Sigh. Another day, another discipline session for the National Party caucus from Newshub’s resident dominatrix, Mistress Tova, and her understudy Jenna Lynch.
Last night’s round of punishment took up six minutes of the 6pm bulletin and started with Lynch rapturously reporting that Paul Goldsmith had been thrown to the wolves - my words, not hers, although that was the tone - by his caucus colleagues over his comment that Maori, “on balance”, had benefited from colonisation.
A procession of National MPs, all looking like frightened rabbits, eagerly dissociated themselves from Goldsmith before running for the hills. But not before Lynch had given us the benefit of her own view that colonisation was “brutal” – and as if to substantiate it, wheeled out Professor Margaret Mutu (now there’s a dispassionate judge for you), who equated colonisation with murder, theft, rape and pillage. That was followed by a parade of Labour MPs poking scorn at Goldsmith (who would have thought?), followed by a puerile jibe from Debbie Ngarewa-Packer of the Maori Party.
Then it was back to Lynch, who reminded us that Maori continue to experience poor outcomes in health, housing, justice and education. We were invited to conclude, therefore, that Goldsmith’s comment was clearly that of an unreconstructed racist – and an ignorant one at that, although Goldsmith has an MA in history.
Not content to leave it there, Lynch then seized yet another opportunity to bring up Goldsmith’s unwitting involvement in the media feeding frenzy that erupted last year when the then National deputy leader Nikki Kaye, in a pathetic attempt to fend off media accusations that the party caucus was insufficiently diverse, blurted out that the palpably Pakeha Goldsmith was of Ngati Porou descent.
The point of recalling that episode wasn’t clear, since Kaye dug that hole for herself with no assistance from the hapless Goldsmith. But it served the purpose of implying that Goldsmith was somehow tainted by association with the party’s shameful whiteness.
Newshub then played a clip of Goldsmith explaining at the time that no, he wasn’t Maori, as if that somehow further incriminated him. This provided a cue for Lynch to chime in again, saying “Not Maori himself, but speaking for Maori.” Actually, no: he wasn’t purporting to speak for Maori when he talked about the consequences of colonisation, but it suited Lynch to frame his comment that way.
Whatever this was, it wasn’t journalism. It was a hit job of the type we’ve come to expect from Newshub.
There is scope for a balanced, nuanced debate on the effects of colonisation, but don’t expect to see it in the mainstream media, and least of all in anything Lynch or Tova O’Brien have a hand in. And don’t expect it, either, from Goldsmith’s spineless caucus colleagues, who are so cowed by media bullying and so lacking in political conviction that they appear to have completely lost sight of what a centre-right party is supposed to stand for.
All that needs to be said is that Goldsmith’s opinion that colonisation, on balance, was good for Maori is one that a reasonable, informed, non-racist person can validly hold. Yes, colonisation resulted in the dispossession of Maori land, the loss of their language and the disintegration of their traditional way of life. But it also signalled the end of merciless tribal warfare, slaughter, cannibalism and slavery. It introduced the rule of law and led to the evolution of a society that is admired as one of the world’s freest, safest, most tolerant and open. Only the most incorrigibly woke zealot (Debbie Ngarewa-Packer springs to mind) can ignore that.
But Newshub wasn’t finished with the National Party. As if in a tag wrestling bout, Lynch vacated the ring and O’Brien stepped in. Her target (yet again): Judith Collins.
Not for the first time, Mistress Tova was pursuing Collins over the recently announced retirement of long-serving National MP Nick Smith. But whatever intrigue lies behind Smith’s departure – if indeed there’s any intrigue at all – is a classic Beltway issue, of interest only to political obsessives and too convoluted for the public to untangle even if they could see any point in doing so.
No matter. It provided another opportunity to torment Collins. And once again, she meekly submitted to the dominatrix’s querulous questioning. Is there no limit to the mortification Collins is prepared to endure? I loathed the style of Robert Muldoon and Winston Peters, but sometimes I find myself wishing for a politician bold enough to put amoral, mischief-making journalists in their place.
Left-wing media academics love to talk about journalists speaking truth to power, but that’s not what’s happening here. Almost nightly, Newshub revels in pummelling a demoralised, fragmented National opposition while allowing the sainted Jacinda Ardern and her ministers a largely free run. (I say “largely” because Newshub reporter Michael Morrah is an honourable exception.) It’s the journalistic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.
To be fair, National’s weak, divided and ineffectual caucus invites derision. We are witnessing a catastrophic failure of the centre-right, and surely the moment is David Seymour’s to seize. But there’s nothing noble or heroic about gloating, power-tripping journalists savaging a politician who appears to have lost the will to fight.