Monday, January 9, 2023

The priggish intolerance of supposed liberals

Ever heard of Joanna Grochowicz? No, I hadn’t either, until a few days ago, although I probably should have. She’s a New Zealand author who wrote a book about Ernest Shackleton, along with some children’s books about polar exploration heroics.

What brought Grochowicz to my attention was a bitchy hit job on her by another New Zealand writer, Stacy Gregg. Grochowicz had committed the unpardonable sin of writing an opinion piece for a British-based website called Perspective Magazine, published in February last year, in which she criticised her home country’s enforced isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic (you can read it here). Cruel and tyrannical were two of the words Grochowicz used.

That might have been permissible, at a pinch - it was a widely held view, after all; but Grochowicz went on to attack Jacinda Ardern. While praising Ardern’s “decisive and compassionate” action in the early stages of her prime ministership (and admitting she had twice voted for her), she said the “once saintly” leader had morphed into an autocrat, executing stealthy manoeuvres against her own people and exerting mind control.

Grochowicz also put the boot into the compliant New Zealand media and by implication, the docile New Zealand populace at large. Under Arden, she wrote, New Zealand had become a smug cul-de-sac.

I thought it was a good piece, but that’s neither here nor there. Whether you agreed with it or not, it was a legitimate expression of opinion on a matter of public interest.

Not so the response from Gregg, who is a best-selling author of children's novels about girls and horses – and now also, it seems, a member of the self-appointed Praetorian Guard that comes to Ardern's defence when anyone dares attack her. Gregg’s riposte to Grochowicz, which originally appeared on Newsroom last February, was republished a few days ago as part of Newsroom’s “Best of the Year” series, which is how I belatedly caught up with it.

What made one article okay and the other not is that Gregg’s response was gratuitously and vindictively personal. The writer knew Grochowicz – had once even liked her – but clearly decided, on the basis of the Perspective article, that they could no longer be friends.

Accordingly, the piece was peppered with snide observations not only about Grochowicz but her wealthy husband and their lavish lifestyle. According to Gregg, “the people who seem to have railed the most at having their lifestyles curtailed by reality [during the Covid lockdown] are the wealthy, privileged, upper middle-classes who can't understand why this thing won't just end because they really, really want to go on holiday in Denarau and anyway their friend had Covid and it's literally just a head cold! And they are triple-vaxxed and they are fine!”

The intriguing thing is that Gregg seemed not to mind this life of privilege and entitlement while she and Grochowicz were still friends, and indeed bought into it (she reveals she took a bottle of Veuve Clicquot – $90 at New World – to a dinner with Grochowicz and her Polish husband, only to be aced by his magnum of Pol Roger). But all this self-indulgence apparently became abhorrent when she realised, on reading the article criticising Ardern, that she and Grochowicz saw the world differently. Then she turned on her erstwhile friend, attacking her as the cold, unfeeling face of affluence. (You don't have to squint too hard to detect more than a hint of resentment toward Grochowicz for the mere fact of being rich.)

The striking thing about Gregg’s article is the tone of betrayal, as if Grochowicz had deceived her. In fact Gregg berates herself for not deducing sooner that Grochowicz, all along, was really just an apologist for male white supremacists. Get this: “I thought she was a trailblazer working in a male dominated field, outside of literary norms. I believed we were on the same path. When I look back now, I feel like a real dunderhead for not seeing what she was really writing about. Now I think she was paying an homage [sic] to the glory days of the good old empire. Now I think that her deifying of white, male explorers who came, saw and conquered other worlds speaks volumes about her, cultural imperatives and New Zealand as a hicksville outpost whose existence is in service of our masters in the UK. Even when she regaled me with stories of hanging out with white, crusty male historians and leering it up at Lord Spencer's estate, I just thought - oh fun stories!”

So what started as an attack on Grochowicz for daring to criticise the sainted prime minister – heresy! – then took a headlong, hyperbolic leap into the now tediously familiar mire of identity politics. Yet Grochowicz was presumably still the same person Gregg had been attracted to, so what had changed? Only that Grochowicz had exercised her right to express opinions that clearly didn’t align with the prevailing ones in the circles Gregg moved in.

Gregg’s article also invites the accusation that she intruded on Grochowicz's privacy by revealing information about Grochowicz’s personal life and marital relationship – information acquired when the two were friends and therefore arguably imposing a duty of confidentiality, given that Grochowicz would have had no reason to suspect it would become the subject of an article. That there was nothing incriminating about the information doesn't make the disclosure acceptable. But hey – no doubt this apparent betrayal of trust was justified, in Gregg’s mind at least, because of Grochowicz’s supposedly despicable opinions. Such people need to be exposed, after all.

Here, laid bare, is the intolerance and priggishness of people who probably think of themselves as liberal yet can’t tolerate any departure from approved groupthink. Gregg’s hatchet job could be summarised thus: “I thought Jo was one of us and she turned out not to be, so she must be exposed.”

There’s a lesson here: think carefully before you befriend a writer. They can be a spiteful, duplicitous and disputatious lot, and you can never be sure the friendship won’t come back to bite you.


Doug Longmire said...

Wow !!!
Bitchy, bitchy, bitchy.

Hell hath no fury like Ardern supporter scorned

Phil said...

I have noticed in the last couple of weeks and amazing about face from our media when talking about other countries putting recent restrictions on China. Our media make accusations of racism from foreign governments. I suspect if our Government had also introduced restrictions then it would have been described as a good decision.

David McLoughlin said...

Stacy Gregg was a journalist somewhere or another where I worked; I do recall her being there.

I had no idea she had become a children's author, despite having three kids of my own and buying them many a book including many NZ ones.

Paul Peters said...

Former media colleagues at what is now Stuff, and some who have long since left but are still ''media'' in one way or another , react similarly to Gregg. Personal experience, the slightest in my case mere questioning of anything to do with the Labour-Green-''Maori Party'' bloc

Gary Peters said...

" They can be a spiteful, duplicitous and disputatious lot, and you can never be sure the friendship won’t come back to bite you."

A pretty fair description of most ardernists these days.

Chris Morris said...

I don't think it is writers as such that one needs to be wary of but the progressive/ woke people. Stacy is just one more of those foot soldiers. They have a very blinkered mindset of what is acceptable. Anyone who goes outside that is denounced as one of the "ists" though sometimes a number of them. All too reminiscent of Peoples Front of Judea and the splitters.
The best policy to deal with them is just dismiss their ravings out of hand and ignore. They have alienated so many that their cadre is devouring themselves and are disappearing into irrelevance, soon to join the Social Crediters.

Paul Corrigan said...


I'm a writer, an indie one.

Which means I self-publish via Amazon and have readers all over the world.

There are two novels to my name so far. A third probably in the middle of the year.

I don't think you'd find me duplicitous. Nor woke.


- Paul Corrigan

Birdman said...

I've read both articles to understand the debate. Luckily we still have free speech in NZ as you can bet one of those articles (guess which one) would not be tolerated under the 'hate speech' regime Ardern wants to enforce on us.
Why is someone so clearly venal as Gregg so important to Newsroom that it published such a nasty and journalistic-debasing (for Newsroom) piece. Greggs recognised forte is writing about girls riding horses, presumably written for young girls who ride or would love to ride horses, a seriously important field to the extent she is profiled in the Newsroom article " the author of over 30 pony novels. She is currently working on TV series Poni Poni for Maori TV, and is in full immersion level 5 te reo at Te Wananga o Aoetaroa." - I kid you not! It seems to prove the point from Grochowicz's article that "If democracy is built on the ability to question those in power and hold them to account, then the Kiwi media are wholly complicit in Ardern’s swing from immaculate heart to autocrat."
Remembering it was written last February, Grochowicz makes other media related points we are now so familiar with re the Pravda fund and notes "Most recently, opposition leader David Seymour had to turn to the Daily Mail to get an opinion piece printed. This is when silly starts looking sinister.". Putting aside she recognised at such an early point that Seymour had been opposition leader for quite some time, it's a chilling reminder of what we face from this government and our glorious leader - remember, we are the single source of truth.

ihcpcoro said...

Today's Labour supporters tend to be very poor losers, and even worse winners.

Anna Mouse said...

Gregg comes across as the exact clone of what Melanie Phillips a British journalist, broadcaster and author states about cancel culture and the destruction of reason. That is that, the idea is an absolute.

It is an interesting fact that Gregg's article has 6 comments (that I can see) all in support.....whereas Grochowicz has 257 of which almost all support her view.

Maybe this is because Grochowicz lives in a critical thinking world, whereas Gregg appears to live in her 'smug cul-de-sac' of pony fantasy land.

I recommend the Melanie Phillips youtube video as she explains concisely people like Gregg and her cohorts.

Odysseus said...

Yes, this is going on up and down the country among people of somewhat more modest lifestyles and achievements. Ardern's Praetorian Guard is becoming ever more vicious in their defense of their icon of "empathy" as the polls turn against her and people drift away. An especially toxic venom is reserved for apostates. I have never seen the country more divided. "Citizens for Rowling" and "Rob's Mob" have nothing on this; today's political hatred is visceral and will only intensify the longer Ardern stays in office. Jacinda has divided the country on so many levels, if she had any conscience she would realize this and just go.

Mark Wahlberg said...

Intellectual arguments which some suggest have their origins in cat fights and sharing saucers of milk.

William S Burroughs wrote "Like elephants, Writers, have long vicious memories."

Other writers have suggested " Revenge is a dish best served cold" or words to that effect.

Meanwhile, all pale into insignificance as Harry the Duke of Sussex is in the spotlight taking Payback to new heights.

transpress nz said...

How typical of a heavily Ardern-government subsidized website to publish a hit piece on those who criticise their cult leader. Yet another example of biased, vile, small minded stuff which typifies Newsroom's writers generally.

John Hurley said...

I've been trolling through Ng Taonga (Archives). I was intrigued by this statement from Captain Collier of the four masted barque Pamir (which had a mostly New Zealand crew of schoolboys):

“..they’re very flattering to their school masters and some of them never had a school master. Some of them had a school mistress”

“during the war”

“some of them were schooled by a woman teacher”

“were they?”

And when you think about it the wind powered ships ran on know-how (hierarchy - the Captain was God), muscle and testosterone. The patriarchy makes a lot of sense when you consider the ratio of muscle to production output before modern engines

Ben Thomas said...

I had heard of neither of these women so I took the trouble to read both articles. I think life is too short to have to wade through such turgid prose. I hope the readers of their novels get greater pleasure. My one comment regarding SG's piece is that like many writers today she finds it necessary (?) to throw in a f**k and f***ing, one unexpurgated, which suggests a paucity of vocabulary. It puzzles me how great writers managed to write enduring works without resort to obscenity. I appreciate your have brought this pair to me attention so I can avoid buying their books by accident.

Joanna Grochowicz said...

Thanks Karl. My response - again in Perspective Mag in London bemoaning the death of civil discourse in this country.

Anonymous said...

What an ugly person.
Thank you for writing this.
I will look out for her.
Woke and ugly what a heart value she carries..