Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Key Note

A few posts back I complained about the fawning, sycophantic coverage of Don Brash and the National Party right up until he finally resigned. Today, the New Zealand Herald went almost to the other extreme.

In an extremely odd article, Claire Trevett talks mostly about the atmosphere around John Key’s first major speech as Leader of the National Party. She talks about Key’s pronunciation difficulties in spots, and the winner of a wine raffle, but gives little attention to Key’s words. She writes:

“Then the slogans to spell out what drives him and his vision for the nation roll out. There is the valuing of family, policies that encourage hard work and building ‘a sense of what it is that binds us together as New Zealanders’.”

All of which is true, but when I read about a conservative politician talking of “valuing of family,” alarm bells start to ring because it’s usually code words for extreme social conservatism.

In fact, what Key actually said is more enlightening about his views. The transcript reads:

“I support families. In modern New Zealand they come in many shapes and sizes, so let me tell you that I for one will not pre-judge the construction of them. They are in my view the most important institution in our society…”

There was nothing in the article that gave any real understanding of what Key thinks about any issue. This is important, considering that at the moment the National Party is out-polling the Labour Party and might possibly form the next government. The country’s largest newspaper has a duty to examine real issues, not talk about the crowd being “somewhat anaesthetised by glasses of wine, ham on the bone and scalloped potatoes.”

The Herald might argue that this is the territory of its columnists. Indeed, commentators should and must take these issues on. But there, too, the Herald does a disservice to the
New Zealand public: It charges an access fee for anyone wanting to read columnists online (you don’t even get the first paragraph for free, as major world newspapers do). Note to the Herald: Your columnists aren’t that good that you should charge a premium for them.

I used to say the
New Zealand deserved better than Don Brash. Whether John Key is better or not we’ll find out over time. But can we count on the New Zealand Herald to help us find out?


Kalv1n said...

This was pretty interesting. Honestly, I haven't the foggiest notion of NZ politics, but I would be guarded as well. Unfortunately, family values has been somewhat coopted by the ultra-conservatives in the semantic sense, but I'm happy that liberals still have secular humanists, but sadly, most people don't know what that means!

Arthur Schenck said...

You got exactly why I'm keeping a healthy does of scepticism. Politics in NZ is very similar to that in other English-speaking countries, but without the far right nonsense of the US or Canada (so far, at least). Overall, most NZ politicians of whatever party are secular, some could be called "secular humanist", too, because we don't have a frothing right wing trying to distort what that phrase means.