Sir Bob Jones

Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: Gutless critics not worth the time

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The Maori King Tuheitia Paki. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Maori King Tuheitia Paki. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Maori king has "respectfully requested that Pakehas mind their own business", and, pertinent to that plea, condemned "the ugliness of blogs". He's dead right on the latter point and correct in principle on the first, with one qualification.

A few months back I lashed out at him in this column with heavy-handed ridicule. I mocked his monarchy, considering as I do that all royalty is absurdly anachronistic, his no more or less than any other. But my libertarian view is if some people like it, then that's their business and only becomes mine if it affects me. The British monarchy, for example, I consider an enormous joke, meaningful to many women and "wets". That's enough reason for it if lots of people find pleasure in its existence. It has absolutely no power, other than nominally, albeit with the anomalous convention that it never actually exercises that authority. Thus the uproar, a source of great anger in Australia to this day, when their Governor General grossly abused that convention and sacked the Whitlam Government nearly four decades ago. That improper action spawned the now powerful Australian republican movement.

Returning to the Maori king, again I don't care if a Waikato tribe call him their king. To the contrary in fact as it provides an excellent source of mirth which is the best medicine for our wellbeing. Nevertheless, that's their business and certainly no-one else's, as he has correctly said. But the King made it everyone's affair when he organised a hui of 100-plus shysters to attempt to manipulate the legal system and pull off a grand larceny against the public. My response was no-holds barred, and to mix my metaphors, going from wrestling to boxing, I had no qualms about banging in some below-the-belt jibes. Despite that the King's condemnation of some blogs for their "twisting and misrepresentation of my words, their use of false names and anonymous websites to hurl abuse" should have everyone's sympathy. It's now a major issue worldwide, only last week tackled at a United Nations-organised conference in Dubai, attended by 150 governments, including New Zealand, to discuss the future governance of the internet.

The unregulated internet makes a mockery of libel laws, of copyright and many other worthwhile aspects of our established legal system. The Assange and Dotcom sagas are copyright examples while courts worldwide are struggling with libel liability issues for outrageous website comments.

This column attracts dozens of anonymous website responses, some which astonish me, to cite the Maori king, with their "twisting and misrepresenting of my words". Until a few decades back newspapers published letters from "concerned mother" and such-like before changing the rules and demanding correspondents supply names and addresses. This led to a higher standard of letters although they can still unwittingly demonstrate the writer's ignorance, stupidity and prejudices.

Some months ago I wrote a column promoting self-employment in the young, emphasising that most self-employed were not motivated by money and indeed many struggled, but instead the joys of independence made it worthwhile. This led to a letter published in the Herald from an S. Hansen of Napier, plainly someone of mind-boggling stupidity. He abused me for being obsessed with money (a subject I studiously avoid) and inexplicably, of my personal responsibility for the destruction of our ecosystems. One had the whiff of embittered school-teacher loser with this correspondent, although why the Herald published this rubbish defies comprehension.

I've received numerous cowardly, anonymous, abusive letters over my life, thus my sympathy for the Maori king's complaint. Probably he would weep with envy over an experience I had three decades ago. A vicious anonymous letter arrived but for reasons irrelevant to detail there was a give-away as to its author, a now deceased prominent Auckland public company director I had known casually for two decades. I rang him.

"Hello Don, Bob here."

"Bob. Great to hear from you. Are you in town - we'll have lunch."

"No no, just ringing to say I got your letter," and I read it to him.

He began to splutter about jokes etc. I put the phone down and never spoke to him again.

Receiving anonymous death threats were a regular experience in the 1980s New Zealand Party days. On three occasions the police located the senders, all elderly, impoverished simpletons living in boarding houses. Two of them were confusing me with Sir Ron Brierley. We had one nutter shoved in an asylum for six months, another foaming-at-the-mouth Social Credit lunatic turned up in my office wielding an axe, wanting to "speak" to me. My secretary had the wit to tell him I was in Australia.

The Maori king should console himself that anonymous abusers represent a tiny section of society and ignore them for the gutless garbage they are.

- NZ Herald

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