Herald response to Paul Holmes complaint | The Jackal

14 Feb 2012

Herald response to Paul Holmes complaint

I received a generic response to my formal complaint about Paul Holmes' racist article this morning. Predictably it in no way properly addresses the issues I've raised.

The worse thing about the Weekend Herald Editor David Hastings response is that he tries to justify Paul Holmes' racist rant under the freedom of speech banner. What an ignoramus!

The real funny thing is that Hastings claims the Herald "strives to publish the breadth of opinion on major public issues." Perhaps the deluded old white guy should read some of Bomber's commentary to see how wrong that statement is.

Anyway... here is the Herald's response and my reply:

By email: David.Hastings@nzherald.co.nz 
Thank you for your formal complaint regarding the Paul Holmes column of Saturday Feb 11.

As you are no doubt aware, it is one of many messages we have received on both sides of the ledger since publication. Those supporting his right to his opinion have markedly outweighed those against. Having said that, we are concerned that a number of people have taken such strong exception to it.

There is no question the piece was written in a raw and provocative style. But we do not believe it constitutes "hate speech" or close to it. It is not, as many people have suggested, a commentary on all Maori people or Maori culture generally but on the few protesters who disrupted proceedings. Nor does it breach Press Council principles, which accommodate freedom of opinion in comment pieces.

It was one of a series of opinion pieces discussing Waitangi Day and its place in New Zealand society which began the previous Saturday with a front page cover story by Buddy Mikaere and included an editorial which recognised the obvious divisions in society but supported the idea of the day as being our national day.

The column in question was clearly aimed at the behaviour and attitudes of Waitangi Day protesters at Waitangi itself – similar to criticism by former Prime Minister Helen Clark of protest leaders as ‘haters and wreckers’, in another context. Disparaging and critical words, but neither intended to cast all Maori in that light. Holmes expressed his opinion as a columnist as he is entitled to do in a country where freedom of speech is regarded as a central pillar of public discourse.

Although many have objected to it -- as is their right -- I hope they can recognise that the very ‘freedom’ in the concept of freedom of speech is meaningless if it applies only to speech that offends no one. As has been recognised by the Press Council, true freedom can mean the freedom to be ignorant, offensive and wrong.

The same points can be applied to his comments about anti-fluoride campaigners, La Leche and Syria. They are, as you point out in paragraph 12, opinion.

We strive to publish the breadth of opinion on major public issues and no doubt will carry strong views in the paper and on our website in response to the latest Holmes column.

Yours sincerely
David Hastings
Weekend Herald

Dear David Hastings,

Thank you for your email concerning my formal complaint regarding Paul Holmes' article.

I would like to point out that my email was not a comment, as you seem to believe, it is a formal complaint. There is also little relevance as to the comments Paul Holmes' article received in terms of my complaint, although the comments supporting Paul Holmes' racist article confirm that he is strengthening racism within society.

You state a number of times that it is an opinion of Paul Holmes, yet the article remains incorrectly labelled.

You also say that Paul Holmes is only commenting on those Maori who are protesting, however the article in question often does not make a distinction and is obviously commenting on Maori people in general. Even if this is not the case and as my formal complaint specifically outlined, Paul Holmes is making a number of inaccurate statements concerning the protesters.

I am not particularly interested in the other articles that the Herald ran concerning Waitangi Day and there is no relevance with you raising the content of these articles. My formal complaint is specifically concerned with Paul Holmes' article. Likewise there is no relevance to an historic statement as way of justifying Paul Holmes' racism. Please refrain from attempting to legitimise what Paul Holmes has written by providing spurious and irrelevant reasoning.

You say that freedom of speech is regarded as a central pillar of public discourse. In this you are correct. However there should be no freedom of hate speech and racism that is clearly defined and outlawed under the Human Rights Act 1993. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul Holmes' article is hate speech directed at Maori with the purpose of promoting racism and further division within an already divided country.

I have no problem with people having an opinion, as long as it does not include calling for people to be murdered and stigmatising people on account of their beliefs and race. Therefore your response is summarily rejected as it in no way responds adequately to the issues I have raised in my formal complaint.

Please be advised that I run a number of blogs including one called The Jackal where I will be responding to your unreasonable dismissal of my formal complaint. I will also be forwarding the issue onto the Press Council and the Human Rights Commission shortly for their consideration.

As a final note, it is setting a very bad precedent to allow the publication of articles that call for people to be murdered.