Toothless Dangerous Rhetoric in NZPol

Posted on January 15, 2017 by Richard Goulter
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I don’t follow the NZ Blogosphere too closely.
Glimpsing at it, it’s not difficult to come across nutcase-y views. (My favourite, as made popular by the NZ Flag Referendum, was the kind which used CAPITALS to highlight IMPORTANT WORDS in a meaningless rant).
– Given that NZ has a largely apathetic attitude towards politics, religion et al., I guess it’s no surprise that those who do care are disproportionately weird.

There is the risk in pointing to content and saying “hey, this deviates from what society ought to be” that this lends power to such deviants. c.f. Meredith Patterson’s remarks here.

This post came up on my newsfeed.
(For context of popularity: the post itself has 0 comments).

The title “No such thing as casual racism” is pretty edgy.
Moreso since the intended audience is presumably one which would tell you “casual racism is a big problem”. – Less so since the preview-snippet says “it’s just straight-up racism” (which kindof ratchets up an extreme view even further).

Reading over it, the piece isn’t as explicitly dangerous as I was expecting.
The piece takes Sir Peter “Mad Butcher” Leitch as its excuse for saying “current events demonstrate my political view is correct”.
The author’s point, perhaps more elegantly phrased, is that “1) all kinds of racism are racism 2) racism is bad 3) therefore, to categorise kinds of racism means defending racism as ‘not that bad’”. – Thus, referring to any remark as “casually racist” is saying “racism isn’t that bad”. (In the author’s words: “How can you categorise racism in any form and excuse racism in any form?”).

Or, to look at it from another perspective:

  1. Racism is a problem in NZ. e.g. Maoris are over-represented in NZ’s Criminal-Justice System, and Maoris are victims of unconscious bias against them.

  2. A prominent New Zealander said a racially-tinged remark which the conversant took offence at; the conversant received an immediate apology.

  3. To defend (B) as ‘not as bad as’ (A) is to defend racism.

– Logically this leads to “i) (B) is as bad as (A). ii) (B) is not that bad. iii) Therefore, (A) is not that bad”, which is fucking absurd.

I don’t think the author seriously believes that.
But saying “casual racism is racism; racism is bad; so, the term ‘casual racism’ enables racism” is a morally righteous thing to say. It sounds good.
– In the article, the author lambasts Newshub for having a ‘quiz’ “Are a casual racist?”; the author misinterprets this as ‘normalizing’ racism, rather than an attempt to raise consciousness about racism in society. – Again, this looks like an attempt to be the most anti-racist person possible (rather than say something of substance).
– The author continues: Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said … that Sir Peter is not racist, but the incident has highlighted the casual racism in society.: with the above lens in mind, criticising Maori Party’s co-leader of enabling racism is super anti-racist, or something.

If we instead read the post as if it’s discussing problems in NZ society, then that the author is able to steadfastly posture over something so trivial indicates that there can’t be any more serious problems worth worrying about.
– I can only makes sense if the author supports something like “the racism behind misinterpreted remarks is how we end up with inequalities in society”. Horseshoe nails and broken windows and all. – That sounds fascinating, and possibly nuanced. Maybe the author should have written about that instead?

It’d be remiss of me, in analysing the post, to not include the most interesting paragraph:

Racism is an ideology, just like being a liberal, conservative, anarchist, or religious. In many cases they are intertwined by design or just pure coincidence. And here we are, masquerading racism as if its “casual” component was comparable to having brunch, or casual sex, actions free of beliefs. What’s next, a Tinder-like app for casual racism?

"Racism is an ideology" sounds like parroting a taught mantra without explaining it. Perhaps using the word ‘racism’ differently to how most people would use the word.
"In many cases they are intertwined by design or just pure coincidence." is a preaching-to-the-choir sophisticated way of saying “some ideologies are racist, amirite?”.
"What's next, a Tinder-like app for casual racism?". Like. Surely even the author had to think this was a dumb thing to write. – An absurd exaggeration which doesn’t particularly work for supporting “racism is a problem in NZ”, but does flow for supporting the author saying “look how concerned about this problem I am”.
– That the author doesn’t acknowledge their own convictions are ideologically driven also detracts from the post’s maturity.

Coming across the title, I figured the post would be dangerous in terms of inciting tension. (cf. “an End to Racial Detente”).
But overall it’s pretty toothless. Much of what is righteously compelling about the post is regurgitation of politicised views of the world. (Viewpoints which aren’t necessarily common/shared with the NZ population).

I still using accusations of ‘racism’ disproportionately is dangerous.
cf. US Media’s drift from over-using “racist”, to “outright racist” to “white nationalist”, as each phrase becomes ineffective; You’re Still Crying Wolf.
Let alone, if people are condemned regardless of what they do, there’s nothing to stop people from doing wrong.
People like this, righteous & not with majority viewpoint, need to see value in “playing politics” (or “being persuasive”) if they hope to make any changes to the problems they see in the world. Signalling what good people they are only feels good.
– To that extent, it’s still valuable to rebut “casual racism is racism”. (Albeit, with the tradeoffs/risks noted at the start of this post).
One dumb, preaching-to-the-choir internet blogpost to another.

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