PM, radio jokers, petitioners “all need to reflect”

I didn’t see this commentary by Claire Trevett until after writing Political pressure petitions.

She says there are Lessons in John Key stunt wash-up.

PM and his advisers, radio jokers and petitioners all need to reflect on their roles.

Somehow the story has morphed into calls for John Key to be stripped of his ambassadorship for the White Ribbon anti-domestic violence organisation for failing to speak out against sexual violence because he had not stopped a radio stunt that referenced prison rape in jokey terms.

It has since emerged that the reason Key did not do this was that he had not realised the “joke” was a reference to prison rape, but that has not stopped the baying for his head.

The baying for his head began before White Ribbon or Key had responded. Conviction by petition before evidence had been heard.

Whatever his detractors think of his politics, even the Prime Minister is entitled to a bit of natural justice. Without evidence to the contrary, Key has effectively been declared guilty for a joke he did not make and did not even know was a joke. And there is no evidence to the contrary.

There was nothing in his reaction to the soap that indicated he detected such overtones, just bafflement as to why there was soap there at all. There is no reason to doubt his denial to White Ribbon, no matter what his detractors say.

There was also a Deliverance quote that most people probably didn’t know anything about. I didn’t, and I’ve seen the movie (when it came out in the seventies).

Things got so ridiculous that one person even suggested if Key did not know it was a prison rape reference, he was not qualified to be a White Ribbon ambassador – as if one of the qualifications was knowing jokes and obscure references to sexual violence.

Unfortunately the rush of ridiculousness quickly overshadows valid issues.

But Key’s own silence on this cake-of-soap issue hasn’t helped. The only comment to come from his office in the aftermath of the stunt was some tripe about the degree of joking involved in the Christmas round-up of radio networks.

If it were not for the White Ribbon campaign asking for an explanation, we still would not know whether Key had realised what “pick up the soap” alluded to. Nor has he condemned it or expressed a view on the appropriateness of it once it was pointed out to him.

I’m disappointed that Key hasn’t spoken up to deal with what happened. His lack of appropriate response has given the anti-Key brigade – and some of the media – a free shot.

It is doubtful the Prime Minister will give up that valuable air time on commercial radio on the back of last week. But of one thing we can be sure – his advisers will now be checking what stunts he’s in line for in advance.

I hope so.

It beggars belief they did not do that already, given journalists interviewing him on more serious matters like, oh, running the country, are asked what topics they intend to cover.

It was a very odd situation that the Prime Minister allowed himself to be exposed to, and his muted response hasn’t helped him.

But the over the top claims and campaigns against him do end up helping him. Perhaps he understands this and that’s why he remains silent.

A big question for me – why have the complainers and petitioners only been targeting Key? What about those who set up and carried out the stunt?

The political focus makes it look like political activist opportunism.

As Trevett says there are lessons in all of this but I suspect Key has already learnt what works for him and his attackers never will.

Leave a comment


  1. Farmerpete

     /  22nd December 2015

    Says it all really!

  2. Isn’t all this palaver just indicative of the dearth of any real news this time of year?

  3. Iceberg

     /  22nd December 2015

    When did the left get sooo precious? Think back to left influencers/activists in the past, would they have got bogged down in this nonsense?

    • I think that online tools have enabled it.

      We still have ‘rent-a-mob’ protests and marches, but now also have easy access to petitions and online campaigns, plus we have a media that buys into it. The red peak campaign only got legs because journalists promoted it.

  4. Joe Bloggs

     /  22nd December 2015

    Posted on another thread about this. The petition is an unnecessary overreaction…but I do agree with Trevett, that now the meaning of the soap prank has been made clear, a brief statement from Key expressing his disapproval in The Rock would go a long way to recovering his mana

  5. David

     /  22nd December 2015

    Key is no fool, he knows the vast majority will see he has done nothing wrong and is a bit of a victim here. He will let all the talking heads and journo,s go totally over board as they always do and it will reflect very poorly on the media…again. They are as stupid as the Labour Party and rank equally in peoples minds.
    National Radio should be ashamed of themselves in particular, Guyon Espiner especially.

  6. The Prime Minister guilty by implication and insinuation? Well who’d of thunk it eh? He who so steadfastly plays that game has become a victim of it.

    You play in shit you should not be surprised to get some on you. If shit happens to be “valuable air time on commercial radio” so be it. John Key expects to come out of valuable air time smelling of roses. This time though the game has some saying the smell is not roses.

    One realisation might occur as the episode fades from the news – that nowhere on their list of priorities do puerile radio presenters have the importance and preservation of the dignity of the Prime Minister. Not the person or the role.

    The present PM has made the matey, blokey, down-market approach his own. It’s ‘meet the masses’ core stuff bridging the gap between remote and being one of the boys. None of this is bad for the radio station except that in the future they will have to work a bit harder to come up with angles to gain the same impact.

    Similarly the Prime Minister and his minders and advisors will have to work a bit harder to make sure the smell is roses not shit.

    • jamie

       /  22nd December 2015

      Maybe just for once he could man up and own his mistake. I’ll even provide a simple template that doesn’t make him look like a fool.

      “Oops, it seems I read that situation wrong, and by the time I realised what was going on it was too late. My bad. I understand that some people are feeling a bit disappointed and embarrassed by seeing me get involved in that type of thing, I’m sorry about that and I promise I’ll be more careful from now on.”

      Would that be so hard? Would anyone even be talking about this now if he wasn’t so stubborn and just said something simple and cheerful like that on the first day?

      Apologies for simple mistakes don’t have to be huge, heavy, solemn things but they can go a long way if done early and done right.

  7. Is this still a thing – really? What does he have to say sorry about? That he got sticthed up?

    How about demanding an apology from the Radio station DJ’s for being dicks? We know that won’t happen because… John Key

  8. gunangler

     /  22nd December 2015

    I’m sick of this and the anti Key brigade are just causing more people to fall in behind Key… oops am I allowed to say that!
    I guess the country is in good shape if this is the only news they have!

    • @ gunangler – Mmmm, let’s put that another way, shall we? What you are saying is “I think people voicing opinions that are not pro-Key are causing more people to become pro-Key”

      You are certainly allowed to say it, although I question whether it makes much sense?
      People seem pretty much factionalised around John Key already. KDS or KRAS, as it’s frequently refered to on here.

      One thing I know is this: I personally do not concede my opinion when I know it is backed by logic and I also feel it very deeply. It is never going to make sense to me to say John Key got “stitched up” because if so, why doesn’t he get stitched up all the time on Q&A or Morning Report or in any other media situation? I feel it because there was unthinking, unfeeling, trivialising, puerile, shocking grossness – including DJs behaviour towards PM – and PM took part in “light hearted Christmas spirit fashion” and didn’t take any opportunity to speak up about it.

      Two more things: If you’re so sick of it why read the post and others comments and bother to write a comment yourself?

      Another possibility, not infrequently postulated, is that while this news is taking up our attention, other things, possibly more dark and sinister, are going on undetected?


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