Rodney Hide: Darn, I was just too slow

Anti-pornography crusaders buy Playboy so they can be shocked. Photo / AP
Anti-pornography crusaders buy Playboy so they can be shocked. Photo / AP

The list of rights New Zealanders now enjoy has sped past all legislation, leaving our Bill of Rights looking positively archaic.

Many now enjoy the Right Not To Be Offended. The right wasn't granted by Parliament, but it's nonetheless firmly embedded in our body politic.

There's no taxpayer-funded commission to police the right. Instead, an army of self-appointed commissioners pore over public comment, eager to take offence on our behalf. Their only reward is the self-righteousness that follows from appearing socially aware and being a tender soul readily offended on behalf of others.

The self-appointed commissioners prove their sensitivity and caring by bellowing the "offensive" comments loudly and heaping abuse on the offenders.

I missed the golden opportunity that Richard Prosser's Wogistan comments afforded me to reverse negative perceptions. I should have jumped in and said that I, too, took umbrage and put the boot into him to prove just how much I care.

But I was too slow. By the time I became aware of his comments, others on my behalf had worked themselves up into a full-scale fury. I was late to the party and couldn't match them.

Indeed, if it wasn't for the full-scale outrage I wouldn't have known what he wrote. That's because I don't go out of my way to be offended.

The self-appointed commissioners remind me of anti-pornography crusaders rushing out to buy Playboy only to be shocked and outraged at what they find between the covers.

Besides, even if I had seen Prosser's comments, I doubt I would have known to be mega-offended on a scale of Force 10.

It's hard to know the level of offence to take, and the rules are difficult to discern.

That's because the Right Not To Be Offended doesn't apply to everyone. Pornography and foul language are commonplace.

Media commentators regularly sling off at the Pope and abuse the royal family.

Prudes, Catholics and monarchists don't enjoy the Right Not To Be Offended. In fact, any complaint from them just puts them in the firing line for abuse.

But where the right applies, it's vigorously policed by the self-appointed commissioners. Witness the calls for Prosser to resign.

It would be a funny old Parliament, with very few MPs, if offensiveness and idiocy were cause for resignation.

Plus, there's a double standard.

Hone Harawira calls Europeans rude names and has said he wouldn't be comfortable with his children dating Pakeha.

Prosser calls Muslims rude names and says he's not comfortable sharing a plane with them.

Both statements are idiotic and cause offence, but where's the clamour for Hone to resign? Or to front up at our house to apologise?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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