I hadn’t consciously heard of Caitlin Moran until this morning, but when I listened to Kim Hill’s gushing intro to her interview with the British writer and columnist, I knew we were in for a love fest. And so it turned out.Hill cooed with unabashed adoration for her guest. And of course she would: Moran is the sort of interviewee she likes – fashionably left wing, a feminist and a socialist (I didn’t know this before, but I do now); the type of guest whom we’ve learned from experience can expect a cruisy ride from a host noted for her take-no-prisoners approach with people she dislikes.
The famously incisive interviewer purred with delight as, between the two of them, they picked off some easy, predictable targets: David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Mitt Romney. No hard questions; no attempt to probe beneath Moran’s glib, faux-proletarian politics. (One simple question I’d like put to all these self-avowed socialists: give us an example of a socialist society that has worked. I’ll die waiting.)The contrast with the hostile treatment given to guests such as John Howard, Owen Glenn and the American journalist Thomas Friedman couldn’t be more striking. Hill didn’t ask how much this champion of the working class earns (apparently in the vicinity of £250,000 a year), though she thought this a relevant question when she interviewed Friedman. There’s an obvious difference of course: establishing that Friedman was a wealthy man would have confirmed that he was just another greedy capitalist cheerleader, whereas it's so obvious that Moran gives all her money to the poor that the issue needn't be brought up.
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again. I don’t mind being exposed to the views of people like Moran, no matter how much I might disagree with them. She’s clever, witty and articulate; what’s more, I accept that Cameron, Johnson and Romney are men who richly deserve to have their vanity and pomposity punctured.What I object to are double standards and abuse of power. There’s a double standard here because Hill interviews left-wing guests far more often than conservative ones, but more to the point she adopts a markedly different approach with the latter than with the former. She fawns over guests whom she finds ideologically and politically simpatico (I swear at one point I heard her declare to Moran, “I love you!”), but takes a relentlessly aggressive line with people like Howard.
It’s an abuse of media power because Hill consistently uses her programme to promote views she approves of and attack those she doesn’t like. That would be acceptable from a privately owned radio station, but Radio New Zealand is owned by the taxpayers and has an obligation – recognised in its charter – to provide balanced and impartial coverage of current affairs. It does not exist to provide a platform for the views of a smug Wellington elite.The bias even extends to the choice of music. The Moran interview was preceded by the latest satirical song from Randy Newman, darling of the condescending American intellectual left – a song entitled I’m Dreaming of a WhitePresident.
I’d love to see the ratings figures for Saturday Morning with Kim Hill. One of its defining qualities is that Hill seems to assume all her listeners think just like her, but I wonder how many such people exist outside Green-voting inner-city ghettoes like Aro Valley and Grey Lynn. Most people I know, from across the political spectrum, look at me with a mixture of pity, wonderment and alarm when I mention that I still occasionally tune in.Footnote: I’ve just read that Moran had her third child aborted, an experience she wrote about with what Diana Wichtel in the Listener described as industrial strength insouciance – “not a moment’s guilt, remorse, self doubt”. (Perhaps Moran felt she couldn’t afford another baby on her menial income.) To me this revealed far more about Moran than anything I learned from the Hill interview.