On Key, resigning and White Ribbon

A comment by Joe Bloggs sums this up well for me:

There’s no reason for Key to resign from the White Ribbon campaign. That’s a step too far. A simple apology and a statement condemning the actions of The Rock would be nice. And perhaps a little more thought about the maintaining the dignity of the office he’s sworn to uphold…


Practical White Ribbon


Moreu’s cartoon in today’s Timaru Herald.

That might be more appropriate for a few radio hosts.

Political pressure petitions

Petitions to put pressure on politicians or to promote or oppose policies have become common.They sometimes demand that heads must roll, a very negative reaction to something that is often politically charged.

Petitions are very easy to set up online. Are they useful? Most are ignored, although some get boosted by media attention.

There’s currently a petition calling for the White Ribbon Campaign to dump John Key as an ambassador after Key was involved in crass ‘jokes’ on The Rock radio station.

Is calling for Key to be dumped the best approach here? It hasn’t worked so far as White Ribbon has accepted Key’s explanation that he had no idea what the content of his radio interview would be.

Wouldn’t it be better to encourage Key to turn this very unChristmas-like ambush on him into an opportunity to make a positive point about the misuse and abuse of sexual/criminal jokes? I would have liked Key to do something along these lines.

But some people have chosen to try to shame Key and get him dumped from White Ribbon.

Which people?

Ken Clearwater from the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust said he found the stunt “bloody appalling”.

“Rape is not a joke, full stop. Regardless of the gender of the victim. The psychological damage done to men and boys is the same as to women.”

Fair enough for Clearwater describing the stunt as “bloody appalling” and standing up for victims.

The White Ribbon Campaign expects their Ambassadors to “embody the principles of the campaign” and they are chosen for “their willingness to challenge the behaviour of abusive men, and to convey key messages directly to their own communities.”

“I would certainly hope that John Key would not be treated any differently by the White Ribbon Campaign because he is the Prime Minister. The only question we should be asking is, does this behaviour uphold the principles of the White Ribbon Campaign?” says MacDonald. “If not, then he has to go. Personally I won’t be able to bring myself to support their campaigns in the future if he remains as an ambassador.”

But then he turns it into a pressure campaign, trying to get White Ribbon to do what he wants. I have concerns about this approach.

The petition was set up with Clearwater’s support by Action Station and Kyle MacDonald.

Action Station say they are “here to enable the large community of Kiwis with shared progressive values to take powerful, coordinated action on urgent issues we care about” and they are “independent and member-led, we are affiliated with no political party” but their formation had  links to Green Party activists – see How Green is ActionStation?

Issues currently featuring on their website as well as the dump Key from White Ribbon include “end the Serco fiasco”, climate change, anti coal, Key’s “abysmal track record backing sexual violence survivors” (from November), anti TPPA, anti flag referendum.

So they align quite left on the political activist spectrum.

And the person fronting the White Ribbon petition is Kyle Macdonald who describes himself as “psychotherapist and blogger”.

His blog is Off the couch – “a psychotherapist’s view of events and happenings in Aotearoa New Zealand”.  The Key/White Ribbon campaign features there.

The anti-Key petition also features prominently on MacDonald’s Facebook page, not surprisingly. But going back through his posts there you can get an idea of other topics of interest to him.

  • #‎TPPAnoway‬
  • Anti-John Key/flag
  • Got your ribbon on ? ‪#‎takethepledge‬ ‪#‎whiteribbonday2015‬
  • Looking forward to hearing @MaxRashbrooke talk at “Step it Up” on Monday – Tuesday ‪#‎inequality‬ ‪#‎nzpol‬
    Spending the day with some like minded folk
  • Listening to @GarethMP @grantrobertson1 outline the big issues for progressives in the next 10 years… ‪#‎NZpol‬ ‪#‎stepitup‬
  • I’ve encountered a fair bit of ignorance about poverty today. So I’m just going to repost this blog from last year..
  • On John Key and “child poverty due to drug abuse” – So even if this was true, and of course he hasn’t produced any evidence that it is, strong empirical evidence shows that socio-economic status, trauma and poverty strongly linked to risk for addiction.
    So he’s either lying, wrong or both…

It’s not surprising to see some of MacDonald’s political preferences. And they go back – here’s something from 2009:

I have received the following communique originated by NZ Association of Psychotherapists member Kyle MacDonald; an easy means for you to tell the Minister for ACC what you think about sexual abuse recovery rationing:

Grass Roots Political Action, a step by step recipe.

That details a letter to a Government Minister campaign, an update – “There’s also a petition, for what that’s worth”.

MacDonald also teamed up with Action Station on another petition campaign in June this year.

Psychotherapists and campaigners team up

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists have teamed up with grassroots campaigning movement ActionStation to call on the Government to drop new experiments using ‘social bonds’ to fund the delivery of mental health services.

“Over the past week a number of our members asked us to launch a campaign calling for an end to this experimentation with mental health funding,” says Marianne Elliott, National Director of ActionStation. “They were concerned about the perverse incentives this approach could create in the delivery of essential services to vulnerable New Zealanders.”

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists share these concerns and have publicly backed the petition.

“As we talked to our members, and I spoke with members of the general public it became clear that a lot of people are really shocked and worried about the idea of this Government using an unproven funding model with some of our most vulnerable Mental Health consumers” says Kyle MacDonald, New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists Chair of Public Issues.

Now none of this is a problem, MacDonald can team up with anyone and promote whatever issues he wants to.

But it puts some context around his John Key/White Ribbon petition and campaign.

I wonder if, from a psychotherapy angle, whether political pressure petitions and campaigns are the best way to achieve positive results.

I’d prefer some good came out of this rather than scoring a political scalp.

White Ribbon on John Key and The Rock

White Ribbon has accepted assurances from John Key over radio stunts that have widely been regarded as distasteful, and has condemned The Rock and The Edge radio stations.

From a post on the White Ribbon website:

Recently, The Rock radio station created a segment that referenced male rape in a manner that trivialised this horrific violence. It was an awful exercise in bad taste and helped to perpetuate violence by normalising and trivialising it. We understand that some people won’t see it that way, it will be in their eyes just a joke. We however do not agree.

It’s an old ‘joke’ that I heard in other contexts long before I knew it was associated with prison rape. I agree with White Ribbon that the radio segment trivialised what can be horrific violence.

As many people know, a White Ribbon Ambassador (the Prime Minister) was involved in an on-air segment on the Rock which was highly offensive. We have reached out to the Prime Minister, and we are informed that he did not know what was about to occur, and did not at the time comprehend the rape references or make any. We take the Prime Minister at his word.

If Key was made aware of what was going to happen in advance I would be very surprised if he would have agreed to take part in what The Rock planned.

A statement from the Key last week:

“The Prime Minister does these interviews in the spirit of Christmas and the content is decided by the hosts.”

“The interviews are meant to be light-hearted, and the Prime Minister hopes the media and the public take them that way.”

I think Key’s intent was light hearted but his participation was abused by the radio station.

NZ Herald reports:

Last Wednesday, Mr Key was taking part in an interview at the Rock when he was persuaded to enter a cage that had been brought into the studio.

Once inside, he was told by host Tom Furniss to pick up a bar of soap, and did so to laughter from the station’s staff.

Picking up soap is a reference to prison rape. Furniss then told Mr Key he had a “pretty little mouth” – a reference to the film Deliverance.

I’ve seen Deliverance a long time ago (it came out in the seventies) and don’t remember that reference.

I think what Furniss said and did was inappropriate, highly distasteful and disgraceful.

White Ribbon:

The Radio Station however were aware that they were using a rape reference as the basis of a joke. This all too common acceptance of rape and violence within our society is unacceptable. It can re-victimise and trivialise, and whether directed at men or women, it is wrong.

It looks to me like an irresponsible and dirty attempt to embarrass the Prime Minister, without any thought about the wider implications of their attention seeking.

We ask organisations such as the Rock to consider whether they wish to be part of the solution and help to end the unacceptable levels of violence, or through their actions or inaction, continue to create the environment that supports violence.

I’d like to see a response to this from Tom Furniss and The Rock.

I have just checked The Rock and see they are still promoting “John Key joins Tom in his cage” on their website.

Dr Russel Wills’ call to men for less violence

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russel Wills has published an open letter marking White Ribbon anti-violence day.

To those it concerns,

Do your children see you get angry and shout? Have they watched you lash out at their mum? Do they cower in the corner when you enter a room? Are they frightened of you?

It doesn’t have to be like this for your children. It shouldn’t be like this.

When you are violent it always affects your kids. It changes their development and it changes how well they’ll do in life. When they grow up they are more likely to be violent themselves, or be victims of violence. They are more likely to have major mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems and physical problems.

As a pediatrician – I’ve seen your kids in my clinic. Kids like the four-year-old girl with a developmental age of two. And like the little boy who wasn’t learning at school; not because of ADHD (like everyone thought) but because he was terrified that when he got home mum would be hurt or dead.

Your kids still love you but they want you to change. I think you love your kids too. I think you want your kids’ lives to be better than yours. I’ve seen dads turn their lives around because they love their kids and they love their kids’ mum. You can too.

It’s not too late. I’m asking you to step up and get help right now. I know this is not easy but take a positive step for the sake of your kids.

You could start by taking the White Ribbon pledge to promise to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. You could talk to someone you trust about your behaviour and ask for help. You could call the Family Violence Information Line on 0800 456 450.

Be the kind of dad your kids would love you to be. They want you to walk into a room and give them a cuddle, or play with them or talk about their day. They want to be happy to see you.

Most men in New Zealand are not violent. Become one of them.

Yours Sincerely

Dr Russell Wills


Message to Kiwi men

There are a number of White Ribbon events over the next few days, starting with White Ribbon Ride today. It gives men a chance to stand up and speak out against violence.

Violence is one our society’s biggest problems, adversely affecting many things including families, relationships, friendships, work prodictivity, health, mental health, crime, imprisonment. Worst of all it affects children, and sometimes leaves scars with them for the rest of their lives.

If you are a non-violent man saying and doing nothing is not good enough. If you don’t speak out strongly against violence then violent men don’t get the message that it’s not ok, it’s not acceptable.

Violent men need help. If they can’t deal with their violence by themselves they should seek help.

They also need help to see that violence is a bad way to deal with issues, it doesn’t solve anything, it just causes pain and suffering.

Learning to be non-violent is learning to be a decent man in the modern world.

Learning to speak up against violence is learning to be a decent non-violent man who is prepared to do something about the harm violence does to our society.

Non-violent men need to speak up about violence. When we do that violence can be addressed and reduced.