Toby Manhire 's Opinion

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Politics spawns a truth stranger than fiction

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"Colin Craig" is New Zealand's answer to Ali G. Photo / Richard Robinson
"Colin Craig" is New Zealand's answer to Ali G. Photo / Richard Robinson

Gadzooks, it seems so obvious now - the clues were staring us in the face all along. A millionaire businessman who can't get hold of a suit jacket that fits him properly? Absurd. But we were swept up in the theatrics, spellbound by a comedy virtuoso.

When this "Colin Craig" exploded into the beige New Zealand political scene, we wanted to believe in the swivel-eyed love child of Billy Graham and Alfred E Neuman.

When the supposed leader of the "Conservative Party" was said to have shepherded his employees together for weekly prayer meetings, we lapped it up.

When "Colin Craig" squealed that "we are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world", as if the blokes were blessedly chaste, I believed. When he insisted that homosexuality was a choice, that "to believe that gays were born that way is narrow-minded", that he could choose to be gay if he wanted (but he didn't want), I bought it.

When he ratcheted things further up and said child abuse leads to gayness, still I did not doubt.

I even believed in this "Colin Craig" when he told Helensville constituents that John Key was "too gay" to be their MP. I believed when he shrilled that a visiting weirdo Danish MP was right to object to a welcome by what he called "a bare-bottomed native making threatening gestures". I failed to twig, too, when he bashed out a fire-and-brimstone tweet in response to the passage of the marriage equality law which read, in full: "The day of reckoning is still to come".

Well, the joke's on us.

"Colin Craig" is New Zealand's answer to Ali G. "Colin Craig" is a fictional character, a circus clown, a satirical device. When you think about it, it's as unmistakable as the sparkle in his eye. Would a real person say "at the end of the day" at the start of every second sentence?

The penny dropped this week when "Colin Craig" went one step too far, the cheeky monkey, issuing a legal threat via what appeared to be a reputable legal firm demanding that a little-known but obviously satirical website, The Civilian, retract an obviously satirical remark attributed to him.

See http://www.thecivilian.co.nz/chapman-tripp-legal-notice-23-april-2013/

An aspiring MP screaming defamation over an innocuous bit of obvious satire? I don't think so. A millionaire demanding a $500 contribution to legal costs from a 21-year-old just out of university? Inconceivable.

If "Colin Craig" were real, would he be so lacking in wit, confidence and courage as to issue stiff ultimatums to a tiny website run by a pipsqueak in his pyjamas, while letting stand for all time homoerotic imaginings - all "powerful thighs" and "firm buttocks" - attributed to him in a "secret diary" published by newspapers across the country? I don't think so.

And even if "Colin" did get puffed up like a peacock, sensible lawyers would gently talk him out of it. Wouldn't they?

There's more evidence that this man of many first names is a giant tease. The thundering legal letter observes that the article in question - headlined "Maurice Williamson looking pretty stupid after floods" - includes words that their client "never made". It splutters: "It is a fiction created by you to make him look ridiculous".

Snort! The letter continues: "The statement cannot be dismissed as satire in the circumstances, particularly when it is published alongside quotes from Maurice Williamson which we understand may largely be accurate."

Wonderful! As any half-awake intern could have told them, the quotes from Williamson are invented, too. As is the one attributed to John Key, calling Williamson "a big idiot".

In case that weren't enough, the lawyer's letter goes on to refer to "words which were not said by Mr Crag". As if a legal firm with such a proud history and so many bright minds would misspell its own client's name. Are they all in on this delicious charade? Bravo.

Who, then, is pulling the strings and our legs? Is "Colin Cra(i)g" conjured up by the same genius behind the long-running cabaret act John "Cabbage Boat" Banks? Is he a guerrilla-marketing stunt by enfant terrible Ben Uffindel - a kind of Pantomime Trojan Horse to attract attention to his fledgling comedy website?

Is he an automaton, controlled by Steven Joyce, deployed to distract attention from this week's bewildering Albanian-Stalinist-North-Korean-Polish shipyard metaphor incontinence?

Is he a Weta Workshop side project? Has he been 3D-printed by Maurice Williamson?

Disrobe, "Colin Craig", we cry. Let us stand in ovation before this comedy masterwork, this colossus of ridiculous fiction. I suggest a special gong at the next Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Remove the latex mask, "Colin". Enter our warm embrace

For you must be a character, a chimera, an invention. Mustn't you? The alternative is too bizarre to contemplate.

- NZ Herald

Toby Manhire

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for listener.co.nz, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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