Followup on Rodney Hide’s “hate” speech

A part of Rodeney Hide’s speech (which had hate references) at the recent ACT conference was prominently covered by 3 News – 3 News report and Video. This prompted strong criticism. This in turn received strong denials he had said anything wrong, and there was counter criticism that 3 News had deliberately edited to present an unfair impression.

Apart from blog comment I didn’t see any other media pick up on this story except for being included in a Bryce Edwards Politics Daily roundup (published online by NZ Herald and NBR) and on Edwards’ Liberation blog.

On Kiwiblog David Garrett strongly defended Hide and strongly criticised my coverage – see David Garrett’s version of Hide’s ‘hate’ remarks.

I asked Patrick Gower to comment but he didn’t reply.

The only response I have seen from the ACT party is a tweet response to me:

ACT Party@actparty

@PeteDGeorge Those are not ACT’s views.

I’ve since talked about all this with several ACT party members who were at conference, including with party president John Boscawen so have a better idea of what happened and what was intended.

Hide’s contentious comment was:

They think you must have horns, and hate the poor, and hate the Maori, and hate the unions – well, that’s true.

It has been claimed by some that when you listen to pauses and speech emphasis Hide was only referring to hating the unions with his “well, that’s true”. Boscawen told me that if you heard the whole speech and if you know Hide and how he thinks then it was definitely just hating the unions, not Maori or the poor.

I won’t go in to whether it’s a good thing or not for ACT to be reinforcing perceptions that they hate unions.

Whatever Hide intended and whatever his fellow party members and supporters thought he meant, the way it sounded on 3 News I and others I know cringed at the remark, getting a different message of wider hate from it.

And the MC at the conference, Jim Hopkins, also picked it up as meaning wider hate:

There was a little moment there where you said “Everybody knows Act hates the poor, hates Maori, hates everybody, well it’s true.”

I just wonder whether you’d like to come back and revisit that.

So obviously it was easy to hear Hide’s statement this way. His response to that invitation to revisit and clarify was an emphatic “No!”

Some saw this as Hide agreeing with Hopkins’ interpretation and not needing further comment.

Some saw it as Hide seeing no reason to qualify his remark that he and ACT only hated the unions.

It has been conceded that if Hide had clarified what he had meant at that stage it would have probably been the end of it – if he only meant “hate the unions”.

Was Hide being deliberately ambiguous? Was he trying to appeal to an audience that would like the multiple hate targets, while giving him room to argue that was not really what he meant? Was he dog-whistling?

Was Hide being deliberately provocative, perhaps to attract media attention?

Someone who was at the conference wondered if Hide was being deliberately mischievous, knowing as soon as Hide said it that it was likely it could attract the media spotlight.  And they said that Hide would have been well aware of the risks and possible consequences of saying something like that.

Or was it careless use of language and sloppy or arrogant dismissal of an opportunity to clarify?

Only Hide can answer these questions.

Jim Hopkins interpreted wider hate in the comment, hating the poor and hating Maori. So did Patrick Gower. So did I when I watched it, as did others.

If left unaddressed this is fodder for political opponents – for some this merely reinforces what they think anyway, that ACT people hate the poor (yes, I hear that claim) and they hate Maori.

Damage to ACT has been done, but at least your true intent will be on record, this may limit future damage. If this is left as it is then there’s a good chance it will be brought up again to try and discredit ACT – for example it could be used to try and torpedo ACT in the next election campaign.

If an official version of intended meaning is also out there it will at least partly balance what has already been broadcast if anyone googles it, and it will make any future defence more credible as it has already been stated.

Rodney, I just wonder whether you’d like to come back and revisit this.