Paul Holmes' unerring instincts as a showman were on full display in his Weekend Herald column last Saturday, in which he vented his spleen over the protests at Waitangi. The man who calculatedly engineered a studio walkout on the first night his eponymous television show went to air by confronting America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner and called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan a "cheeky darkie", knew exactly what he was doing. The same goes for the column, which was not responsible, intelligent journalism, but inflammatory rhetoric.
The latest outburst also smacked of an abuse of his position. A spittle-flecked rant from go to whoa, it did not attempt to mount any semblance of a coherent argument, settling instead for the observation that he was "over" Waitangi Day, which is "repugnant" and "a ghastly affair" in which a "loony Maori fringe" engaged in "self-denial". (Quite what the last word meant was not explained; the thrust of the piece seemed to be taking protesters to task for self-indulgence, not self-denial).
It is probably inevitable that a broadcaster would not realise that the news is only a slice of reality. The "irrational Maori ghastliness" that "the news will show us" on Waitangi evening will be what was happening where the cameras were (and not least because they were there) rather than the overall picture. But he must have been aware that, in towns and cities the length of the country, untroubled celebrations took place.
What is more, the ructions at Waitangi (which, Holmes should know, occur at nearby Te Tii marae on the day before Waitangi Day) are nothing new. As Mana Party leader Hone Harawira pointed out in a remarkably restrained response, they've been going on since the Treaty was signed.
Holmes, of course, is quite entitled to be "over" Waitangi Day. He is likewise entitled to suggest that Anzac Day, which originated in the slaughter of more than 2700 of our young men in a botched British-led military campaign, be proclaimed our national day - although how this would change what would happen on Waitangi Day is not clear.
What he should not have done though is launch a prejudiced attack on all Maori as "hating whitey" and "bamboozling the Pakeha to come up with a few more millions" because a particular group of protesters got on his nerves.
The protesters were principally calling for a halt to state asset sales and to offshore oil exploration - matters that profoundly disturb a large number of New Zealanders. Some behaved in an intemperate, even discourteous, manner and they were roundly criticised by marae officials. But they are entitled to the same freedom of expression that Holmes would claim in defence of his ignorant and reactionary rant.