Monday, December 23, 2013

RIP Peter Geach

His daughter Tamsin Geach has reported that Peter Geach has passed away Saturday. He was 91 years old. In his long and fruitful career Geach had made a number of important contributions to the philosophies of logic, language, and mind, and to the interpretation of Frege, Wittgenstein and Aquinas.

Geach is now probably best known for providing the canonical statement of the embedding problem: for theories that deny that certain classes of statements are factual (capable of being true or false), like expressivism says about moral claims, it is a problem that these statements can be embedded within logical inferences. The expressivist understands 'don't torture the cat' as something like 'boo to torturing the cat!'. But you can make an argument like 'if it is wrong to torture the cat, it is wrong to get someone else to torture the cat; since it's wrong to torture the cat, it's wrong to get someone else to torture the cat'. This looks for all the world like a straightforward inference, the but expressivist can't say this, because you need truth-apt statements to make an argument, and they deny that claims like 'it is wrong to torture the cat' could be true or false. So, the expressivist can't explain a large amount of things that we normally say without any problem.

Geach was married to the late Elizabeth Anscombe, and together the two of them did as much as anybody else to improve our understanding of propositions and propositional attitudes, and to flesh out our understanding of intelligent actions. They both were converts to Catholicism and tirelessly worked within its intellectual tradition, trying to bring the work of especially Thomas Aquinas to modern attention and prominence. Geach was honoured by the Pope for his work.

I'd like to suggest to you a characteristically short and incisive paper of his, 'Good and Evil', wherein Geach introduced a distinction which still continues to bear fruit in meta-ethics and value theory. Geach asks us to distinguish *attributive* from *predicative* adjectives, with predicative adjectives like 'yellow' and 'round' being ones where 'something is an x y' means it is an x and it is a y (a yellow apple is both an apple and yellow), whereas this is not true for attributive predicates like 'large' and 'tall'--a large flea is not large. Geach suggests that 'good' and similar evaluative adjectives are attributive and not predicative. This would mean that analyses like those of GE Moore miss their target ('yellow' was the adjective Moore compared 'good' to), and that to make an evaluation of something means that you are comparing it with some appropriate class of things (a large flea is large compared to other fleas, but not as compared to chairs, tables, dogs, humans, boats, houses, and so on).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why you shouldn't read usage advice (with examples)

Helen Sword is someone at my university who coaches academic writing, and has written a large number of articles and a couple of books on the subject. She has recently released another book, which has prompted a few discussions I've had with colleagues where I warn them off work like hers. I have not read her latest book, and will only do so if compelled to. I have read some of her earlier work and dealt with her in person. I can only report that much of her recommendations are badly informed and so lacking in merit that she herself fails to follow her own advice, even as she is giving it. Sword is in no way alone in this--she is part of an industry of people giving usage advice which nobody should pay attention to. This includes the two most widely-cited examples of the form: George Orwell in 'Politics and the English Language' (the most famous, but not earliest, piece telling you to avoid writing in the passive voice) and William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White in the most famous usage manual of them all, The Elements of Style. Despite the respect these works garner, the characterisations they give of good or bad writing are often demonstrably false, and often enough these characterisations are false even of their own writing. The linguist Geoffrey Pullum is one person who has embarked upon a crusade on this kind of bad usage advice in various venues, a crusade of which this post should be seen as a small skirmish. It is an extremely interesting fact that people can be so radically wrong about the rules they follow, even when they correctly follow those rules (something I call second-order error). This fact forms part of my own research and which is part of why I have so much to say about it--our ignorance about our own norms of language use is a central example for me. But for now I'll only talk about how a lot of this advice, including Sword's, is plainly wrong in their descriptions of good and bad writing.

Sword made her name in the wider consciousness with a piece in the New York Times on why nominalisations (making nouns out of verbs) make for bad writing. Her analysis on this point is not just wrong, but disastrously wrong. Let me explain my very harsh judgement. As computational linguist Mark Liberman points out, she is not following her own advice: 80% of the nouns she uses in the final paragraph of the piece, where she offers a way for you to strip your writing of nominalisations, are themselves nominalisations. She can't claim to avoid recent nominalisations, and has the good sense not to do so: firstly, because such advice would be too daft for anybody to take seriously (it would be something like 'nominalisations are fine except if you know their etymology'); and secondly, because she used a number that are transparently nominalisations even to modern readers ('test', 'attack'). So, her advice is so bad that she doesn't herself follow it. Further, her writing is good enough to pass under her eyes and those of her editor and still not be rejected (and mine--she writes perfectly well). So, her analysis is descriptively inadequate--her writing is full of nominalisations, and is no worse off for it. So, her description of good writing as avoiding nominalisations is simply false (it turns out that nobody avoids nominalisations), and even if we take what she says as a revisionist prescription (something like 'never mind that everybody uses nominalisations, you shouldn't'), she herself doesn't seem to take it seriously, because she is doing what she tells us not to even as she is telling us. I don't know how to describe this except as 'disastrously wrong'. Other ventures of hers, like her 'Writer's Diet Test', fare no better when given serious scrutiny. Though she will of course also be able to give you good advice, as any writer of her level of competence would be able to, she wouldn't be able to distinguish her good advice from her bad advice. Thus, like almost every example of the form, her usage manuals are not to be taken seriously.

Now, onto the more general reasons. Nominalisations, like almost every other bugbear of usage manuals, are a perfectly normal feature of English. In English nominalisation is a productive way to say things: clauses with nouns put into verb-forms in the verb's place are something every competent speaker of the language understands. Trying to stigmatise a perfectly normal part of the language is at best going to be deeply revisionist, if not entirely wrong-headed, and is likely to be unmotivated. If what we are doing are looking to examples of writing to imitate, then you need to respect the fact that the instances of actual writing you identify will also be using the actual rules of the language they are written in. For English this means that they will use nominalisations, the passive voice, split infinitives, etc., since these are all features of English. And they are perfectly fine features! Everybody uses them, even in the most widely-admired prose. To use a different example, take the passive voice construction. A string of people, most prominently George Orwell in 'Politics and the English Language' and Strunk and White in their The Elements of Style, tell you to avoid the passive voice in writing. Sword does so as well, in her work and in person. But they are in a similar position as Sword on nominalisations: the advice is nonsense, and they don't follow it themselves. In a revealing irony, Orwell, Strunk and White all use the passive more than the average English writer. The average rate of passive voice constructions in written English tops out at around 13% (depending on which corpus you check), whereas in the same essay Orwell tells you to avoid it he uses it in about 20% of possible cases, and E.B. White consistently uses it in between 20% and 30% of cases. So much for their advice--nobody should take it seriously. Orwell and White are, of course, two of the finest prose writers of their time, and we would do well to imitate them. But they are mistaken about why the style they admired was good, and other examples bad.

I have not yet said a word about the tone in which Sword delivers her message. I'll restrict myself to saying that it is obnoxious to attempt to make people anxious about a perfectly normal part of their language use, just as it is obnoxious to try and make people anxious about perfectly normal and harmless things they would normally do. In this respect, Sword is in the same boat as Orwell, Strunk and White, and a whole industry of people who act from an assumed authority that they can't but fail to undermine.

Of course, a lot of writing is bad, and people like Sword and the stream of other advice-givers she is part of are trying to improve it. They may be trying to help in the best way they know how (but, given how easy it is to show how bad their descriptions of good and bad writing is, they show an unseemly unwillingness to look at their own claims critically). But the fact that there is a problem to be addressed doesn't mean that their solution is correct. Their solutions are often radically mistaken. The examples I've discussed here are demonstrably mistaken.

I have a lot to say on this topic, because the phenomenon of mistakenly identifying the rules you are successfully acting from is of great interest for my own research. Orwell and White are, as I've said, excellent writers. They are able to reliably and regularly write in a clear and engaging style. Writing is a rule-governed activity. So they are good at this rule-governed activity. But they are also radically mistaken about what rules they are following, even when they are following them. This is very surprising, and deserves further investigation.

It is also worth noting that I link a lot to Language Log, because as a popular blog by top-class linguists it is an extremely valuable resource for the type of thing I'm doing here. If you have any interest in linguistics and language-use, I recommend it unreservedly.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why Kant's moral theory takes account of the consequences of actions

This is a sketch of a response to a common misconception about Kant, which I wrote for a discussion elsewhere.
I think it's false that Kant's theory doesn't consider the consequences of an action.What Kant's view doesn't do is make the rightness or wrongness of any act depend upon what consequences it brings about. To make sense of this, we need to ask a series of questions.
  1. Is the only way to take account of consequences be to make the rightness or not of an act depend directly on what its consequences are? Probably not. You can take account of something without letting it have a veto (as it were) over the rightness of an action.
  2. What place could consequences have in Kant's theory? The consequences will come from, amongst other things, the generalisable maxims Kant wants you to evaluate using the categorical imperative. A certain agent adopting a certain maxim will have certain consequences.
  3. Since the maxims are only part of the causes of consequences, what of the other parts? Kant takes pains at various points to argue that there are limits to the things people are responsible for--in particular, they aren't responsible for accidents (neither accidentally good or accidentally bad things). This means that some consequences would be salient for evaluating the maxims (on Kant's view) only if they are non-accidental in some appropriate sense. At the very least, this means the consequences of a maxim has to be regular and predictable, otherwise it wouldn't even be intelligible for someone to accept or discard that maxim with those consequences in mind.
  4. Would any maxim which, if generally accepted, lead to predominantly bad consequences be the maxim agents possessing good will are going to assent to? Probably not, or not often, because good will is supposed to (at least in part) consist of treating individuals as ends, and predominantly bad consequences are predominantly bad for someone, so the maxims leading to those bad consequences would be pretty unlikely to be treating everybody with the appropriate respect.
So, by the time we've answered 4, we see that any maxim which would non-accidentally lead to predominantly bad consequences to some people are unlikely to be adopted by the categorical imperative. There's a lot here to be made precise: what the threshold is where consequences are too bad too endorse the maxim that leads to them; how to measure that threshold within Kant's theory; what exactly we mean with 'would non-accidentally lead'; and so on. But, however you answer those questions, there is going to be some way in which the consequences are considered by the categorical imperative.
This is rough and ready reasoning at the moment, and making it precise is difficult (not least of all because how to understand the categorical imperative is contested), but there's something to it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My final input re: Paul Holmes

The saga re: Paul Holmes' inflammatory Waitangi Day column is ongoing, but coming to a head. The editor of the Weekend Herald, David Hastings, responded to my complaint to the Press Council (after two complaints to his paper), and I was given an opportunity to respond. What I wrote is below. The Press Council will judge the case on the 7th of May. If they uphold the complaint, they'll forcing the Herald to retract the piece and apologise, but, more importantly, signalling that this type of thing isn't on. The damage has been done now, but if the Council intervenes here an important precedent will be set.

I am sad to say that Mr Hasting’s response to my complaint is shallow and inattentive. His main line of response is that I am taking Paul Holmes’s words out of context. His claim that when in context Holmes’s claims aren’t inflammatory is simply a bare assertion. In contrast, in the original complaint I discussed at length why the context does not make Holmes’s claims any better, and in fact makes it worse. Mr Hastings has simply ignored this. Nor could he make a convincing reply. The most striking element here is the fact that Holmes doesn't make a single claim about the protestors in particular, and a large number of claims about Māori without qualification.

There is the one time he mentions the "loony Maori fringe" (it is worth noting that it isn't obvious whether this is meant to be a fringe of Māori society, or that Māori are supposed to be a loony fringe of New Zealand as a whole—many of those who commented on the piece took the latter, discriminatory reading). But the three times Holmes says something about what the protest consists in, his characterisation aims at Māoridom as a whole: firstly, when describing the protest it is "irrational Maori ghastliness with spitting, smugness, self-righteousness and the usual neurotic Maori politics" (note the lack of qualification); secondly, when describing what they should instead be concentrating on is the litany of social ills that affect Māori (pointedly, making no mention of the content of the actual protest); thirdly, when describing the desired effects of the protest he introduces it with "if Maori want..." (again, without qualification). At no point does Holmes say how the protesters are to be seen as a single, distinct part of Māoridom, whereas he frequently suggests that the protest represents Māori without qualification.

Mr Hastings has challenged my reading of the third point listed above. He says that Holmes is "saying that if mainstream Maori support the extremists the day will be dominated by the antics and agendas of the extremists that he finds so abhorrent." But this is simply a nonsense reading. Holmes says nothing here about the relationship between the protesters and Māori as a whole. There is only the mention of "Maori", not of the influence of one section of Māori on another. There are simply no grounds for concluding what Mr Hastings does, and his reading must be dismissed.

The above is just one of the occasions where Mr Hastings accuses me of making unjustified inferences. I have no doubt he employed this strategy against the other complaints as well. But this retort is entirely mistaken. There are two features of inferences in natural language to consider here: the logical and pragmatic features. On both of these aspects, Mr Hastings's readings are nonsense.

Logically, an inference like 'if X, Y' or 'Y, because X' (note the different positions of X and Y) provides sufficient conditions: the truth of the antecedent X is supposed to make the consequent Y inevitably true. Holmes, in the above-mentioned example, says that if Māori want Waitangi Day for themselves, we should let them defraud Pākehā. I conclude from this that Holmes is saying that Māori want to defraud Pākehā. That is incontrovertible: Māori wanting to protest as they did is sufficient for us letting Māori get what they want and defraud Pākehā, Holmes asserts, which entails that Holmes believes that protests like these are sufficient to prove that Māori want to defraud Pākehā. And that is the substance of my complaint: Holmes is asserting (amongst other things) that Māori are out to cheat Pākehā. Holmes is thereby driving a wedge between Māori and Pākehā, and the Press Council is correspondingly entitled and required to step in.

This same logical structure is behind what I have called a subtler bigotry, that Holmes has different standards for what is acceptable for Māori as opposed to Pākeha. Mr Hastings seems to have missed the point of this. For reasons of space I won't repeat what I've said earlier, where I describe how Holmes is engaging in abusive mud-raking by tarring the protesters with the social ills of Māori, a standard he fails to consistently apply regarding the personal failings of individual Anzacs and the existence of Anzac atrocities (and we cannot impugn Holmes with the unseemly innocence required to deny their existence). I'm not saying we shouldn't support Anzac Day either: I'm saying that Holmes should show the same grace to Māori as he does his family members and their comrades in arms. His failure to do so indicates a discriminatory standard. I provide this analysis as an indication of the context within which Holmes is writing, and that context supports my reading, rather than Mr Hastings's.

The other feature of inferences, pragmatic, is something which linguists and philosophers call 'conversational implicature'. In short, we need to assume that people are being helpful with what they divulge in order to make sense of what they tell us (see  ). Very little of natural language use meets the standards of explicit and precise statement that formal logic requires, and we plug the gaps by making use of certain co-operative standards. I don't wish to labour this point with a summary of how conversational implicature works. The long and short of it is this: the only way we can make sense of the fact that Holmes repeatedly talks about features of Māori as a whole when describing what is objectionable about the protests, is that he believes that their being Māori is the pertinent fact. He doesn't even give any indication about the content of the protest—that too seems to be irrelevant in his eyes. No other explanation is provided, so, by the co-operative standards, Holmes must be saying that this is the relevant explanation, and enough of one. This is borne out by Holmes moving on to different, unrelated, topics, after the "No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them" paragraph: he has said his piece. And all that Holmes has talked about is his disgust at what is supposed to be an attempt by Māori to disregard their real problems and exploit Pākehā. The fact that he never troubles himself with separating the protesters in substance from Māori as a whole, or even what the protest was about, must be read as him asserting that there isn't anything pertinent to say there. Otherwise we render Holmes's column into contentless bleating. In contrast, there is an easy reading available which makes sense of the piece, where Holmes is casting Māori against Pākehā. There is a large audience of people who understood him as such. We are driven by the standards of language use to do the same.

The Mr Hastings spends the majority of his response to my complaint in reminding the Press Council about the freedom afforded the press to print even offensive items. He also lists a variety of pieces his paper has published on the issue. All of this is idle talk, however. The freedom to publish controversial items is not unqualified, and there are occasions where the Council can, must, and does intervene. Representing a variety of opinions is not an unqualified good, not if the breadth of opinion is enlarged to include the inflammatory and the racist. These are unfortunately viewpoints which find a ready audience, but we have a responsibility not to spur on divisions among New Zealanders. I am deeply worried by the fact that Mr Hastings and the Herald are entirely unreserved and unrepentant in their endorsement of Paul Holmes’s piece, which included (and this is not contested!) claims that the protest against John Key was driven by a conspiracy to extort money from Pākehā and calling Māori a race of child-abusers. A line has been crossed—the only possible effect, if Holmes is taken seriously at all, is a deepening divide between Māori and Pākehā on the basis of his ill-considered comments. Since the Herald does not seem to have the good judgement to recognise this as a matter calling for moderation, we have to depend on the Press Council to intervene.

Yours sincerely,
Marinus Ferreira

Monday, March 5, 2012

UK Government rolls out plan to partially privatise policeforce

Life imitating blogging: a few days ago I talked about why it is a mistake to model government action on private enterprise, and now the British government is making a big privatisation push in two of its police jurisdictions. The proposal is for contractors to take over many of the tasks of the West Midlands and Surrey police forces, including (quoting from the news article):
investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.
 This is a large and wide-ranging introduction of private actors into a central government service. The practice of having non-sworn staff at police stations is old and well-established, and isn't at all a problem - not everything that needs to be done at a police station is police work. But this proposal goes far beyond that. The police has been awarded extraordinary powers in our society because they perform a certain role: its rights and responsibilities come from its place in the structure of government. But the police forces in question are presenting their role as a service role. To quote the West Midlands spokesperson: "Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business – improving the service provided to the public." This is simply a gross mistake - police work isn't a service role, like rubbish collection - it is a constitutive part of government.

The problem goes much further than conceptual confusion. Because the government gives the wrong description of its role, it will damage its capacity to perform its role as it reshapes the organs of government in this misshapen image. For policing this will most likely lead to less responsiveness by the police to complaints from the public in its jurisdiction, something which already is a perennial problem even in the face of laws and offices of government which oversees police action. Since the private contractors are not part of the police proper, there is another layer between the overseeing authority and the people doing the work on the ground. To do so in the face of the recent riots against police misdeeds in the Mark Duggan shooting is simply perverse. This is a dire mistake, and the people of the West Midlands and Surrey will be the ones who carry the costs.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What is at stake in acts of government

Somewhere in the recent public debates about the role of government something that has dropped out of view is that the main task of a government is to govern - maintain the necessary infrastructure and institutions to keep a society going, organise and co-ordinate the resources of its constituents, and so on. A government is often being viewed and evaluated as you would an especially large and expansive company. But this misses entirely the task of government, because it neglects the part where governments have jurisdictions - domains in which they are expected (and required) to act with authority, otherwise they couldn't play their role as co-ordinating agency. Let me elaborate.

To take the extreme version of this failure to appreciate what is at stake in acts of government, take the libertarian model of government as a collection of enterprises, modelled on or constituted by private companies. This model is a product of view that private enterprises in competitive markets are, in certain rather common circumstances, extremely effective distributors of resources. There are two problems here. The first is that many of the traditional tasks of government are in circumstances where markets are very bad at distributing resources - healthcare is the stand-out example (here's one summary, and another), the same counts for extremely large projects the benefits of which are dispersed very widely, like transport and communication networks, or emergency response agencies, or monitoring programmes (a summary).

But let's concentrate on the second problem: that something a government has that no company has is a jurisdiction where it can compel a range of otherwise independent agents to co-ordinate. Take the laughably stupid suggestion of Ron Paul's to privatise the FAA or the TSA. These agencies don't perform consumer services, they are regulatory agencies. Some people might say that the TSA used to be in effect a series of private security companies and contractors before Homeland Security came along and emnployed them as federal agents, but that's wrong. The creation of Homeland Security didn't just change who writes the paychecks - it created a central co-ordinating authority. Homeland Security and its analogues have powers that no security firm has. I don't mean powers like 'now TSA has the power to force you to either receive a pat-down search or go through the body scanner'. I mean power as in capacity - there are things governing agencies can achieve that no alternative could. TSA decides that nobody can go through a US airport with certain liquids in carry-on luggage, and boom, it's done (given the resolution is enforceable, and not just a dead letter). Now every airport in the domain follows that resolution, and nobody goes through with certain liquids in carry-on. If the TSA was replaced with a series of security companies, a policy like that could extend only as far as the individual companies did. For the market to work effectively, there would have to be a variety of these companies (if there was a monopoly, it would be just like a government, but worse in every regard). Which means that there could be no resolution enforced across an entire domain.

You might not care about what goes in people's carry-on luggage, but the same point carries over to any government action. When slavery got banned by the UK, they were able to stamp out the intercontinental slave trade almost immediately because of the blanket prohibition on it across sovereign British territory (including large parts of the Atlantic). If slavery wasn't banned across the whole domain, individuals could have gained an economic advantage by continuing to use it while people around them don't, and as they took over more of the market slavery would then be reintroduced. This is how it is in general for regulation - there is no way for there to be any kind of competition among regulations, because a regulation isn't a regulation unless it is an uncontested authority over its domain. Similarly, a government can't co-ordinate without authority, and we need that co-ordination for goods like healthcare, transport networks, the maintenance of certain societal standards, etc.

(First aside: The above is one of the reasons the US's widespread use of security contractors in warzones is so pernicious - in practice it has meant that these security firms have all of the authority of the governmental agencies that back them, but none of the controls placed on the government.)
(Second aside: There is another effect of this observation, regarding another lamentable shortcoming in a lot of public debate. Often when questionable market practices are pointed out - working conditions in China, financiers reneging on promises not to fund certain types of industry, etc. - the response comes that attempts to regulate this domain would be self-defeating, since there are agents outside the domain who will continue on regardless (here's an example). This is no comment at all about the desirability of the regulations. It's a comment on how far the jurisdiction of the regulators go. If we took this seriously as a reason not to have regulations, then we couldn't have any regulations whatsoever, and every domain would become a race to the bottom.)

The above is a comment on what is involved in something being a government. It shouldn't be read as a comment on the desirability of any particular system of government, or even of which domains a co-ordinating authority like described above is needed - the above is a schema that applies to all systems of government. It applies even to anarchists in the tradition of Proudhon and Kropotkin, who want extremely direct and reconstructed forms of governmental authority. It doesn't apply to libertarian model canvassed earlier, because as discussed that isn't a theory of government proper. It does apply to serious thinkers like Hayek and Nozick during his libertarian phase (they just think authorities like described above should have extremely limited domains), but Ron Paul bears as much resemblance to them as he does to the Emperor of Japan.

Complaint to Press Council re: Holmes on Waitangi Day

The New Zealand Herald gave me another response to my complaint regarding Paul Holmes's inflammatory Waitangi Day piece, after I had told them that I was dissatisfied with their first response. While this second response was far longer, it simply re-iterated the position of the Herald and its Weekend editor, David Hastings, that clearly Holmes was aiming at one small band of Māori protesters, rather than making inflammatory remarks about Māori as a whole. For the second time they made no reply at all to the substance of my complaint: that is, they made no attempt to explain the paragraph where Holmes seems to take aim at Māori as a whole with racist invective ("No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it... and work out new ways of bamboozling the Pakeha to come up with a few more millions") and no mention at all of the discriminatory standards I indicated in my complaint. Given that they have twice had the opportunity to respond to my complaint, and have twice not done so, I made recourse of a complaint to the Press Council.
For those keeping score at home, here's the summary of my complaint that I needed to give in my complaint:

The New Zealand Herald, in its Weekend edition of 11/2, published an opinion piece by Paul Holmes titled 'Waitangi Day A Complete Waste'. To summarise my complaint (see my correspondence with the paper for the fuller version), I want to highlight three points on which this piece is objectionable, all three to do with discrimination against Māori. The first concerns racist invective, the second two discriminatory standards applied to Māori.

The first point is that Holmes straightforwardly makes inflammatory remarks aimed at Māori in the following paragraph: "No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it. Let them go and raid a bit more kai moana than they need for the big, and feed themselves silly, speak of the injustices heaped upon them by the greedy Pakeha and work out new ways of bamboozling the Pakeha to come up with a few more millions." Notice that the group indicated is simply 'Māori', not some group of individuals. There is no way to read this passage other than in the obvious way, as an attempt to alienate Māori from Pākehā.

 Secondly, in his response to the protesters at Te Tii Marae, Holmes makes a number of claims which are conditional on them being Māori, and discriminates against them accordingly; in particular, that the protesters can't be taken seriously until larger social ills affecting Māori are addressed. The manner in which Holmes does this is inflammatory in the extreme (to quote: “...never mind the hopeless failure of Maori to educate their children and stop them bashing their babies“), but even if it weren't, it would place a different standard on Māori protesters than on Pākehā. Holmes tries to pin a set of troubles on the protestors merely because they are Māori, using their ethnicity as a way to dismiss their claims.

Thirdly, Holmes uses a different standard to judge the standing of Māori in New Zealand than he does Pākehā, by making the status Waitangi Day contingent on the actions of a small section of Māori, whereas presumably Anzac Day is not contingent on the misdeeds of small segments of Anzac soldiers acting as such.