In a Daily Blog commentary attacking my recent column on Radio New Zealand, Chris Trotter portrays me as wanting the state broadcaster to fall into line with the "ideological reality" (whatever that may mean) of John Key's government.
This is a grotesque distortion of what I wrote, and I suspect that Chris knows it. He's too intelligent to have misunderstood me.
He takes me to task over my statement that it's an abuse of power to use a taxpayer-funded medium to promote pet ideological causes and suggests that my real agenda is to promote a pet ideological cause of my own - namely neo-liberalism.
"Not for him [meaning me] the healthy contest of ideas or the testing questioning of a critical intelligence," Chris writes. "No. To Mr du Fresne, Kim Hill, Chris Laidlaw, Jeremy Rose and (Lord spare us) Kathryn Ryan, are voices without legitimacy: wilful heretics who dare to challenge the majesty of neoliberal thought."
For starters, I don't consider myself a neoliberal. I'm distrustful of all ideology, whether of the Right or the Left.
But the real point here is that I've never opposed the healthy contest of ideas. On the contrary, that's exactly what I've promoted repeatedly over the past 20 years or more. It's at the very heart of what I'm saying.
My objection to the Radio New Zealand programmes I cited is that there is no healthy contest of ideas. Most consist of the hosts conducting friendly interviews with people they agree with - or, as in the case of the comically misnamed Treaty "debates" which RNZ recently broadcast, a succession of speakers agreeing with each other. This is the antithesis of the "contest of ideas" that Chris purports to champion.
On the rare occasions when a conservative guest is featured, as in the case of John Howard, the purpose is to try to demolish them.
All I have ever asked for is balance, which the Radio New Zealand charter requires anyway - a point that Chris conveniently sidesteps. I've never argued that left-wing voices should be silenced; merely that the other side should get a fair shake of the stick too.
Neither do I want Radio New Zealand to promote a neoliberal agenda. It's not the role of a state-owned broadcaster to take any political position. What it should do is make an effort to broadcast programmes that reflect the opinions and ideas of all New Zealanders, not just those the hosts and producers happen to favour.
But Chris isn't the only person to wilfully misconstrue what I wrote. On TV3's The Nation at the weekend, Brian Edwards claimed that what I really wanted from Radio New Zealand interviewers was deference.
This couldn't be more wrong, and he must know it. In my comments about Kathryn Ryan I wrote that the professional obligation of impartiality did not preclude hard and vigorous questioning. Two paragraphs further on, I said: "I’m not suggesting for a moment that RNZ should become a tame government puppet. That would be far worse than the status quo." Which part of this did he not understand?
Only Brian would have the gall, having so flagrantly misrepresented what I had written, to then accuse me of bad journalism.
One last point: when it comes to determining whether a broadcaster is impartial, I'm happy to stack my credentials up against those of Chris and Brian any day. They, not I, are the ones whose judgment is fatally compromised by their political affiliations.