Feb 12, 2012

Holmes: morally repugnant and deeply racist

I don’t read Paul Holmes – the man has no credibility, little sense and somehow, god knows how, his arrogance jumps off the page and strangles anyone in sight. With that in mind, I wasn’t going to give this piece the time of day, but someone needs to call Holmes on his racism.

In the vilest column I’ve ever seen, Holmes comes out swinging against Maori. The column is undeniably racist. At several points Holmes slurs the entire Maori race. For example, Holmes taints Maori as “loony” and “irrational”. The offensive and unfair language he deploys and the overall message of the piece encourages discrimination. Take this, my favourite passage in which Holmes asserts the following:

“No, if Maori want Waitangi Day for themselves, let them have it. Let them go and raid a bit more kai moana than they need for the big, and feed themselves silly, speak of the injustices heaped upon them by the greedy Pakeha and work out new ways of bamboozling the Pakeha to come up with a few more millions”.

Initially, I was furious with this. Well, I was furious with the whole piece actually, but this paragraph really rarked me up for some reason. After stewing on it, I just found it sad. Sad that someone would say something so nasty, hate filled and utterly unfair. This would go unnoticed in private, but this was published in New Zealand’s leading daily – the Herald. It was totally irresponsible for the Herald to publish Holmes’ hate speech. And that’s what it is, hate speech. Holmes, in the most blatant terms I’ve ever seen, disparages and vilifies Maori, thus encouraging prejudice against Maori. That satisfies the definition of hate speech for me.

Sadly, Holmes doesn’t distinguish between individuals and Maori as a race. Although Holmes’ bases his hate on the actions of a few individuals, he taints the entire Maori race. It’s unfair and it’s racist. What also annoys me is that Holmes is furthering highly offensive and unfair stereotypes.

There is no place for racism in the media. Of course, some people are going to rush to Holmes defence. This is the saddest part. No doubt some people will prasie Holmes for ‘telling it like it is’, but he isn’t telling like it is. Holmes is basing his claims on spurious grounds. He isn’t taking into account the deeper meaning of Waitangi day, he isn’t taking into account the socio-political context and, quite simply, he is misinterpreting the actions of Maori at Waitangi. Waitangi protest needs to be interpreted taking into account the history of the day, the history of Crown-Maori relations and the contemporary political situation. You can’t boil it down to lunacy or irrationality. I guess it goes to show that Holmes mind operates on a very, very shallow level.

Others will defend Holmes right to free speech. A right he undeniably has. However, free speech does not extend to hate speech. The line is drawn when ones speech incites prejudice or disparages another. There is international consensus that hate speech is irrelevant to free speech. Importantly, hate speech is also illegal under both domestic and international law.

Unsurprisingly, Holmes also makes a number of factual errors. For example, he speaks of the “never defined principles of the Treaty”. This is a ridiculous claim. The principles of the Treaty are well defined and are, to quote a legal expert, not vague and unknowable. After over two decades of judicial refinement, the principles are unambiguous.

Holmes then takes aim at breast feeding advocates. This part of the column was just as nauseating as the beginning. No mean feat may I add. Holmes then tops it off with a crude and simplistic reading on the situation in Syria.

He must be in a bad place, old Paul Holmes. I tend to think his column was an attempt to comfort and confirm his own self righteousness. Pretty sad really. If the Herald had any sense (or dignity), they’d sack Holmes. The rubbish he produces is unbecoming of our major daily. You can make comparisons with Michael Laws, but Laws knows where to draw the line – and at least he’s literate. I suspect Holmes is not. He must go.

Over the next few days I’ll be laying a complaint with the Editor of the Herald, Tim Murphy, I’ll also be laying a complaint with the Race Relations Commissioner. Lastly, I’ll be boycotting the Herald as long as Holmes remains. I encourage you to do the same. Send the message that there’s no place for Holmes and his hate in our public discourse.

As an aside, it's interesting to compare the contrast between Holmes piece and this from John Roughan. Where Holmes is offensive, ill considered and rude, Roughan is sober, analytical and fair (even though I don't really agree with what he says, but that's for a post on Monday).

(You can, I think, complain to Tim Murphy at tim.murphy@nzherald.co.nz)

(You can also lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission here)

(For another perspective see this at Reading the Maps, this from TW.com and Danyl writes here)


  1. 1. There is no international consensus that hate speech is irrelevant to free speech.
    2. Free speech does include hate speech.
    3. Hate Speech is not illegal under New Zealand Law.
    4. nor under International Law.

    1. What about section 131 of the Human Rights Act?

  2. Because someone has a right to speech doesn't make what they say any less worthy of criticism. That's the important distinction. And Holmes hate-filled invective deserves the strongest possible criticism, because it represents the 'limits of acceptability', the level of racism that one can pronounce in public and still be considered a reasonable member of the community. Condemnation delegitimises his speech and those limits are reduced. If we don't lend our criticism, they're reinforced.

  3. Morgan

    Intersting to note that this column in the Herald comes just before another slanderous piece in their Sunday paper regarding a car crash of a Mana worker. Talk about being insinuating and defamatory!

  4. Love Paul Holmes! Keep doing God's work!

    But 'white motherfuckers' does not equal hatespeech? WTF is up with that?

    LOL at the Wellingtonian who tries to boycott the Herald, considering you get the Dominion free at the law school common room its not much of a sacrifice is it?

  5. I agree, George D.

    Yeah, I saw that anon at 6.35. It was a non-story masquerading as news. Shame on the Herald - again. Who cares if it was a Mana volunteer, key word volunteer (the only Mana workers are Hone's paid staff in his parliamentary offices).

    anon at 6.41: I knew someone would come to Holmes defence. It's typical, really, that you didn't back your comments up with reason. I'd love to know why Holmes column wasn't racist and derogatory. Apologists always have trouble justifying, and in your case articulating, why their champions are right.

    Also, who said framing a people as white motherfuckers isn't hate speech? I think it is. I condemned Hone Harawira for saying that and I'd do it again. If you're looking for double standards, go somewhere else.

    Lastly, I'm not boycotting the Herald because it is a meaningful sacrifice for me, I'm doing it because of the principle behind the move. Can you understand that, or should I frame it in more simple terms?

  6. Nice work commenting on his column, and the Herald's 'journalism'.


  7. "Lastly, I'm not boycotting the Herald because it is a meaningful sacrifice for me, I'm doing it because of the principle behind the move."

    Great, so you get to act all sanctimonious without having to pay a cost which in effect makes your stance meaningless.

    I think I'm beginning to understand where you come from.

  8. Your perspective is painfully narrow, anon. Why should I have to pay a cost? The point of a boycott is so the other person, organisation and so on pays a cost. That cost can be moral, financial or otherwise.

  9. That said, anon, would you like to enter debate re the substance of this post? Or would you rather continue with these distractions?

  10. "Why should I have to pay a cost? "

    In all seriousness its something you either get or you don't. Clearly you don't.

    I won't be arrogant enough to school you but since you're barely out of your teenage years I shouldn't place these kinds of expectations on you since you haven the time nor the life experience to know what I'm talking about so it was in wrong on my part.

    I sincerely hope that one day you do get what I'm talking about as it will make you a better person.

  11. Not really to be honest. Since you chose to censure my last post it's clear that you prefer not to confront certain issues so I don't think it would be productive.

    As it is your blog it is certainly your prerogative but don't expect others to engage if you are not willing to do so either.

  12. Clearly you're afraid of entering debate on this. I'm not surprised. Stop running from it. Even though it would be a waste of my time - you're lacking clearly.

    Uhm, you can't censor comments on this blog platform. Comments can either be accepted or declined - you can't edit them. I have accepted every comment you submitted. None of those comments even attepted to address relevant issues.

  13. Holmes' disgusting diatribe kind of ruined my weekend, to be honest, even though I wish I could just ignore it. I think what pissed me off more than usual with this type of rubbish (I mean, this is the paper that legitimizes Paul Henry, Michael Laws and until recently Garth George, I can't claim it's out of character) is it gives all the supremacists in this country legitimacy – as evidenced by the comments under Holmes' column, they have someone in the public eye to point to and say, 'See? He thinks this way too.' Yes, there is free speech, but this is free speech on a platform most of us don't have access to. Which is why it's the Herald who need to receive the message that this sort of thing is not okay.

  14. Laws knows where to draw the line

    lol what? really? :/

    I just sighed and turned the page when I read that. John oughan is worse to me, I prefer honest open racism. I really can't stand it when they try to pretend to be rational and civilized. They are motivated by the same ghastly pakeha irrationality as Paul Holmes but they know how to express it in an acceptable PC way. At least Paul Holmes isn't passive-aggressive, he doesn't try to hide his racism.

    The worst thing in the Herald that day was a collection of letters written by school children reapeating the common-sense lies they've been told by their teachers, and the readers are supposed to say oh the innocent children are so wise - it just made me depressed to see another generation of children being taught lies another generation of ignorant deluded red-necks. This kind of thing is so much more damaging than Paul Holmes drunken rants

  15. Kia ora Morgan

    The Herald should be called the White NZ Herald. Enjoyed reading your take on this type of racist journalism. We need more like you.

    1. I was going to keep completely out of this debate (mainly because as anon at 11:08am said, putting your name on your opinions seems to be dangerous these days) but this particular comment from Theresa A really angered me. Your so angry with Paul Holmes for generalising and lumping all Maori in to one catagory but what are you doing by saying this comment about the Herald. In the same way as Maori should NEVER have been labelled so stereotypically, the "White" should never be lumped together as one opinionated race either. We all have our own opinions on what Paul said regardless of what colour skin we have or what tribe we come from or if our Grandma came from England etc etc...Kiwis should respond to this column of Pauls not the Maoris vs the "White" as you put it.

    2. Yes so dangerous, if you're not careful you might get a talk-back show. You're wrong. "Kiwis" can condemn Paul Holmes all they want but they're still benifiting from the colonisation of Aotearoa and part of a settler colonial state that continues to oppress Tangata Whenua and other people of colour. Paul Holmes isn't responsible for 1/4 Maori men going to prison, 50% of Maori boys with no qualifications, Maori dying about 10 years before Pakeha, he isn't singlehandedly preventing Maori sovereignty or blowing up sacred sites or confiscating land to sell to corporations. Racism is a structural problem, Paul Holmes is just a symptom of a much bigger problem. Personally I couldn't care less if any individual white person is racist, it is not about YOU anonymous, I care about the racism that gives white people privilege over brown people whatever their personal opinions.

  16. Paul hit the nail on the head in a lot of ways. The treay claims have just become a way to get more money and special rights based on race. Imagine only one race being allowed to own the entire ocean and foreshore. I am always told I should respect the treaty but I have yet to see a good reason why. I am not putting my name here because expressing my opinion openly is dangerous these days. Paul you here tried to like so called hate speach to illegality. Imagine a state where you go to jail for speaking your mind. North Korea springs to mind.

  17. without the treaty you have no right to be here ...in a nutshell

  18. Morgan, I totally agree with you with Holmes being racist and disgustinly pessimistic in this article. However, the responses to this blog are doing exactly the same things as Holmes did, "The Herald should be called the White NZ Herald" and "without the treaty you have no right to be here", this is just sad, naieve and failing to look at the underlying problem in NZ. Obviously NZ is in a bad space at the moment and it is going further and further backwards but we need to stop judging people based on there race and on the actions of others that spoil it for the majority. E.G the protests as Waitangi were not civil and in my eyes did not help our cause towards any gains in Parliament, and I appreciate the fact that there standing up for what we as Maori people believe in but what they did was just outrageous and played into John Key's hands perfectly as it's like what you said, the publics going to feel sympathetic towards him. On the other hand too with Paul Holmes, he is just a racist idiot with no common sense and unfortunately for Pakeha, Maori are going to blame them for it too.

    Love your Blog Morgan,
    Keep it up.



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