Metiria versus Pākehā men #2

Another view that a few Pākehā men may not entirely agree with (and probably some non- whites and non-men).

Miriam Aoke (Vice): Metiria Turei and How the NZ Media Ignores Its Own Prejudice

For the past few weeks, New Zealand has dwelt on Metiria Turei (Ngāti Kahungunu) and her admission of benefit fraud. Many were quick to label the move divisive, a ploy for votes, and condemned Turei for what they saw as a lack of remorse.

Turei was persecuted by media agents with no concern for her hauora or that of her whānau.

For Māori, mainstream media is mired in colonial framing, misrepresentation and exclusion—yet mainstream media continues to insist its coverage is non-partisan. Metiria Turei conceded the scrutiny on her whānau was unbearable, and she resigned as Green Party co-leader last Wednesday.

The voices of Pākehā men were once again triumphant in drowning out the Māori worldview.

Aoake may have a reasonable point but she has expressed it unreasonably.

It is ridiculous to assert that all the ‘drowning out’ was by Pākehā men.

Media treatment of Māori and Māori issues is deeply prejudiced.

Research conducted by Māori academics between 2006 and 2007 analysed close to 2000 stories across ONE news, 3News and Prime. In total, only 1.8 percent of stories referenced Māori. Of that 1.8 percent, 56 percent were concerned with child abuse.

That’s ten years ago and may or may not be out of date, but it raises an important point. But having started by slamming ‘Pākehā men’ she will have turned off a substantial potential readership before she got to detail her case.

Representations of Māori, and our stories, remain under the control of Pākehā-owned television, radio, and print media.

That is absurd. Ownership of media is varied. Some media is probably dominated by Pākehā men, but where is the evidence? I’m sure there must be some. I have concerns about how some media is run.

Some media is Maori controlled. I watched a couple of very interesting programmes on Maori television last night, that is a very good channel.

There is nothing stopping Māori people setting up and owning and running media.

Journalism is informed by Western pedagogies, which emphasise the need for objectivity, but the definition has shifted over time. Journalists recognised bias as inherent, and resolved to develop the practice to test information and prune any cultural or personal bias. Objectivity, in a modern context, translates as free from bias.

Purging journalism of an unmoderated bias to which it freely confesses is impossible.

Purging media of anything, including of ‘Pākehā men’, is impossible – and it would be abhorrent to try. I’m fairly sure most people including most Maori would have serious concerns about targeted purges of media.

In 2005, Aotearoa was visited by UN Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen—he was responsible for assessing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Māori. The report, published in 2006, was damning. His findings suggested there was a systemic attitude of racism towards Māori within the media.

I think things have changed in the past decade, but systemic attitudes of racism are no doubt still a problem.  Aoake is promoting a sexist racist attack of her own, it just happens to be not against Māori.

He found that potential Māori ownership of resources is portrayed as a threat to non-Māori and that a recurring theme is Māori as incompetent managers or as fiscally irresponsible.

I don’t understand this. If Maori want to own media then they should choose to do that.

In his recommendations, he advocated for the establishment of an independent commission to monitor media performance and intervene with remedial action when necessary.

Intervention and remedial action would be very tricky, and potentially dangerous.

He also pleaded with political figures and media outlets to refrain from using language that may incite racial intolerance. The glaring scrutiny which prompted the resignation of Metiria Turei is evidence that mainstream media has made little to no progress.

“The voices of Pākehā men were once again triumphant in drowning out the Māori worldview” looks like language that may incite racial intolerance.

I don’t see how racism can be defeated by promoting a different slant of racism.

Aoake quotes Patrick Gower and Barry Soper as examples of the male Pākehā  problem in media. This is very selective. I saw many articles written by females, and by Maori.

I presume Aoake knows that Gower and Soper have no Māori genes. It’s not uncommon to make inaccurate assumptions – when Green MP David Clendon withdrew from the Green list he was slammed by some for being a ‘white male’. Looks can be deceiving – Clendon no doubt has some non-Māori genes, but he is also tangata whenua.

The need to demonise the poor and impoverished, to distract from the issue of a broken safety net, to stifle a Māori voice is indicative of an experience shrouded in privilege. The approach is necessarily punitive by design. It is an offensive which, when successful, exacerbates the division of wealth and equality, the “us versus them” rhetoric. Both for Turei and Māori women, navigating post-colonial Aotearoa is exhausting and arduous.

We prune and trim, yanking the weed out by the root on our hands and knees. We sow seeds to harvest and bloom when the time is right. We scrub the blood and dirt from the beds of our fingernails. We sleep heavily, satisfied that our labour will make an impact. In the morning, we wake to find the weeds overgrown, the soil infertile, and the flowers wilted. Yet still, we persist. We rise every morning, repeat the mahi, and reclaim our whenua.

It’s good to see Māori women who strongly promote what they believe in.

But when they make mistakes, as Turei did, they must not be immune from examination and criticism, even if they are Māori and female and left wing.

Entrenched problems need to be vigorously fought against. There are entrenched problems in media and in politics.

But in combating them a criticism free pass should not be given to someone simply because they may be a minority. As a white middle class male I’m a minority, but that shouldn’t give me any special immunity from criticism or examination.

Pākehā men who are politicians get investigated and criticised by media more than anyone – because there are more of them than any other minority.

There may well be bias and different races and different genders may be treated differently. By all means try to measure and monitor bias and try to address it.

But it’s racist, sexist and counter productive to protect Turei from criticism based on her gender and genes, while slamming and trying to exclude all Pākehā men.

Many Pākehā men would (and do) support promotion of better media and better politics. Isolating and ostracising them as a group won’t help.

Metiria versus Pākehā men #1

While Metiria Turei has largely dropped out of the media spotlight there has been some ongoing commentary on her rise and fall over the last month. Two articles claim that she has been done over by white middle/upper class males.

Newshub:  Metiria Turei’s demise due to ‘race, gender and class’ – academic

For the last three weeks, the actions of former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei have polarised our country.

Māori academic Dr Leonie Pihama described the coverage as “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class”.

There were certainly attacks on Turei and her actions and attitudes to benefits and solutions to poverty.

But she started a highly political and contentious ‘mission’ and media had a duty to examine the whole story, not just the bits Turei wanted to promote to try to grow votes for the Green Party.

Some media coverage may have been over the top, but that’s not unusual in politics. Bill English has been hammered by media for months over the Todd Barclay issue, and he’s right wing-ish, white, male and relatively well off.

Polls showed that many people who leaned left were not comfortable with Turei’s actions and continued acceptance of law breaking.

Three quarters of people polled, including about half of Green voters and about two thirds of Labour voters answered yes to ‘Was it wrong for Metiria Turei to get a bigger benefit?’ – see Newshub poll: Most Kiwis say Metiria Turei was wrong to lie to WINZ

There was clearly:

  • left wing disapproval
  • clearly many of those who disapproved must have been female (at least half)
  • many must have been lower to middle class,
  • there must have been some non-whites who disapproved (as there was whites who approved).

It is fine for Pihama to question whether there has been some bias in reporting the Turei issue. There is always bias in media.

It is also fine to suggest that some ‘attacks’ were based on ideologies, race, age and class. Inevitably they would have been.

But stating that the coverage was “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class” is not something one should expect from someone presenting themselves as an academic.

There was more. Discussion on this at Reddit:

She said a lot more than that:

“What we have is a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right wing ideologies of race, gender and class that serve the interests of domination and which reproduce systems of inequality and disparities. Metiria Turei embodies all of those things that white supremacy seeks to destroy.

“It seems that everywhere I turn there is a upsurge of white supremacy expressed as white privilege.”

A comment in response at Reddit:

What it says is actually the truth. Metiria Turei does embody all that white supremacists (aka Trump supporter type) because she is:

  • Brown coloured (aka not white)
  • A woman
  • Activist for the poor
  • Environment activist
  • Socialist
  • Secularist

The only reason she was hounded by the media is because she failed to anticipate that they would dig for, and find, more dirt on her. Lying about having a flatmate (although it was actually fine for her to have a boarder), and voting in a different electorate to your actual residence (John Key did the same thing while he was an MP) was no big deal.

What actually hurt her was the fact that the residence she put down was actually the baby daddy’s address, so the possible implication was that she she lied about living with him which meant she was never entitled to the benefit in the first place. Despite her years of political experience and the fact she was a co-leader if the Green Party, she failed to anticipate the media uncovering it all and connecting the dots.

But Pihama seems to think that it was unfair for media to join the dots. It was clear there was more to Turei’s story than she was willing to divulge.

It sounds like Pihama is biased based on her political  ideologies, race and gender (I won’t try to judge her class).