Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Row clouds already nasty issue

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John Tamihere's question to "Amy" has provoked outrage. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Tamihere's question to "Amy" has provoked outrage. Photo / Dean Purcell

Matthew Hooton is so far right he sneeringly derides the National Government as communists. But on human rights and social issues we are fellow travellers. We chatted on the morning of our usual Thursday panel with Radio Live hosts Willie Jackson and John Tamihere. Matthew was incensed over what he believed was Willie and JT's attitude to the predatory behaviour and almost certain rapes of girls by the Roast Buster gang.

I had only listened to one taped interview of a teenager identified as Amy and read a few print reports. None of it was good.

Unlike print and television, talkback radio is live. Hosts never know what a guest will say. On most occasions there is no time for editing or planning an interview. Given the outrage over organised girl rape parties, any questioning of this girl needed careful sensitivity.

In the interview, there was much emphasis on mitigating circumstances for the males and little for the girls. What matters if they snuck out at night or what they wore? You could feel stunned disbelief in radio land when JT asked Amy at what age she lost her virginity.

There is no mitigation for males providing drinks to stupefy 13-year-old girls into sex. It's called rape. Filming it and public gloating is doubly violating.

The conduct of these young men tells us a lot about where society is. I am keen to be part of a discussion rather than caving in to a lynch mob mentality, however tempting. Locking up a couple of creeps will happen eventually. Then what? Problem solved?

I wanted to discuss how the debate on the show had been handled; the disturbing role of the cops; corporations promoting sexualisation of film, music and youth culture; lolly alcohol aimed at girls; parents; schools; education; peer pressure; plus personal conduct and accountability.

I arrived late just as the show was starting. I wasn't aware Matthew had tweeted widely before the show that our hosts were in for a drubbing.

Talk about cutting the air with a knife. There was none of the usual banter. Matthew's opening that the Amy interview was "morally and journalistically cretinous" ended dialogue.

JT's sneer that Matthew was carrying out a predetermined stunt was quickly followed by Matthew's swipe at JT's on-going defence of former top cop Clint Rickards' sexual behaviour. Pandemonium exploded. Matthew's stormy exit was so fast I didn't have time to react.

Thursday's show was great theatrics, maybe even good radio. But it wasn't part of a discussion we need.

Next Thursday we need to continue the debate with Matthew's intellect and energy. Otherwise last week was our last panel. And that's a shame.

- Herald on Sunday

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