Saturday, November 04, 2017

Acting like a loser

The video above is from the New Zealand National Party’s Gerry Brownlee attacking Foreign Minister Winston Peters. He’s attacking Peters for doing what he himself could have done, but the worse things is, he doesn’t even get the story right.

In the video, Brownlee says: "Last June an Iranian diplomat gave a speech at an Auckland mosque that meets all the tests of hate speech." June? And who was Foreign Minister then, and for months afterward? Why, it was Gerry Brownlee! Why didn't HE do it when HE was foreign minister? And, does he even know what he’s talking about?

Why Brownlee didn’t act could be that he didn’t know about it. News of the event was only published this past weekend, and if Brownlee got most of the information related to his portfolio from the newsmedia or official National Party blogs, he wouldn’t have known about it at the time. But if he had known, he’d want all the facts, wouldn’t he? And wouldn’t he want to get them right?

The video shows a page from Stuff headlined, “Calls to expel Iran diplomat from NZ after fiery anti-Israel speech 'fuels radicalism'”. If Brownlee bothered to read the story, he’d have learned that it was NOT the diplomat who made the speech, but a cleric, an individual made another hateful speech. The calls to expel the diplomat are because he was at the event, not because he “gave a speech”. Being there, the argument goes, encouraged radicalism. Stuff made all that pretty clear, even if they didn’t tell readers the even was months ago, when Brownlee was Foreign Minister (newshub’s coverage of the controversy provides more details about the event).

National’s written press release to go with the video is worded somewhat differently. One of the biggest departures is that instead to declaring the speech “meets all the tests of hate speech" as the video does (before Brownlee also points out that can be a crime in New Zealand), the press release says it was “effectively a hate speech”, a much weaker description that’s an ideological and semantic—but not legal—definition.

Perhaps if Brownlee and his fellow National Party senior MPs had paid more attention to details like that these, and to the portfolips they were responsible for, they’d still be in government instead of flopping around on the Opposition benches. So far, they’ve shown that arrogant posturing is the way they intend to act in Opposition. That’s their choice to make, but it could give them a long wait to get back into government.

Related: “This is who we do not want to ever become” – Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy’s response to the anti-Semitic speech at that Auckland mosque.

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