Refining that dog whistle

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, January 10th, 2017 - 71 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Andrew Little, bill english, Deep stuff, election 2017, Maori Issues, national, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:

In this traditionally slow time of year any sort of news tends to make a splash.  Over the past few days we have had the ongoing saga of the Mad Butcher and the strange PR advisor who thought the best approach to minimise the damage caused by a very inappropriate comment was to make more inappropriate comments.  And Peter Dunne gained valuable media attention due to his prowess in tying bow ties.  I kid you knot.  Give that man a Ministerial Post and a free ride to a Parliamentary seat.

Yesterday there was another splash, this time about Bill English not attending Waitangi.

When he became Prime Minister I suspect a few lefties, myself included, thought back to 2002 and the abysmal, appalling campaign that was run that year and thought “yippee”.  Judging by the quality of of his recent performance I think we should revisit our optimism.  Because clearly the PR machine that was behind John Key is now behind Bill English.  Expect the PR advice to be much better than it was in 2002.

Fairfax broke the story and announced that English will not attend Waitangi Day celebrations.  There was a subsequent article by Jo Moir where she talked about a “Waitangi Day cringe“.  I suspect that this particular phrase came right out of National Party phrasing.

The Herald also used the “cringe” word and repeated the claim that English will not attend because he had been denied speaking rights.

So what actually happened?  Stuff helpfully put up the correspondence between the Prime Minister’s office and the organising committee and the documents themselves paint a rather different picture.  And before questions are asked about what other communications there were the letter from Ngatai Kawa Taituha specified that to avoid any confusion communications should occur directly with him as in previous years multiple communications had caused some confusion.

And was English banned from speaking?  The email from Taituha contains this paragraph:

Nope.  Does not look like a ban to me.  Looks like the organising committee wanted to have a formal powhiri and then offer English “a stage and forum for the Prime Minister to engage with Ngapuhi, address the Nation and talk politics freely and uninhibited, if he so wishes”.

But when you read English’s letter clearly he wanted to speak AT THE POWHIRI, not after.

But I think there is a compelling logic for what was proposed by the Committee.

A powhiri is the formal occasion where visitors are welcomed onto the Marae and following a formalized ceremony the welcome is complete.  Feel free to correct my very bland generalized description of a Powhiri.  I have attended a number and have always found them very moving and very traditional and after they have been concluded I have felt very welcome.

I have never felt the urge to get up and give a political speech at one.  It just seemed to be a very inappropriate thing to do.

I tried to think of a European equivalent.  If you are invited to a Catholic funeral do you think it appropriate to question why you have not been allowed to talk during the middle of the service? Or do you think it might be best to wait until after the formal part of the ceremony is finished and then give a speech at a time that the organizers offered to you?

And when Iwi travel to Parliament to celebrate treaty settlements whereby their legitimate claims are compensated by cents in the dollar they are expected to comply with Parliament’s rules.

English clearly thought differently, or thought that enough of the electorate would think differently for it to be worthwhile to dig his heels in and refuse to even discuss the timing of his speech.  But given past concerns with security the committee’s wish to handle things so that security threats are minimised is not an unusual stance to take.

But when you read the Committee’s letter English’s claim that he was prevented from speaking is, ahem, not correct.  The Marae Organising Committee was willing to provide an opportunity immediately after the Powhiri for him to talk about what he wanted.  He could have waited until the formalities were over.

What is really sad about this is that a group of Ngapuhi volunteers who are doing their best to organize one of the most important events in the political calendar have been held up to ridicule in talk back radio land for political purposes.

I spent part of the afternoon listening to talk back radio to assess the effects of the news.  Everyone had bought into the line that uppity Northern Maori were stopping English from talking.  And the framing had taken hold.

It is no wonder that we cannot have a proper discussion about the Treaty of Waitangi and its part in our country’s future.  Some parties are far too busy scoring political points.

I would suggest to Andrew Little that he should volunteer to take English’s vacant speaking slot and talk about New Zealand and what wonderful about it, what is going wrong and what needs to change.  See then if English’s refusal continues.

There has to be a better way.  Playing games with well intentioned volunteers for political points should not be something that any responsible Government does.  Ever.

Final words should go to mauī.  Hope the media reads them.

So because English can’t go all William Hobson and talk right through the pōwhiri he’s packing a sad. Fu.. maybe someone should say to him its not supposed to be a reenactment.

71 comments on “Refining that dog whistle”

  1. simbit 1

    k/o
    You can be ‘political’ at a powhiri, hell its Te Tii marae. But the expectation is you would speak in te reo as its a powhiri (not a mihi whakatau).

    The new PM misrepresented the situation.

    Key response will be from Maori Party…

  2. veutoviper 2

    Nope. Does not look like a ban to me. Looks like the organising committee wanted to have a formal powhiri and then offer English “a stage and forum for the Prime Minister to engage with Ngapuhi, address the Nation and talk politics freely and inhibited, if he so wishes”.

    MS – Pedant Alert

    You might want to correct the ‘inhibited’ in the last line above of this extract from your post to ‘uninhibited’ as per the letter.

    Cheers

    [Cheers VV. Rather major change! Have corrected – MS]

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    I wonder what yesterday’s shameful roll-call of apologists will come up with to excuse their stupid gullible acceptance of the lies their leader tells.

    “Don’t blame me, I’m just a lickspittle.”

    “I’ve told myself so many lies I can no longer tell the difference.”

    “What wrong with being a white supremacist anyway?”

    I’m picking the third one.

    • james 3.1

      See thats where the quality of debate on here goes to pot – comments inferring people are racist and white supremacist simply because of their views on something like Waitangi day.

      Fact is people can have views for a wide range of reasons – does not mean that they are racist – or taking it to the extreme race supremacist.

      It just makes you look like an idiot. Try re-reading your post from someone on “the outside” of this community here on the Standard and see how it looks (Hint:not good).

      Why not try raising your game.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1

        You think white supremacist views form no part of right wing attitudes to Waitangi day and te tiriti? You don’t think recent events in Europe and the USA have emboldened white supremacists in any way?

        I’m sure there might be some other reasons why the National Party plays the race card. Perhaps you can suggest some.

        In the meantime, my question is, what do you non-racist, human-rights-respecting right wingers tell yourselves when your leader turns out to have played you for fools?

        “Why am I not allowed at Cabinet Club any more?”

        • james 3.1.1.1

          “You think white supremacist views form no part of right wing attitudes to Waitangi day and te tiriti? ”

          No – not really. The number of true white supremacist in NZ I would believe is barely a handfull – yet – you post it as any one supporting English is one.

          Which is my point.

          • weka 3.1.1.1.1

            The dominant culture is one of white supremacy. You have a pretty old fashioned idea about what white supremacy is. See my comment below, it’s not about the KKK.

            • weka 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Have a look at this. It’s a US context, but much is translatable,

              Conservatives and progressive often use the phrase “white supremacy” in divergent ways. Conservatives use the phrase in the service of a dishonest “colorblind” agenda, evoking extreme images of KKK members and Nazis as the exclusive and only examples of white racism in American life and politics. Conservatives use extreme caricatures of white supremacy in order to deflect and protect themselves from charges that the contemporary Republican Party is a white identity organization fueled by white racial resentment.

              Liberals, progressives and anti-racists use the phrase “white supremacy” to describe the overt and subtle racist practices of movement conservatism in the post-Civil Rights era, and how American society is still structured around maintaining and protecting white privilege.

              4. In the most basic sense, white supremacy is a philosophical, material, ethical, economic, scientific, religious, and political system that works to maintain the dominant and relative superior group position of those identified as “white” (and their allies) over those marked as “non-white.”

              Thus, white supremacy is the philosophical and systemic umbrella for white racism.

              http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/10-things-everyone-should-know-about-white-supremacy

              And this for OAB and myself,

              This analysis is largely correct: however, it often conflates concepts such as racism, white privilege, and white supremacy with one another. Language does political work.

              In the age of Obama, the phrase “white supremacy” is often used in political discussions like an imprecise shotgun blast or a blockbuster bomb. If the Common Good and American democracy are to be protected—countering how the right wing has used the politics of white racial resentment, racial manipulation, and hate to mobilize its voters in support of a plutocratic agenda—a more precise weapon is needed. A necessary first step in that direction requires the development of a more detailed and transparent exploration of the concept known as “white supremacy.”

          • mickysavage 3.1.1.1.2

            So do you think that English engaged in a bit of race baiting for political purposes and if so what do you think about it?

            • Jenny Kirk 3.1.1.1.2.1

              Totally agree with you mickysavage @ 3.1 – and I applaud your attempt to show what actually happens at a powhiri.

              The English response is blatantly political – designed to get him on the front page before he skips off overseas – and, as you say, a real put-down of hard-working volunteers at Te Tii Marae who expend a huge amount of time and energy in trying to make the welcoming day a special occasion for everyone.

              At the very least, English should have the decency and manners to know this, and respond in a polite and correct manner. But No – Waitangi is an excuse for the Nats to ramp up NZers’ inherent racism yet again. An appalling display of non-leadership.

            • simbit 3.1.1.1.2.2

              1. Yes.
              2. It sucks.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.3

            What Weka said.

            When right wingers talk about “we are all New Zealanders”, or get upset about treaty principles, or claim there is such a thing as “Māori privilege”, you are promoting white supremacy.

            I can see the phrase makes you uncomfortable. I can’t see why your behaviour doesn’t.

      • framu 3.1.2

        Calling people racist probably helps just as much as the PM engaging in racist dog whistling in the lead up to our national day for party political purposes.
        Its been proven that English has been misrepresenting the situation to a major degree and as OAB points out – playing the country for fools.

        so who has more reach? more influence? – some people on a blog or the PM via the MSM?

        What feels worse to you?

      • weka 3.1.3

        While I probably agree with you about the inflammatory and unhelpful nature of OAB’s comment, I think that using the terms racism and white supremacism are appropriate. It’s time that Pākehā stopped thinking it’s the end of the world to be associated with those terms. We live in a racist country, and demonstrably one that has had a white supremacy agenda and in many important way still does despite the progress made. Why not be honest about that and figure out what to change?

        White supremacy doesn’t mean the KKK. We don’t need the KKK in NZ because we have more subtle ways of enforcing white as the norm. It simply refers to the fact that people have rights in this country so long as they conform to the dominant culture and allow that dominant culture to be supreme. And that dominant culture is European-derived (i.e. ‘white’).

        Fortunately for NZ we Te Tiriti, so it’s pretty easy to point to the huge problem with the idea that we should all be ok with the dominant culture reigning supreme.

        I also appreciate your point about how OAB’s comment looks to those outside the regular commentariat, but on the other hand, this shit that National just pulled is yet another variation of deliberate and sophisticated racism that has been going on for a long time. Some of us have had enough, which is why I use the term white supremacy. Time to wake the fuck up and choose which side you are on.

    • R Brownlee 3.2

      Oh so because I dislike the PM being gagged I must be a National voter?

  4. BM 4

    During the powhiri do the Ngapuhi speakers get to talk politics with Bill English if they want?

    • framu 4.1

      from my reading of the released emails, Ngapuhi looked like they were trying to separate the political from the ceremonial

      Given the history re: waitangi, this seems like a good move.

      • BM 4.1.1

        Shame they didn’t make that a bit clearer in the correspondence.

        If they said there will be no political talk from both sides and all discussion will happen afterwards then I don’t think Bill English would have had a problem in turning up.

        As it currently stands all the speakers could all take turns to attack Bill English and he’d have no right of reply.

        • mickysavage 4.1.1.1

          English’s office should have cleared that up with the organising committee. Would have been easy to do and they still have four weeks to sort this kind of thing out.

          Unless the intent was to manufacture a redneck backlash for political purposes.

        • Gabby 4.1.1.2

          If it’s all in Maori he’s not going to be too bovvered is he?

        • framu 4.1.1.3

          what do you think “provide a platform for the PM to engage with Ngapuhi” means?

    • mauī 4.2

      I never would have picked you to slight Māori culture…

      • In Vino 4.2.1

        You must have clicked on a wrong button because it looks like you are replying to framu at 4.1. Who is your comment directed at?

    • You_Fool 4.3

      My understanding from all this is that the powhiri is a formal rigid structure and all speaking is done in Te Reo and there is certain forms the speeches should follow; and politics or grievances are not the way of such speeches, but are of welcome and greeting. My thought is that the letter should have specified that as leader English could speak during the powhiri, but he should make the formal required speeches in Te Reo or that he could nominate the official government Maori Representative to make these formal speeches on behalf of the parliament, however I am but an ignorant pakeha so I may be missing some important protocol issues

  5. Wainwright 5

    Great opportunity for Labour to use their close ties in the Maori seats to emphasise they’re a party for all New Zealand not just narrowminded Pakeha.

  6. Carolyn_nth 6

    An NZ Herald editorial comes out in favour of Bill English attending Waitangi this year.

    He could have quietly agreed to the marae’s request. A powhiri is a welcoming ceremony and an occasion for speeches of greeting and good will. There is plenty a prime minister can usefully say in the spirit of the powhiri – about Waitangi and the nation it founded – without descending to the usual arguments of politics.

    To get to the powhiri, prime ministers and their attendants usually have to walk through a protest on the road outside the marae. Key was jostled as he walked to the gate with Sir Pita Sharples the first time he went there as Prime Minister but he declared it would not deter him from returning. The incidents outside the gate are all the public can see and remember of Waitangi Day each year, though they happen the day before.

    Every prime minister faces the challenge of finding a way to move our attention from a small, poorly-led marae by ensuring something impressive can happen on the Treaty ground where history speaks and all should listen. This prime minister should at least make an attempt.

    That last paragraph includes an unnecessary slap at the Te Tii Marae – dismissively diminishing the importance of the marae – a kind of dog whistle there, too.

    • JanM 6.1

      Agree about the dismissive attitude to the marae – not my experience at all in the few times I’ve been there. I wonder if the writer has ever been there or if they are just being patronising?

      • tc 6.1.1

        Its the herald which is a.k.a. the national party press release advertorial.

        Blinglush will be doing as told and CT will be praying the electorate stays asleep so they can blag another election using every trick possible.

  7. Ad 7

    Great forensics there Mickey.

    Also good to see the political year start and Labour get back to work.

  8. fisiani 8

    Seems a general consensus from the sensible people in NZ that Bill English does not want to be ritually abused at Te Tii marae as so many previous PM’s have been but will attend and speak at Waitangi and so will be PM for the nation. Smart move by Bill English.

    • Jenny Kirk 8.1

      Nope – English is not attending and speaking at Waitangi or being PM for the nation, fisiani. He’s meeting privately with the chosen few – iwi leaders – a couple of days beforehand, and this will not be public. Not a smart move. Just a lack of good leadership.

    • Sacha 8.2

      Crikey. Look who agrees with you about what being the ‘PM for the nation’ means:
      http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/322077/pm's-waitangi-day-remarks-'disappointing'-maori-party

      Labour Party leader Andrew Little said it was the one event the Prime Minister should attend. Pulling out of the powhiri and the dawn service was a failure of leadership, Mr Little said.

      “He ought to have speaking rights where ever he goes – he is the Prime Minister, he is the leader of the nation. He should back himself and his ability, once he gets onto the marae and powhiri’s onto it, to get up and speak.

      “He should then be clearly available for what happens on the sixth of February cause that’s where the real leadership is required and where he needs to lead the nation.”

      Mr English has said he will spend Waitangi Day in Auckland.

      • BM 8.2.1

        Is Little telling English he should just ignore Maori protocol and just get up and speak anyway?

        Rather surprising attitude from a labour party leader, do you think he’s chasing the redneck vote?

        • Sacha 8.2.1.1

          “once he gets onto the marae and powhiri’s onto it”

          Who knows what that garbled fragment means.

        • Wainwright 8.2.1.2

          Honestly why is BM’s blatant, deliberate trolling tolerated around here? Doesn’t seem to add much.

          • McGrath 8.2.1.2.1

            BM raised a good point. Is Andrew Little saying that the PM should override protocol regardless?

            • Wainwright 8.2.1.2.1.1

              Of course not. He refers to going to the marae and having a powhiri. Stop defending obvious trolling.

              [ As I’ve already pointed out here, you need to go and respond to the comment you made the other day. Until a response comes from you on that, you’ll stay in moderation – this being the last comment you make that you’ll see appear on-site.] – Bill

    • Red 8.3

      Yep smart move, its s circus every year, protest central for every nutty cause and activist, why bother, don’t give them a stage

      • One Anonymous Bloke 8.3.1

        🙄

        No stage at all to see here. No editorials or news reports either. The performance will now last (thanks to Bill English) until Waitangi Day.

        All this so you don’t have to see brown people on tv.

      • framu 8.3.2

        “protest central for every nutty cause and activist, ”

        except its not – your thinking of what you see in the press.

    • garibaldi 8.4

      Fisiani, an old aunt of mine once said “I”m not racist, I just don’t like Maoris”.
      This still seems to be the attitude of most Pakeha.
      It is an absolute travesty the way we (Pakeha) have dealt to Maori over the years and our meagre attempts to right the wrongs we have done are but a drop in the ocean.
      And our overt and covert racism is as alive and active as it has ever been in the crass ignorance of the majority of Pakeha.

  9. fisiani 9

    Bill English will be the PM for the people and will not allow himself to be the victim of the racist Harawiras et al pathetic attempt to get on the 6 o clock news. Te Tii Marae has once again been shown to be a place that is just an arrogant embarrassment.

    • Nick 9.1

      He’s a natz lifer, so I don’t expect any other actions other than what’s best for him and who he thinks will vote for him. Simply apply this to every single situation…… Expect nothing more…. Because it won’t happen….. No leopard changing his spots expectations from me.

    • mlpc 9.2

      I agree that BE will be the PM for the people.
      Reading the readers’ comments on Stuff, it is clear that the PM has overwhelming public support on this issue.
      It’s also clear that most Kiwis, not just many, cringe when they contemplate the goings-on at Waitangi.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2.1

        Thank you for labouring the point: Bill English is playing to his white supremacist base, and you’re applauding him.

        • mlpc 9.2.1.1

          I’m happy for you to delude yourself by thinking that BE appeals only to white supremacists.

          • garibaldi 9.2.1.1.1

            mlpc, please see my comment about people like you above.

          • mickysavage 9.2.1.1.2

            Hey MLPC given the contents of the post do you still think that English was refused speaking rights?

            • mlpc 9.2.1.1.2.1

              I didn’t say that, did I?

              It’s still correct that many Kiwis cringe when they think about what happens at Waitangi.

              • mickysavage

                No but you have studiously avoided the question. I will repeat it.

                Given the contents of the post do you still think that English was refused speaking rights?

      • Anno1701 9.2.2

        “the readers’ comments on Stuff,”

        yes Stuff, that bastion of intelligent discourse !

        • mlpc 9.2.2.1

          No one is claiming that Stuff is the bastion of intelligent discourse.
          But it’s more reflective of public opinion than The Standard, isn’t it?

          • Ad 9.2.2.1.1

            What’s the comparative readership to make that claim?

            • mlpc 9.2.2.1.1.1

              On the basis of a quick search, Stuff had approx 1.5 million unique readers per month in 2014 (Nielsen).
              By comparison, The Standard had approx 160,000 visits per month (Open Parachute).
              But given that many (most?) visits to The Standard will not be unique, it probable that Stuff has x100 or more times the readership.

  10. corokia 10

    Excellent point Micky in making the comparison with a Catholic funeral.

  11. Ant 11

    So the impression garnered is that Maori are intractable and we have a “strong prime minister” not willing to be dictated to.

    Getting used to the new mode of political spin (speed dissemination of false news) comprehensively detailed by Glenn Greenwald. Outrageous falsities published as MSM headlines reach millions via the full range of SM. A few days later third page apologies/corrections of two lines in the paper are barely noticed and gain negligible traction. Meantime the post-truth meme becomes established in the minds and hearts of the masses, aided and abetted by the “bubble” effect of search engines which selectively deliver to readers confirmation of their established predilections.

    What can be done?

    • s y d 11.1

      you need the ‘shock’ response, to the obvious falsehood.
      The calling it out as bullshit – in those kind of words.
      Cut the crap and all that…..

  12. seeker 12

    Peter Leitch (at least he apologised), Michelle Boag and now Bill English have all made me “cringe” over the last few days.

  13. Tanz 13

    Good on him for having some backbone. The Waitangi Day celebrations have been hijacked by the activists anyway, making it all a joke. Revert to New Zealand Day and try showing some respect to the leader of the country. The document had two signatories of course, not just the one. More backbone than Key ever had, he us by far a stronger leader.

    • lprent 13.1

      OMG. Tanz has a new HEROOOO!

      Boring. It seems to happen each time National or the Conservatives or even Act changes leader.

    • framu 13.2

      “Good on him for having some backbone”

      deliberately misrepresenting a situation to score political points off the back of peoples ignorance of waitangi day and marae protocol isnt “backbone”

      its playing people for fools

  14. Tanz 14

    He is ok. I always thought that. Much better and stauncher then slippery Key.
    More like a Clark or a Thatcher. Yay for Mr English!!! Made my year!!

  15. Tanz 15

    Oh, and yay for the Conservatives. May they win a seat or two this year.

  16. Brutus Iscariot 16

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11780428

    “A Ngapuhi elder says he wants to apologise to Prime Minister Bill English for calling him a “spoilt child” for not attending Waitangi – saying he now backs English’s decision to stay away.

    Kingi Taurua said since making his criticism of English he had seen a letter that was sent to the Prime Minister’s office by the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee.

    That stated that during the pre-Waitangi Day powhiri it was preferred that English’s “Maori representatives” speak on his behalf. After the powhiri there would be another event where English and others could freely talk, including about political issues.

    Taurua told the Herald that he had mistakenly believed that English had only been told he could not talk politics during the powhiri.

    He now felt he had “egg on my face” after he called on English not to be “a spoilt child and run away”, and wanted to meet the Prime Minister on his return from an official visit to Europe to offer an apology.

    “I wouldn’t go either. If I got that letter, telling me not to speak and to get somebody else to speak on my behalf, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the place.”

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