The perils of Paul (updated).

The flap over Paul Henry’s latest remarks got me to thinking. First, why was John Key smirking and downplaying the obvious racist content of Henry’s questions about what a “proper” Kiwi should look like? Why did Key instead not point blank admonish Henry for his remark, or at least give him the rope to hang himself with by asking him what HE thought a New Zealander looked like? Why did Phil Goff say that  the incident was “Paul being Paul” rather than put the wood into him? Why did the TVNZ spokesperson claim that Henry says what other people think but do not want to say? Is that a fact that I missed somewhere? Am I being too PC in thinking that with this latest remark Henry has truly jumped the shark? Or is the silent majority in NZ really a bunch of closet bigots for whom Paul Henry is a champion? (and if so, that is too close to the Tea Party/Sarah Palin connection for comfort). Has the turn to market egotism driven so deep into the NZ collective psyche that such remarks are considered tolerable or even funny?

For a guy about to return to NZ and seek citizenship after 13 years of permanent residency, these are more than casual questions.

UPDATE: Henry really is the bigot gift that keeps on giving. In his on-air (non) “apology” the day after his first comments about the GG, not only does he not apologise for the remarks themselves (instead he apologies for any offense they may have caused), but he then goes on to use a slur for Roma (gypsy) while saying that he is of a less distinguished background than Sir Anand because he (Henry) is of half Roma descent apparently. So the bottom line for Mr. Henry is that there are in fact superior and inferior people based upon their inherent characteristics rather than their individual merits or flaws, and using pejorative slurs is Ok so long as one can claim kinship to the insulted group. In sum: Henry uses an ethnic slur while falsely apologising for a racist question. Priceless.

19 thoughts on “The perils of Paul (updated).

  1. I didn’t like the quip either.

    For some reason TV ONE presenters tend to get away with such remarks.. if they don’t then we will hear more tonite on ONE NEWS …This is probably the third time PH has been pulled up on remarks

  2. The TVNZ PR statement is just a pro forma sop that leaves the real questions unanswered.

  3. Looking at General Election voting patterns by booth, suburb and region when you have the time, gives a clue. But not a definitive answer when you take into account the aspirational voters. Rural people may be urban runaways these days so the ‘bag’ has had a good shake since the 1980s.

    My seat of the pants view after being born in NZ 54 years back and lived here since is that about 40% of kiwis are regularly of a darker, conservative, reactionary, sadistic and curtain twitching bent. There are small groups off the radar too that avoid the 5 yearly census at all costs. Which is ultimately to their detriment as the stats help determine where resources are allocated.

    The good news is the rest are not so bad. The landscape has some good bits too. But don’t buy into kiwiana or the fluffy animal status that LOTR Sir Jackson seems to have achieved.

    Live here by all means Pablo, Lawyers, guns and money are definitely not needed as often in Aotearoa as in some other spots.

  4. Pablo, sorry for the derail, but as a Latin America expert I would love to get your take on Dilma Rouseff’s victory in the current election.

  5. Pablo, I was going to post on this as well.

    When I was a wee kid one of my favourite books was Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like by Jay Williams, with glorious illustrations by Mercer Mayer. It’s an old story of a well-known sort set in Three Kingdoms-era China about a kid called Han, the only person who believes the small, fat, bald old man who turns up at the gates when he tells them he is actually the dragon they have been praying for to save them from the barbarian hordes. The dragon nearly lets the barbarians slaughter ’em all, but comes through with his dragon might because of the kindness shown to him by Han. Someone should buy Paul Henry a copy. He can’t have mine, though, I need to read it to my kids.

    Back here in the real world, it takes more than one kid to avert the disasters which result when your country’s reputation for arrogant and insensitive idiocy — toward our own people, much less other people — is not offset by considerable economic, diplomatic or military might. Japan and China can largely get away with inculcated racism directed against their internal minorities and near-neighbours; the USA can as well. We can’t.

    As you say, a good start would be the Prime Minister and Opposition leader taking the place of the small boy. Maybe they could get a small boy to front Breakfast, as well. Would certainly cut out the needless titty jokes.


  6. Decades ago, GBS explained JK’s lack of response.
    ” I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it. ”

    Henry is a tragic trainee shock jock trying to boost ratings in the faint hope that some sentient beings will join his audience to improve advertising revenue.

    Goff had forgotten where he left his spine last night, and still hopes Paul will invite him onto the show one day.

    There’s no chance the silent majority are closet racists, most racists are like other minority groups. They group together and become more shrill than a circular saw with reversed blade cutting corrugated iron. You’ll find them responding anonymously on talkback radio and in blogosphere comments.

    There’s a high level of curiousity about cultural issues in 21st century NZ, rather than fear. Many people still are made wary by cultural differences, but judge individual strangers by behaviour and interaction via personal meetings and from friends perceptions, rather than racial/cultural sterotypes. Far from perfect, but also great progress from a generation ago.

    The consequence of Henry’s boorish behaviour is that a lot more people have learnt about the achievements of our Kiwi GG, and now understand why he has the job.

    If people really wanted to curtail such boorishness from media critters, they would start reminding advertisers about the unacceptable content of shows around their expensive advertising spot.

  7. Judging from the comments on the Herald feedback site and over at DPF’s place, I am not so sure Bruce. There sure is a lot of Pakeha rage/bigotry/cultural hatred going on from what I can see–and many who are not outright racists or bigots complain that the GG got his job during the 5th Labour govt precisely because of his ethnicity rather than on merit (i.e. for PC reasons).

    Hugh: I am going to do a post on Rouseff, Chavez and Castro in a forthcoming post. Can you guess what the common links are?

  8. Key didn’t say anything at the tme because Henry’s a nice easy patsy interviewer who asks the easy questions. Why antagonise such an ally?

    Phil Goff’s failure to strongly condemn Henry is more puzzling. Was he simply too afraid to take on the “Peoples Choice” award winner? Is he courting the redneck vote? If Goff thinks such prevarication and pussyfooting will see Labour in with a shot in 2011 then he’s dreaming.

    Pablo, fear not: Hanry may think the GG is not “one of us”, but I genuinely believed he crossed a line today, and it’s telling that the only person I’ve heard defending him today is Cameron Slater.

  9. Judging from the comments on the Herald feedback site and over at DPF’s place, I am not so sure Bruce. There sure is a lot of Pakeha rage/bigotry/cultural hatred going on from what I can see–and many who are not outright racists or bigots complain that the GG got his job during the 5th Labour govt precisely because of his ethnicity rather than on merit (i.e. for PC reasons).

    Pablo, the internet encourages loons who, but for an outlet for their insanity provided by the web, would be content to let the magical fairy voices stay in their heads. If the likes of Herald polls and Kiwiblog were indicative of what society actually believes we’d have tanks on Queen Street.

    We are by no means a perfect society, but most people in New Zealand are decent and tolerant.

  10. Nope. Fidel was a centrist and more known as an athlete until he went to law school. Chavez was a non-political youth, then right leaning Army Officer until the 1990s (when he was in his 30s). Dilma was the real deal in her early 20s.

    You’ll have to wait until the post..

  11. Well, I was counting Castro’s time as a twenty-something as “youthful”, but it seems you’re right re: Chavez – I think I may have confused his biography with another left-wing army politico from Latin America, maybe a Chilean. I guess I’ll just have to wait.

  12. Actually Hugh,

    Fidel did not fully embrace Marxism until 1961, His revolution was nationalist-populist in nature, with some social democratic tendencies. All of these were squeezed out of him by the big power play he got involved in and in which he felt forced to choose sides (given the nature of the Bay of Pigs invasion).

    Chavez, the leader of two failed coups against the oligarchic democracy of the Accion Democratica and COPEI governments that had rotated in office since 1959, was a non-political paratrooper until the coup attempts, which did not have a particular ideological flavour and were more anti-corruption based than anything else. He discovered his socialism once in power, and particularly after the aborted coup against him in 2002. Even then, he is more of an authoritarian populist than a true socialist, whereas Fidel is a historical relic more than an enduring advertisement for the wonders of socialismo.

  13. Pablo

    Did I say Castro was a Marxist? I said he was a leftist revolutionary, and to me “nationalist-populist… with some social democratic tendencies” sounds leftist. As for him being a revolutionary, well, yea.

    But this is splitting hairs. I look forward to your post.

  14. Judging from the comments on the Herald feedback site and over at DPF’s place, I am not so sure Bruce. There sure is a lot of Pakeha rage/bigotry/cultural hatred going on from what I can see–and many who are not outright racists or bigots complain that the GG got his job during the 5th Labour govt precisely because of his ethnicity rather than on merit (i.e. for PC reasons).

    Scott has already ably replied. As I noted, racists aren’t closet dwellers, they congregate with fellow travellers and scream – often anonymously, and the blogosphere comments sections are a second home, after talkback radio.

    Who knows what criteria are actually applied for the GG position?. Tizard and Hardie Boys seem to have started the female, male, female, etc. cycle.

    Maybe it was simply the time for a cheerful, roly-poly, male, multi-lingual, Roman Catholic, former judge who had contributed much to government oversight, as well as supporting David Lange’s political campaign in the 1970s?. Who know the abilities/limitations of the other candidates, other than perhaps that Owen Glenn presumably hadn’t donated enough to the Labour party?.

    There’s no rule that suggests racists can’t also be paranoid conspiracy theorists. Without any compelling evidence, I’d still suggest they may be correlated.

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  16. Paul Henry: I dont think we should judge the opinions of New Zealanders by what is read on blogs or news paper comments sections, these things tend to be, in my experience, to be not very representative of general opinion.
    I do think there is a suspicion that the GG was appointed for political reasons, namely his ethnicity, but that was viewed as Labour party political correctness, and was never seen as a slur against Sir Anand. I have not seen anyone say the GG was not well qualified for the job, indeed this latest scandal is the only time I have seen the GG openly criticized in any way.

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