk ZB broadcast since then to see what other views were aired, I am not aware of significant effort from Newstalk ZB to present other significant points of view on this issue of public importance.

Standard 9 – Accuracy. “Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:
• is accurate in relation to all material points of fact
• does not mislead.” “The requirement for accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact.” du Plessis-Allan made factually inaccurate comments, such as that “the Pacific Islands are nothing but leeches on us” that New Zealand does not benefit from these nations (despite many economic and other benefits to New Zealand, according to various official reports and statistics), that Niue is entirely funded by New Zealand, and that Nauru is a “hellhole”. She also gave a misleading impression of the rights of people in NZ territories to receive NZ superannuation if they qualify for it by having lived in NZ for the requisite amount of years, by portraying this right as “welfare sponging” and as an unfair imposition on New Zealand, without clarifying that this is the same right as that enjoyed by other NZ citizens who qualify for superannuation. These comments could be construed as statements of analysis, comment or opinion (and therefore exempt from this standard), but in later broadcasts she insisted that the “hellhole” description of Nauru was “factually correct” (she used the purported factuality as a defence of her right to make the comments).

Standard 11 – Fairness. “Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in any broadcast.” “If a person or organisation referred to or portrayed in a broadcast might be adversely affected, that person or organisation should usually be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment for the programme, before the broadcast.” du Plessis-Allan did not deal fairly with the Pacific Island nations (both nation-states and territories of New Zealand), their governments, and their people, when referring to them as “leeches” and saying they “do not matter”, saying that Niue is entirely funded by New Zealand, and saying Nauru is a “hellhole”. I am not aware of Newstalk ZB giving these people and organisations “a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment for the programme”.

Killing civilians

APTOPIX Ukraine Plane Emergency workers carry the body of one of the people killed when Flight MH17 was shot down
military-kill-civiliansA Gallup poll, of Americans by religious affiliation, about whether it’s ever justified for “the military” to target and kill civilians
individuals-kill-civiliansThe same poll, posing the same question about individuals or small groups
gazadeaths
Israeli and Palestinian soldiers and civilians killed in the Gaza conflict, as at July 31
shrinking palestine Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli-controlled land since 1946
afghan-child-killed A 4-yr-old Afghan boy killed in January by US Marines, who said the weather was “dusty” and they assumed he was an enemy.

John Key and the New Zealand Parliament are right to condemn the killing of 298 civilians on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and the impeding of investigations into it by Ukrainian separatists, and to express condolences to the victims’ families. Assuming it was a “tragic blunder,” it reminds us of the risks unrelated people are exposed to whenever anybody goes to war – a similar blunder was made by the US military in 1988, killing 290 civilians.

It’s a pity our government is not so decisive and unanimous in condemning the slaughter of civilians by our allies (or “very very good friends”).

The most obvious example at the moment is the Gaza conflict, in which over 1000 people (and counting) have died, mostly Palestinian civilians killed by our new allies, Israel. This is nothing new: since 2000, Israel have killed one Palestinian child every three days on average. The latest slaughter includes potential war crimes from Israel, such as deliberately targeting schools, hospitals, power plants and homes.

Here, Key has condemned the violence from both sides, pledged $250,000 humanitarian assistance for Gaza, called for a ceasefire and called the death toll “a blot on the world.” This is a good start, but his refusal to focus criticism on who’s doing most of the blotting (unlike Labour’s David Shearer or the Greens’ Kennedy Graham) makes his response ultimately inadequate.

Language like “Israel and Palestine have to learn to live side-by-side with each other” makes it sound like Israel and Palestine are two naughty kids who can’t stop fighting in the back seat of the car, rather than acknowledging that this is a situation of oppression and resistance (if that’s not clear to you, this video is a good, clear intro). Trying to be “balanced” or “neutral” on Israel/Palestine is exactly like being “balanced” on Australian colonial genocide or “neutral” between blacks and whites in apartheid South Africa. Israel bear the vast majority of responsibility for all those killed on both sides, because they’re in the position of the oppressor, coloniser and aggressor. Without acknowledging Israel’s occupation and domination of Palestine, we cannot understand the Israel-Palestine conflict, and without addressing it, we cannot genuinely hope for peace.

(Please note that I also oppose Hamas and Palestinian rocket attacks, for both ethical and tactical reasons. But it’s also vital to remember that in normal situations, people don’t elect governments like Hamas, or fire rockets at their neighbours. As Shearer, who worked for the UN in Israel, said: “It is not normal for 1.6 million Palestinians to be blockaded into a narrow strip of land, a situation that aptly fits its description as the largest prison camp in the world” and “These conditions will inevitably sow the seeds for further conflict if they’re not resolved.”)

Even worse is Key’s attitude to the killing of civilians by the United States, such as the hundreds of thousands (at least) killed by Bush’s war in Iraq, and the hundreds of children killed by Obama’s drone strikes. Even though Helen Clark ostensibly kept New Zealand out of the Iraq war, and drone strikes are contrary to international and NZ law, New Zealand assists with both of the above by providing intelligence gathered by the GCSB.

On this, we see nothing like the righteous indignation our Prime Minister expressed at the shooting down of Flight MH17, nor even the half-criticism of the Gaza slaughter. Key complained that we were “missing in action” in Iraq, has never bothered investigating whether drone strikes are compatible with international law (hint: they’re not), and is “totally comfortable” with GCSB data being used for drone attacks, even though they sometimes mistakenly kill the innocent, because they target “very bad people.”

If Key was “comfortable” with the killing of 298 people on Flight MH17, we would be appalled – we are rightly extremely uncomfortable with this act. We should be every bit as uncomfortable with the killing of civilians in “conventional” warfare by our powerful allies. In fact, we should be even more uncomfortable with the latter: as the Israel-Gaza example shows, our allies’ military superiority and position of dominance means they are able and willing to inflict far more damage on civilians, even if our media and politicians treat those people as less important.