Hard News by Russell Brown



It was always odds-on that Judith Collins MP would top her previous efforts at public nastiness - and already, she's come though for the punters. 3 News ran a story on Friday night claiming controversy over the hiring of "prominent drag queen" Buckwheat, aka Edward Cowley, as a motivational speaker for Pacific Island staff by the Ministry of Social development.

The story had been provided to 3 News by Collins, who smirkingly declared that she had discovered the news about the "inappropriate" contract in Express, which is delivered to Parliament.

Buckwheat/Edward recently finished nine years working as a community educator for the Aids Foundation, and, as it turns out, has previously been contracted as a facilitator for Fono, a series of professional development seminars for Pacific Island staff.

So, you have a Pacific Islander who has spent nearly a decade on the front line, working with Pacific communities for a community heath organisation, who has been brought in as a motivational speaker on a social ministry's staff training programme, having filled a similar role to general acclaim in the past.

This is, allegedly, a "waste of money". But does anybody think for a moment that Collins would have picked it up if that person had not been a drag queen? It's this simple: Collins saw the gay angle as a political opportunity and supplied the story to 3 News.

This perhaps serves as a reminder that the National Party preening itself for power next year is not only the party of that nice Mr Key who everyone likes, but of thugs like Collins, who are willing -- nay, eager -- to use bigotry as a political weapon.

When I criticised a speech she had made on the Civil Unions Bill (in part because it was simply inaccurate) three years ago, Collins sent me an email headed 'Your rantings'. It read: "Thanks for the free publicity. I just love the way the diversity friendly people like yourself are so opposed to any view contrary to your own. Keep it up."

Sure. I've met Buckwheat a couple of times, and she (I think one should call drag queens "she" when they're in uniform) was graceful and kind: two attributes that could hardly be ascribed to Mrs Collins. And I'll leave you to guess who is the better dresser.

Meanwhile, the Herald ran a front-page story on Saturday that was frankly silly:. It opened:

A photo of Helen Clark on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has been "protected" to prevent people editing her listing, and Ministry of Justice staff have been detected using Government computers to alter other entries.

Unless you read that intro -- and indeed, the rest of the story -- carefully, you might have gained the impression that the edits conducted from Ministry of Justice computers had something to do with the vandalism on the Clark article. Or, at least, that they were somehow politically controversial.

Check again: of the five edits -- in four years! -- from MoJ, two were on that swarming hive of contentious content, the Echo and the Bunnymen article. I have a mental image of some deskbound fortysomething correcting the catalogue number on Heaven Up Here.

It is hardly news, either, that the Helen Clark article has been vandalised. Angry nutters have been doing that in one way or another since 2003. It's a modern peril of political leadership. Although, apart from some clever-dick briefly introducing a picture of him picking his nose, John Key has suffered little.

It's not even really news that the familiar PR pic of Clark has been locked off because a couple of especially angry nutters could not accept that their views on its integrity were of no account to an encylopedia. It happened in May.

One of the senior New Zealand Wikipedia editors, Gadfium -- a man of apparently infinite patience -- explains on the Talk page to someone demanding to know what the vandalism relating to the photo was: "Since your IP address is similar to one of those making the vandalisms, and since the edit you made immediately before this one was a (very minor) vandalism, you may already know the answer."

If Derek Cheng at the Herald really wanted a story, he'd have tried to track down those addresses. It wouldn't be easy, but it wouldn't be a completely daft story that brings the paper into disrepute.

Update: it has been brought to my attention that the reporter, Derek Cheng, isn't the one to blame for the Herald's Wikipedia story. Sounds like it was the newsdesk deciding there was a story there wasn't and the poor reporter having to write it. So, the paper bringing its reporter into disrepute rather than the reverse.

Having watched Barack Obama's appearance on The Daily Show last week, I think I love him -- and I hardly even know him. Well, perhaps that's going a bit far; but it was certainly a demonstration of his astonishing charisma. Salon has a story about Obama's appeal to Republicans -- he placed third in a poll of Republican voter preferences in Iowa -- noting, of course, that he has to win his own party's primary before he can think about reaching out across the barricades.

PS: Another dispatch from the Yahoo/Xtra Bubble shambles. People on the Public Address mailing list haven't been getting our emails for more than a week. This is becaiuse since the chance, messages from our list -- which has existed in various forms longer than Xtra has for goodness sake -- have been recategorised as "Bulk/Spam". They're not delivered and can only be seen via Xtra webmail interface. Could someone at Xtra please fix this and stop hurting my business? Like, now?

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