In her Herald on Sunday column this week Heather Du Plessis-Allan suggested some silly people came along to last Thursday’s anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) protests and ruined everything, and now the country will never want to talk about free trade ever again – because, well – bad protesters. I imagine a ‘good protester’ to Du Plessis-Allan is someone who quietly marches waving an inoffensive placard, in an inoffensive way, accompanied by an inoffensive chant, asking to have an inoffensive conversation, with some inoffensive people – someone, who even Mike Hosking’s so-called “regular New Zealanders” could give their inoffensive nod of approval too.
Guess what guys, the revolution was never meant to be inoffensive, nor something easily slotted in between a pedicure and picking the kids up at three. Protesting, by its nature, is an inconvenience. If it doesn’t make the viewer uncomfortable it is not doing its job. Also protesting, or the right to protest, is a democratic right in our country – we literally go to war in other countries to afford their peoples the same rights. Let that sink in for a minute. While the boys and girls of our Fourth Estate reduce serious issues to ‘silly protesters’ and ‘traffic inconveniences’ – we send men and women to potentially die in foreign lands to give or to restore to a foreign citizen, their right to protest and inconvenience their governments. The very same rights it would seem that some people here would rather we didn’t have.
I don’t want to watch, or read, or hear another talking head whine about protesting “riff-raff” and “rent-a-crowd”. I want to watch, read, and hear them instead discuss the issues being protested, for, or against. Let’s not forget some media personalities are paid very well to do this, so why are they still struggling with the fundamentals of our democracy and getting away with it? Let alone being paid for that struggle? If Hosking for example can’t figure it out, please someone dear god explain it to him, and please let that someone not be Toni Street. Every time we allow important conversations to be derailed by lowest common denominator sound bites churned out to even lower common denominator audiences, we do New Zealand a disservice. We do our kids a disservice.
Not just content with sticking the knife into ‘bad protesters’ for giving protesting a bad image and turning people off talking about the TPPA, Du Plessis-Allan claims their actions single-handedly sent “ordinary people” – which I can only assume is Du Plessis-Allan ‘speak’ for Hosking’s “regular New Zealanders” – into the moderate and welcoming arms of the TPPA proponents. Really? Do we have evidence of this? Or is this something Du Plessis-Allan made up because she had a 500 word limit to fulfil? If so-called “ordinary” New Zealanders don’t understand the TPPA as she alleges and a bunch of protesters can scare them off, then that’s not the fault of the protester, that’s her fault, she is the journalist after all.
What has she done the past eight years to elucidate the masses? She derides and ridicules protesters for their ignorance in the face of a knowledge vacuum, but lets her so-called “ordinary people” and Hosking’s “real New Zealanders” off the hook, despite their own very obvious ignorance due to the same information void. The TPPA came out of the last decade when the United States wished to join the four country Trans-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP) – so it has literally been a thing since January 2008. Why are we so ignorant to this agreement eight years on? Why are people fearful of not just it but many of its clauses? Can our broadcasters really say they’ve done their very best to give people not just credible, but also the factual information they would need to have to take a well-rounded position on it? I don’t think so.
It seems a major goal in the TPPA debate for some time now has being to avoid pushing for answers on contentious provisions in the agreement from the negotiating Executive, and instead drill non-negotiating opposition parties on their stance. Demanding to know if they are anti-free trade for example, because they, inexplicably it seems to some media, dare to question parts of the agreement while supporting others. For some, it’s like the media are fighting the fire in the letterbox while behind them the house burns. No wonder people are scared and effectively screaming at their screens, and now screaming into our screens, at the journalistic equivalent of the horror movie victim not heeding our warnings to ‘look behind’ them. If people for, against and everything between, are still ignorant of this agreement this late in the game, some feeling anxious, desperate and fearful, then someone’s not doing their job – or someone else is doing their job too a little too well.
On Radio New Zealand last week, ex Labour Party politician and Speaker of the House, Margaret Wilson, now Professor of Law and Public Policy at University of Waikato said this of the protesters and their perceived ignorance,
“Why they’re bothering is that somehow or another people feel they have to express to their government their feelings about both [the] process [of the TPPA], and [the] content in many ways as well, because they haven’t had any other opportunity to do so. In New Zealand’s constitutional arrangement, [protest] is the way in which the people, the only way really, substantially, [that people can] communicate directly [with the Executive].”
Du Plessis-Allan though bless her, hopes middle New Zealand will stay strong in the face of inconvenient protests and inner city traffic jams, and no matter how tedious, carry on the apparently newly started, but nevertheless important TPPA conversation. It’s almost like Du Plessis-Allan has only just realised the importance of it, let alone known that some of us have being desperately screaming out for us to have this conversation for some time. See what I did there Heather?
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy
Like it or not dear reader, the thousands of protesters who turned up last Thursday, and the many people who wish they could have, are not the people who need their actions questioned right now.
Viva la revolution.
‘Policing the 1981 Springbok tour, cartoon’, URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/policing-the-tour-cartoon, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013
Some felt that the New Zealand Rugby Football Union should have to pay the bill for policing the tour out of the profits they made from the matches. The police spent an estimated $15 million on ‘Operation Rugby’.
Policeman: ‘Kiwi Joe Taxpayer, you are hereby warned that you will be charged with the unknown cost of police overtime, transportation and accommodation, the uncertain cost of supplying umpteen giant hopper bins of gravel, the as-yet-uncalculated cost of installing umpteen rolls of barbed wire, the yet-to-be-estimated cost of—’
Taxpayer:’Why me? What about them?’
Alexander Turnbull Library
Cartoonist: Nevile Lodge, from Evening Post 8 September 1981
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.