Which wretches will have their diaries written this year? New Zealand! Bring out your wretches.

Me hungry. The secret diary series starts again next week, and needs feeding.

The diaries have a narrow scope - find the most ridiculous newsmaker of the week, and make them look even more ridiculous by putting words in their mouth - and a narrow field. So few New Zealanders in public life act the goat. Things were made pretty easy in 2014 because of election year. Who will volunteer for diary duty in 2015?

The central suspense of journalism is that it can't write anything until somebody does something. The diaries, too, operate on anxiety. I can't write anything until someone does something stupid. Venal behaviour is also acceptable, and sacred cows are always welcome. Oh look! Here come the All Blacks.


No one is more sacred or bovine in New Zealand than the holy warriors of adidas. Still, what's the worst thing that can happen when mockery, scorn, disrespect etc is directed at the All Blacks? It's not Paris and the holy lunatics of Islam. We live in peace.

It's a peace without happiness. New Zealanders are an uptight, seething people at the best of times, and they don't take kindly to critics. It's acceptable to laugh with the All Blacks, but never at them. The problem is that the very concept of the ABs is almost perfectly humourless. Rugby is many things, a game of at least two halves, but it's no laughing matter.

Much of the country will be squirming at the end of a long, sharp tenterhook in the months leading up to the 2015 rugby World Cup in September and October. National pride or whatever is on the line. If the All Blacks lose, I'll probably just pick on the ref. Everyone else will.

Satire often follows the crowd. In fact there is something plump and smug about satire. It's fundamentally conservative, the voice of reason, just another philistine jeering at modern art - that reminds me, I really must get around to plumply and smugly mocking Simon Denny, an art bore who is exhibiting at the Venice Biennale this year, and who gives endlessly pretentious interviews ("my work addresses the intersection of geography and power, and the ownership of knowledge", etc). Every time he opens his mouth I want to put a sock in it. The diary is a sock.

I wish the diary was a curse. Studies suggest that satire springs from primitive witchcraft, and was invested with the same power as a spell. I'll inevitably be casting quite a few of those in the direction of John Key - which reminds me, I really ought to get around to mocking my friend Bill Ralston, who serves as the PM's media adviser, and writes a column in the Listener, the National Party's house journal.

Spells, witchcraft - what does satire actually achieve? I've read that ancient Arabic satirists would ride into the battle at the head of the tribe, and attempt to assail the enemy with witty and cutting verse. Yeah, good luck with that. It's like Peter Cook's famous line about the satirical revues performed during the 1930s in Berlin cabarets, "which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War".

I read a lot of boring definitions of satire after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Stuff about its function in society, its contribution towards freedom of speech, etc. I don't know. Satire changes nothing, gets you nowhere. That's all right. Its true purpose and greatest challenge is to amuse. It's got to be funny, and on occasion it's also got to be toxic, really nasty, an exercise in contempt.

I need good material. I need wretches, knaves, fools, buffoons, crooks, goons, goobers. John Key will say or do something ridiculous. So, too, Andrew Little, Judith Collins, an idealist Green MP, a crazy New Zealand First MP.


Politics is good like that. But it'd be great to be able to choose wretches, knaves, fools etc from other walks of life in 2015. Sport. Media. The churches, the temples, the mosques. Me hoping. Me waiting.