Even The Best Creative Writers Fail To Polish The Turd That Is Identity Politics


Fran O'Sullivan attempted to polish the turd that is Nanaia Mahuta's appointment and other "dances for diversity" in the horse trading for spots on the starting line in the Labour Cabinet.  With her interests in Foreign Affairs, offshore travel and media junketeering I was intrigued as to how she would craft such an attempt at a defence in a diplomatic fashion.  It was a pretty good effort, I give it a solid 8/10 in composition covering all the bases.  However compared to young Heather du Plessis-Allan's comparative instantaneous "you cannot be serious", a 10/10 in rat cunning.  The far left and luvvies will congratulate O'Sullivan for it.  Maori, who are now rushing to defend Mahuta as some sort of quiet genius and anyone who questions her appointment is quickly framed as a blinding white supremacist, will view it as an embrace by a boomer white establishment commentator.  They should not.  Let me count the ways as I stick a hard reverse spin cycle on 740 words from one of New Zealand's most senior spin doctors in a columnist's clothing.

References to Mahuta's non-conventional facial marking:

  1. "brand recognition for the moko-wearing politician"
  2. "has a prominent Māori tattoo on her face"
  3. "first Cabinet Minister to wear a moko kauae"
  4. "cachet that a moko-wearing Foreign Minister"
  5. "not the only moko-wearing female Māori politician"
References to Mahuta's race and gender identity:
  1. "She hopes her appointment will act as a trailblazer for other women of Māori descent in NZ"
  2. "suggesting that an indigenous woman has taken the place of the white middle-aged men"
  3. "female Maori politician"
  4. "proud Māori women"
References to Mahuta and word soup translation:
  1. "ensured quick brand recognition for the moko-wearing politician in the world's capitals" - this is sideways speak for "she will stand out like a sore thumb". It will also deeply upset Maori that the moko is described as a brand. Depending on who claims this of course!
  2. "Mahuta has been catapulted from a mid-ranking New Zealand Cabinet Minister who has done the hard yards without seeking huge public recognition" - in other words, "she's spent 24 years potentially on my radar as a columnist and I have never thought about her much at all".
  3. "Peters is a well-known quantity offshore. He is possessed of deep diplomatic skills" - Winston is charming, gives great copy and wonderful to get on the sauce with.
  4. "Mahuta will bring a different flavour to New Zealand's external relations" - Mahuta will be boring as batshit and in bed by 8pm when on tour.
  5. "Mahuta is taking up her ministerial warrant at a time which will call for great dexterity". O'Sullivan then continues using 73 words or almost 10% of her column, describing how a man, Jeremy Seed and CEO of MFAT and his team will "wrap itself around their new minister".  Total word soup for - "never fear Jeremy has spoken with me and they will do her job for her".
  6. "It's fair to say that Ardern's own celebrity and deepening international experience make her the country's foremost diplomat" - In other words - Mahuta will not be involved in anything important.  O'Sullivan continues for 142 words about how important Ardern is, another 20% of her column that is about Mahuta.
  7. "The impact of Covid-19 means there will be little international travel for the new minister". So yes it will be a Wellington bound role with MFAT officials on the ground doing all the work or not as they currently may be with many offices closed.
  8. "Mahuta has to some degree hidden her talents". This has been a 24 year game of hide and seek with the NZ public yes while she seemed to focus solely on Maori interests.  She was caught out not meeting with a single ratepayer group or residents’ association while their Minister.
  9. "Certainly, there was a wide expectation among political journalists that Ardern would pick former Labour leader Andrew Little for the role.  But Little would not have had the cachet that a moko-wearing Foreign Minister has".  In other words Little was punished for being a white male who made the largest sacrifice in modern NZ political history to give up his leadership for Ardern and some how he has less prestige than a woman who has a facial tattoo that is only of significance to a people of around 18% of a country of 5m people in a world of 7b in an international role?  Surely one jests using the noun "cachet"?
  10. "Mahuta is not the only moko-wearing female Māori politician in Parliament. She will be joined by Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. These proud Māori women are now at the forefront of New Zealand's future".  So not only Mahuta is not that special in her moko-wearing, we are now having to buy that these two middle aged women suddenly are at the forefront of the future of the whole country because of their race and facial identity?  A bridge way too far me thinks in the absence of any track record of performance in a world outside their own very niche and safe area of Maori politics and inherited titles. I won’t even start on Mahuta’s ratbag first cousin with whom she has at least children with and depending on the seriousness of the assault he will not get an automatic ESTA to travel to the USA with her with his publicly reported criminal conviction for an always nasty, male on female incident. Anyone not of Maori race  in this position would be asked these questions by a proper media with a quick google so don’t tell me Mahuta is being picked on. Ever. She’s getting better treatment simply for being Maori than would anyone else. Imagine the copy if the partners of former Foreign Affairs Ministers Winston Peters, Gerry Brownlee or Murray McCully had such a criminal conviction? We would never hear the end of it. 
In conclusion: 740 words and O'Sullivan fails to stick her broomstick in the sand and actually commit to placing her reputation as a political trainspotter on the line and say Mahuta a) deserved the role, b) will be any good at it and c) has a track record in actual performance or even d) researched how often Mahuta has actually left the country in the last 24 years even for a holiday.  Mahuta seems like such a quiet home-body happy to stay in NZ.

But like any good spin-doctoring, I am sure the subject in Mahuta is pleased with the column and will thank O'Sullivan next time they meet!

The awful truth is New Zealand is not a player in the world of diplomacy. Nothing it does matters in the slightest to the major players. Nothing. New Zealand media writing about foreign affairs have to keep peddling the relevancy to keep on the gravy train. Even in the South Pacific they gloss over the fact the Islands would sell out to China for the highest contracts for the key infrastructure.  China right now owns the entire South Pacific should they choose to call in the favours. Georgie Dansey at list position 84 for Labour could be the Minister and it would not materially matter.

May the myths of K1W1 relevancy continue. 

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