Culture.

  • Fri, 26, Jan, 2018 - 5:00:AM

The media love affair with Don Brash

Image: Screenshot / Don Brash on The AM Show / Newshub

Like death and taxes, Don Brash is one of life’s inevitabilities. No year is complete unless we’ve had Brash and his views thrust upon us, on television, radio, the interwebs or in the newspaper. He has a knack for emerging just when you think that society has progressed to remind you that no, we are most certainly not there yet. In fact, it seems that we are doomed to occasionally return to the 1950s.

For those of you who have no idea who Don Brash is – other than the dude who pops up in the news seemingly every time someone utters a word in te reo, here’s a quick explainer: Dr Brash was the Reserve Bank Governor, and you could argue that he should’ve retired when he left the post in 2002. But he did not. He instead went to Parliament and later became the leader of the National Party.

After losing the 2005 election, Brash resigned, and although he briefly flirted with politics again in 2011, when he became the leader of the Act Party but failed to get enough party votes to return to Parliament, there really hasn’t been any reason for him to be in the news since then.

And he probably wouldn’t be, if he didn’t have such a bee in his bonnet about Māori.

Here is a brief assortment of quotes that illustrate Dr Brash’s bee-in-bonnet-ness about indigenous people.

(If you have high blood pressure, maybe skip this bit.)

- “The Government have the responsibility with dealing with [negative social statistics] and Māori are heavily represented in that, in part because too many Māori don’t speak English properly.”

- “Much of the non-Māori tolerance for the Treaty settlement process – where people who weren’t around in the 19th century pay compensation to the part-descendants of those who were – is based on a perception of relative Māori poverty. But in fact Māori income distribution is not very different from Pakeha income distribution.”

- “Too many of us look back through utopian glasses, imagining the Polynesian past as a genteel world of “wise ecologists, mystical sages, gifted artists, heroic navigators and pacifists who wouldn’t hurt a fly”. It was nothing like that.”

- “I am sure most Māori are as embarrassed by the present situation as most non-Māori are astounded. We are becoming a society that allows people to invent or rediscover beliefs for pecuniary gain.”

- “We are all citizens of New Zealand, irrespective of racial background and I think that it needed to be said because there was a growing perception that, in fact, the Treaty of Waitangi created some kind of legal partnership between two equal partners, and I don’t believe that’s true.”

- "We reject absolutely the notion that the Treaty created different rules and different rights for those with a Māori ancestor and those without."

- “[Te reo Māori] is no value to me, essentially, at all.”

And so on, and so forth, forever and ever amen.

If you ever delve into Dr Brash’s collected media articles (as I have had the misfortune to do during the writing of this article) you’ll notice that Dr Brash is a bloody star at reiteration. In fact, he seems to love to repeat almost exactly what he’s been saying for more than a decade over and over again. And – here’s the kicker – the media loves to publish and broadcast it. Again and again.

From this, I can only assume that, deep down, the media loves Don Brash. Loves might be too light a word. Lurves. Loooooooooves. ADORES. They may as well be sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

And I say that in full awareness that I, as someone who works in the media, have written a few pieces about Don Brash. I am writing one right now. I too am complicit in this little love fest.

Why does the media love Don Brash? Because he delivers them (us) an extraordinary amount of attention. Clicks. Eyeballs. Ears. Readers. Outrage. DOLLARS. This has been proven to be true so many times that a formula has been developed to demonstrate what I call the Brash Equation:

Don Brash + anything at all to do with Māori + media coverage = moolah.

And I get it. Media is a hard business. Money is a necessary evil if you want to keep the doors open. But I can’t help but wonder whether airing Brash’s views for the 400th time is in the public interest. Whichever way I look at it, I can’t stifle a little voice in my head that repeatedly asks, “what on earth does this guy have to add to the conversation around Māori that we haven’t already heard a thousand times?” To which I’ve found that my answer is “nothing”.

Sure, he might prove me wrong. He might be inserted into my eyeballs or my ears one (unfortunate) day and say something that I find novel and interesting, but in the meantime, if we have to have a resident white guy who finds te reo Māori a bit gnarly, can we get a new one?

Or – here’s a thought – can we not have one at all, and move the conversation forward into the 21st century?

I know that breaking up is hard to do, but it’s time for the media to end its entanglement with Don Brash. It’s a relationship that is long past its use-by date.

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  • Don Brash /
  • Media /
  • News /
  • Maori /
  • Te Reo Maori /
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