Sunday, 20 July 2008

Old crap from an old hack

Contrarian impulses are all very good, but they can go too far. Sometimes factional myopia leads the contrarian to adopt a position which isn't - infact - at all contararian at all. Thus it is with Pompous Chris.

In his latest column (1), 'An old tale from an old book,' Trotter treats us to a rather clumsy bit of parabling, describing the biblical incident where Jesus comforts an adulteress and chides those thirsty for her blood, calling on "He who is without sin" to carry out the biblically ordained sentence of stoning.

The point, I suppose, is that we shouldn't be too swift to heap opprobrium on Tony Veitch. Sure, he put his girlfriend in a wheelchair, but who hasn't occasionally let the speedo creep up to sixty in a fifty mile-per-hour zone? Pretty much the same thing, if you think about it. Or sneaking a few cans of Speights from your dad's stash, that's no different from assaulting someone and then paying them off.

Trotter wrote his column (incidentally, Chris, could you not do the Tales From the Bible thing again? I recall you writing a column about Herod recently. Once was quite enough.) to place himself at odds with his fellows on the left. The condemnation of Veitch has been pretty universal, and Trotter is seeking a Unique Selling Point to distingush himself from the rest of the media pack. After all, anonimity is death for a columnist.

But Trotter isn't being contrarian at all by penning a piece critiquing the media and the people who have condemned Veitch out of hand. He's in good, generally conservative company - alongside the likes of Paul Holmes (2) and hMichelle Boag (3). There have been plenty of commentators who have passed judgement on the media's treatment of the issue. They usually start by saying "I'm not for a moment suggesting what he did was okay, but ..." and then proffer some meagre exculpation about stress, workload or the like, or round on the media for daring to carry a story with a high public interest (never of course, the public).

In the clip from close up (4), John Tamihere seems to try to excuse Veitch by pointing out that we can't expect people to behave like Jesus at all times. Fine, no-one expects people to. But there is a lot of ground between Jesus and the sort of person who puts their partners in a wheelchair, then tries to cover it up and then makes mendacious public statements. Equally, Trotter - who makes his living providing criticism, remember - seems to think that we should, infact not condemn the egregious due to whatever minor flaws we might have ourselves. Again, the same applies - simply because we aren't perfect, it does not mean we can not voice condemnation of the shocking. In fact, the fact that it Veitches behaviour is shocking is an indication of just how apalling it was.

Trotter, with his pompous ruminations, has managed a curious feat. Not only has he placed himself alongside the likes of Tamihere, Holmes and Boag, but he's forced me to line up alongside the likes of Ayn Rand and Lindsay Perigo. The concept underpinning Trotter's column is summed up in Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (5). As Rand points out (6), literal application of this idea leads to a sort of noral vacuity - the correct principle is to judge judiciously, and to be prepare dto suffer judgement yourself. Which, incidentally, is the spirit of what was attributed to Jesus - if Rand had been less interested in scoring pointsm, she would have seen that Matthew 7:2, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again," matches 'her' formulation, only more mellifluously.

So, please, Chris, don't try to be contrary just for the sake of it. If you had truly wanted to do something different, you would have written a column about something else entirely. But he chose not to, and so became part of the mess he is pretending to deplore.
1 - "An old tale from an old book," by Chris Trotter, published in The Dominion Post, 18th of July, 2008. Reproduced on (
2 "Paul Holmes interview with Tony Veitch," by Paul Holmes, published in the NZ Herald, 14th of July, 2008. (
3 - "Close Up: Tony Veitch," Mark Sainsbury interviews Heather Henare, John Tamihere and Michelle Boag, following Veitch's statement, 10th July, 2008.(
4 - ibid.
5 - Matthew, 7:1, in the King James Version of the Bible. (;&version=9;)
6 - The idea is explained in Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness, and key quotations are available on the Ayn Rand Lexicon website. (

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