Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dangerous Garth

I’m going to say something positive about Garth George, one of the rightwing columnists at The New Zealand Herald: He’s the best grumpy curmudgeon currently writing for any New Zealand newspaper. Seriously, that IS a compliment: Many newspaper columnists are grumpy, some all the time, and others are sometimes curmudgeons. But only Garth manages to be both all the time.

Because of this, Garth also provides unintentional hilarity as he expresses opinions that are often so far beyond the pale that they come across as downright unhinged. He probably wouldn’t like the idea of raucous laughter caused by his columns, but folks like Garth who write such puerile drivel are probably used to that reaction.

Today, he struck yet again—although this time his column veered more into the repulsive category than funny.

Garth "wrote" a column entitled, “Beware the other policies of dangerous Greens”, which contained this gem:
“The Greens are dangerous. They are more than a polite group of tree-huggers, slug-savers and water samplers but you rarely, if ever, hear of the more sinister planks of their policy, which are frightening to say the least to those of us who care about what really matters.”
Scary, right? Why, the Greens must be advocating eating the rich, or banning cars or something, right? Nope: They dare to stand up for human rights. Can't get more sinister than that, eh?

Garth copied almost verbatim—and without attribution—a press release from an NZ rightwing extremist group called “Right to Life” (who I wrote about before), and pretended it was something a “mate” had told him. Garth then lays out what he sees as the sins of the Greens—in Australia. Garth didn’t bother to look up the position of the New Zealand Greens on any of the issues he hates—it was just easier to use a rightwing pressure group’s press release unattributed and unverified.

The blog No Right Turn called this regurgitation of rightwing press releases, “churnalism”. As the post notes, Garth has done this before, most notably to present climate change denial views. He was caught out then, too.

Garth is a far rightwing religionist who hates the Greens because they support marriage equality and adoption reform, both of which are a matter of policy for the Greens. They’ve also supported death with dignity and abortion rights, though, as NRT notes, neither is policy for the Greens in New Zealand. Garth’s particular personal religious views condemn all these things and, being a zealot, he of course thinks he’s got the right to force his religious views on everyone else.

But Garth’s peculiar religious obsession isn’t the issue; he’s entitled to hold rightwing views, no matter how wacky and extreme they may be. Scaremongering, however, is beneath any real journalist, and so is plagiarising other people and passing those views off as his own original thinking, or pretending he had a conversation with someone when all he did was read a press release.

Garth should fully retire if he’s so past it that he can’t even write an original column anymore, or else he should be fired because the Herald clearly isn’t getting its money’s worth from a serial copyist.

There are plenty of credible conservative writers who could take Garth’s place, people who even hold many of the same views, but who would express them using original thought, a little energy, some journalistic integrity and without being deliberately offensive for its own sake (even the Herald is aware of problems caused by this column, finally posting today: “Note: Due to an increasing amount of unpublishable postings, the 'comment' functionality of this article has been disabled.”)

The title of my post is merely a play on Garth’s “Dangerous Greens” declaration—which, of course, instantly became a trending hashtag on Twitter (#DangerousGreens) as people gleefully mocked Garth. He deserved that.

Obviously Garth isn’t really dangerous; “pathetic” would be a better word.

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