Home > Media, The Body Politic > The Right has a new media voice

The Right has a new media voice

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Fairfax Media has a  ” new columnist for the Waikato Times” (see:  Bill denies kids what they need). Narelle Hensen’s first piece appeared in the Waikato Times on 18 March, followed five days later by another piece, Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers.  (Note: Ms Hensen has previously written and worked  under her maiden name; Narelle Suisted, for the Auckland publication, “Auckland Now“, and TV3′s “The Nation“.)

Her first column-piece was a thinly-disguised, homophobic lecturing against gays, lesbians, marriage equality, and their fitness (or lack thereof) as parents.

The second was a nasty little smear against the unemployed.

(This blogger is waiting for her next target. Solo-mums? Maori? There are plenty of minorities available.)

What Fairfax hasn’t disclosed is that Ms Hensen also worked as a Communications Officer for the right-wing think-tank, Maxim Institute (see: Wikipedia Maxim Institute). The Maxim Institute is virulently opposed to marriage equality, as outlined in their submission to Parliament  on the Marriage Amendment Bill (see:  Submission to the MarriageMaxim Institute).

It appears that the right-wing in this country have a new voice in the msm (mainstream media).

In her first article,  Bill denies kids what they need, Ms Hensen railed against marriage equality.  She used children as her weapon-of-choice, and started of with this bizarre statement,

“Most of us, no doubt, would agree, and would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad. But that is what the Marriage Amendment Bill will require of some kids in generations to come. That is why I don’t support the bill.”

Did I read that right? She condemns the Marriage Amendment Bill because  a child “would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad” ?!

Why would marriage equality demand that of children now? And in what way would that be different to divorce as it is presently?

As most of us are perfectly aware, it is the Family Courts that determine access to children – not the concept of marriage equality.  I doubt if Ms Hensen could point to any aspect of the Marriage Amendment Bill that would demand that a child has to “decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad”.

She offers another justification to oppose marriage equality,

“That means some kids will be denied the right to either a mother or a father, while their peers, by luck of birth, will be allowed both.”

Really? And what about the thousands of children who already have only one parent? What about the thousands of heterosexual couples who have separated and their children are “denied the right to either a mother or a father”? Or one has died through illness or accident – that’s real bad luck!

And just why is it “luck” to have heterosexual parents as opposed to gay or lesbian parents? The implication being that having gay/lesbian parents is “bad luck”. Perhaps being born to a mixed-race couple is also “bad luck” for a child? Or born to parents, one of whom might have a disability?

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racism cartoon

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Not to mention the bad luck of being born to right wing parents…

If a child is ‘lucky’, it is that they have a stable family, with love, attention, set boundaries, support, respect, nutritious food, warmth, good housing, access to education; healthcare,  etc.  The gender/orientation of parents and caregivers doesn’t really seem to factor as a life-giving necessity.

Indeed, Ms Hensen seemed eager to dismiss love as a trivial matter not worthy of consideration,

Of course, a lot of people argue the Marriage Amendment Bill is about love, and equality. But love or equality for who? These terms sound great, and they capture our emotions, but taking a moment to think about them makes us realise that in practice, they demand compromise from someone – either gay couples who must compromise the right to raise children, or children, who must compromise the right to have both a mum and a dad.”

It is unclear why gay (or straight) couples need to “compromise” – except in Ms Hensen’s mind where, for some reason, having gay or lesbian parents is a lesser option than heterosexual parents. Is  love a transaction that “demands a compromise”? She doesn’t explain what she basis that idea on.

What a strange world that Ms Hensen inhabits.

Except…

Ms Hensen referred to a particular group to justify her prejudices,

That is why the group Homovox started in France. It consists of homosexual couples who disagree with same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. As one contributor says: “The law should seek what is best for a child, and that is to have a mother and a father“.”

It took only a few clicks and poking around on a Search Engine to find out a little more about “Homovox“.

For one thing, it is not a LGBT organisation at all. It’s a front group set up by the Catholic Church, as GAYNZ reported on their website,

When is an LGBT organisation not an LGBT organisation? When it has been established by an antigay French conservative Catholic to make it seem as if there is “French LGBT” opposition to marriage equality. Thus it is with France’s  “Homovox”, allegedly a “French” gay organisation of  “LGBT” marriage equality opponents. However, on his website, Joe. My. God’s commenters uncovered who was actually behind the website, which turned out to be someone from the French Catholic Right. To  be more precise:

[redacted information]

A google search of Maillard Jean-Baptiste turned up this:

http://www.jesusprems.com/

He appears to be an anti-gay French Catholic.

[...]

Doing some more research on these guys–they are all Catholics, some are ex-gay, most are right-wingers, and some can’t be found online.

None of these men–an no women–give their full names, where they work, and the man who claims to be the mayor of a “village” doesn’t actually name his village. 

Source: “Homovox” Exposed

It seems that the Catholic Church in France has copied the tactics of the Unification Church and Scientologists, who also  employ front-organisations as  smoke-screens to the parent-church.

Did Ms Hensen know this? If  she didn’t, she’s not much of a journalist.

If she was aware of the true nature of “Homovox” – and chose not to disclose it – then she has an agenda of her own. And the presentation (or lack) of facts is not part of it.

Ms Hensen is not above claiming  statistics to back up her prejudices,

“Of course, there are those who argue it is better to bring up a child in a loving homosexual relationship than it is for them to be raised in an antagonistic heterosexual relationship. But if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair. And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union, the statistics paint a very clear picture.”

- but tellingly, she refuses to disclose any such statistics for the reader. So much for her comment that “if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair”.

We are, I guess, expected to take her word that such statistics exist? Perhaps they are held by her former employers at Maxim Institute – an organisation known for it’s  hostility toward gays and lesbians having full equal rights.

The point of that last paragraph, I suggest to the reader, is to undermine any notion that having loving parents who care for children should not  be judged on the basis of  sexual orientation. Note her reference,

“And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union…”

What about comparing a dysfunctional heterosexual household with a loving gay/lesbian household? God knows there are plenty of the former. Our newspapers are full of stories where children, infants, babies were mercilessly ill-treated until their fragile bodies could no longer cope with dad’s punches whilst mum looked on, or vice versa.

The parents of Delcelia Witika were good, solid, heterosexuals who engaged in  Maxim Institute-approved,  heterosexual, sex. Then they killed their little girl.

I submit to Ms Hensen, that at such a point in a brutalised child’s life, they are not really  going to give a damn if the wearer of  steel-capped boots kicking their heads to pieces,  is heterosexual or not.

Ms Hensen’s says,

It is often very difficult to decide whose rights win, which is why there are so many court cases, and indeed courts, all about human rights. But when it comes to adults’ rights conflicting with the rights of children, most of us would agree that children should come first.”

Except when good parents are gay or lesbian, right, Ms Hensen?

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Ms Hensens next article on  job seekers, was nothing less than a hate-fest on one of society’s minorities; the unemployed. (See: Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers)

Her entire article was dedicated to a simple premise; that  job seekers in this country are unemployable, with anti-social personalities and severe behavioural flaws consisting of;

“Drunkenness
Absenteeism
Failing drug tests
Physicality when told to leave site
Not turning up for interview
Smoking throughout interview
Chewing gum throughout interview
No CV prepared
CVs full of basic spelling mistakes”

Her column  mercilessly depicted the unemployed as unfit for employment. One of her commentators even questioned their right to be citizens.

She quoted anecdote after anecdote of unemployed people with allegedly poor personal habits and poor work ethics – though she gave few details what the jobs were or any other specifics.

Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern chief executive, Kim Campbell, referred to New Zealand’s  unemployed as  being “the dregs” –  a theme typical  of Ms Hensen’s piece.

Dave Connell, vice-president of the New Zealand Contractors Federation and managing director of Connell Construction, was somewhat more subdued in his criticisms,

“We have dealt with absenteeism, drunkenness, drugs . . . We are persevering for three to six weeks sometimes.”

As a damning propaganda piece, with the purpose of vilifying the unemployed, it was masterfully done.

Other than that, though, one has to ask the question; what the hell was the point of it? What possible purpose did it serve? Because it sure as hell didn’t shed much light on the subject.

I have an idea.

Up till now, the unemployed have been painted as lazy, boozing,  and unwilling to go out and find work.

That myth has been well and truly dispelled with stories of thousands of unemployed queuing for a few jobs. Just recently, on 12 March, ‘Campbell Live’ did a series of stories of hundreds of workers lining up for just seven jobs at an Auckland factory (see: Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs)

Or any of these stories of job seekers outnumbering vacancies,

10 applicants for every one shelf-stocking job

Applicants queue for 20 jobs at new KFC store

2700 applicants for 150 jobs

Demand Strong for New Jobs Up for Grabs in Glenfield

Jobseekers flood a new Hamilton call centre

1200 applicants for 200 supermarket jobs

Ms Hensen could not write a credible story desparaging the unemployed as “lazy”.  In these times of high unemployment, the public no longer accepts that generalisation. In fact, most people probably know someone who has lost their job, or, fresh our of school or University, cannot land a job, and has been turned down application after application.

So, for  Ms Hensen that avenue was closed off.

Instead, in the best tradition of right wingers who blame the victims of  this country’s on-going recessionary fall-out, she attacked and desparaged the quality of job seekers.

Repeating  anecdotal stories, without any supporting  context to offer a deeper understanding, she wrote a piece that painted job seekers as poorly educated; drug addicts; inarticulate – even chewing gum!

As a hatchet job, it  certainly perpetuated negative stereotypes about the unemployed. It also reinforced the unacknowledged class structure that has been developing in this country for the last 30 years; the unemployed are “riff raff, beneath our contempt; and not worthy of being treated as our equals”.

As a “dog whistle” it attracted 321 comments (as at the time of this blogpost being written) – many of which were little more than ill-informed, offensive, stereotyping.

Ms Hensen might care to reflect on the irrational hatred expressed by those who supported her story. Is that the readership she is pandering to?

It also showed of some of Ms Hensen’s sources as less than ideal unemployers, with barely concealed prejudices.

But even if Ms Hensen’s poisonous polemic was 100% accurate, reflecting an unvarnished reality – employers and government have only themselves to blame.

How many times have trade unionists, economists,  and leftwing commentators warned employers and government that if New Zealand continued to drive down wages – as National has been doing with it’s labour law “reforms” – what did they think would happen?

On 1 April, the minimum wage will rise by 25 cents to $13.75 per hour. In Australia the rate is NZ$19.96 an hour, though wages are usually higher than that.

On 1 May, young people 16 to 19 will also have a new youth rate, that will be 80% of the minimum wage. That’s $11 per hour. How will young New Zealanders react to what is effectively a wage-cut?

And employers are whinging their heads off that the best and brightest are buggering off to Aussie?

The reality, though, is more prosaic. People want work. The unemployment benefiit ($204.96/wk/net) is not sufficient to live on. Many looking for work will be University graduates. Others will be poorly educated. But they all want a job.

Perhaps the real purpose of Ms Hensen’s  article – dressed up as a “news story” –  was designed to serve as propaganda in a  prelude to relaxing immigration laws and allow immigrant workers to flood the country? By creating a new urban myth that unemployed New Zealanders are “dregs”, it gives National the excuse to bring in labour from overseas. Cheap labour. Workers who will not kick up a fuss about exploitation; lax safety practices; and abuse.

The abuse of workers on Foreign Charter Vessels fishing within our EEZ waters gives an idea what might be  our future (see previous related blogpost:  A Slave By Any Other Name).

I suspect Ms Hensen is not finished with excoriating minorities in this country. Her poison pen is poised. It’s only a matter of who is next in her sights. And what her agenda is.

What a waste of intellect.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 March 2013.

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References

Linked In: Maxim Institute Media and Communications Officer at Maxim Institute/Narelle Hensen

Bill denies kids what they need (18 March 2013)

Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers (23 March 2013)

“Homovox” Exposed.

Other blogs

The Jackal: National’s Campaign of Disinformation

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