What should I think about Dunne?

datePosted on 19:23, June 9th, 2013 by Anita

The thing that has struck me about the current Dunne based fuss is the number of times I end up saying “I just don’t know what I should think …”

1) Should Dunne have released the email content he received?

I started off thinking “it depends if they were sent in a professional or personal capacity”. If he had emails from a school principal talking about the effects on current special education funding on workloads, I feel like they should be released. If he had emails from the same principal about her frustrations with the RMA process and the townhouses being built which will shade out her garden, then they shouldn’t be released without her permission. Similarly, I think, if they are in a professional capacity but contain personal information about either the writer or, even more so, they should be withheld (for example principal talking about the effects on a particular student).

Then… does it matter that the emails were from a journalist? … I think so … both because she should have been more aware than most people who email a Minister about how the system works (so should have less expectation of privacy perhaps) and also because we rely on journalists to make things open which would otherwise be hidden from us (so, perhaps, should have more expectation of discretion).

So… I dunno :)

2) Couldn’t he have released the contents to David Henry based on an agreement that Henry wouldn’t further release them…

I think no. If the issue is privacy then no, showing them to Henry is unfair on the individual’s privacy. We’ve all seen situations in which a secret was told to “just one other person”, causing distress to the person whose secret it actually was.

On the other hand … if we’re talking about protecting how journalism needs to work to serve the public rather than protecting privacy … still probably no. The whole point of the Henry report was to find out how the leak occurred, if Vance wanted to contribute to that discussion (to rule out Dunne, for example) she is free to do that by releasing her emails – it is not up to Dunne to make that choice for her.

3) Should we be discussing Dunne’s motivations?

I think yes … but a little less salacious glee would be nice, and some care of other people’s privacy is required. Dunne is a public figure, who has admitted to doing a foolish thing in his public role – discussing the why is a reasonable thing. But … there is a point at which is just becomes prurience or schadenfreude. There is also a point at which is crosses a line into delving into other people’s lives way more than can be justified if we’re only interested in why one man did a foolish thing.

4) Should Vance’s role in all of this be up for discussion?

Um… no idea :) Discussing how journalists get their information seems up for discussion, unevidenced discussions of her personal life and ethics not so much. But… and this I am sure of … if someone wants her role to be up for discussion they should explicitly raise it “Vance did this thing here, and it is good/bad/ethical/unethical/whatever”, the problem at the moment is that no-one is actually saying that, they’re just all saying things about someone else and in passing accusing her of something left grey and unable to be responded to.

5) Is there a thread of sexism in here that we should be aware of?

I think so. When Peters says “there’s no fool like an old fool” he is explicitly calling on a stereotype about older men – and we can discuss whether it’s fair or accurate or relevant. But he is also implicitly reinforcing a stereotype about pretty young women who use their feminine wiles to further their careers – and we don’t seem to have room to debate that. I think that young women, working in politics, journalism, or anywhere else, could live without any more reinforcement of the view that it is blindingly obviously and completely normal they use sex to get ahead.

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2 Responses to “What should I think about Dunne?”

  1. Hugh on June 10th, 2013 at 15:55

    “Discussing how journalists get their information seems up for discussion, unevidenced discussions of her personal life and ethics not so much”

    It seems rather hard to discuss how she gets information without also discussing her personal ethics – unless we’re just discussing the different ethical ways she could have got it, which strikes me as a not particularly useful question.

  2. [...] few days old, but Anita on Kiwipolitico asks What should I think about Dunne? I dare say quite a few bloggers are asking the same question. Interestingly, Martyn Bradbury asks a [...]

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