Internet Histories: 5 May
I don’t really like doing NZ politics round-ups, because most of what passes for discussion is simply so parlous, a form of gossip for people who like to take power and prestige seriously. That said, the media focus on New Zealand First MP Denis O’Rourke and his “is it or isn’t it” relationship with a younger man, Stephen James, is kind of creepy, with more than an element of the dog-whistle about it.
The gist of the issue is that O’Rourke, an unacclaimed backbencher from Christchurch, has been living at the same address as James while employing him in Parliamentary Service. Parliamentary Service has rules on MPs hiring spouses and partners as support staff – although apart from being a more blatant form of nepotism, it’s one of those rules where I’m not entirely convinced of the harm, or the idea that an MP’s staff are less likely to help conceal, obscure, or mismanage Parliamentary affairs just because they’re not booed up to their boss.
O’Rourke’s response is on a The Thick Of It, watch-through-your-eyes carwreck difficult level. I feel bad for him:
He reiterated that he and Mr James were not partners. "We're deliberately not partners and whatever it takes to convince people we're not partners, that's what we'll do. We don't intend to be partners, we've agreed not to be partners, we don't do the things that partners do, so we're not partners."
Everyone will probably fall over themselves to explain the coverage has nothing to do with sexuality. However, the story appears to have begun with a complaint from a Queenstown resident named David Simpson. Okay, interesting. Another Queenstown resident, also by the name of David Simpson, mounted an unsuccessful BSA complaint in 2012, accusing Newstalk ZB of a discriminatory and biased stance in favour of homosexuality:
The host spoke to a caller, “David from Queenstown”, whom he described as “incredibly rude”, before terminating the call. The host then read out a fax from the caller, as follows:
To call everyone who is against gay marriage homophobic is like me calling everyone who is gay a [f, a, g, g, o, t]. You have insulted and discriminated against a Christian faith by calling everyone homophobic… I hope you apologise for calling everyone homophobic…
The caller…made a formal complaint, alleging that the broadcast was unfair as the host “had no problem with using the word ‘homophobic’ but wouldn’t say ‘faggot’ in context [which] shows his bias and discriminatory manner”.
If it’s the same man, it’s not just Simpson. Go read a smattering of NZ’s esteemed right-wing blogs to see what they make of O’Rourke’s alleged relationship (don’t go and do this). O’Rourke ‘swears he only uses the rear entrance’ to get into the house. The “gaggle of gay” brigade have infiltrated further. Another “Poof In Politics” is trying to rort the system. And so on.
I could give a shit about the man’s political party, who conduct their business and financial affairs like they’re in a 1970s ITV sitcom about wideboys. I feel like the general consensus is that they're dodgy yet harmlessly inept. But the papers and media that bothered to run with this so much as an inch are furthering a different, deeply weird and rabid agenda against closeted gays in every nook and cranny of power, and it’d be nice for them to look harder at the sources before making the decision whether to pursue something.
Lastly, it’s a pretty simple idea, basically implemented (and I assume in good faith that there are people having to run the Hallensteins/New Zealand Music Month promotional exercise that genuinely love music and are excited about what they do) but this parody video re: New Zealand Month and its corporate sponsorship is brutal. Obviously, Hallensteins are no better or worse than any other retailer that manufactures its clothes at a low wage offshore, but it points straight to the heart of the difficult hypocrisy at the heart of May’s shebang from the context of our society circa 2014.
That is: we either believe in ringfencing and protecting a New Zealand-made commodity with quotas and government funding and 'Buy Kiwi' promotional exercises, or we don’t. Can we distinguish what makes producing and consuming music here different from producing and consuming anything else that we’ve decided isn’t cost-effective, and can we do so without a higher appeal to, say, ‘the arts’?
(With certain reservations, I have zero problem with public subsidies of film, music, theatre, etc - but I reckon these are interesting focusing questions everyone should keep asking themselves).