Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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.

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