Brian Edwards Media

A Poster Boy for the Pro-Smacking Lobby

smack

I can’t be sure whether James Louis Mason punched his 4-year-old son in the face. I wasn’t there. But people who were there and who gave evidence at Mason’s trial were convinced that he had assaulted the boy and, more importantly, so was the jury.

Mason has had a fair trial and that ought to be the end of the matter. It won’t be. Mason is likely to become the poster boy for the pro-smacking lobby. If  his performance last night on Sunday is anything to go by, he fits the bill perfectly.

Mason doesn’t deny hitting one of his boys. But he’s added to the smacking lobby’s lexicon of  ‘hitting’ euphemisms by defining what he did as ‘a flick’, which he demonstrated with considerable enthusiasm on the programme. It’s a drumming move apparently.

Nor was he at all embarrassed to admit that shouting and four-letter verbal abuse were part of his child-rearing repertoire. If you were going to keep your kids safe in this hostile world, they had to get the message loud and clear. The proof of the pudding was in the eating. His children, he told us, were still alive.

And if you were in any doubt that the Mason family were actually the Waltons reincarnated, there were all those pictures of dad kissing and cuddling his kids. Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe I’ve been in the industry too long not to suspect staged performances from people on the telly.

It was perhaps no accident that the item was fronted by Simon Mercep. It had all the feel of a Fair Go story, with Mason in the role of the victim, the wronged party. Uncharacteristically weak journalism, I thought. 

And there’s one quite curious thing here. If the pro-smacking lobby is right and the vast majority of New Zealanders oppose the new law, you might have expected an entirely different verdict.  Juries are quite capable of ignoring laws they consider  silly or unjust and bringing in what they consider sensible and fair verdicts. Either this jury was firmly convinced that Mason was guilty as charged or he was bloody unlucky to have struck 12 proponents of the nanny state.

Watch Part 1 of Sunday

And Part 2

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19 Comments:

  1. I watched some of the first piece, thanks for the link. No doubt to me that he’s a great dad – but.
    He appears to be a bit of a bouncer with his boys. Like a sergeant-major he seems to need a testosteroned edge to wrangle his platoon of lads and would appear to ameliorate his discipline with oodles of good-love.
    Police diversion would seem appropriate as no doubt he hits. Hits of Love. Drumming his boys into submission? Whacking the ‘skins’ like a good drummer….enough, off to work hi ho

    • I watched some of the first piece, thanks for the link.

      There’s bound to be a lot of percussion about this, I agree.

  2. The Sunday item was appalling one-sided journalism. And if you are a student of body-talk indicators I think that Mason spoke truthfully about what and where BUT then the hit/flick was clearly untrue recall. His description of “bouncing” the bikes was also a rewrite. My guess is that the long time for the jury to decide was over the bike-bouncing issue.(Pity that it was tied to the punch!) Is there a precedent for bouncing two small boys while sitting on their bikes to be assault? I bet there was a long debate about that! I guess there would be the risk of serious injury to the nether regions to boys or for that matter girls when so bounced. Simon Mercep? Shame on you!

    • The Sunday item was appalling…

      I’m a fan of Simon. But I did think this was an apologia rather than a piece of investigative journalism.

  3. I got the impression that particular story was more interested in whipping up the section 59 hysteria again (such excellent ratings!) than it was in presenting a balanced story.

    Watch out for the follow up stories, complete with extra long ad breaks.

  4. generally the msm coverage of this story has been utter trash. the same tabloids that yelp abut the morbidity rates of our children then rush to squeal about so-called nanny-statism in order to satisfy the populist braying of their thickest audience members.
    here’s another take on the Herald’s tragic efforts

    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/punch-in-the-face-dad-guilty/

  5. “The Sunday item was appalling one-sided journalism”

    Well I guess it was always going to be one-sided when the defendant and the victim are in the same family!
    My concern is that all are left unsure over exactly what charge or action the conviction is for.
    I would have thought a “Punch” to the face of a 4 year old would have:
    a: left severe bruising
    b: knocked the kid off the bike
    c: been obvious to the police when they arrived at the scene.

    I am left with the impression that the conviction is the result of a jury being swayed by the drama enmeshed with section 59

    • I agree that no one can be absolutely sure what happened. But I’m inclined to think that opposition to what has been erroneously called ‘the anti-smacking law’ was more likely to have produced a not-guilty verdict.

  6. But I’m inclined to think that opposition to what has been erroneously called ‘the anti-smacking law’ was more likely to have produced a not-guilty verdict.

    But wasn’t he guilty?

    • That was my original point, jonno. Given the supposedly widespread opposition to the ‘anti-amacking’ legislation, a ‘not guilty’ verdict might have been expected. Clearly this jury was in no doubt on the evidence that he was guilty as charged and, if they did have reservations about the law, set those reservations aside.

  7. The “it can’t have been a punch if it didn’t leave bruises” argument is dreadful on at least two levels:

    1. The guy was allowed to go home with his kids after he’d calmed down. “Severe bruising” could hardly have manifested in that time. AFAIK, there was no subsequent medical examination of the four year-old boy who was hit. So it’s irrelevant.

    2. It’s offensive to suppose that it’s okay for parents to hit children in the head so long as they don’t leave bruises.

    • The “it can’t have been a punch if it didn’t leave bruises” argument is dreadful on at least two levels:

      Right on, Russell

  8. I didn’t necessarily think that the jury would have been opposed to the bill, more that in an effort not to appear as such they swung the other way

  9. Thanks for referring to the..”erroneously called ‘anti smacking’ law…” Maybe one day it will sink in..

    I’m tempted to use the words ‘anti-slapping’ but it’s probably better to correct gullible people who still use the expression, ‘anti-smacking’ by reffring to it as ‘section 59 of the crimes act’ because it is about crime after all.

    However I think it’s valid to refer to opponents of the bill as the ‘pro-slapping’ lobby.

    • Thanks for referring to the..”erroneously called ‘anti smacking’ law…” Maybe one day it will sink in..

      Yes, there is no reference in the act at all to ‘smacking’. It simply removes the ‘reasonable force’ defence and gives the police a discretion as to whether or not to prosecute in trivial cases.

  10. The Sunday show was an appalling portrayal of the case and was essentially manufacturing consent for the ongoing maltreatment of children.

    Changing attitudes about the physical punishment is a key aspect of reducing all forms of child maltreatment. Sadly, the Sunday doco made it seem acceptable for children to be subjected to “angry Dad mode” and “what ever it takes” to get them to listen.

    The show demonstrated the need for all interested and supportive citizens to help us counter the deliberately misleading messages coming from opponents of the law.

  11. hh.. amazing.