Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Panel Beaten (Oh for a higher caliber of right wing nut)

So picture this: there I was last Friday driving home over the Rimutakas, my blond hair streaming in the wind, humming the Beach Boys to myself*. Somehwere about the summit, as I was getting a bit horse, I decided to turn on 'the Panel' on National Radio and see what the airwaves had to offer (the audio links will break after a few days, sorry).

Now my expectations weren't high to start with. The Panel has never really done it for me; it's just a series of snippets of thoughts, unconvincing arguments and softball interviews. Or, at least, what I've heard of it is.

So I wasn't hoping for much and I lowered my expectations even further when I heard that the guests were Michael Basset and Jane Clifton. Still I thought, "what the hey, I've just had a fun day surfing, I'll be able to handle it."

Silly, silly me.

Michael Basset is really something else.

First up he wrote-off Section 59 repeal as a way of punishing decent parents when the real problem was "ferals" who only care about the welfare money that their children bring in. O....K.....Michael...so how does that explain countries such as Sweden that have more generous welfare states than us, have long repealed their own equivalents of section 59, and which also have considerably lower rates of child abuse. Oh well.

His next opportunity to place some air between himself and reality was when discussing Telecom and broadband speed. After starting off by noting that broadband in New Zealand was rather slow he then went on to perform the sort of double-think that must win medals in North Korea, and argue that current government and commerce commission action against Telecom was "meddling". Mercifully, one of the guest interviewees (a chap who had the unfair advantage of actually knowing what he was talking about) was able to very eloquently slap Basset down at this stage. Not that Basset appeared convinced mind you- he just exhausted his non arguments and retreated into non-funny jokes about Labour MPs.

About 10 minutes later he was back at it though, this time quoting approvingly an oped from the Herald where the author claimed that we had high rates of criminal recidivism in New Zealand because our prisons were too cushy. By this stage I was spluttering at my radio. Yip righty-oh Michael, that must explain countries like Brazil that have prison systems which are universally regarded as hell on Earth and which also have stratospherically high crime rates...I mean, honestly, has the guy ever actually read anything on the causes of crime.

Shortly afterwards I had to switch the radio off in the interests of road safety when Jane Clifton made a credible attempt to prove that she could play crazy with the big boys and suggested that prisoners currently suing the government for rights violations (abuse that occurred while they were in prison) were a product of New Zealand's 'grievance culture'. Something that stemmed, iteself, from....wait for it...our ACC system. Nice effort Jane, and if it weren't for the fact that I suspect you were just trying to fit in, I'd point you in the direction of the United States, that wonderful country with no ACC and a 'grievance culture' that has lawyers chasing ambulances for a living. I'd also note that maybe the prisoners were just pissed about having their rights violated - rather than hoping to get a bit of the good ol' ACC that they'd heard so much about.

Anyhow, the last thing I heard as I reached for the dial was Michael Basset enthusiastically agreeing. Which brings me to the point of this post. I don't mind right wingers on National Radio, not at all, the station ought to be giving airtime to all sides of our political debates. But couldn't they, for God's sake, find someone slightly less rancid than Michael Basset. Someone who realises that naked prejudice isn't a substitute for reasoned argument. Someone who wouldn't actually be a danger to their own well being if they ever got anywhere near power (and a natural monopoly) again.

If for no other reason than the future of poor, impressionable Jane Clifton I beg National Radio to try and do better.

*This bit's a lie: I'm bald and can't hum to save myself

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