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Political Jurisprudence

Written By: - Date published: 6:59 am, November 13th, 2009 - 54 comments
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There’s no question that Hone Harawira’s comments were stupid, but I don’t believe they were racist. For a start, the white mofos reference began in Buddy Mikaere’s email to Harawira, so it’s not entirely inappropriate that those words were used in return. I quite often, when replying to emails or blog comments, use the words of those I’m replying to to make my point.

Harawira has been around for a while and should have foreseen the reaction his comments would cause, but that in itself doesn’t make this a hanging offence (note this is a metaphor, I don’t mean it literally). Harawira has clarified that his comment about white mofos was not a comment about all white people, and without evidence to the contrary, I think we should take him at his word. I also believe Harawira’s apology to be genuine he’s not generally one to say something unless he means it! From his apology:

Firstly I readily apologise for the poor choice of words in that email. I suspect if I had said something like ‘European colonisers have been responsible for the loss of more than 63 million acres of Maori land over the past 150 years and it is inappropriate that you should be holding me to standards set by people with such little regard for Maori land and Maori custom, it wouldn’t have rated a mention at all in the media.

My choice of words however has led to a flood of emails and accusations from all and sundry and for that I do apologise.

I apologise to the party because the party has done many wonderful things to advance Maori aspiration and I know that my words have caused considerable damage and unnecessary harm to our relationships with other people and with other parties.

I note also that my comments have been misunderstood as an attack against all Pakeha and that’s caused a lot of damage to my own credibility throughout the Te Tai Tokerau and throughout Aotearoa as well.

Over the weekend I met with the party president and co-vice presidents and took on board some very good advice about how best to deal with controversial emails and I intend to follow that advice to ensure that such responses as my last one do not happen again in future.

I recognise that there needs to be some serious bridge building on my part with my caucus colleagues and I will be doing so over the next few weeks.

It annoys me that many of those calling for Hone to be sacked are doing so out of their own self-interest. One has to wonder if some of those supporting Labour are simply getting their own back on the Maori party for going into coalition with NACT. After all, you don’t see the same faux outrage from Labour over Trevor Mallard continuing to call the Attorney-General ‘tinkerbell’ in the house. Or is homophobia acceptable because it’s discrimination against a minority?

I thought about writing a list of MPs from both Labour and National who have made rude and offensive comments at least as bad as Harawira’s, and who have got away with a simple apology. Ultimately though, that wouldn’t be entirely constructive, so I just ask people to consider whether this is, metaphorically speaking, a case of political jurisprudence.

On the issue of the IF… THEN comment. People can refuse to believe basic logic if they like, but one should consider how boring the world would be if colourful metaphors were banned simply on the basis that they would cause offence if taken literally.

As for the original issue of Harawira disappearing on holiday in Paris, it’s entirely fair to criticise him over that, provided it’s to the same extent Rodney Hide and Bill English are. I supported Harawira when he disappeared to Alice Springs as in my mind it was a valid political action that I want to see our MPs engage in. This time however, it was personal, and Harawira should pay something back (although he did pay for the day trip himself).

54 comments on “Political Jurisprudence”

  1. Gosman 1

    So just out of interest Rocky did you have a position on whether or not Melissa Lee’s comments about South Auckland criminals was racist?

  2. Gosman 2

    Did Rodney Hide actually break the rules then in regard to his spending on the trip?

    You seem to be ignoring the fact that while Hide’s tax payer funded trip was hypocritical for him to make he didn’t do anything technically wrong.

    Hone Harawira bunked off from work to engage in a personal activity with his wife and latter bragged about it. I’m not sure he has even apologised for doing that.

  3. The Voice of Reason 3

    Give it up, please. Harawira is a nationalist and a racist, currently embroiled in a controversy entirely of his own making. Grasping at pedantic straws makes no difference what so ever, Rocky. Are you going to start posting that Winston is misunderstood? That Nick Griffin doesn’t hate all black people?

    As for the ‘he did it first’ defence. It doesn’t work in sport, law or when dealing with errant toddlers. Hone is a racist, sexist, ego driven fool and does not deserve a scrap of support from anyone who considers themselves to be on the left. Please stop, it’s embarrassing.

    • rocky 3.1

      What “he did it first” defence?

      • the sprout 3.1.1

        I think it’s amazing that we aren’t seeing a massive outcry that Buddy said it at all, probably because most reporting on the issue doesn’t really mention that detail. It’s not pedantic at all, it goes straight to the imbalanced responses to the whole issue.

        Sorry you are so easily embarrassed by reasoned argument though, puts a bit of a kink in the magnificence of your handle

    • The Voice of Reason 3.2

      Rocky; you wrote; “For a start, the white mofos reference began in Buddy Mikaere’s email to Harawira, so it’s not entirely inappropriate that those words were used in return.”

      Sprout: It’s bush lawyer pedantry, not a reasoned argument. But thanks for the compliment about my magnificent handle. I see there’s some pretender over on the sewer attempting identity theft. It ain’t me, folks, I’m naturally reluctant to dip my toe in that festering cesspit.

      • rocky 3.2.1

        That’s not a “he did it first” defense. It simply adds some context. If some other politician had said a similar thing first (as unrelated) I wouldn’t see it as relevant, but this was in the context of the emails. I’ve used derogatory language on this blog before when using the language of those I’m replying to to make my point.

      • the sprout 3.2.2

        very wise. teastament to your identity that some arsehole’s trying to nick it

  4. Sanctuary 4

    The Standard’s writers have expended a lot of electronic trees rationalising and engaging in waffling sophistry on this.

    But at the end of the day, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

    • Marty G 4.1

      some of the standard’s writers. there’s a split in opinion if you look at the posts.

      • Tigger 4.1.1

        rocky does seem to be engaged with the issue…gotta give props for that. But it’s getting really boring…I was hoping The Standard might be a place to escape from this endless Harawira dross. Now that his party has taken their current line I hope it pulls the air out of this issue.

        But re the ‘Tinkerbell’ remark – why bring it up here? Is it anywhere near as offensive as what Harawira said and did? No. Heck, maybe Tinkerbell is his nickname. And you’re going to put up Finlayson as some type of victim? I’d probably call Finlayson something far worse myself given that he’s an Uncle Tom type of gay – can you name me one pro-gay statement he has made in his entire political career…? Trevor on the other hand has a voting record to show his support for gays.

        • BK Drinkwater 4.1.1.1

          I can’t speak for Rocky, but I imagine she brought the example up to demonstrate that in politics, taking offence is weapon used opportunistically, and often hypocritically.

          An example: I take opportunistic offence at you calling Chris Finlayson “an Uncle Tom type of gay”. Just because a politician happens to be gay, it doesn’t at all follow that his political career must consist of waving the pink flag at every opportunity.

          In fact, suggesting there’s an inauthentic (“Uncle Tom”) way to be gay at all is massively offensive: it reduces the full diversity of the gay community down to a single dimension, defined by you for self-serving political ends.

          Another example: the trend in the States—and I’ve seen it on this blog, too—to use the word teabaggers as a generic derogatory term in relation to that bizarre protest movement going on over there. In my high-school experience, when I hear that word being used in the generic derogatory sense, I’d get a feeling of dread because I knew I was about to get the shit kicked out of me.

          The point: just because people on the Left are generally supportive of gay rights, it doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes very callous and hurtful. This means their credibility is damaged when they claim opportunistic offence at terms like “white motherfuckers”.

          • Tigger 4.1.1.1.1

            Rather rich lecture me on the full diversity of the gay community…or that people while assuming I want Finlayson to ‘wave a pink flag at every opportunity’… You are equating being gay with this ‘waving’ not me.

            Finlayson has worked for years in a party that seeks to deny me rights. Makes him an Uncle Tom in my book.

            • gingercrush 4.1.1.1.1.1

              What has National done to deny you rights?

            • BK Drinkwater 4.1.1.1.1.2

              Yeah, because National is the party of the Wall amendment. When it comes to gay rights stuff, my position is pretty simple: a pox on all their houses.

              And how the hell am I equating being gay with waving the pink flag? I’m pointing out that different gay politicians can make different kinds of contributions. Finlayson doesn’t want his political career to “be about” gay issues. That’s his prerogative.

              Finlayson, like me, is a member of the National Party because he, like me, is more comfortable with National’s philosophy/vision/whatever than the other parties’.

              I happen to think National’s pretty crap on gay rights, so I work within the party to turn that around. Does this make me an “Uncle Tom”, too? Who the hell are you to make these judgements?

            • Armchair Critic 4.1.1.1.1.3

              GC – there has been an unreasonable amount of legislation put through under under urgency – there go some rights.
              The presumption of innocence is on the chopping block. Pretty fundamental right, I would say.
              There are those increase powers of surveillance, which are an erosion of the right to privacy.
              The government has legislated what I can wear and where I can drive. Is that enough?
              For the record, the calls of “Tinkerbell” that are shouted across the house are vile, and Mr Mallard has no excuse for them.

  5. Gosman 5

    It is quite simple really.

    If you were one of the people decrying Melissa Lee for her ‘racist’ comments about South Auckland criminal’s then you should equally be upset at Hone Harawira’s racist outburst in his e-mail reply.

  6. Geek 6

    “Mr Mikaere, who runs a consulting company, emailed Mr Harawira a two sentence message: “Gotta ask the question eh? who’s paying for Hilda?” ”

    So where in Mikaere’s email did he refer to white people as White motherfuckers? Was there previous email correspondence on this issue that I have missed the reports over? As far as I was aware this was the two sentence email that precipitated Mr Harawira’s diatribe.

    • Marty G 6.1

      I’m certainly not defending Harawira and I think it’s pushing sh*t uphill to try to do so.

      To be fair though, Mikaere actually sent a much longer email to Harawira – when the email exchange first came public it was on RNZ and they read out both emails. I don’t know why the papers reported his email as only that short quote above because it wasn’t.
      [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20091106-0844-Hone_Harawira_correspondence-048.mp3" /]

  7. torydog 7

    Geez your inability to see Hone has offended a great many New Zealanders and is indeed racist whether comments are made in private or not is truely weird!

    I see no distinction between Rodney and Hone with there wee holidays…..and yet I dont see any posts from the standard supporting Rodney!

    Bye bye hone…enjoy being an independent!

    • rocky 7.1

      I can see that Hone has offended a lot of people, and for that he has apologised.

      I also see no distinction between Rodney and Hone with their holidays, as you’ll see if you read my post.

  8. Zetetic 8

    Political jurisprudence is about court cases that are decided more on political than legal grounds.

    It’s got nothing to do with, and is not analogous with, the present case. This is politics. Not jurisprudence. There is nothing legal or legalistic about the way Harawira’s behaviour is judged.

    He is judged politically as a political actor who knew what he was saying and how it would be heard. He has been judged entirely fairly. Even if you don’t think it’s fair, it’s real. And the question becomes do you want to be associated with this guy or not? Ngapuhi says no, Maori Party says no. I don’t know why anyone would say yes.

    • rocky 8.1

      Note I said metaphorically speaking. I was referring to the fact that I don’t believe this case is being judged akin to others. I sense a lot of the reaction is due to peoples’ personal politics and self interest rather than a clear analysis of the situation.

      And the question becomes do you want to be associated with this guy or not? Ngapuhi says no, Maori Party says no. I don’t know why anyone would say yes.

      This isn’t some George Bush for or against bullshit. I support Ngapuhi and the Maori Party’s position on this. Hone has brought them into disrepute. That wasn’t the point of my post.

    • toad 8.2

      Zetetic, try these reasons:

      – Because Hone has tirelessly worked to raise public consciousness of and seek redress for the injustices done to Maori since the 1970s.

      – Because if the Foreshore and Seabed Act is repealed (and as racist legislation it should be) Hone will more than anyone else be responsible for that, regardless of whether he stays with the Maori Party.

      – Because Hone sticks up for working class Maori, rather than pander to the Brown Table and the Nats like some others in the Maori Party do.

      – Because Hone has probably done more to promote Maori aspirations for achieving te tino rangatiratanga guaranteed to Maori by Te Tiriti than any other living New Zealander.

      That said, I don’t condone the misogynist language he used in the email to Buddy Mikaere and, and I don’t condone his Paris travel rort.

      • snoozer 8.2.1

        No-one’s denying Hone did good stuff. But he’s doused all his achievements in petrol and put a match to them with his recent behaviour.

        He is now effectively undermining everyone else who supports his principles and leaving them with no choice, if they are wise, but to turn condemn him.

        • the sprout 8.2.1.1

          see that’s part of the point. he hasn’t doused all those achievements with ‘petrol’ as you say, he’s doused them with water – a common mistake of many a politician from time to time through their careers.

  9. Tiger Mountain 9

    A journalist wrote recently (alright, in the bloody Listener 14 Nov.) that ostensibly ‘small’ events can trigger a politicians demise or at least an unrecoverable shift in public perception of what they stand for. Exhibit A: Rodney Hide.

    While I agree with VOTR above that Hone engineered his very own such ‘small event’, this is not all about a flawed individual. It has class politics all over it. The Maori Party in real terms represents the iwi elite. This runs against what Hone has achieved in Te Tai Tokerau. He helped organise previously ignored people. He takes on the tobacco corporations. He is not a sophisticated politician, but has a cv that includes decades of radicalism from engineers delegate in the car plants of South Auckland, 81 tour, multiple Hikoi, Waitangi action, indigenous solidarity, capacity building in rural education. He was one of the few NZ mps that could have attended Australia’s ‘Sorry’ Day with any credibility.

    It is most convenient for the Maori Party that this “MoFo’ incident has occurred so they can ditch him for a compliant replacement.

    • DavidW 9.1

      I think that this matter of the politics of class that seems to permeate the Maori Party is a largely unexplored and therefore mis-understood by the majority of non-maori. When the “pakeha press” were excluded from the hui yesterday, we lost an opportunity for the veil to be lifted a little but there have still been a few clues in some of the public statements by the party’s leaders that are fascinating.
      It leads to the conclusion that tribal elitism, chiefs and “others” is alive and well. It hints that large numbers of ordinary tribal members are not represented and never will be as long as the Te Heu Heus, Turias, Horomias and other highly ranked people are the public face of Maori. It largely explains the fleet of BMWs for family members of a certain Waikato tribal leader while the medical centre offering cheap treatment to the erks had to close and it explains the concengtration of tribal assets in major investments and the lack of beneficial effects to the majority of potential beneficiaries.
      There is a Standard PhD out there to someone who can offer some better understanding of Maori tribal and Party politics and the relative roles of inherited aristocracy and influence.

      Hone appears to be the exception to the rise of the ruling class and so teh machinations surrounding his treatment will remain a mystery and will not be understood by most. It is therefore highly unpredictable as to the outcome when I suspect that the outcome has already been predetermined.
      I just wish that I could understand the words of the song and the steps of the dance a little better.

  10. ellenun 10

    I personally don’t have a huge problem with the content of the email. Essentially it just restates (if with the odd ‘punctuation mark’) the post-colonial narrative. I do, however, have a problem with the junket to Paris, a problem with the whole culture of entitlement and greed within New Zealand’s political culture. And Harawira has lost any high moral ground and shows he’s just as susceptible to it as all the rest of them. Using that post-colonial argument to defend his behaviour just gives plenty of air for the kind of comments found so far on this thread to breed.

  11. TightyRighty 11

    “One has to wonder if some of those supporting Labour are simply getting their own back on the Maori party for going into coalition with NACT. After all, you don’t see the same faux outrage from Labour over Trevor Mallard continuing to call the Attorney-General “tinkerbell’ in the house. Or is homophobia acceptable because it’s discrimination against a minority?”

    and yet at the top of the post you say you don’t believe that what hone said is racist. what else is discrimination on the grounds of skin colour but racism?

    this from the supporters of the overly politically correct side of the spectrum. nice one rochelle. it’s always great to see one thugs horrible comments towards a gay minister, that truly show what labour thinks of gays in general, put into perspective by another mans obvious antipathy towards a whole race.

  12. Maui 12

    Ok, lets be impartial. An Auditor-General inquiry into misuse of parliamentary entitlements by English, Harawira, & Hide (sounds like an interesting firm) – or following precedent from the Mother Country – an inquiry into the use of entitlements by all parliamentarians ?

    • Gosman 12.1

      Bill English’s expenses have already been the subject of an investigation.

      Rodney Hides’ were entirely on the level, he was entitled to claim what he did. The issue in his case is the hypocracy in railing against them previously.

      Hone Harawira decided to get out of doing his taxpayer funded job for a day so he could go site seeing. He may well have paid for that part of the trip himself but the actual rest of it was on taxpayers money.

      T

  13. Olwyn 13

    It must be remembered that Hone’s email did not amount to a public statement, it was a private statement later made public – I personally found some of the private statements of the National Party, made public in Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men, more shocking and more hypocritical.

    As to his metaphoric statement regarding Phil Goff, people can only be taking this literally for the pleasure of feeling outraged. If the Maori Party does cut him loose, headlines will shout “Hone Axed!” without anyone assuming there is blood on the floor.

    And as to the trip to Paris, he paid for it himself, and I would be very surprised if he was the first and only politician to skip a meeting. As I have said before, one ought be charitable enough to assume he used some judgment as to which meeting to skip.

    I also think there is a big difference between racial remarks coming from a person who is often on the receiving end and those that come from a person who assumes a superior position.

    Finally, I admire the guy’s forthrightness, of which we could do with more, rather than less, perhaps without the distraction of the swearing.

    • toad 13.1

      Mind you, rumour has it that Richard Worth’s sackable offence was skipping a meeting at Parliament to go rooting.

    • DavidW 13.2

      Hone didn’t just “skip a meeting” he was the leader of a Parliamentary Delegation, sent to Brussells specifically for the meeting.

      Sort of raises the stakes a bit I would have thought

    • the sprout 13.3

      “people can only be taking this literally for the pleasure of feeling outraged”

      hear hear

      “there is a big difference between racial remarks coming from a person who is often on the receiving end and those that come from a person who assumes a superior position”

      indeed

  14. Olwyn 14

    And two more points I forgot to add:”Hone” is criticising the very people who pay his taxes.” Don’t Maori also pay taxes!
    “There he is, criticising Pakeha and then taking time out to look at their great works of art.” Does anyone really think that Maori would have remained isolated from the rest of the world if a few boat loads of English hadn’t turned up in the 19th century? Furthermore the works of art in question were certainly not produced by white New Zealanders.

    • the sprout 14.1

      you and your logic getting in the way of a good outrage-off 🙂

    • Geek 14.2

      “Don’t Maori also pay taxes!”

      Yes they do. However the comments weren’t aimed at Maori even though there were Maori clearly involved in the most recent theft, the F&S.

      “Does anyone really think that Maori would have remained isolated from the rest of the world if a few boat loads of English hadn’t turned up in the 19th century? Furthermore the works of art in question were certainly not produced by white New Zealanders.”

      A fair point. That issue has been battered on more than it is worth.

  15. Anne 15

    Tariana Turia was quoted in today’s Herald as saying ” This is not just about a jaunt to Paris or bad language. It’s been an ongoing issue and it’s reached it’s end… we have not been able to manage the situation… we have to be honest, we couldn’t manage it”.

    Given her political back-ground and her current political love affair with John Key, I wonder if she is using Harawira’s (conveniently) silly behaviour as an excuse to get rid of him because he is a personal thorn in her side?

  16. dave 16

    I doubt it
    (captcha “managing” classic!)

  17. Anne 17

    Fair enough dave. Nothing in politics is as simple as that. But it may well have been a partial consideration given her past record. Turia has a reputation for wanting her own way come hell or high water.

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