Prosser offensive and 'ridiculously flawed'

TAHU POTIKI
Last updated 09:12 15/02/2013

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Tahu Potiki

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OPINION: Winston sure can pick 'em. First the wayward weatherman is struggling to account for the whereabouts of his mother's funds and now New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser has ended up with both of his feet jammed squarely in his mouth.

We have heard an apology about where and how he made his statement but with the added comment that it was more of a "down the pub" solution as opposed to a political solution. Although he has behaved a little contrite, there seems to be no apology for his offensive and racist personal views.

Firstly, the use of the term Wogistan is unbelievable. He may as well have said Fuzzywuzzy Land or dropped the N-bomb. It seems to have received less attention than the general anti-Muslim sentiment but it is most certainly no less offensive.

Perhaps Prosser genuinely believes that these sorts of comments are still funny. We all grew up listening to It Ain't Half Hot Mum, All In The Family and even the Benny Hill Show with their bigoted caricatures of people who weren't Caucasian, straight and male. It is a little easier to forgive these guys who were all part of the post-colonial, post-war Eurocentric environment that was forged by the baby boomer generation. It was not only considered all right to buffoon an individual because of their race or religion or to constantly refer to a woman's body parts in relation to sex, it was considered very, very funny.

I freely admit that in the past I have giggled with the best of them when it comes to gutter humour but it is also true that I have been challenged about the appropriateness of such comedy in a progressive society.

The world has turned a few times since then. There is a much better understanding of the subtle and destructive force of this type of prejudiced commentary. It reinforces the most negative stereotypes people have of themselves and of those different to them.

It has led to a major revamp of what is broadcast now, what books are on school library shelves, what we say in polite conversation and even what most of us write in columns.

Recently the BBC made a controversial decision to edit a repeat of the Fawlty Towers episode where Basil Fawlty takes a knock to the head and becomes mega-obnoxious, spouting inappropriate comments to his German guests. The edited piece is the part when the major lists a string of racist terms to describe different ethnicities. Still, I am not sure if any of the words were as offensive as talking about some fictional Muslim country called Wogistan.

Some cry political correctness and, admittedly, there is a struggle to find the balance but Prosser is tipping off one end of the scales.

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Note that not one person has come to his rescue. His comments are so clearly inappropriate that he has not found even one ally. As he said himself, perhaps there are some people at the Rangiora pub who are happy to endorse his opinion on the quiet, but otherwise such comments have gone the same way as smoking in the car with the kids in the back seat.

So on one level Prosser is offensive but on another his whole thesis is ridiculously flawed.

Perhaps his insight into terrorism is entirely defined by September 11 and that to be able to carry his precious pocketknife on domestic flights we just need to ensure there are no al Qaeda on any flights in the entire Western world.

To be fair, it doesn't sound like he gives a toss about terrorism. He actually cares only about his personal possession and any inconvenience he has experienced.

His solution is no different than a response to schoolyard massacres in the United States that sought to stop geeky-looking Goth-type teenagers wearing coats to school in case there is a cache of automatic weapons in the inside pockets.

The most disturbing flaw in the argument is suggesting that Muslims have a certain look. If he walks like a Muslim, looks like a Muslim then he must be Muslim. It is no longer the 12th century, so looking for someone in a turban and robes carrying a scimitar will not work.

Most people with a modicum of general knowledge understand that the Muslim community exists across all continents and all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

But it seems Prosser thinks that when a burger looks like a burger, tastes like a burger and smells like a burger, then it must be a burger. Right? Well, as the Brits found out this week, it's actually a horse of course. I suspect that he may already be familiar with the piece of the horse it comes from. If it talks like a horse's ass and sounds like a horse's ass, then it must be a horse's ass.

- The Press

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