Editorial: Language language

22:16, Jun 27 2012

Were it simply a case of the air over Bluff turning blue with profanity, only people of dainty sensitivities would be too terribly troubled; and the port town doesn't have that many of them.

(We say this with due regard to the adopted home of a New Zealand poet laureate.)

The problem with some of the emissions from the Bluff Community Board members, and external critics, is less how noisome they are than how toxic.

The latest Bluffie to warrant a mouthful of Lifebuoy soap is board member Brent Procter who will at very least be chastised – and will royally deserve it – for his furious invective calling Kylie Fowler a "total c...".

He did this in a written comment on her own angry and recriminatory blog posting, in which she called Mr Procter and board chair Jan Mitchell a disgrace to the community.

Yes, there was more to the background than just that, and Mr Procter could perhaps mount a case for provocation.


So could Ms Fowler, her partner Mr Te Au, himself a board member, and maybe even board candidate John Edminstin, public pottymouths all on occasion.

People on both sides of the Bluff ructions have, in word and in deed, been hypering each other into a frenzy.

Part of this unpleasantness is based on matters of real stinging substance. Ms Fowler's blog isn't short of researched argument.

But Mr Procter should expect no traction with his subsequent explanation that, see, he was being deliberately provocative in dropping the C-bomb because he knew it would draw attention to more important concerns.

So this was really a case of well-disguised self-control? Hardly.

If so it's hypocritical, given that last October Mr Procter was calling on Mr Te Au to step down after splurting out a "for f... sake" before storming out of a board workshop. Perhaps, in hindsight, Mr Te Au was merely trying to draw attention to substantive matters.

Mrs Mitchell, meanwhile, is suing Mr Edminstin for defamation after a remark he made referring to her while he was leaving another meeting in high dudgeon.

In general terms intemperate abuse, even of the most ugly sort, isn't necessarily defamatory and it is shaping up as a matter for the court to decide what happened in the Edminstin-Mitchell case.

But the fact that things have reached such a litigious stage is just one more sorry commentary on a town that has got its dander up to an unhappy and unhealthy degree.

If you can't say something nice ... well that's OK. You don't have to.

But even when you're saying something not-nice, you shouldn't feel empowered to be an abusive jerk about it.

As an airy, parting, remark, we note that the Invercargill City Council's representative on the Bluff Community Board, Cr Graham Lewis, has pronounced himself "actually bloody cross" about the whole palaver.

What was that middle word again?

Can't have our city boys picking up bad habits from rough Bluffies, or we won't send them down to play any more.

The Southland Times