Brian Edwards Media

Michael Laws writes to Brian Edwards Media and I respond.

Earlier this evening (Friday), Michael Laws sent three comments to this site. Two were about what other people have said. The third was a direct reply to the two posts I have written about Michael’s column in last week’s Sunday Star Times, A Black Eye for Liberal Bleaters. What follows is Michael’s unedited comment and my response:


Dear Brian

I’m very pleased that you have been prodded out of your liberal senility to mount ceaseless ad hominem attacks upon my person … you join Russell Brown as another who can’t debate issues but must insult first, second and third.

I wrote a perfectly rational column as to why Asperger’s Syndrome is not an excuse for criminality. A point that Arie Smith’s family agree with: their issue was having him denied bail because of his special condition.

You may bleat on all you like AND I note the irony of having your correspondents demand violence against me. I’d say “bring it on” but you would only complain that I was inciting you …

As for the person ‘Dab’ from TV3 Nws … he did lie – my reply to the McLachlan lady was directed at saying she felt the perceived slight, not her son. The hyper sensitivity of such parents to Arie Smith being arrested … is ludicrous.

One other matter: the other central point of my column was that unsubstantiated allegations had been directed against the Police alleging brutality. They remain unsubstantiated. But that’s the liberal mantra, I guess. The Police are always wrong.

Cheers, sport.

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your having responded to the two posts.

‘Ceaseless ad hominem attacks’ are not really my style. My first post was essentially a deconstruction of your column with a brief critique at the end. I agree that the comments from followers of this site were considerably less restrained and I would personally not have enjoyed being the object of such a barrage of, yes, often ad hominem criticism. But you are surely not so obtuse as to fail to recognise that both the content and the manner of expression of your column about this young man were a provocation and an invitation to precisely the response which it has received from the vast majority of readers of this blog and of many other blogs. If you insist on using terminology like ‘rats, rodents, ferals prepared to feed on the misery of others’ to describe a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome; if you feel the need to write: ‘In fact, the published photos accentuated such feral features – an unusual angularity offset by a blackened eye and the demeanour of one who spends much of his life in the darkness'; and if you recommend that the same (or worse) violence meted out to Smith should be meted out to all looters – then you can scarcely expect to receive a measured response. Your columns make people very angry. It surely cannot be a mystery to you why this is.

I don’t resile from anything I wrote in either post. There is a suggestion in your response to me and to others that we have misunderstood or misconstrued what you were trying to say. That, it seems to me, begs the question: is our understanding flawed or is what you write ambiguous or unclear?

Finally, Michael, accusing others of ad hominem attacks is rich when it is part of your own stock in trade. You have perhaps forgotten that when one woman wrote to you to draw your attention to my first post and to seek an explanation of what you had written in your column, you replied, ‘Brian edwards is a sad old man who teaches people to lie … and gets paid for it.’ That is of course not merely untrue, it is precisely the opposite of everything we believe in and teach. It is also of course highly defamatory.

In some ways I’m sorry that it has come to this. You have in the past written favourably about me; and I have on this site written approvingly about you. But so many of your recent columns have been so angry, so hate-filled and so cruel that it is just not possible to ignore them or to regard them as a temporary aberration.


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  1. “I’m very pleased that you have been prodded out of your liberal senility…” / “…sad old man…”

    Now, I really didn’t want to comment further on this affair because I don’t believe in witch-hunts or rubbing salt into the wound.

    But this is the same old ageist bullshit that I seem to remember Duncan Garner desperately relying on last year.

    Haven’t noticed any sign of senility in BE’s columns over the years, Michael. Just sharp, incisive commentary, as ever.

    By my calculations, you’ll be hitting 70 in about 20 years time, Michael. Not too long at all. Is it really in your long-term interest to be deploying ‘senility’ in ad hominem attacks ?

  2. Very well written Brian!

    If Laws is to continue we’re all misunderstanding him then at some point surely he’ll have to acknowledge that perhaps huss writing is the source of this misunderstanding, not our reading.

    Of course I don’t buy that at all. It seems that all his public output is carefully crafted to provoke anger from large groups, and approving “thank god someone has the sense to say this” responses from smaller groups.

    The only question is, does he believe his own hateful crap or is this all a cynical act to boost his profile and audience?

  3. Michael Laws has completely lost the plot. he’s just said you’re ” another who can’t debate issues but must insult first, second and third”. This from the man who replied that a child’s mother was the cause of Asbergers. Rather than hypocritical, let’s just take it as the sign of a very sick and troubled man and humour him no more.

  4. Well, that changes everything. Now that he’s so lucidly explained himself, I’ve come to the conclusion that – umm – he’s still the most vile obnoxious self-aggrandising waste-of-skin I’ve ever the displeasure to encounter.

    How can we go about putting him out of our misery?(Metaphorically, or course. I don’t call for violence, unlike the oddly named Laws)

  5. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for sharing your email correspondence.

    Can I just please clarify to Mr Laws that at no point did I ever say I had a problem with the arrest, nor with punishment being given. My issue was that consideration needed to be taken of his special needs – to be the face of looters, to not receive bail, to have no support for his Asperger’s is something I believe is highly inappropriate and wrong.

    I had said this privately to my friends and family and when he received the support he needed, the matter had ended there for me.

    What I took issue with was Mr Laws’ column. He thinks it is ‘weird’ that I did so, while I also believe his intention is to flame.

    I think to state that ‘justice had been done, blackened eye and all’ was sickening.
    My original post was to highlight his inaccurate understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome.

    In terms of him accusing other people of not being able to discuss issues without personal attacks is hypocrisy at its best. Is not the first thing he did to me personally attack?
    That same day, he emailed another person I know and said “bye bye crazy lady”, he also emailed another person asking her if she had a job.
    He insulted me, Dan, and now you.

    This is what makes him so special.


  6. Looting is a loaded term. Daily Christchurch buildings of all variety of goods are being bulldozed and dumped. If one takes any of this stuff, one is branded a ‘looter’. Petty theft would often be more accurate. But such reality would not suit Mr ‘lynch him’ Law’s cravings for ratings.

  7. Laws has become a desperately sad and increasingly bitter ignoramus. I agree with Paul Holmes – Laws is now an odd fruit loop demonstrating ludicrous behaviour. “Going out to Howick and shagging a P addict on bail who’s called you up on the radio programme is ludicrous. Having the cops come round to your home because you’re being beaten up by your wife is ludicrous.”

  8. To me it’s as if Michael Laws is living on another planet, somehow full of venting anger and I’m sure he didn’t used to be like this. I think his biggest service with his column might be that many of his readers probably googled Russell Brown’s name and discovered a far more down-to-earth analysis of events.

    For me it’s not an issue that Arie Smith-Voorkamp was arrested (as Michael suggests in his response above), and I’ve encountered few people who think it is. He was in a place where he wasn’t supposed to be after all, whatever the reason, and no doubt the police didn’t want to take chances in the circumstances. I haven’t seen Arie or his family trying to make an excuse out of having Aspergers, and most of the (informed) comments I’ve seen doesn’t try to do so either, even if they ask for the circumstances to be taken into account by the courts, which is what courts typically do anyway. The problems people have are, or at least should be, entirely about what happened afterwards.

    What’s seriously bothered me is that Arie turned up in court looking as if he’d been pushed down two flights of stairs. As far as I can tell, neither the media covering the case nor the courts made any effort to ask the police how, when or why he came to be in such a state. It’s completely possible that there’s a perfectly good and legitimate explanation, but the police should be made to justify the presence of such injuries, because otherwise we as the general public have no way of knowing that the police are not causing them.

    This was a failure of both the police, the media, and the courts, and it’s precisely why a “taint of police brutality is allowed to remain” (as Laws says), although he seems to think everyone should simply trust the police without even asking them.

    I’m also disappointed in Michael Laws for going on to say “In the end, justice has been done, blackened eye and all. Now let’s similarly identify the other Christchurch looters and mete out similar justice.” From signing off his column this way, I fail to see how he’s advocating anything but mob justice, and to me that’s absolutely irresponsible from someone in Laws’ position and with his influence.

    The other aspect of the case that seriously disturbs me is the way the media held Arie up as “the face of looting”, and this is something where Aspergers should be a central theme. Why Arie, if not for the giant black-eye court photograph that could be published? (Who cares where it came from, after all.) Why not the two who were arrested for stealing emergency generators, for instance? Surely they’re far more appropriate people for the kind of revenge the media wanted. Personally I don’t think Arie should ever have been given the type of exposure he was given, and that was another big failure by the media.

  9. I have been following these comments with increasing despair. I really don’t know how to reply to Michael Laws’ ongoing diatribe. I recall being very disturbed by the first news item about Ari, the young man arrested for looting. Something about the images of him on the TV news didn’t ring true, and the subsequent reporting of his Asbergers Syndrome backed up my concerns. I have completed a survey for the Sunday Star Times this evening and I stressed that despite appreciating the national, overseas, business and pieces by Rod Oram and Richard Boock along with the generally frivolous social type articles for a bit of light relief, I will be cancelling my subscription of the Sunday Star Times if the column by Michael Laws is continued. I subscribed to the new look SST a few years ago as I needed to get another perspective on the news of the world apart from what APN was feeding us. I didn’t expect to have the columns by Finlay McDonald and Rosemary McLeod discontinued, despite disagreeing with Rosemary’s pontifications occasionally and Michael ‘Lhaws’ column continuing.

  10. 10

    A very measured reply Brian
    You did very well for “a sad old man who teaches people to lie”

  11. Michael Laws lives in that la la land inhabited by newspaper columnists and editors, radio talkshow hosts and TV current affairs show hosts in which any attack they launch on others is “freedom of expression” but any attack they suffer is “defamatory”. While I agree with Mr Laws that the young man charged with looting should not be given lenient treatment because of their disability it does not mean that Mr Laws was right or justified when he used the most vile language imaginable when describing the young man in question or when he used similar language to describe the man’s mother.

    Sadly, the problem with Michael Laws is that he is far too typical of the sort of people who make up much of the New Zealand media these days: washed-up bigoted has-beens who only have their jobs because of their connections, not because of their skills.

  12. I do feel bound to note that the first sentence of Mr Laws’ response, the one in which he complains of being the subject of “ceaseless ad hominem attacks”, begins with a personal insult.

    I’m sure Brian won’t be particularly wounded by it. But it does seem an odd way to open a plea for victimhood.

  13. Sunday Star Times editor David Kemeys says that a letter to one of his newspaper’s readers by writer Steve Braunias was not up to the newspaper’s standards of conduct, hence Mr Braunias being let go.

    I invite Kemeys to look at the stream of nasty unsolicited rantings against others here and elsewhere from his columnist Mr Laws and apply the same standards – if he has the gumption. If not, his bosses may need to replace him with someone who does.

  14. More of the same from “Floaty Floaty Boy”. Yawn. He has about as much credibility as Gaddafi or Charlie Sheen. Michael Laws seems to be totally unconscionable and lacking in self awareness.

  15. Michael Laws: “One other matter: the other central point of my column was that unsubstantiated allegations had been directed against the Police alleging brutality”.

    Let me get this right: Laws is claiming that there are posters saying it was one of the Police, given a hiding by “unsubstantiated allegations directed against the Police alleging brutality”. They are the ones “alleging brutality” to one of their own colleague/s? Aria attacked a cop’s fist with his eye socket? Threw one down a flight of stairs?

    If this were to be true, it would make Laws’s statement,correct. Unless, of course, Laws omitted something “critical” to avoid the
    ambiguity. Believe that, and you’ve earned yourself a complimentary All-Day Fun Pass into the “Kingdom of Venal Police-speak”.

  16. Re-reading BE’s original post, I see no “ceaseless ad hominem attacks”. You can boil anything down to a soundbite I suppose. BE has responded, so… cue Godwin’s law from Michael…3,2,1….

  17. Corresponding with Michael Laws appears to be a pointless exercise.

  18. pjr. Only a fool would bother. When a man argues with a fool, then two fools are arguing.

  19. Ugh – Edward – i feel sick after being reminded of “Floaty Floaty Boy”

    Just do all of New Zealand a favour, and go away Michael.

  20. Laws appears to thrive in hypocritical populist banter – it appears nothing has changed since the Winston First days (remember him?).

    Actually, Brian, I’m wondering if you can do everybody a service (albeit unpaid, sorry) and just ignore him?


  21. Never forget about a year or so ago seeing an article in the W(h)anganui Chronicle about the unveiling of a memorial for a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered.

    Everyone in the photo was wearing clothing suitable for the occasion, except for Micael Lhaws.

    He was wearing, as our Mayor, a singlet and jogging shorts.

    Unbelievable, yet sums up his complete lack of empathy for other people.

  22. Laws is right in one thing. This youth was in court sporting a black eye. It is not known how or where he received this. There is an implication that someone in the police force was responsible. This matter deserves to be resolved both for the sake of Arie Smith and for the reputation of NZ Police. Smith’s counsel raised the matter in the first court apearance and subsequently dropped it. This is not good enough.

    I note that nowhere have you addressed this particular issue. Could it be that Laws is correct when he says, “But that’s the liberal mantra, I guess. The Police are always wrong.”?

    BE: No, that could not be. This is what I wrote in the original post: ‘As to whether Smith got his black eye from the police, I have no definitive answer. But he did not have a black eye when he was arrested and he had a black eye when he appeared in court. One might surmise that he got it either in the cells or from the cops.’

    I have no antagonism towards the police. I agree with you that the matter has to be sorted out.

  23. Laws gets a few brownie points for getting involved.

    BE: Yep.

  24. Fair point, Ben.

    And as distasteful and clumsy as Laws was, I think he MAY have been trying to say: –

    “Arie Smith has Asbergers, and that may or may not be the explanation for his alleged theft of some light fittings. However, in the context of the threat to public order and safety that looting presents, the fact that Smith ended up with a black eye from an unknown source (possibly the police, probably another arrested person), sits very lightly on the scales compared to the widespread suffering that has occurred in Christchurch. So lightly in fact, that it is a waste of time for “PC wets like Mediawatch’s Russell Brown and cause lawyers like Simon Buckingham” to be pursuing the matter, when there are still bodies to be recovered, mourning to take place, a city to rebuild, and broken lives to be restored”. Indeed, to be implying there integrity of the police is in question, when there are other logical explanations for Smith’s injury, and when the police’s ability to perform their tasks are under severe pressure at a time like this, and when there is a pressing and on-going need to maintain public order in Christchurch by means of respect for the police, is not in the greater immediate public good.”

    Not saying that I necessarily agree with it, and, yes, the actions of the disabled should be understood in a decent society, and summary justice is no form of reputable justice at all. However, I do ask the question, is the case of Arie Smith’s arrest and black eye detracting from where the balance of attention should be directed?

    Maybe not, and no doubt there is a long cue stretching way back yonder that want to argue the ‘slippery slope’ when it comes to turning a blind eye (no pun intended) to alleged police brutality, and the ignoring the particular needs of the disabled. Then again, you could possibly argue that simple folk like Laws (and me) struggle to multi-task with our prioritising and application of appropriate concern.

    Oh, yes, and one last thing before I head for my reinforced bunker: Jacqueline, your claims of feeling sick at the reminder of Laws, and your directive that he go away are rather contradicted by your initial rise to public prominence, and the various and persistent posts you make on a number of blogsites regarding the man.

  25. “However, I do ask the question, is the case of Arie Smith’s arrest and black eye detracting from where the balance of attention should be directed?”

    I’m sure we all have more important things to worry about (I’m in the quake zone) but that doesn’t mean we should compromise the principles upon which our society is foundered.

  26. I’m glad someone is taking him on, but on the other hand, why bother. The man is to be pitied! I feel sorry for his kids.

    As for me, I plan to cancel my SST subscription and give them the reason.

  27. …you mean you didn’t Joan, after the SST tried legal intimidation about a month ago against this blogsite, rather than front with the details of the quote gathering process for their “Amanda Hotchin is a modern-day Marie Antoinette” story?!

    Interesting priorities. Granted, it’s your money, and if you don’t want to be spend it on the SST because of Laws, you are free to remove a source of offense from your presence.

    However, at least Laws is only a columnist. That means he is primarily in the business of giving opinion, rather than reporting facts.

  28. I would like to know why Laws is paid to publish his crapola.

    C’mon BE you know the media better than us unwashed.

    Why is Laws getting paid for this?

    BE: The tabloid press don’t want columnists with reasonable, considered, much-can-be-said-on-both-sides opinions. That doesn’t sell papers. They want columnists who express outrageous opinions, preferably opinions that reflect the social and political views of their readers. So the successful columnist in their view is the one who attracts the most angry or supportive letters. Laws fits that bill exactly. So the reasons why the SST drops Finlay McDonald and Rosemary McLeod are entirely economic. The more extravagant Laws views, the more publicity he attracts (including on this site) and the more papers they sell. So the most sensible approach, as many commenters have noted, would actually be to ignore him.

  29. You may bleat on all you like AND I note the irony of having your correspondents demand violence against me. I’d say “bring it on”

    Oh, what fatuous machismo. If anyone here has threatened Mr. Laws with violence, or met the legal standard of incitement, then I suggest he call the Police.

    Until then, I suggest Mr. Laws read some Samuel Johnson who wisely advised that authors place themselves unbidden before the public, and solicit fame at the hazard of disgrace.

  30. 30

    Clarence Herbidies

    BE: The tabloid press don’t want columnists with reasonable, considered, much-can-be-said-on-both-sides opinions.

    I bet that the SST editor doesn’t appreciate his paper being described as “tabloid press”. Besides, there’s no page-3 cover girl.

    BE: True, but that’s the only missing ingredient. And I wouldn’t lay odds on a Page 3 girl not appearing in the future.

  31. Kimbo – i did not ask for the publicity that came from knowing Laws. I did not ask him to go public with our relationship in order to boost his radio show’s ratings, nor did he ask my permission to do that. Since he chose to do that though, i will continue to speak out regarding what an awful person he is – for the sole purpose of hindering his efforts to ever get back into National Politics. I will continue to speak out about him, because i never want to see him in a position to be making decisions that affect New Zealanders. I would do the same to anyone who is full of as much hate, anger, and poison,as Michael Laws is, who is aspiring to be elected to a public position.

  32. …my apologies Jacqueline. Have just reviewed the story as it unfolded last August. Was under the impression you spoke first to the media about your liaison with Laws, and when Laws assumed this was so, he front-footed with the story on his radio station.

    However, accounts of the time report it was ‘third parties’ who were threatening to break the story.

    However, I am perplexed, because the NZ Herald, of 15/8/10 reports: –

    “But yesterday Sperling changed her position and said she had a “new-found respect” after receiving an apology from Laws.

    Speaking at her home in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, Sperling said: “I would hope that I will remain friends with Michael.

    “I admire him because he has to go through this every day of his life. He is a good man. I just want to get on with my life”.

    Also, isn’t a leak via a third party a standard way to get information you want out in the public domain, yet it also gives the plausibility of denial? Not saying that is the case with you Jacqueline. But then, given the cast of interesting characters involved, it is best for the reader to keep an open mind on all possibilities – don’t you think?

    Don’t dispute life, including in the form of Michael Laws, has dealt you some rough cards, Jacqueline. My genuine hopes that your recovery continues successfully.

    However, the airing of the dirty laundry from a broken relationship with a prominent public person is tacky – no matter who the person, and their politics and character failings.

  33. Doesnt look like his column was in the SST this week…well not online anyway.

    BE: He had a column as usual, Millsy.

  34. 34

    Clarence Herbidies

    BE: True, but that’s the only missing ingredient. And I wouldn’t lay odds on a Page 3 girl not appearing in the future.

    Wrong, Brian. How can you reconcile that with the readers’ letters, the SST published — all berating Michael Laws. It also published Simon Buckingham’s column on A6, where he describes Laws as a “media whore”. The paper has bent over backwards to be fair, by presenting views that are the opposite to Michael Laws’. Today’s SST has acquitted itself with much credit, don’t you think?

    Also, it is a broadsheet newspaper; not a tabloid. And the 3 very attractive girls on pg 5, are more appealing than any of your typical Page-3 cover girl.

    BE: I think, given the spate of negative publicity this particular column received, the paper had no option but to publish this critique. And ‘tabloid’ is now rarely used in its original sense of a publishing format. In general these days it is a description of a particular type of content. You’ll be astonished to learn that I knew the difference.

  35. Good reply Brian. (and good deconstruction earlier)

    Laws didn’t address his initial “go go vigilante justice” warcry.. was it just rhetoric to make his rant more dramatic, has he forgotten about it, or does he hope we’ve forgotten about it?


  36. Just wanted to thank you for introducing me to the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I borrowed it from the library and read it in one sitting. Marvellous book, both humourous and sad, and it certainly helped my understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome.

    Laws should try reading it.

    BE: Glad you liked it, Ben.

  37. Laws: You may bleat on all you like AND I note the irony of having your correspondents demand violence against me. I’d say “bring it on”

    Not entirely convinced it’s “fatuous machismo”: the “bring it on” has frisson. Moreso, knowing our boy has a fearsome reputation for delivering a stinging bitch slap.

  38. “Doesnt look like his column was in the SST this week…well not online anyway.

    BE: He had a column as usual, Millsy.”

    Oh well..

    BE: Can’t publish your final sentence, Millsy. Michael could (and should) sue us both.

  39. Laws: “But that’s the liberal mantra, I guess. The Police are always wrong.”

    Would these be the same police that ML himself railed against when they rightly nicked him for driving with an unrestrained minor? Or would that be a completely different police he means?

    As for his column this week, he’s clearly decided he wants to get on safer ground by launching a curiously hollow and invective-free campaign against paedophiles, something completely non-divisive and – as I said – safe. perhaps his editor has had a word?

    Poor Michael, his increasingly bellicose behaviour smacks of a man who was once influential, or at least had a voice that was listened to, realising that his shrill bleats are attracting an ever-dwindling audience.

    I imagine his worst ethical nightmare and moral dilemma would be if Aspies started killing paedophiles.

  40. Thanx BE.

    You have confirmed my worst fears and prejudices.
    A deep and abiding loathing of most of what is spoken of as “media”.


    I wonder if SST would sell more papers if ML wore eye liner?

    Now that is an idea. They could put him on page three.

    That would add some credibility to his latest appeal to “shock horror” angst.

    Everybody loathes paedophiles. ML writes an anti paedophile column. He cannot be criticised.

    He has young children. He worries.


    It is all about HIM.

    This crapola seems to accrue to media “celebs” and wannabe “celebs.

    Very very few get away with it.

    Given our oppressive libel laws I will not name names. (Most of them could afford to to take me to court 50 times, I could not afford the initial lawyers consultation.)

    I am just a dumb peasant in the sticks expected to agree with the opinions of a SST writer.

    I feel a beer coming on.

  41. Having read this exchange I find myself, unsurprisingly, in support of your position Brian.

    As for Michael Laws: I believe it is up to the editor of the ‘Sunday Star-Times’ to review the strategy he now uses to recapture the thousands of readers the paper has lost since 2009. It appears that the promotion of opinion columnists, such as Michael Laws, is not a solution.

    In the era of the Internet, there is no need to pay for anyone’s opinion. The public is overloaded by opinion. At times modern life is similar to being constantly trapped talking to a bitter old uncle at a dreary family gathering.

    As it is a newspaper, the ‘Sunday Star-Times’ could try investing in journalism to recapture readers.

  42. “BE: Can’t publish your final sentence, Millsy. Michael could (and should) sue us both.”

    Your blog, your rules. I acsede to that.

    Suffice to say, I am growing uncomfortable with the way this country is heading. When people like Laws start openly campaigning for eugenics and lynching I think its waving some very red flags.

  43. Wow, Michael Laws is having a public meltdown? It seems he and Charlie Sheen have so much in common in so many ways! Who’d a thunk?