Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Crap reasons to defend Paul Henry

These are all crap* reasons I've been encountering around the place, particularly on Facebook where many status update debates are raging! 

1.  That's just the way Paul Henry is;  he challenges the PC world we live in and that's a good thing
How can anyone think we truly live in a PC world when a major media figure can say something incredibly racist, having escaped unscathed and unbowed from previous racist, sexist, ableist and generally mean and nasty blurts in the past, and be defended not only by his employer in a manner that said we're all racist on the inside (initially), but unchallenged at the time by our own Prime Minister? 

If trying not to denigrate people on the basis of their race, gender, physical appearance, or sexuality is Political Correctness Gone Mad then what do we call being respectful to others these days? 

Paul Henry was not speaking truth to power.  He was not challenging authority.  He was not championing that downtrodden minority that is so disempowered in our society (heterosexual white men of a certain age and income bracket).

What he was doing was, yet again, using a position of power to put down people who are already discriminated against and judged unfairly. 

2.  Because his People's Choice award speech was funny
Guilty confession:  I really enjoyed Henry's speech.  And I've written complaints in the past to TVNZ and/or the BSA about Henry, although none of them included the kind of language or sentiments of the one he read out. 

Just cos someone is funny once, or even more than once, doesn't give them a Free Pass For All Time.  As another example, I enjoy 7 Days, when I can stay up that late, and sometimes I have been known to even laugh out loud at something Paul Ego says on it, but by and large I find his attempts at humour sexist.  And there seems to be some kind of one prison rape reference, supposedly a joke, per episode, which is sick.  Other than that I find it pretty good telly.

3.  To criticise Paul Henry's behaviour/call for consequences for it is a threat to Our Holy Right To Freedom of Speech!!11!!
No one has said Paul Henry can never be a racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, offensive arse at the pub, in his own home or even at an informal gathering of his National party mates.  To do so, to say he should never ever say this stuff, would be to curtail his right to free speech.  But that's not what people are concerned about, what he says as a private citizen on his own dime and in his own time.   It's about abusing his position as a broadcaster to spout this crap, particularly as he doesn't seem to be learning that it's not ok from previous concerns raised.

Even the Blog Defender of the Tory Faith, David Farrar, has said that freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences.  Henry is entitled to natural justice from his employer, and I hope he got it before the suspension.  Remember this is the same employer, TVNZ, who fired a security guard who dared to challenge Christine Rankin off air after she said some racist stuff on the show. 

4.  Cos Hone Harawira said stuff about not wanting his kids to date Pakeha
Extended version:  ... and no one said anything about that/he got away with it/he's still an MP
This one I've seen quite a bit.  There's a lot of rewriting history in this trope, which is necessary because the reality is pretty different from what those using this argument require for this one to work:
  • Harawira actually didn't quite say what was reported, whereas Henry's quotes are accurate and have been repeatedly played verbatim
  • There was a lot of outcry about his comments, and calls for him to apologise, including from other Maori, the Prime Minister** and the Race Relations Commissioner
  • Many of the same people who have been critical of Henry have also been critical of Harawira, and it is possible to oppose racism towards Pakeha and oppose racism towards other groups simultaneously, whatever your own skin colour.
Simon Pound wrote a really good blog post on the Harawira dating comments at the time, which he then updated after the full transcript of what was actually said came out.

 5.  There are so many bigger issues we should be concentrating on
Bigger than racism?  Really? 

Especially as Henry has so much past form, judging based on appearance, and he seems to have a particular problem with those of Indian descent, ranting about petrol station attendants and Cabinet Ministers alike.

Also: multitask, people.  I may have more than the normal level of outrage to go around, but surely it is possible to be concerned about more than one thing at once? 


Any other crap reasons you've come across?

*  See how I managed to not say "lame reasons"?   I used to do it too, before Deborah rightly schooled me
**  Yes the same Prime Minister who shamefully just giggled with Henry.  And to those who say he was boggled by it and didn't have time to compose a reaction - the man deals with difficult queries designed to trip him up in Question Time three days a week when the House is sitting, with no notice of what blind-sides he will get. Thinking on your feet is a core competency for PMs.


Boganette said...

Brilliant post Julie. I feel like I've spent the week dealing with the most absurd excuses coming from Henry fans. I just don't understand how people cannot see him for what he really is.

Another ridiculous excuse I've heard - right up there with 'bigger issues to deal with' is "He's not the most offensive person out there". I mean REALLY? REALLY? We're going to do a scale of racism and let some people off for being slightly less offensive than others when they're still being 100% racist?

Another line I hate is "If you don't like it don't watch it". And when someone said they read about his comments the same guy said "Well don't read the Herald either". So ummm we're not allowed to watch TV or read the newspaper? Only bigots who find non-white last names funny are allowed to watch Breakfast?

I've been shocked by some of my friends who support them. I really didn't think MY Friends would be Paul Henry fans.

I feel like screaming sometimes. He is such a turd. WHAT IS THE APPEAL?

Country Lane said...

I liked: "He's only human"!!

Scuba Nurse said...

Thank you thank you thank you.
I had a wee rant this morning about the negative association with those brave enough to protest, and the challenges when you get there. Was still trying to put my thoughts in order to adress these issues. Since when did being racist become acceptable due to free speech. And why am I such a "looser" for caring? What is happening here?

McFlock said...

I agree with what you, Julie, but with one exception: I didn't find his acceptance speech funny. I was surprised at myself for agreeing with parts of the letter he read out.

There's the old "if you don't like it, just switch off".

The short answer is that if PH doesn't like Herald stories about him, he doesn't need to buy the paper.

A longer answer would be that I have more than two choices (i.e. "watch" or "don't watch"). My third choice is to tell the TV station and the advertisers what I would *rather* watch. Which is smply what I am doing- I'd rather watch something without Paul Henry in it.

Giarne said...

Thanks so much Julie, I particularly love your response to number 2 and I also love the free speech one.

I also really hate the PC-bashers - it keeps us empathetic, thoughtful instead of hurtful, patient instead of arrogant and tolerant instead of being Paul f'ing Henry.

I've spent far too much time today fighting with people on facebook, even to the point where I have just tracked down 3 really good friends and a 2021 (labour) local govt candidate to ask them how they could 'like' PH's fb page. Thanks Boganetter, I agree - I've been shocked by some of my friends who support them. I really didn't think MY Friends would be Paul Henry fans.

Help, the world has gone mad!!!

I don't get it either, how is this ok. It was soooo not ok in terms of Steph Mills, Susan Boyle and every other person he's hurt.

Rex Widerstrom said...

Best I've seen was in comments on a Tracey Watkins blog piece on the topic...

"It's not like he offends everyone... just small sections of people at a time"

I actually LOLed. Quite remarkable that his defenders (with the exception of Cactus Kate. who's got more riled up abut this than I've seen her in a long time) seem to be on the wrong side of the bell curve.

Hugh said...

Oh Rex, don't be silly. Kate isn't riled up, she's way too cool to care about this provincial little matter. If we were all lawyers we'd understand how pathetic caring about Paul Henry is.

Seriously, she doesn't care. Just ask her if she does. She'll tell you she doesn't. At length.

Julie said...

Thanks for the feedback folks.

I haven't seen so much of the "don't feed the troll" and "best way to deal with a bully is to ignore them" responses this time around, which is nice. Particularly given the prevalence amongst my FB friends to share links and vids for the Give A Damn campaign against homophobic bullying, I think that may have raised awareness that bullying more broadly needs to be challenged collectively, not ignored individually (although the latter is an understandable survival strategy).

Scuba Nurse said...

People recognise bullying in children, but seem to struggle to see it in adults.
Its the same base skills,
Isolate the victim, dehumanise, use humor against them, then attack.
And paul thinks he is doing something new.

Scuba Nurse said...

People recognise bullying in children, but seem to struggle to see it in adults.
Its the same base skills,
Isolate the victim, dehumanise, use humor against them, then attack.
And paul thinks he is doing something new.

Hugh said...

Sheila Dikshit isn't a Cabinet minister, she's the Chief Minister of the Delhi state government. More like an Australian State Premier or an American State Governor.

Yea, I know it's nitpicking, but it kind of leapt out at me.

Cactus Kate said...


Length? Come on. Given my typing speed is faster than ever secretary I have ever had, that wasn't even a long post. If you want cut and paste then Kiwiblog fills that end of the market rather well.

I challenge anyone with even the slightest command of the English language to say "Sheila Dikshit" without laughing. Come on!

A Nonny Moose said...

Goodness Kate, we're grown adults, not behind the bike sheds in Form 2.

If you can't appreciate that someone's name has a completely different meaning in another language to the anglicized version of a word, then you are absolutely proving a point about racism.

How would you feel if your name meant something toilet humour in another language - I'm guessing you wouldn't take too well to being laughed at.

But carry on digging that hole.

notafeminist said...


I took up your challenge and didn't laugh.

I must be superhuman!

(or a grown up.)

Giarne said...

Another thing that's really starting to pi** me off is that I'm annoyed people are finally starting to get how destructive his comments are now its happened to a man. Stephanie Mills, Susan Boyle, Sheila Dikshit ... seems they all didn't count for as many people being upset because they were woman.
Gosh, the more I talk about it the more shaky I am getting.

I've got myself all embroiled with a local candidate too because I publically posted a question about why she would support Paul Henry - she's a "friend" on his page and will continue to be so. I apologised for doing it publically but I am not sorry for asking her to explain herself. If she gets her lawyer involved like she is threatening to I'm going to be so so mad!!!

I am a tad sorry, my lovely husband pointed out I can't impose my views on everyone :) but that she was taking it too far.

Sigh, at least I didn't vote for her cause she's not in my ward thankfully.

A Nonny Moose said...

Giarne, threatening you with a lawyer for asking a question about their politics is bullshit. They don't have a defence for their views, so they're trying to scare you away with their so-called power. If they are a politician, then they need to be prepared to publically defend their views.

I'd be laughing in their face. There's nothing slanderous about asking a legitimate question at all. Sheesh.

stargazer said...

giarne, i hope this person didn't use the "freedom of speech" argument to defend paul henry, cos that would just be too funny, especially when she's using threats to try to limit yours.

Giarne said...

Thanks folks, I feel a wee bit better now.

Yes, apparently freedom of speech and the fact he did "amazing" work after the Samoan tsunami means so much to this person that they can forgive these comments. She's campaigned on women's issues and so its really frustrating for me to see woman like that fall for this white middle class man BS.

Thank heavens for places like here where like minded people gather :) Thanks wonderful ladies!!!

A Nonny Moose said...

Ohhh the "Nice Guy (TM)" defense. The one that Whoopi Goldberg uses to tell us that Mel Gibson couldn't possibly beat up his wife, or Roman Polanski's art outweighs his crime.

Not everyone is All Good, or All Bad. The men in my life I love and respect, but they can say some really dumb things and they don't get away with it. I'm sure Paul Henry has some nice qualities - he must do if he's married (with kids?) or does charity work etc, but this does not stop him from still being an asshole.

Perhaps explain to this "friend" that if he wants the world to see him as a "Nice Guy (TM)" then he shouldn't do asshole things like bigoted comments on his personal nationwide platform!

God, we shouldn't have to give cookies to people just for NOT being dumb asses.

Giarne said...

"God, we shouldn't have to give cookies to people just for NOT being dumb asses."

This is the best thing I've heard today!!!! ROFL :)

Giarne said...

Ok, confession time :) I didn't know what on earth a cookie was - I figured it was like a "spoon feeding of info" type thing and posted as much on facebook.

Thanks to Nonny Moose, and the beautiful and patient with me Julie, I have no discovered a few really funny pics!

Even more thanks fems!!!

peterpeasant said...

The worst crap reasons I have heard, publicly, were on National Radio today on the Jim Mora show. Specifically "The Panel" aired between 4 and 5pm.

The tone was set from a listeners email along the lines of "What PH actually was saying was......"

The panellists then found all sorts of nice things to say about PH and what he really was addressing.

Stephen Franks really had Tim Watkin and Jim Mora thoroughly out boxed.

Franks was not capable of sanctifying Henry but nudged to "Henry has been more sinned against than sinning.. " approach.

Check out the National Radio site and listen.

A Nonny Moose said...

"What PH actually was saying was......"

Mansplaining! Another fine example of trolling, even if it is National Radio.

It was very plain what PH said. Supporters don't need to put words in his mouth, or our mouths. If they're trying to explain it, they're contributing to apologia for racism.

Giarne: a cookie = a biscuit = a tasty reward :)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you haven't addressed the "He's just saying what everyone/all of us/most people are thinking". Granted, it doesn't really dignify a response, but it's aggravating, to say the least.

There are also the plain-don't-get-it excuses:
* "He was just trying to be funny" - not about the GG he wasn't.
* "All he did was ask if the guy is a NZer" - aaaaaand the rest.
* "He made _one_ off-hand remark..." except that he made it 3 times regarding the GG, and at least 8 about Sheila.

Would you believe my WV is poopa? HAHAHAHA POOPA! IT SOUNDS JUST LIKE POOP! Yeah, I can't keep that going for a whole minute.

- Madeleine (I commented lots on the nzherald fb threads)

Steven said...

I laugh at feminists. Seriously, it's 2010. The war has been won. Bra's need not be burnt.

As for PH, it wasn't REALLY racist. He didn't say the GG was any worse at his job as he was indian. He merely noted that NZers would be (and were) suprised that our 'head' appears foreign. If anything it's HELPED that perception by giving it exposure via controversy.

Media personalities shouldn't be cencored due to the PC policy. We should be able to debate and discuss these issues objectively without being labled with tag.

Anonymous said...

Julie...I'm sorry to say but I wholeheartedly disagree with your post...And I think you are taking a very extreme view of what was an innapropriate joke.

If you are so deeply offended every time you see something slightly innapropriate... why not just change the channel or even better...Unplug the TV?
You will find that this will give you a whole new dimension of spare time that you can spend combatting ACTUAL racists and sexists around the world. I would suggest starting with the internet.

With the content in Paul Henry's shows...It seems to me that they are aimed at those with some level of maturity and I would think that that same group of people has the capability of disregarding someone's momentary lapse of judgement.

So basically what I am trying to say to you is...Find something more productive to do with your time, rather than complain about something you don't have to watch/listen to/pay any attention to whatsoever unless you choose to.

Rohan said...

Ok, granted that he read the name and pronounced it wrong, its easy to do, but once he was informed of the correct way to it, he carried on like a little kid laughing at a fart. Thats were it went from a mistake to malicious, something PH thrives on.

And the "if you don't like it, don't watch" brigade need to pull their heads in. State owned station = my tax money. If i wanted my money wasted on clowns i would go to the circus or invest in Fox News

A Nonny Moose said...

Anon at 2:41:


No, we will not start right back at Feminism/Racism 101 for you. Take your tried and true bollocks and learn something about activism before you attempt to engage. You're nothing but Henry sophists. We don't come troll your communities, so why the hell do you think it's acceptable to troll ours?

McFlock said...

I found "Anon" October 08, 2010 2:41 pretty funny - I must have read 50 variations on that over the past few days, but prior to this thread none have had *every single* paragraph pre-emptively negated at the top of the thread.

"Grade A satire" or "ignorant Henry fan" - you be the judge. I thought it was so cliched it had to be a wind up.

stargazer said...

anon at 2.41, i will leave your comment up for now, and let julie decide if she wants to let it stand. but please note that we don't allow anonymous comments on this blog, as it clearly states above the comment box. future comments without a handle will be deleted.

as for steve (good call, moose!) and the anon mentioned above, funny how they want us to shut up about PH but want to censor us for criticising him. apparently their "maturity" doesn't apply to themselves, in terms of disregarding things they disagree with. once again, the hypocrisy is quite hilarious.

A Nonny Moose said...

Stargazer, yes it's very interesting about the silencing tactics. If PH is SO in the right, then his rhetoric should be able to stand on its own without defence. Defenders go to great pains and lengths to explain what he really meant/said. If he wasn't racist, you wouldn't have to defend it - and your desperate to prove inherent privilege and power - so.

Just WHAT power are you so desperate to maintain, hmmm, by perpetuating racism?

A Nonny Moose said...

Bugger, I hate it when I do a your/you're botch up...sorry good people of the world!

Boganette said...

Hahaha Steve. Oh Steve. Paul Henry isn't racist because you don't think he's racist? We should set up a panel - headed by Steve - and Steve can tell us what is racist and what isn't racist.

Brett Dale said...

I dont see howls of protests against Willie Jackson for nearly a decade of racist comments against asians and white people on his show.

Or is that different?

K said...

What specifically has Willie Jackson said that is racist?

4.Cos Willie Jackson said stuff....

Is it pretty much just insert Maori personality here Brett Dale?

Brett Dale said...

K, he has constanly mocked asian people on his TV show.

There have been several other tv personalities that have said way worse, tune into c4, its like watching bigoted ten year old boys, but these jackasses are celebrated.

K said...

Are they? It seems like your argument is just "there are other people who are even more racist than Paul Henry" - how does that make his racism acceptable?

Brett Dale said...


It doesnt make it axcceptable at all, my point being is there are plenty of other tv persoanlities who have said way worse, but John Minto isnt there screaming for them to be fired.

Its hypocrital if you ask me.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

anon @ 3.29pm, please repost your comment using a handle, as we ask in the paragraphs above the comment box, and as i've already asked specifically in the comments to this thread.

oh, and your suggestion won't work for me, as i don't plan to be watching any of the rugby world cup games live or on tv. besides, here's hoping that mr henry will be well gone before then.