Thursday, 30 May 2013

same old story

if you're wondering why i haven't managed to write anything here in the last few days, check out my website & you'll see what's been keeping me busy.

today i've been feeling pretty depressed by the whole cartoon episode.  that would be the two cartoons by al nisbett in the malborough express & the christchurch press.  the ones that uphold every stereotype of poor people as could fit into one drawing, and that put the central focus on brown people.

it's the same old story.  a tried and true formula.  casually used by a wide spectrum of media and particularly the advertising industry.  say something outrageous, sit back & desperately hope for the storm of complaints.  if they do arrive, trot out the usual lines about freedom of speech & how xyz group in society just need to get a sense of humour.  throw in a bit of "PC gone mad", & if really pushed, apologise if anyone took offence (the non-apology that puts the blame squarely on every person but you).  bonus points if you can fit in the words "panty-waisted", "thought police", "pinko-facist", or hey, even "namby-pamby".

if you don't get any takers the first time around, say something more outrageous the next time.  and just keep pushing that boundary until finally the complaints flow.  you know you're guaranteed a large segment of the population who will leap in to defend your right to be obnoxious, without the slightest bit of care towards the already marginalised group you have chosen as your target.  you also know that said marginalised group doesn't have the numbers or the power to seriously challenge you in any way.  and caring about people's feelings has already been accepted by our current cultural norms as a terrible thing to do.

it's a safe strategy for anyone in the media, as long as you know where to toe the line.  where paul henry went wrong was with his timing.  had he made his comments regarding ms dikshit in a week when the commonwealth games weren't about to start, & when another nz'er was already under investigation in india, & when the government was concerned about securing a free-trade deal, then he would easily have got away with it, as he had so many times before.  his producers, you will notice, suffered no negative consequences.

but paul holmes, michael laws, hell pizzas, alcohol advertising companies & so many others carry merrily on, using the strategy to their advantage.  they just can't lose.  neither will the malborough express or the christchurch press.  and mr nisbett won't be out of a job any time soon.

and in the meantime, racist & bigotted stereotypes get more deeply embedded and entrenched in our culture.  lack of basic empathy and humanity get tossed down the gurgler.  and society becomes just that little bit more nasty, more fractured.

if there's an answer to any of this, i haven't found it.  all we can do is to keep challenging the stereotypes, and using our own freedom of speech to try to push back against this wall of hate.  fully knowing that we're playing into the hands of the media that choose to put out this kind of thing as we do so.

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