Brian Edwards Media

New Zealanders “outraged” by blithering idiot’s racist stereotyping of Muslims.

This is an OUTRAGE!

This is an OUTRAGE!

If we are to believe the papers, the radio and television news, New Zealanders live in a perpetual state of outrage. The nation’s blood pressure is never less than 180 over 110, so outraged are we by the egregious sinning of our fellow man and woman, at home and abroad. Our outrage can be singular or plural. An individual may be outraged by a neighbour’s cat walking across his lawn and want to damn the breed. In response an entire community of cat-lovers, numbering millions,  may declare themselves outraged at such a perfidious suggestion. Occasionally the entire nation is said to be outraged, most commonly by something said or done by an Australian. An under-arm ball comes to mind.

The connection between the seriousness of an action and the public outrage it occasions is tenuous at best. Where outrage is concerned, actions need no longer speak louder than words. Indeed, as sources of outrage, words seem to have surpassed actions altogether.  

The most recent example of words leading to general public outrage (as defined by the Fourth Estate) was a passage from an article in Investigate magazine, penned by New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser. Mr Prosser wrote:

“I will not stand by while [my daughters'] rights and freedoms of other New Zealanders and Westerners are denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan.

“If you are a young male, aged between say about 19 and about 35, and you’re a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West’s airlines …”

Now my assessment of Mr Prosser is that he is blithering idiot because only a blithering idiot would paint a target on his forehead, while carrying a sign with the words “please shoot me” in neon letters, and distributing loaded firearms to passers-by. God knows, one would have thought being a member of Winston Peters’ raggle-taggle caucus was ignominy enough without revealing oneself as a suicidal maniac.

Mr Prosser deserves our pity, not our outrage, but our outrage he has got and it runs to tens of thousands of column inches and millions of spoken words.

I am reminded of the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” They were never entirely true of course, but these days they could not be further from the truth. While we tolerate man’s inhumanity to man in so many areas, national and international, we mount our high horses more commonly over what is said than what is done.

In the process the currency of  the word itself has been debased. We should express “outrage” in the face of real outrages, not merely when we think something said or done is bad or offensive or stupid  or insensitive or neglectful or unkind.  We have words for all of that – annoyed, angry, pissed off, ropable, furious, horrified or that old journalistic standard “shocked”.

When I recently wrote what amounted to a favourable obituary of Paul Holmes, I was faced with the ire of many readers (still) outraged at a handful of  ill-considered words spoken in the course of a 40- year career of live broadcasting, and at my praise of a dying man, seemingly rendered beyond redemption for having given verbal offence.

I’m more inclined to be outraged by what is done than what is said, though one can of course lead to the other. Off the top of my head I’d rate poverty, unemployment, discrimination, child-abuse, torture, cruelty in all its forms, the absence or denial of justice or free speech, the subjugation of the weak by the strong as outrages, and the tolerance of such evils as outrageous. You can make your own list.

Anyway if you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, count the number of times in a week that the words outrage, outraged, outrageous appear in your local rag, favourite mag or on radio and TV. You’ll be shocked by what you find.

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33 Comments:

  1. I think it is outrageous that you pick on one our sons of West Auckland, or Boganistan as it is commonly called. He’s only upset half of the world. For Allah’s sake you’d think he had pissed on a tree.

  2. I am outraged by your outrage

  3. Not outraged today, implicated tomorrow.

  4. Of course I agree entirely. I’m afraid I shocked a fellow director once by telling him I didn’t care how he felt, I only cared what the facts were. Same goes for 99% of the all too easily outraged – which includes almost all of our media.

  5. Oh Brian! don’t you realize there is money to be made? the outrage industry of lawyers, human rights advocates and the usual plethora of sociology graduates are rubbing their hands together with barely concealed glee at the upcoming outrage fest.
    Living where I do, I have a number of friends who define themselves by their Islamic faith, they are to a person ashamed of the various acts committed in the name of their religion, and ostensibly agree with the broad sentiments expressed in terms of the “T” word and the demographic it represents.
    I wonder however if little Winston has infact attempted to appeal to more of the electoratel defending his colleague…without ever really agreeing with what he has said.
    In any case, the outrage will continue….where are my blood pressure tablets?

  6. I think in most instances the word ‘outraged’ could be replaced by ‘pissed off’. There are, of course, other annoying over the top words and phrases ‘hailed a hero’, ‘iconic’ etc. I once heard the very good suggestion that the latter could almost invariably be replaced by ‘fairly nice’.
    I noted today an oft used and perfectly useless expression ‘if an election was held today’ . . . . .

  7. I prefer outrage to awesome……….

  8. It’s amusing the ways buzzwords come and go. When I was a teenager we would go to a “rage”. Outrage is a bit like awesome: chronically misused. Richard Prosser is indeed an idiot. Fascistic ideas often have an alluring logic. His were just plain stupid and illogical.

    • Yes, but you do have to be careful about ‘fascist, fascism, fascistic’ as well, often used by people as synonyms for ‘ bureaucratic’ or ‘dogmatic’ or virtually any government action or legislation they don’t agree with. The Fascists were mass murderers guilty of attempted genocide.

  9. Im not at all outraged.Stupid thing to write ,just as stupid to print it,even more stupid to give it national and international media space.Possibly from the Gareth Morgan school of publicity.

  10. A drooling drongo can’t cause outrage. A fatwa on ‘Tosser’s’ lobotomised forehead.

  11. Here’s a thought: that few New Zealanders outside the media, the politicians, and the go-to rent-a-quotas really care about Richard Prosser’s remarks.

  12. 12

    It wasn’t a few ill-considered words that outraged me; it was the entire 40 year career. But each to his own.

    • That’s a long time to be outraged. Now that the man’s gone, has your blood pressure dropped?

      • 12.1.1

        The doctor gave me some little pills and a referral to anger management classes. I now lie on the couch in a stupor and wave my hands ineffectually at Seven Sharp, but at least I’m calm.

  13. I dunno I am all out of rage these days.

  14. You are quite right to mention Holmes in the same breath as Prosser. Prosser’s only crime was to direct his ire at the wrong target. He should have said c****y d***y and got himself a knioghthood and widesprad praise as the best media commentator in the universe instead of everyone dumping on him. The right to offend others is the price we pay for living in a free society

  15. Maybe Prosser has a drinking problem, which seems to be a acceptable excuse in the media world for writing such trash. Obviously he isn’t an old buddy of Brian.

    • You know, I really should just ignore you, ‘Edward’. But (re your final sentence) what really gets up my nose is your determination to place the worst possible interpretation on my reasons for saying anything. I can’t just objectively believe what I said about Paul; it has to be because he and I were mates – we weren’t incidentally – or because… Well, I’m sure you can think of the most mean-spirited, least worthy reason for this as for everything else. It’s what you’re so bloody good at.

      • Well don’t ignore this link from Media Watch Extra Brian. Brickbats for Sir Paul and a Bouquet for your good self. These people always seem to have a sensible, critical examination of our media, no holds barred.
        http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/2546174/mediawatch-extra-for-february-2013

      • You’ve said yourself that Paul was a friend of yours. My suggestion that you have back-pedalled somewhat when commenting on his performance as a journalist and broadcaster doesn’t lack substance. Had you not a shared past and friendship, you would have found good examples of bigotry and mean-spiritedness in his journalistic efforts worthy of the same sort of criticism you have heaped on others.

  16. Absolutely agree Brian. I would like to ask the people who are “outraged” by this, what their view of Hone’s “white mofo” comments are. Are they just as outraged by that? If not why not and what are they going to do about it.
    The cynic in me is thinking this whole thing will gain votes for NZF next election.

  17. http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/02/quiet-in-the-cheap-seats-prossers-apology-not-genuine/

    This extract from Prosser’s book shows that he would agree with you, Brian. People are too easily outraged by racial stereotyping and hate speech. We should all just calm down. Only pinkos care and who cares about them?

  18. You’ve said yourself that Paul was a friend of yours. My suggestion that you have back-pedalled somewhat when commenting on his performance as a journalist and broadcaster doesn’t lack substance. Had you not a shared past and friendship, you would have found good examples of bigotry and mean-spiritedness in his journalistic efforts worthy of the same sort of criticism you have heaped on others.

  19. Nicely said Brian. The outrage that we’re seeing in the media with increasing frequency is more often than not media-led overhyping of something which ought to be ignored rather than highlighted.

  20. GregM – as one of those ’white mofos’ I take no real offense at Hone’s remarks, indeed I can understand his frustration at those ‘white mofos’ who have stolen the land of his people, have subjugated many of those he represents to unnecessary poverty, and have thrown many of them into jail. This is quite different to those who belong to the dominant culture and the one with the most power seeking to belittle and insult disadvantaged minorities in NZ. It is precisely the inability of many NZers to make this distinction which is what helps feed the festering underbelly of racism in NZ.

  21. 21

    I’m a white mofo too, yet Hone’s remarks usually fail to offend me. I can’t quite put a finger on it. Unlike Prosser, who appears to be just plain stupid, Hone frequently displays an ability to think, and indeed his arguments are often surprisingly rational. I have the impression that when he goes off the deep end it is a calculated move.

    Perhaps emotional response also plays a part. I feel that, were I to bump into Hone down at the pub, I could sit with him and have a good chat over a beer, and I’d walk away liking him, despite our differences in politics and general philosophy. I don’t have the same gut response to Richard Prosser or, for example, Tame It or Hone’s mum.