Last week I washed up at a launch for libertarian Lindsay Perigo's new television show at swishy Antoine's, along with a rag-taggle collection of eccentric libertarian, Act-type coves, who for convenience I'll just call right wingers, because that is what most people call them.

Or us. I guess I am one too. I certainly think it will be invigorating to have Perigo back on screen. It is a shame his show is going to air on a fringe cable channel. Or that it is going to be called The Barbarian Curtain, which sounds a bit like a Brazilian wax kiosk.

The lunch was loud and fun, although I'm not sure who was paying, or who did the seating plan that put Don Brash next to Bill Foreman.

Didn't they remember all the news coverage about whether "Don Juan" had been having a coup de foudre with Foreman's wife? It pays to have a long memory when it comes to the right.

It was 17 years ago that TV's star interviewer Lindsay Perigo - a cerebral Paul Henry - puffed out of TVNZ, declaring its news department to be "braindead". Perigo gave a speech saying that one potential guest had turned down the invitation because he thought Perigo had some rather "strange beliefs".

Perigo took umbrage at this, saying he struggled to see how believing in reason and freedom was strange. Agreed. But when I talked to him he seemed to be more exercised about poor standards of diction - "Wullington" - and the uncivilising influence of hip hop.

Don Brash gave a witty speech: "Perigo has a fierce intensity and doesn't care what people think." Brash was correct on the first point but wrong on the second. I think right wingers care desperately about what people think. There is a shameful secret the right doesn't want you to know.

Most so-called "right wing" people are actually soft-hearted and super-sensitive. Yes I can hear you guffawing with disbelief. Granted, they may not even realise it themselves. When I had just got home to Manurewa from the hospital with my first new baby, it wasn't any of my lefty chums who rang every day to check I was staving off PND. It was Sir Robert Jones.

Another 60-something right winger I know can't talk in public because his eyes well up at any story about human suffering. Then there is acerbic blogger Cactus Kate, who positions herself as dangerously prickly but is actually a very kind person, in private, when no one's looking.

Scratch the surface and most hardline right wingers I know are empathetic people who find it too painful to dwell too much on the suffering of others. It soothes them to take the position that people are in charge of their own destiny and that they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

There is an almost naive optimism and a touching belief in humanity - anyone is capable of change. Take away the welfare system and people will rally, they say. Right wingers are more comfortable showing their anger and being hated, whereas lefties are often passive aggressives. They cover up their anger because they just want to be loved. Which is even more bogus.

The problem is, the right wing staunchness about personal responsibility sounds a lot like being mean spirited. Thus, Perigo sounds like a knob and a snob criticising normal people for not speaking proper or listening to Mahler. Not helping, dude. (He won't like being called dude either.)

You might wonder why I am telling you all this psycho-babble. It's because if you want real change - which is what the Antoine's lunch gathering seemed to be about - you have to identify people's motivations, not just their objectives. The right wing might be more successful at preaching their excellent doctrine of reason and freedom - if they started off by understanding themselves a bit better.

dhc@deborahhillcone.com