Tuesday 12 February 2013

here we go again

somebody says something stupid about muslims.  then it has to be picked up by every media organisation who rush around for comments.  of course they'll find some muslims who will be angry and upset, given the serious stupidity of the comments.  then the media report how OUTRAGED those muslims are, as well as interviewing the original culprit to give more air to his views.

today they couldn't get the original culprit so they went for people with similar views, who then get a chance to put out more stupidity, while the interviewers put on the appropriate expression of incredulity at such ridiculouness, and continue to ask more questions designed to increase the level of such.

then you have the flow-on effect - talk-back, twitter, facebook.  and that's where the damage gets really done, and we go to have another go of the merry-go-round. freedom of speech.  but what he's saying is true.  look at all these awful things muslims have done.

we go through this once every 6 months or so.  if it's not women wearing burqa's banned from buses, it's cartoons, it's various politicians or authors.  some little spark and "we" get to have "the debate" all over again as to whether muslims are good or bad, happy or sad.  leaders of political parties get to have their faces in the news and posture about inclusiveness and to express OUTRAGE at such terrible remarks.  let's see how many political points we can score on the back of this current incident.

frankly, i'm sick of these conversations and i'm sick being used as a political tool.  and that is exactly what happened in this case.  the whole story started with david farrar, who wrote an oh-so-supportive post expressing his OUTRAGE, knowing very well what will happen in the comments section, and very much expecting that it will be picked up by other media.  his objective?  to drive a wedge between nz first and parties of the left, to make a coalition of the left unpalatable to the left-voting public and thus for right-wingers to be able to push the line that a vote for the left is a vote for nz first in government.

it worked swimmingly in 2008, and it will no doubt work again.  and there's the added bonus of being able to bag the MMP voting system, as if no fools ever get elected through electorate seats.  bob clarkson, anyone?  and the reason this tactic works so well is because voters who vote for parties on the left tend to be less tolerant of discrimination than parties on the right.  and parties on the right are not going to lose their voters by coming out and condemning this kind of thing, because those voters are never going to vote for lefties.

this was a very calculated move by mr farrar, and i certainly don't feel the need to give him cookies for writing a post supportive of the muslim community.  because i actually don't think that's what it was. it was rather a post against a political opponent, a strategy. and once again, we have to sit and watch people use the muslim community for their own political gain, while they have very little care about the wider impact on our lives.

but this strategy only works when the media decide that it's a story.  when they choose not to ignore the rantings of an outlier, but instead make a big issue out of it.  and yes, i know the argument about shining a light on this stuff so that it can shown up and countered.  and yes, twitter was pretty good in terms of speaking out against these particular comments.  but on the other hand, the comments on the seven sharp facebook page were not so nice.  and comments in other places, and on talkback?  still pretty awful.  still influencing people - the sort of people who will make decisions about who will get a job or who will get a rental house; people that will be teaching our children or providing us health services.  there isn't enough light to counter the darkness caused by this stuff.

i'd much rather the media didn't play along.  but i guess it tends to be a ratings winner, it certainly gets people talking and engaged.

so what's the answer?  how do we stop political types taking advantage of our community for their own political goals?  well i don't think there's a country in the world which has solved that problem.  but at very least, we can be honest about what's happening here, and call it out for what it is.


Deborah said...

Yes, it's a very effective wedge, and yes, it must be utterly disheartening for a group of people with whom you identify, a group that you very much belong to, is used, yet again, to create that wedge.

Great post, anjum.

stargazer said...

thanx for your comment deborah, and also for linking to my post at your blog. i tried to leave a comment there to thank you, but wordpress is not my friend today & is blocking me for some reason.

i actually thought the kathryn ryan interview on nine-to-noon this morning was very good, all things considered (ie, i would rather there was no publicity given to this person at all).

Wallace Chapman said...

Great Post Anjum - well thought through. Hey are you able to email me please, regards Wallace ( from Back Benches )


Deborah said...

It's a great post, Anjum, and I hope it gets widely read.

I thought that Kathryn Ryan did a great job: she didn't let him slip away with a mealy mouthed apology.

Kay said...

Thanks for your succinct words stargazer. I have found some of the responses to Prosser's words deeply ironic, like National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi saying "there is no place in New Zealand for racial discrimination" but his behaviour on the Select Committee listening to Marriage Equality submissions showing that he's fine with legal discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds.

I commented on Prosser's comments on Twitter about how much safer women may feel on planes if all men from 18 to 60 were banned from flying. Winston Peters' subsequent comments on the validity of profiling of "terrorists" could be extended to gender profiling of all violent assaults and logically support tougher sanctions against men in public spaces. Stereotyping can be used against anyone. I think it's much better to focus on behaviour rather than on identity whether that is a person carrying a knife on a plane or someone publishing comments that incite violence against targetted groups.