Friday, October 03, 2008

Who got hung, Karyn?

Radio Live host Karyn Hay and producer Adrian have both replied to my post about the flood of anti-semitic talkback calls to their station last Tuesday evening. Neither Karyn nor Adrian denies that Tuesday night's show was dominated by conspiracy theorists trying to lay the blame for past and present financial crises and wars at the door of a shadowy cabal of money men.

Between them, Karyn and Adrian make two defences of the content of Tuesday night's show. Adrian argues that the nature of the show reflected the open, democratic qualities of Radio Live talkback, and denies that Karyn and her co-host Andrew Fagan should be criticised for refraining from questioning the opinions of their callers. For Adrian, Tuesday night was not about 'wrong and right, black and white' but about 'learning, expanding, and entertaining the mind'.

For her part, Karyn argues that she knew that the opinions of her callers were nonsense; she only let the conspiracy theorists go unchallenged because she wanted to 'give 'em enough rope' to 'hang themselves'.

I think that Adrian's argument is mistaken, and Karyn's argument is transparently dishonest.

I share Adrian's enthusiasm for open, democratic debate on talkback radio and elsewhere. But genuine debate about important and highly sensitive issues like genocide and war has to be grounded in an understanding of basic facts. It is necessary to make a distinction between facts and interpretations of the facts, and to insist that certain crucial facts are not as open to debate as interpretations of those facts inevitably are. It is one thing to argue about the causes of Hitler's persecution of the Jews; it is another thing altogether to deny that this persecution took place. It is one thing to discuss the reasons for the 9/11 attacks; it is another thing altogether to deny the most basic facts about these attacks, by alleging they were the result of some sort of Jewish conspiracy.

I don't object to Radio Live hosts letting anti-semites talk on air. I do object when the hosts don't intervene when their guests try to lie their way around basic historical facts that set the parameters for rational debate. As I've said during discussions on this blog about the myths of a pre-Maori people, the falsification of history inevitably poisons political discussion.

Karyn's claim that she was merely giving her callers 'enough rope' flies in the face of the record of Tuesday night's conversations. Karyn not only listened uncritically to her anti-semitic callers - she appeared to be taken in by some of these callers.
After one anti-semite recommended Antony Sutton's bizarre Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, which blames Jewish bankers for the Holocaust and calls for state monitoring of Jewish groups in contemporary America, Karyn looked the book up on the internet, read its publisher's blurb, and said that it looked 'very interesting'.

Karyn and Andrew's conversation with an anti-semitic caller named 'Peter' is also worth discussing, as an example of their credulity. Here's a transcript of a part of the beginning of Peter's call to Radio Live last Tuesday night:

Karen: It's 9.19. Hello 'Peter'...

'Peter': Hello...A lot of people just don't realise what happens - Adolf Hitler, before he went mad, he actually created credit to fund the projects in Germany just like the Labour Party created credit to build state housing in New Zealand. So it was also about money. He obviously went mad, and lost it. But before he went to war, and did stupid things, he would have gone down as a great leader...'


'Peter' went on to make a series of criticisms of current Finance Minister Michael Cullen, whose cowardly appeasement of Jewish bankers apparently contrasts poorly with the deeds of Michael Joseph Savage and Adolf Hitler.

Neither Andrew Fagan nor Karyn Hay had anything to say against Peter's praise for a leader who was sending hundreds of thousands of Jews, socialists, and other 'undesirables' to concentration camps long before he supposedly 'went mad' and started World War Two. Andrew responded to Peter's arguments by saying, without a hint of sarcasm, 'with your body of knowledge mate you've got to go into politics'. Karyn also commented on 'all the factual information' in Peter's comments, saying that 'my frontal lobe has reached my knees'.

Were Karyn and Andrew really trying to give 'Peter' 'enough rope' to hang himself? It seems to me that if he hung himself, he hung Karyn and Andrew, too.

I'll comment on the real identity of 'Peter' and the agenda he brings to Radio Live in a later post. In the meantime, I wanted to thank the bloggers and commenters who have joined me in calling on Karyn and Andrew to pull their socks up and engage their brains.

And if anyone's after a sane take on the current financial crisis, they could worse than this.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These fanatical tirades are as exhausting & redundant as what they're purporting to oppose.

5:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that Kerry Bolton (woops, sorry, 'Peter') speaking?

5:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Armstrong

5:33 pm  
Anonymous Cyril macKenzie said...

You need a bloody good smack in the head. That'd shut you up. Then you can let these buggers get on with their job.

5:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Onya fella! Well done.

6:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what is more amusing, Karyn Hay and Andrew Fagen discussing geopolitics or Peter (Bolton) being so desparate for an audience for his revisionist nonsense that he turns to talkback radio hosted by provincial rock and roll burnouts.

6:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, if the person posting the blog is considered "desperate", not sure where that puts the person who bothers commenting on its "desperateness"..........
I guess "Pathetic" or "sad loser" comes nearest.

2:18 am  
Blogger William said...

Just caught up with this discussion. This is in support of Scott Hamilton. Seems the comments posted today are suffering from anti-Scottism. Let's look at the first one: "redundant" is a word adopted since the eighties to explain why a man may be sacked when there is no humane or social justification. It suggests a doubling up of jobs, as if a man's job is already being done by another. Redundant in this 'crooked' sense means superfluous. Second sense: exuberant; plentiful. Scott's excellent critique of this talkback session is not redundant in either sense. His is a lone voice, his words well-chosen, his evaluation timely and necessary. It certainly got me thinking. The "exhausting" thing is Talkback itself - our critical faculties (and those of interviewers) become numbed by hours and hours of it. A few hard words from a well-qualified intellectual shouldn't exhaust us, they should wake us up. That's what he's done.

8:05 am  
Blogger Bill said...

That message about "redundant" etc was from me, Bill Direen. Seems to me a message post that should be signed. BD.

8:18 am  
Blogger Bill Direen said...

Just caught up with this discussion. Seems the comments posted today are suffering from anti-Scottism. Let's look at the first one: "redundant" is a word adopted since the eighties to explain why a man may be sacked when there is no humane or social justification. It suggests a doubling up of jobs, as if a man's job is already being done by another. Redundant in this 'crooked' sense means "unprofitable". Second sense: exuberant; plentiful. Scott's excellent critique of this talkback session is not redundant in either sense. His is a lone voice, his words well-chosen, his evaluation timely and necessary. Profitable to the mind too. It certainly got me thinking. The "exhausting" thing is Talkback itself - our critical faculties (and those of interviewers) become numbed by hours and hours of it. A few hard words from a well-qualified intellectual shouldn't exhaust us, they should wake us up. That's what he's done.

8:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read more carefully it is not the blogger that is being labelled as desparate but the redneck talkback caller named peter :-)

8:46 am  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

A fascinating discussion, but it does seem to have got a bit off-subject. The argument seems to come down to two issues:

1/ Was it cowardly of Maps not to ring into a talkback programme but to write a blog entry instead?

2/ If you give anti-semitic bigots enough rope, do they hang themselves?

On the first, I think the assertion that transferring debate from a forum that you yourself control (as a radio producer / talback host does) to another which someone else controls (i.e. a blog) is somehow "cowardly" is quite childish. Everyone who's ever listened to talkback knows how difficult it is to express a clear, well-argued point-of-view there. That's what pen and paper are for -- to sort out your ideas and arrange your arguments cogently. If it were an unimportant issue, soundbites would be fine. As it is, the growth of hateful race bigotry cannot be put in the category of amusing infotainment.

On the second, here's a test case. When the filmmaker Errol Morris made his fascinating documentary Mr. Death: The Rise & Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr, in 2000 [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0192335/], the disturbing tale of a loony who was commissioned to make execution devices (gas chambers, gallows, etc.) for a number of US states until he was finally co-opted as a "consultant" for various groups of Holocaust deniers, Morris originally made the same the assumption. He simply presented Leuchter onscreen, explaining why he'd "proved" scientifically by testing rock samples there were no gas-chambers at Auschwitz. Morris found after the first test screenings that almost half the audience were convinced by Leuchter and sure that he'd proved his point. He therefore had to recut the whole film and insert testimony from a whole battery of experts -- the man who actually did the rock sample tests, Military historians. etc. -- to demonstrate why Leuchter's arguments were completely groundless and in fact quite fatuously wide of the point.

Leuchter was given rope and succeeded -- like another famous bigot of the name of Hitler -- that his arguments "had a lot of sense in them."

Learn some history, guys. Just as ignorance of the law is not considered an excuse in court, so ignorance of vast human cataclysms unfits you for positions of responsibility such as blahing away vaguely and shaping the opinions of the equally idle and vapid on air.

Maps, I think your last couple of posts have opened up a real can of worms. You're performing a real service here.

9:29 am  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

Sorry -- written in haste -- like a talkback caller-in:

para 5 above should read:

When the filmmaker Errol Morris made his fascinating documentary Mr. Death ... he originally made the same assumption.

para 6 should read:

Leuchter was given rope and succeeded -- like another famous bigot of the name of Hitler -- in persuading a great many people that his arguments "had a lot of sense in them."

9:38 am  
Anonymous Karyn Hay said...

Peter phones every night, usually. Peter is obsessed with the '1949 State Housing Act'. I do not believe a word Peter says. Let me re-phrase that. I do not understand what it is that Peter is calling for, as most of the time I find his arguments incomprehensible. I have challenged Peter repeatedly on his views and his compulsion to call Radio Live with them. Of course Fagan was being sarcastic.
We do not leave racist comments unchallenged, however sometimes it's nigh on impossible to get a word in edgeways when people who talk without pausing for breath get on air. If I did let some far-fetched comments go through the other night I apologise for the offense caused.
Yes, 'maps', I did say the book looked 'interesting'. That didn't mean I would have read it with a closed mind, or have agreed with everything it said.
In response to Jack Ross 1. I take your point about the filmmaker Errol Morris, and 2. I was not calling anyone a 'coward' for posting their views on this forum. It was in relation to people posting as 'anonymous'. I said they should have the courage of their convictions to leave their names, especially if they're going to be abusive.
I do think it would have been helpful if 'maps' had phoned on the eveing in question, and made his points to a wider audience, including any he wanted to make about us. It's a worthwhile discussion. Maybe we should have it on air one night.

12:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A new blog has been set up by some media studies people to monitor stations like Radio Live:

http://www.nzradio.wordpress.com

12:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Useful comment from the Engage website -

Karyn H says: "New Zealand Labour Party's immigration policy which covers Asia, the Pacific Islands, the UK; the world in fact. She made the link (spurious or not) that these were the same conditions in Germany that contributed to Hitler's rise. Was she right? I have no idea; it's her theory."

Of course the lady was not right. There was no big immigration to Germany after the first WW. On the contrary a lot of Germans left because of the bad economic situation Germany at that time.
If the lady implied that the Jews were the reason for Hitler's success she is also wrong. At the census in 1925 564.397 Jews lived in Germany, that was 0.9 percent of the total population.
Of course no moderator in New Zealand can know this and most moderators in Europe would also not know this.

1:06 pm  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

In response to Karyn:

"1. I take your point about the filmmaker Errol Morris"

Yes, I guess I meant to say that it's a terribly easy mistake to make. Things seem to be so absurd as to be self-refuting, but then it's quite terrifying to see how easily they take people in ("Forgotten Silver," for example -- though at least that one was just for fun).

"2. I was not calling anyone a 'coward' for posting their views on this forum. It was in relation to people posting as 'anonymous'. I said they should have the courage of their convictions to leave their names, especially if they're going to be abusive."

To be honest, I'm very much of your opinion on that. I don't allow anonymous comments on my own blog, but I understand maps' reasoning -- it is his choice, after all. One gets some very weird feedback, but one also gets more lively debate this way. Like you, though, I do tend to think one should sign up to one's stated opinions.

"I do think it would have been helpful if 'maps' had phoned on the eveing in question, and made his points to a wider audience, including any he wanted to make about us. It's a worthwhile discussion. Maybe we should have it on air one night."

I think that's been the value of this online version of the debate, though. I agree that it would have been nice if Maps had rung up, but I actually think he made a good tactical choice in transferring the discussion to his blog. If he rings up now -- let's hope he will -- everyone will be aware that blaming the Jews for the collapse of Wall St is not just a funny little peccadillo of a few backwoods losers, there are principles involved.

Besides the Morris documentary, I'd also recommend Richard Evans' excellent book Lying About Hitler (2002), an account of Historian David Irving's libel case against an author who described him as a "Holocaust-denier." I've never read a better examination of the nature of historical "truth" so-called. Perhaps the key moment came when Irving referred to the presiding trial judge as "Mein Fuhrer" rather "My Lord."

Yes, I agree that this would indeed be a good conversation to have on the air.

2:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I blame To Terezin for this sudden interest in everything Nazi.

3:03 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

The trouble with talk back is at once on air the "host" controls the off switch which they frequently push when people disagree with them.

And there so many crackers out there its not worth arguing with them - there's a case for shutting talk back stations down. Especially ones that promote racism.

In principle it is good that "the people" are allowed to express their opinions but these talk back things are limited in their scope as discussions - Gordon Dryden was very clever - he would research very thoroughly every topic that he talked about - talk back people after him tend to be almost more ignorant than Hitler himself and often sounded /still sound like / him.

One thing I know about Maps -with all his faults - he cares very much about these issues. He cares about people.

He hates war intensely for example and also bigotry and illogical or spurious arguments.

This Hay woman with her cavalier attitude and "with it" approach to racism - as if "racism" or "The Holocaust" that was a type of coffee or a trendy style of dress - should be shut down along with the radio station - which seems to be promoting racism.
Clearly - political degrees or not - her and her co worker need to do further course on history and other subjects...

Jack Ross at least went to Terezin. Denial of the Holocaust is rightly illegal in Austria - hence Irving got into difficulties there -
it should also be thus here.

But the financial crisis - rather exaggerated as it all is of course - has nothing to do with any conspiracy!!

Anonymous people - in general it is better that everyone is open as to identity - this openness works against fascism.

Ignorance breeds death.

2:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Mainstream Media sat on a wall, the Mainstream Media put out a call.

“ELECT OBAMA, DON’T YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE? YOU’RE STUPID, YOU’RE DUMMIES, OBAMA’S OUR STAR.
YOU PEOPLE, YOU’RE USELESS, YOU’RE TOO DUMB TO SEE, WE MAINSTREAMS CHOOSE WHO THE PRESIDENT WILL BE.”

WE MAINSTREAMS WERE BORN WITH SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE, AND WE MAJORED IN JOURNALISM, WHEN WE WENT TO COLLEGE.
“THE TRUTH IS WHAT WE DECIDE EVERYDAY, YOUR JOB IS TO LISTEN, AND THEN TO OBEY.”

“LIBERALS? NO PROBLEM, THEY’RE EASY TO FOOL, CAUSE SWIFTNESS IS MISSING, NOT IN THEIR GENE POOL.
CONSERVATIVES ARE HARDER, THEY FERRET OUT RATS, THEY KNOW IN THEIR GUT WE’RE ALL DEMOCRATS.”

“DECEPTION, THEN, IS PART OF OUR SCHEMES, IN OUR WORLD, YOU SEE, ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS.
FOOL ENOUGH WEAK BUT CONSERVATIVE PEOPLE, AND WE’LL GET US A WORLD, FULL OF NOTHING BUT SHEEPLE!”

“THEN OBAMA WILL REIGN, WE CAUSED IT YOU SEE, WE MAINSTREAMS ARE SMART, SOMETHING YOU’LL NEVER BE.
LYING, DECEIVING, THEY’RE PART OF THE GAME, JUST ASK OUR LATE MENTOR, KARL MARX IS HIS NAME.”

9:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://sanseverything.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/saturday-night-live-blames-the-jews/

3:28 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"sans everything" is said by Jaques in his speech about life and death in Arden in "As You Like it" when he refers to "The last age of all..." (meaning very old age)

2:16 am  
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8:59 am  
Anonymous Ahu said...

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2:38 pm  

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