On the importance of being prominent and anonymous
MAY CONTAIN FACTS - BY STEVE BRAUNIAS
OPINION: Good morning and welcome to an unusual edition of May Contain Facts. Unusual, because accusations against prominent New Zealanders have forced us to go undercover.
It's our usual practice each Saturday to examine current events from a fresh angle, seek out newsmakers to explain their actions, and answer emails and letters sent in by readers who have only kept one eye on the news, and are forced to ask: "Did I get that right? What actually happened?"
This week, though, readers have asked: "Who actually happened?"
The correspondence has been inspired by the disturbing new crime wave of public figures who must remain anonymous.
Officially, no-one is allowed to know the identity of the "prominent musician" who admitted indecently assaulting a teenage girl in an alleyway in Wellington, the "prominent comedian" facing a child sex charge, or the "prominent national figure" accused of indecency.
Each of the men has been given name suppression by the courts.
Earlier this week, police said they would investigate WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater for revealing the identity of a man who allegedly committed an indecent assault on a 13-year-old girl.
Mr Slater used a binary code to name the man on his blog, which crashed after a huge surge of users tried to access the page.
May Contain Facts conducted our own investigation into the dark world of the nameless famous.
We went undercover yesterday to a meeting of PA, or Prominently Anonymous.
"Who are you?", said the bouncer at the door.
"A prominent columnist," we said.
"That's stretching it a bit far," he said, "but if you insist".
Inside was a who's who of the New Zealand entertainment, arts, media, business, sporting and political scene.
We knew this because there was a sign at the front of the stage that read A WHO'S WHO OF THE NEW ZEALAND ENTERTAINMENT, ARTS, MEDIA, BUSINESS, SPORTING AND POLITICAL SCENE.
We didn't actually recognise anyone.
* * *
Taking our seat next to a harmless looking individual, we asked, "Who are you?"
He gave his real name, but we'd never heard of him.
He explained that he was the "prominent musician".
The meeting began. A man stood on a low stage, and said, "Repeat after me. Sssssssshh."
"Mum's the word."
"Mum's the word."
"Okay," he said. "Who'd like to begin?"
There was a shuffling of feet. After a while, someone stood up, and said: "I'm prominent, and I'm anonymous." Everyone said: "Amen."
"Quite right," he said. "I just want to say a few words about other people who some people think might be us.
"I'm a prominent comedian," he continued. "But it's come to my attention that other prominent comedians – such as Mike King, Te Radar, Oscar Kightley and Ewen Gilmour – have been wrongly named over the internet.
"And according to the Sunday News, another prominent comedian was forced to sign a waiver confirming it wasn't him who did what I allegedly did but absolutely deny.
"I feel sorry for those guys. But my hands are tied. I just wish that name suppression laws were respected. The gossip has to stop.
"By the way, who's the `national figure'? Is he here? Does anyone know who it is?"
May Contain Facts thought we heard a sound like soft rain, but when we looked around the room, we realised it was the sound of everyone whispering.
Just then the door swung open, and in walked Millie Holmes, Tony Veitch, Taito Phillip Field, Clint Rickards and 11,743 members of the public.
There was an uneasy silence.
"Next room," said the man who introduced the PA meeting. "I'll be with you in a minute." He left through a side door.
There was another uneasy silence.
"Who are you guys?", Millie asked.
"We're nobody," said the prominent comedian. Then he pointed at May Contain Facts, and said, "Well, he is, anyway."
"Come with me. I'll see you now," said the man who walked back through the side door. He was wearing a black gown, a white, powdered wig, and a flower that squirted water through a concealed hose.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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