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All good things…

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In 2011, in between jobs and the Great Recession still biting our collective arses, I took to trying my hand at building on my letters-to-the-editor experience by taking up blogging. There were already a number of blogs about; Kiwiblog (on the Right); Tumeke (on the Left), Imperator Fish (another on the Left,with a big dollop of satire); No Right Turn (Left, featuring short and concise posts; et al. There was also one named after processed cetacean fat – but let’s not go there (for the moment).

It’s hard to state which was “better” than the other; they each had a unique style of presenting information, views, criticisms. But I quickly learned from each and my first blogpost appeared on 14 July 2011.

It was a supportive piece on the then-proposed Capital Gains Tax. Looking at it now, it was pretty ‘rough’.

My writing increased; improved the formatting; and – who knows – maybe even got better in the process. (Though I still have a problem with brevity…)

Three years later and I received an invitation- from out of the blue – from Martyn Bradbury, inviting me to join The Daily Blog as a regular contributor.

Needless to say, we in our household were stunned. My ego came close to growing to a Jupiter-sized gas giant. The smile on my face must’ve stayed with me even as I slept.

It was – and still is – an honour. I was to join the ranks of writers like Martyn, Leslie Bravery, Chris Trotter, Susan St John, Selwyn Manning, Christine Rose, John Minto, and many others to whom I’ll apologise later at length for omitting their names.

There was no shortage of issues to write about during the Key/English years. They were the political gift that kept giving. Indeed many of their legacies such as the housing crisis remain with us today. (Though John Key’s flag referendum was one we’ll never forget. And New Zealanders learned a new word for a fetish: trichophilia.)

Then covid hit us and my blogging, for a while, became a daily diary. Even as the country ground to a halt, I drove (near-)deserted roads in my job as a Community Worker. It was eerie and unsettling. But keeping busy, I was one of the lucky ones.

I still wonder what it would’ve been like had I been a non-essential worker, expected to stay home to ride out the silent microbial war. Did I have enough paint to do the entire exterior of my house?

But recently, things have taken an unexpected turn.

And this is why this will be my last post for The Daily Blog.

Most of us thought that the struggle of the LGBTQI+ community for equality and inclusion had been laid to rest in 1986 with the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. Though not gay, I was a staunch ally for gay men struggling not to be criminalised for simply fancying another bloke.

It was beyond my comprehension why anyone thought that other’s sexuality was their business. As I am happy to advise chauvinists, the only sexuality you can comment on is your own.

I wore my “HUG” badge with pride, even at work, almost daring my employer to order me to remove it. (He never did. Another ally?)

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I used my letter-writing experience and tackled the homophobes and religious conservatives (often one and the same) in newspapers and magazines. Especially the TV Guide, which, for some inexplicable reason, seemed to attract copious letters from homophobes.

Toward the end, I wrote to the TV  Guide stating that for every homophobic letter published in the editorial pages, I would donate $10 to a gay activist group. (Which I did, by the way.) And every couple of weeks, I’d send in my letter detailing how much I had donated during a certain period.

The homophobes didn’t like that.

My on-going support for the transgender community is an extension of my support for gay rights.

It is inconceivable for me to enjoy my rights; my inclusivity; my privileged existence in society knowing that a minority was still struggling. It is the same reason I support Maori in their struggles; workers in their struggles against Talleys, Ports of Auckland, et al.

As learn more, I believe my stand is right and shared by many others, also allies of trans people. Recently I have learned that two close friends of mine have children, one is transitioning f-t-m, the other is questioning their gender identity. The mothers of both do what mothers do; support and love their children.

Things have come to a head with TERF/GC, Rachel Stewart’s unfortunate ‘tweet’ where she mused/threatened to kill someone;

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It has been said that the threat was made in jest; a joke that people have taken the “wrong way”.

Trying to minimise the tweet as a “joke” is almost as bad as if it had been made in earnest.  As a society, we are supposed to be beyond making jokes about killing people. Or rape jokes. Or jokes about Maori, Pacifica, Muslims, Jewish people, etc.

The phrase – “Hey, lighten up, it was just a joke!” – no longer carries validity. And rightly so.

Remembering that we are only two years from the worst terrorist atrocity in modern New Zealand; considering that Ms Stewart actually had access to firearms – the person at the receiving end of her “joke” would not have been as dismissive as her supporters appear to be.

Those who are prepared to dismiss Ms Stewart’s comment as a “joke” and “not to be taken seriously” might reflect on Al Nisbet’s notorious cartoons in 2013;

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Neither cartoon threatened to kill or physically harm anyone. Yet, Martyn was moved to quite rightly condemn them in no uncertain terms;

“This disgustingly racist, despicable cartoon appeared in the Marlborough Express as a response to the feed the kids bill…

…the grinding poverty that destroys so many of the lives of the 270 000 children crushed by it is not a laughing matter, it is a deep shame this country of plenty should carry and this cartoon by the Marlborough Express manages to offend every sensibility.

For shame that such a racist cartoon can be published in 2013.

For shame that so many NZers seem to think it’s funny.”

Let’s be quite clear in one thing. If we can make a “joke” about humiliating someone and killing them, then we can make a “joke” about anything else; Maori, gays, lesbians, people with disabilities, people of colour, beneficiaries, etc, etc.

The list of minorities we can crack a joke at is pretty long. Time to dust off those old 1970s joke-books from the attic.

It also means other zealots and cranks can threaten people they don’t like – as long as it can be cloaked under the guise of “humour”.

Take Ms Stewart’s tweet for example. Reverse the genders. Read it back to yourself. Is it still a “joke”?

I find nothing funny in death threats, humorous or otherwise. I find nothing humorous about “jokes” that punch down, instead of up.

I have immense respect for Martyn and all he has achieved. I believe his support for his friend, Ms Stewart, is well-intentioned – but mis-guided in this case.

Ms Stewart made a colossal error of judgement with her comment. A true friend would’ve counselled her to look more deeply at her actions and accept her mistake.

We all make mistakes. (My teens and 20s were filled with them.) It’s what we do when a mistake is made that matters.

In trivialising this issue, we have given alt-right trolls, bigots, and other zealots a free pass. This is a low bar that Ms Stewart and Martyn have set, and they will be only too happy to step over it.  (BFD – the successor to “Whaleoil” – is also supporting Rachel Stewart’s “joke”. That Martyn has found himself aligned with something as odious as BFD  should be troubling in itself.)

For the transgender community and their LGBTQI brothers, sisters,non-binaries, this is yet more crap in their lives.

It is with deepest regret that I will no longer contribute to The Daily Blog. TDB has achieved much and can be a vehicle for considerable progressive good. But this is not the right way to go about it.

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References

“Frankly Speaking”: A Capital Gains Tax?

“The Daily Blog”: Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters…

“The Daily Blog”: Twitter Watch – and then they came for Rachel Stewart…

“The Daily Blog”: There is no place in NZ for this kind of disgusting fucking racism – for shame Marlborough Express, for shame!

Twitter: The Aunties – 6 July 2021

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This blogpost was submitted to The Daily Blog two days ago. As as this moment, it remains unpublished..

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= fs =

  1. 8 July 2021 at 7:11 am

    Frank!
    This is a very good writing! Congratulations! I share it in the hope that it will benefit others in Hungary as well.

    • 8 July 2021 at 12:05 pm

      Köszönöm szépen, Pali.

      Anything I can do to assist the Hungarian people, and to resist Viktor Orbán, I will. He is the Hungarian “Donald Trump” and is not a friend to democracy.

  2. Samwise
    8 July 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Frank,

    Kudos to you and your stand on this. You’ve presented a cogent argument, much of which missing from the pages of the daily blog as Martyn and Stewart’s mates pile in.

    Question, did you offer this blogpost to Martyn to publish first? If so, it hasn’t appeared on the Daily blog.

    We shall visit your blog more often from now on.

  3. 8 July 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you, Sam.

    In answer to your question, as at the moment of writing this, my blogpost above has not been published on TDB. It was submitted on Monday, late evening.

    It is, of course, Martyn’s prerogative what is published on his website.

  4. Miles Lacey
    8 July 2021 at 9:42 pm

    I can understand why you have decided not to write for The Daily Blog but I think your decision to stop writing for The Daily Blog is a bad one.

    Through The Daily Blog you are able to reach out to thousands of readers every day and state what you believe in. By sticking with The Daily Blog you can mobilise support for the hate speech laws and show people how these laws will benefit disadvantaged groups like trans people. Present a strong enough argument and perhaps even Martyn will see the error of his ways

    I oppose the hate speech laws yet I will fight any discrimination, bigotry and violence against transgender people with as much passion, if not more. That won’t change. Yet there are many on the political Left who are still sitting on the fence about the hate speech laws. Your blogs on The Daily Blog could make a difference with those people.

    • Samwise
      15 July 2021 at 1:50 pm

      Hey Miles, not meaning to be smart alecky or anything,but have you thought of contributing to the daily blog yourself? Just a thought.

  5. 9 July 2021 at 10:49 am

    Thanks, Miles…

    I can appreciate that you think my decision was not the right one to make. However, it was not a conclusion I came to lightly. It was a matter that I thought about long and hard.

    The reason I came to my decision is that Martyn’s blogpost on Rachel Stewart on 4 July was more than simply one of my fellow bloggers contributing to TDB. If that had been the case, a simple rebuttal from me would have sufficed.

    But Martyn is not just “another blogger” on TDB. He is the founder, editor, owner of the website. As such, he sets a direction for TDB. He sets the tone.

    If you wonder what that means, look at the responses from many who posted after his first, second, and third blogposts. Take note of the tone.

    His blogposts have enabled that tone to be set and it’s not one that sits comfortably with me.

    It’s one of the oft quoted criticisms of the NZ Herald from left-wing commentators when they publish right wing clap trap from the likes of Mikes Hosking, Kate Hawkesby, et al; the Herald is tarred with the same brush.

    Against such a backdrop, my name is on the list of Contributors to TDB. As such, whether or not I agree with Martyn (and on many issues we stride together in lock-step!), I have to share a measure of responsibility with the tone set at TDB. Especially if my writing attracts *clicks*, leading to more advertising revenue for the site.

    Whether or not I like it, the brush sweeps over me as well.

    TDB is Martyn’s “child”. He can operate it as he sees fit (within Aotearoa’s current defamation and hate speech laws); deciding who contributes; who doesn’t; who posts commernts; who cannot. It’s entirely his call and I endorse that.

    My choice is whether or not to participate.

  6. Priss
    15 July 2021 at 10:32 am

    Frank, it was disappointing that Martyn Bradbury refused to publish your final blogpost on the Daily Blog. So much for him being a staunch advocate for free speech. Free speech only when it suits him?

    I’ve had a few comments that weren’t published so I’m not totally surprised.

    I won’t be going to the Daily Blog anymore. It has taken on a dark turn with his support for transphobic bigot Rachel Stewart. Like you I was appalled at support for her. Stewart is known for her vile bigotry but I didn’t expect him to follow her along.

    I understand you don’t want to be tarred with his brush. One of my friends used to contribute to his website but she had enough as well.

    I will be back to read more from you and will happily share your links on my social media channels.

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