I recommend this Spinoff article about National leader Simon Bridges’s and former protege Jami-Lee Ross’s conversation about the relative merits of different Asian ethnicities on the National candidates’ list. (The full conversation, recently leaked by Ross, is here.)
I have often noticed that Labour and the Greens are bad at putting forward elected representatives of Asian, especially Chinese descent. National have put forward more Asian and Chinese MPs, and I thought this was to their credit. However, this conversation gives insight into the ugly motivations behind National’s ethnic inclusion.
The starkest and most widely-quoted comment, “two Chinese would be more valuable than two Indians”, was made by Ross, who could be seen to have been deliberately goading Bridges to sound bad on a secret recording.
However, Bridges is far from off the hook—fact I’d say he’s more guilty than Ross of the cynical racist way of using rather than representing Asian communities. The topic of relative value of ethnicities was brought up in the conversation by Bridges, who said it “depends where we’re polling” as to whether they should have “Two Chinese” or “One Chinese [and] one Filipino”. The implication is that the only reason to have non-white people in the caucus is to win votes from those communities. Ross’s comment was a reflection and expansion of Bridges’ point. Also, Bridges agreed with Ross’s stark comment by offering a reflection and expansion of his own (rather than stepping in as a leader to correct Ross for expressing the issue in terms of relative value). Perhaps worst of all, Bridges also immediately thought of the two current Indian National MPs, saying “which is what we’ve got at the moment, right?”. This reveals that he thinks in these ways about his existing MPs, not just about hypothetical future MPs during a conversation about strategic nomination decisions to get ethnic communities on board.
Some 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.
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”.
I have undertaken cutting-edge statistical analysis of the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament, which has revealed some shocking information.
People of the following occupations are all extremely likely to own real property beyond the family home and Māori land interests:
Labour MP: 50%
National MP: 76.27%
Green MP: 50%
NZ First MP: 58.3% or 61.54%*
United Future MP: 100%
These rates are all extremely high – far higher than any ethnic or national group, for example. It is clear what we must do to curb property speculation and solve the housing crisis: Ban MPs from buying property in NZ.
*Info not available for new MP Ria Bond.
So Ridley Scott is bringing out a movie version of the Exodus story – Exodus: Gods and Kings. It’s the latest biblical blockbuster to cast mostly white actors to play Middle-Eastern people. It looks like this will be a particularly bad example: all the major and powerful characters are white, while thieves, servants and assassins are black. This is yet another example of the “perpetual maintenance of the White savior standing over the ethnic servant/villain/imbecile.”
The sad irony is the Exodus is the prototypical story of liberation of an oppressed group (e.g. people of colour) from a dominant empire (e.g. white-dominated capitalism/film industry), as noted by Liberation Theologians, or in fact any orthodox theologians/historians.
I don’t think it’s blasphemous to paraphrase Exodus 2:23-25 thusly:
“The P.O.C. groaned in their racist oppression and cried out, and their cry for help because of their racist oppression went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the P.O.C. and was concerned about them.”
(The paraphrased story doesn’t end well for Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox, by the way)
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that 5 1/2 years after graduating from the University of Canterbury, I’ve got myself embroiled in student media/politics again. But this time, instead of contributing to Pun Network News or trying (unsuccessfully) to bring down the UCSA status quo, I’ve responded to a face-palm-worthy Canta article defending inequality. I take aim at all-too-common, evidence-free, essentially religious arguments for inequality and capitalism. You can read it here.
I’m not embarrassed to have my article appear in a new alternative publication, Counta, set up by a group of students fed up with the anti-intellectualism and political illiteracy of mainstream student politics/media at Canterbury at the moment. Counta were happy to publish the response when Canta declined.
I’m also not embarrassed to say I was inspired to respond by a lot of evidence and research suggested by friends in MarxSoc, which enabled me to put together a well-researched response I’m pretty happy with.
So, although there’s plenty of disturbing, disappointing and depressing stuff happening in student politics at Canterbury, there’s also some encouraging signs in informed student resistance, and awesome groups like Students for Participatory Democracy, FemSoc, MarxSoc and UC POLS. These groups make me want to get embroiled in student politics again. If you’re at Canterbury (as a student or a staff member, like me), I recommend you check them out.