Normally Radio NZ National’s The Panel is a pretty sound — if somewhat fluffy — current affairs show, in which the panelists are ideologically fairly diverse (though not occupationally diverse; mostly celebrities, PR flacks, or newspaper columnists). They tend to leave aside their more extravagant views to engage in a fairly civil and reasoned manner.
But when The Panel happens to have two people of similar ideological views or a common background, it tends to turn into an echo-chamber of congratulatory backslapping. Today it’s nothing more than talkback for self-righteous wealthy middle-aged people who — since they’re listening to National Radio — think talkback is beneath them, but like to have a good whinge about how society’s going to the dogs anyway. The guests are private investigator Julia Hartley Moore and former cop and current Police Ten-7 presenter Graham Bell, and the topics for discussion (and general timbre) are as follows (From memory, so I may omit some, but you get the idea):
- TV harmful for very young children: “We never had TV in my day, we went outside! Parents are using TV as a babysitter! Never did that in my day! TV is rotting childrens’ brains! There’s no excuse for ever doing anything other than what’s perfect, we always did!”
- Cellphones used to arrange and record fights: “I told you cellphones were bad, never come to any good, those things. We never had cellphones in my day, and even if we had them we’d never have gotten into fights. And even when we got into fights, it was all posturing, really, and nobody ever actually got hurt. It’s the parents’ fault, letting their kids watch TV.”
- Kent State massacre 40th anniversary: “Yeah, that was pretty bad.”
- People throwing litter from cars: “I can’t believe people do that, and people with flash cars as well! Never would have happened in my day.”
- Young people should be allowed to drink because they can vote and fight for their country: “I don’t think they should be allowed to do any of those things! In my day we got a bit pissed, and some of us still do, but that was different. These new alco-pops are ruining society! I blame the parents, what are they doing about this? Disgraceful.”
- No service at service stations: “PC OSH nanny state gone mad! Old ladies having to check their own oil and water? Total bollocks! Teenaged attendants who only take your money, was never like that in my day. And don’t get me started on pre-pay pumps…”
- Hypochondria: “I blame the internet, and the expectation that the medical profession can just provide a magical pill which will fix everything!”
- Roman Polanski reckons he’s done his time for drugging and raping a 13 year-old girl: “No way, he’s been living the good life. Throw the book at him — hang him high!”
Well, I sort of agree with the last one. But this is the sort of reactionary love-fest we expect from the rest of the opinion media, not from Radio NZ. It’s not the conservatism I can’t stand; it’s the absence of reflection and the naÃ¯ve belief that the world really is that simple.