The great Kiwi reactionary
I've always smiled when people point to a Donald Trump (aka F***face Von Clownstick, as Jon Stewart has christened him) or a Rush Limbaugh as evidence that a secret cabal of flaming idiots dominates America's discourse.
Idiots, I usually respond, are everywhere. America might have 75 times as many idiots, but that is only because it has 75 times as many people. Proportionally, New Zealand has the same level of howling ideological redneckery as the US.
Dotted throughout the country we even have the outline of a skeleton staff for a hypothetical Fox News Aotearoa edition.
Captain of this outfit, the king of our own shoot-first, think-never brigade, would have to be Michael Laws.
I've been reading Laws in the Sunday Star-Times since I began at university more than 10 years ago. It took a while for me to find Michael Laws as excruciating as I do now. I'd say my appreciation of him fell incrementally as my education increased.
Laws embarrassed himself this weekend (again) when he unfavourably compared the reaction to Parekura Horomia's premature death with the one toward National MP Aaron Gilmore's getting drunk, taunting a waiter with cries of "Don't you know who I am?" and threatening to get John Key to come down and have the waiter fired.
The point - if in fact the column's thesis is cogent enough to be considered something so concrete - was that the public's outpouring of warmth toward Horomia is hypocritical when placed up against the scorn heaped on Gilmore.
Laws insinuates from his own personal prejudice that Horomia's death was the result of his own weakness. He "remembers" that Horomia was a smoker and pokes the most obvious of hornet's nests, bringing up Horomia's weight.
Horomia's death, to Laws, is the same sort of human fallibility displayed by Gilmore in drinking a bottle and a half of wine and publicly outing his own shameful and ridiculous notions of deluded personal importance.
(Gilmore is a bottom-of-the-list National MP and public drunkenness is now his defining action to date.)
Laws even tips his hat toward this being a racial thing, just to up the potential controversy factor and newsworthiness of this particular rant: "If you're Maori and you're dead then you're the patron saint of niceness. But if you're Pakeha and drunk then everyone is on your case."
It's pathetic and factually inaccurate - if Laws had bothered to stop writing at a yell and actually use facts. The differences between Aaron Gilmore and Parekura Horomia are so many that the comparison is even redundant.
Horomia was an important leader in the Maori community with 14 years of parliamentary service to his name, including eight as a government minister. He battled chronic asthma and an enlarged heart and had spoken openly and publicly about his battles with his weight.
Gilmore has no esteemed career in government to fall back on. He is another in a long line of public figures in New Zealand who have sadly outed themselves as being unable to handle their drink.
Michael Laws is a bundle of impotent anger in search of his next controversy, whether arguing for lower-class mums to be stopped from breeding, making confusing statements about gay marriage, arguing that pornography is the defining influence on the current generation (maybe for you, Michael), offending paralympians, advocating for someone to take a gun into the Herald on Sunday newsroom or making crass jokes about the former governor-general's weight.
Like Limbaugh, Laws isn't interested in accurately reflecting or covering a reality, he's only looking to incite ill feeling and in the process call attention to himself.
The flipside of this is that in his written work he's become nothing but link bait, the new media equivalent of a dancing monkey.
When Laws stepped down from his former post on Radio Live, he commented that he thought his opponents would miss him the most.
I disagree. There's an ocean between myself and Michael Laws and I don't miss him at all. I'm all for opposing viewpoints, but Laws confuses promoting debate with being offensive. The former is intelligent while the latter is lazy.
People like Laws are thriving in the same ways someone like Rush Limbaugh is, because even being hated is still a ratings ploy.
Even taking the time out to write this post, I can concede, plays into the cult.
This dynamic can be amplified in New Zealand's small market. Former public figures such as Laws can too often maintain a grip on their public profile by shuffling into media commentary and courting needless controversy to make sure they are still being thought about.
So next time you're looking over America-way from New Zealand, clucking condescendingly at some oversight or perceived stupidity here, just remember that the inside of the windscreen can always use a bit of a wash too, okay?
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