June Miscellany

Wit – the first casualty of political discourse

Contributor  Chris  Horan  put his finger on the dreary state of political oratory in this country now that cameras and mikes are everywhere.    The last memorable  orator  was  David Lange  –  trouble is,  his comedy masked the  dismantling of a  Kiwi society  many of us loved.

He was  right  about  the current crop: our  media-savvy, media trained pollies  bear no resemblance to the  old style  oratory of earlier days  when there was just one television channel.   Here’s just a couple of examples: The 1972   Auckland town hall  meeting starring  that battler Rob Muldoon, saw over  20 people  ejected by  police.

That was one part of the  meeting-  the  best was reserved for  the interjectors’ wit and the way  Muldoon  relished his own retorts.  The crowd that night  may have been hostile, but by the end of the evening, they respected him. At the same place and  for the same election, Labour leader Norm Kirk’s meeting was similarly rowdy with about the same number of ejections and the same quick-wittedness on and off stage.


It must be all of a month  ago  that the world was poised for a  White House decision on  whether to go to war with Iran.  And then the Don  back-pedalled.   Next?  Neither his  White House Counsel Don McGahn, nor the  justifiably  vilified Attorney  General William Barr  appeared  before Congress in defiance of  subpoenas. Trump, who describes himself as the ‘most  transparent President in history’  prohibited them.  This week he also  prohibited two close aides  – but they are likely to be subpoenaed, and so it  goes with the man who  last month described himself as an ‘extremely stable genius…’


Style changes at the  Guardian newspaper now reflect the disastrous impacts of climate change more dramatically. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief said the changes are designed to better reflect the “catastrophe for humanity” we are facing. Editors and writers will replace the term “climate change” with “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global warming” with “global heating.” Other updates include the word “wildlife” over the word “biodiversity,” and “climate science denier” instead of “climate skeptic.” The Guardian also recently added a global carbon dioxide level report to its daily weather report.


Can the  media commentariat please  kill off the term ‘optics’, as in ‘the optics don’t look good’.  It’s trendy, past its use-by – and annoying. How about a return to  that neglected but more accurate term,  appearances?

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.