Because no matter how close you look, it still doesn't work. Like the Morgue, I wasn't going to post on this initially, but like the Judge, as the week has worn on I have become increasingly dismayed by a certain breakfast TV hosts comments. The initial incident I was pretty unimpressed by, but the real ire has been generated by the response. I used to watch the show regularly and was a fan of Mr Henry (and still think he can be a very good broadcaster and interviewer when he wants to be). I respect his willingness to say what he is thinking, even if I don't always agree with it, and that he is different from the usual fare of airheaded airbrushed vacuousness that seems to be what those in charge think viewers want. However, being willing to say just what you are thinking doesn't mean that you always should, and lately I am wondering if this particular emperor is in fact wearing any clothes.
I'm struggling to figure how asking the Prime Minister if the next Governor General will look or sound or be more like a New Zealander when the current one is of Indian/Fijian immigrant descent (i.e. not European or Maori) can have anything other than a base in simple racism. If it isn't a race thing, what is it? That the current GG has immigrants for parents? One of my parents is an immigrant, does that make me less of a New Zealander? The question itself is bullshit, and so was his subsequent on-air apology, which was only for any offence that may have been caused, didn't admit that anything wrong was said, and then slurred a whole other ethnic group to boot.
The appointment of the current GG was seen by many as a mark of our nation maturing (and admittedly by others as a convenient PC showcase). The guy was born and raised here, made a career here and by all accounts has done an exemplary job representing the nation in accordance with his character. The colour of his skin, the etymology of his name, and who his parents were are irrelevant to that. The implication that he isn't a proper New Zealander to appoint to high office because of those things, no matter how throwaway it was delivered is just wrong. That it was delivered on one of the flagship programmes of the state broadcaster by one of its highest profile presenters while interviewing the leader of the country defies belief. Its a little disappointing there wasn't a better reaction from the PM, but given he was probably thinking 'WTF did he just say?!' and this was live TV I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. It isn't the main issue.
Digging the hole deeper was the juvenile 'foreigners have funny names' farce that ensued when Henry discussed an Indian Commonwealth Games official with an awkwardly pronounced name, ridiculing it and suggesting it was appropriate for her country (link here. Note how obviously uncomfortable his co-presenters are. The other guy in the clip is Peter Williams, one of the last of the old school presenters and continuing possessor of genuine class).
The networks initial response to the gaffe was to issue a standard (they have practice at this) "he's prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud" PR waffle. Smarter heads soon realised that wouldn't cut it, resulting in Henry's suspension for a couple of weeks without pay. What bothers me is that TVNZ is the public owned state broadcaster in this country, that purports to represent the nation. This debacle sure as shit doesn't represent me, and relying on a guy like this as a ratings generator is a sad indicator of how far standards have fallen from a network that used to be something worthwhile. TVNZ was the first network in NZ and in my youth TV1 in particular was all about quality and informing; now it is generally the same lowest common denominator dumbed down tripe you can get anywhere else, which apparently they think is what people want. It has gotten so bad that the best marking of its own 50th anniversary earlier this year was by a rival channel.
Bothering me more than TVNZ's tacit endorsement of his 'saying what we are all quietly thinking', by not really reining him in before now (he has form in being offensive rather than merely frank) is the number of my countrymen who think this is actually some kind of righteous travesty. Thousands have signed up for the inevitable facebook groups demanding Henry's immediate re-instatement, more than the group demanding his immediate dismissal. Comparisons have been made to Hone Harawira's notorious 'White MotherF**kers' statement of last year, in the way that Harawira seemed to escape serious censure for his remarks so why shouldn't Henry, with the implication that Henry is being singled out for being white. This ignores the fact that Henry made his comments while in the employ of an organisation that purports to represent the country and its views as a whole. Harawira while equally offensive and also technically employed by the taxpayer (albeit more directly than Henry), was speaking only for himself, or at most elements of his electorate, and never claimed otherwise. I am amazed and a little saddened that there are that many people prepared to ignore the substance of what Henry said and meant. I would like to think we were better than that as a nation.
This has likely been much more succintly summarised elsewhere (like here for example) and I am just adding to the noise, but I needed to vent on it.