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Ambitious for NZ political debate

Written By: - Date published: 11:35 am, July 14th, 2008 - 24 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

It’s sad that Matthew Hooton passes for a political commentator in this country. If he was a blogger, he would be third, fourth tier. Surely, we can do better.

Last year in his column, Hooton suggested that there would be no election this year because Labour would stage a coup.

Last week on Nine till Noon, he ranted endlessly about Nicky Hager being a thief and conspiracy theorist in one of the most embarrassing moments in political discourse in recent times (apart from his fellow Nat Peter Low’s ‘I’ll get triads’ rant on Morning report later that week).

On Sunday Hooton wrote, “we can safely assume in Clark’s Wellington that the particular staffers who [supplied Clark with info on Key’s holdings in Tranzrail that were slightly wrong] will never be heard of again”, which a few phone calls has confirmed is totally wrong, a malicious lie. He also claims that if a coalition government can be formed after the election of Labour, the Greens, the Progs, NZF, and the Maori Party it would “lack popular legitimacy”. Sorry, if a government has the support of Parliament and no party in it had promised voters it would not enter such a coalition, then it has popular legitimacy, even if it doesn’t include the largest party.

Hooton is not a real commentator,  he is a spin doctor, He knows that he can’t win rational debate and, also, that when people hear two contrasting positions they are inclined to assume the truth is somewhere in the middle. So, he gives an extreme, frothing at the mouth, rightwing counterpoint to the considered commentators of the Left, dragging the centre rightward while poisoning thoughtful debate and legitimising paranoid delusions.  New Zealand deserves better.

24 comments on “Ambitious for NZ political debate ”

  1. rjs131 1

    Just for arguments sake, who do you think are the appropriate rightwing commentators that the media should be going to counter the “considered commentators of the left” or are you suggesting that the media should only consult the “considered commentators of the left”?

  2. Nick C 2

    “The considered commentators of the Left”

    I hope you arent refering to Trotter, his columns are more fiction then fact, esspecially when he writes about neo liberalism and crosbytextor. If you were to believe him crosbytextor has orchestrated every single event in New Zealand politics since 2003.

  3. Tane 3

    rjs, I think you’ve struck upon one of the problems NZ has as a small country – our lack of intelligent independent commentators.

    The right has plenty of commentators, in fact the overwhelming majority, but their problem (depending on your perspective) is that they tend to either be party operatives (Richard Long, Matthew Hooton etc) or have nothing new or intelligent to say (Bill Ralston, Michael Laws, any talkback host you care to mention…).

    Off the top of my head I’d say Ben Thomas is the only right-wing commentator worth listening to. I’m sure there are other people out there who could do it, they just haven’t been given the opportunity.

  4. Ben was good on Face to Face yesterday.

  5. Tane 5

    Bro, Eye to Eye. F2F was Kim Hill’s gig.

  6. Vernon Small, Trotter, and Brent Edwards are of the Left, they’re good. You’ve got Guyon Espiner, Tracy Watkins, Audrey Young, etc on the Right and they’re good too. All of them have their faults but they’re lightyears past the likes of Hooton.

  7. rjs131 7

    Certainly the tone of the post was that all right wing commentators are bad, and all left wing commentators are “considered”.

  8. BeShakey 8

    I don’t think it is just the commentators fault. The media tend to overlook the more moderate reasoned commentators in favour of those who will stir up controversy and debate. It ends up being unintelligent sensationalism over less sensational but intelligent debate that actually gets somewhere.

    It always annoys me when the media dredges up the most radical Maori commentator to offer ‘the Maori perspective’ rather than the more moderate Maori commentator who is actually more representative of Maoridom. Same thing goes for Law & Order debates, hence the omnipresence of Garth McVicar, when there are much (MUCH) more intelligent people that could be there offering the right wing perspective.

  9. Monty 9

    Good one guys – start shooting the commentator. Hooton has been on the shit list for some time – I even remember Dear Leader making the comment about having Hooton on Government funded radio. For my part I do enjoy Hooton (obviously) and think he offers some excellent insights. I loved his comments about Hagar being the Patricia Bartlet of the NZ Politics. I knew Patricia Bartlett well and thought the comparison very fair.

    This Morning on the politics segment on National Radio, it was interesting to hear Harre and Hooton essentially agreeing for once on the Winston Funding lie. I look forwardto more information about that.

  10. Monty – it’s not at all surprising to see you endorse a fellow right wing frother.

  11. mike 11

    You are lucky you missed Hooton’s Sunday Night Politics show on Radio Live last night Steve.

    He has some interesting theories on some John Key smear blogs being funded by Labour – throwing names around as well. Duncan Garner found it interesting also…

  12. we receive no funding from any organisation. Just shows that Hooton is more akin to a third rate blogger than a serious commentator.

    If Duncan Garner wants talk about these issues, he can call me like other journos have. And I will tell him, what we’ve repeatedly told you, the truth: we are individuals writing with no funding or direction from any organisation.

  13. roger nome 13

    “If Duncan Garner wants talk about these issues, he can call me like other journos have.”

    Garner should be careful about what muck he chooses to rake. My mate had a very interesting encounter with him just a few weeks ago. One which would make him blush more than a littel over the hypocrisy of his more conservative political views.

  14. Paul Williams 14

    Hooton does a job, it’s just not one that anybody with talent or integrity would wish to do. Nothing’s changed since he was on Lockwood’s staff.

    I agree however, that it’s odd that NatRad use him, there’s plenty who’d do a much better job. I’d love to hear Harre debate with someone like Simon Upton; hell, that’d be excellent as they’re both highly intelligent and experienced.

  15. randal 15

    I hear the ‘angry ant’ aka mathew hootin is going to fight the ‘furious flea’ aka michael laws on the fight for life this year?

  16. Scribe 16

    Not sure what to deduce from the lack of response to Nick C’s question over whether Chris Trotter is one of those “considered” commentators on the Left. Tane, Steve (your post), is he?

    And regarding Ben Thomas (and anyone we try to pigeon-hole as “Left” or “Right”), he’s a mix-and-match from the little I’ve read of his. He’s appeared economically conservative but not necessarily socially conservative.

  17. Rex Widerstrom 17

    Commenters above have nailed the problem. It’s not the fault of the vacuuous recyclers of self-absorbed garbage *cough*MichaelLaws*cough* but those who regularly give them space to vent their tired views.

    Steve notes, in a later comment: “Vernon Small, Trotter, and Brent Edwards are of the Left, they’re good. You’ve got Guyon Espiner, Tracy Watkins, Audrey Young…”

    What do they all have in common (with the exception of Trotter, who I don’t think belongs in such company)? They’re working journos, who pick up new information every day. And they’ve been round the traps long enough to be able to offer some worthwhile perspective on that information.

    The other commentators to whom the media invariably turn aren’t journalists they’re dilettantes, more interested in maintaining a “profile” so they get an invitation to “Dancing with the Stars” or “Celebrity Treasure Island” in order to get more profile and then be asked to tell their “heartbreaking tale of courage” (aka exploiting their own child’s illness) to a womens’ magazine.

    Such a person has nothing to offer – their legitimacy as a commentator relies solely on a self-perpetuating media presence. Not so much a case of pop eating itself as media eating itself, then playing with it’s own… okay maybe I won’t conclude that simile.

    Not that I’m suggesting only journalists should get space in the newspapers and on the airwaves. But when it’s clear that Laws, Ralston, Trotter, McLeod et al have nothing new to offer us – and they don’t – then we the readers need to tell the editors we want to hear new voices, or else we’ll speed up the trend to abandoning new media for old.

    After all, if we really want to read choleric rants from someone who’s slightly unhinged, we can do it for free online 🙂

  18. Tane 18

    Scribe, Trotter’s a bit on and off in my opinion. At times brilliant, at others baffling. He’s certainly an independent thinker though, which is more than you can say for most of the tory shills that pass as commentators in this country.

  19. Good post.

    Matthew Hotton’s presence on publicly owned radio is the most compelling and conclusive proof that “Helengrad” is a myth. How a supposed despot would let him communicate using public media is beyond me.

    His allegation that Labour had engaged in “dog whistle politics” does a disservice to dogs. The phrase applies to public comments that are capable of two meanings, one of which strikes a chord with some primitive irrational emotion.

    Labour saying that National would do away with Kiwisaver, Working for Families, Interest free Student Loans and sell housing corporation houses is based on actual statements made by people such as Wilkinson, English and Ardern and by National’s past performance not on the desire to enrage an irrational emotion.

    Their current silence for “strategic reasons” is nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid the denigration which their actual agenda would cause.

    Let them come out and say what they will actually do or not do if they think they deserve to lead us.

  20. Scribe 20


    Trotter’s a bit on and off in my opinion. At times brilliant, at others baffling.

    Can you email me when he writes something brilliant, please. I don’t remember reading anything of his I found brilliant. I have been baffled on many an occasion.

    Oh, and SP, I did see after my last comment that you’d included Trotter in your list of “good” commentators. My mistake.

  21. Oliver 21

    Hooton is no worse than Trotter with his ‘noble corruption’ and desire to censor right-wing discussion.

  22. Better Dead Than Red 22

    “he gives an extreme, frothing at the mouth, rightwing counterpoint to the considered commentators of the Left, dragging the centre rightward while poisoning thoughtful debate and legitimising paranoid delusions.”

    Ha ha- what hopelessly partisan rubbish. There are no right wing journalists in NZ. There are only extreme left journalists, far left journalists and center left journalists. The only reason the Standard editors are complaining is because there are not enough ultra- extreme left wing journalists. Their idea of open and free discussion is the left view or no view.

  23. James Kearney 23

    God, speaking of which, from the bog-

    I’ll be one of the two panelists on Agenda on Sunday (10 am TV One). Deborah Hill Cone is the other.

    The main guest will be Rodney Hide on the future of ACT.


    Some fuckin’ balance! I’ve sent a letter of complaint to Agenda. I’d encourage others to do so too at feedback@agendatv.co.nz

  24. Pascal's bookie 24

    bloody ‘ell. I guess Michael Basset wasn’t available.

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