This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 20 June 2013.
So, last night’s episode of The Vote, a show where Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner really strut their “we are such fucking awesome journalist” peacock stuff, dealt with a complex issues which affects the lives of many vulnerable Kiwis, especially children, in a thoughtful, sensitive and informed way.
No, wait, I’m sorry, that’s completely wrong.
What Espiner and Garner did was happily reduce the issues of poverty, deprivation, child abuse and a vague, undefined notion of “bad parenting” to a circus act.
Look! Here we have lined up the extremist Christian right of the country, representatives of Family First, the Conservatives, and Destiny Church, to say money don’t buy me love and hate on parents who are doing it wrong!
And look! Here we have actual advocates for the poor and unprivileged, representing the medical community, poor and unemployed Maaori, and “dysfunctional families”! (The silly fools think they’re here to actually discuss the issues, but we’ll soon fix that!)
And throughout it all Garner and Espiner grandstanded (grandstood?) and pretended to have one view or the other, while a studio audience and denizens of social media came to probably exactly the same conclusion they started with, either “I hate poor people and have no concept of real poverty” or “I think this is a fucking complex issue so I’ll pick the bigger structural cause.”
The tell is at the end, when Espiner and Garner crowbar in a little talk-piece about how obviously it’s a complex and difficult issue and obviously both parenting and poverty place a part in kids’ lives, standing there and pretending they haven’t just reduced serious social issues into a custard pie fight.
Like they haven’t let Christine Rankin talk about “a bowl of cereal and milk costs 37c” – because they, too, live in a magical world where supermarkets sell you a single serving of cereal and milk at a time, and milk doesn’t require refrigeration (even when it’s in the more-expensive-brand’s lightproof bottle) and refrigeration doesn’t require electricity.
Like they haven’t just let Hannah Tamaki waffle on about how families in cold houses should just snuggle under a blanket – literally a minute after Celia Lashlie talked about horrible cases of family sexual abuse – and pretend that no church ever forces people to tithe.
Like they haven’t just brushed over Hone Harawira’s clear, brutal facts about the median income in Te Tai Tokerau ($12,500) or incidences of “third world disease” rheumatic fever (90, I believe in the last year.)
As much as I knew the “debate” itself was going to anger me, it was the cheap theatrics combined with the overwhelming sense that we were all meant to be so very impressed by the Serious Journalism going on that saddened me.
But then I reminded myself that this was exactly as to be expected, given the trailer for 3rd Degree basically involved a circle-jerk about how amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing Espiner and Garner were as journalists.
So of course the Vote’s production team turned 270,000 children living in poverty into a farce. They probably don’t even realise.
Quiz time! Out of the following quotes, which do you think was uttered by Bob McCoskrie, upstanding pillar of the community, in a recent press release?
“Putting aside the general atmosphere which must be counter productive to raising healthy, well-balanced children, one must consider the “role models” such children will be influenced by. “
“Street prostitution also continues to plague communities highlighted by retailers and families … being affected by the activities of prostitution, including half-naked prostitutes, used condoms, propositioning of family members, intimidation, noise and nuisance, and a general reduced sense of safety.”
“It is time the government looked at the social reasons underpinning why these young people end up as prostitutes. Clearly broken and dysfunctional families are a root cause. Until we have a government willing to enact family-friendly legislation, the problem will continue to get worse.”
“Same sex ‘couples’ are already breaching the bounds of what is morally acceptable by choosing such lifestyles. Adults consenting to such relationships is one thing; to raise children in such an environment is morally irresponsible.”
“Nature dictates that a man and a woman are required for procreation. This limitation shows that a child’s best interests are served by it having a mother and a father. The two most loving women in the world simply cannot provide a daddy – and vice versa.”
Confused? Was it all of them? None of them? Did I just make this up in some twisted “try to write like a judgemental shithead” thought experiment?
Quotes number one, number three, and number four were from Graham Capill, the former leader of the Christian Heritage Party, who in 2005 was sentenced to nine years in prison for sexual crimes against children as young as 8.
I am categorically not accusing Bob McCoskrie of any crime.
I am categorically saying we shouldn’t give a fuck what religious extremists have to say about society. Their entire movement, and its assumption that a “return” to Good Wholesome Judeo-Christian Values will save our society, is in no position to pass judgement on anyone.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 2 May 2013.
Lest you think this is some hilarious send-up, let me stick a link to the original press release right here at the front so all may marvel at it.
Yep, that’s Bob McCoskrie, who cannot jump up quickly enough when parents’ rights to whack children are threatened, actually arguing that we shouldn’t have food-in-schools programmes because … well, I’ll let the man speak for himself:
The danger is that we could be simply rewarding bad parenting.
Yep. The danger is that, by ensuring children from low-decile neighbourhoods get a piece of fucking toast in the morning, we’re just encouraging their parents to … Bob?
there is a welfare system in New Zealand. Every home has a source of income. The important question is – what is the money being spent on, and is that appropriate?
That’s right, rip off the welfare system. The generous, generous welfare system. But hey now, he’s not heartless or anything.
Where there is genuine financial need – and there are sure to be genuine cases out there – WINZ should play a role
You can always spot the people who really understand poverty and need by the way they just have to make it explicit that they are totally sure there are real cases of poverty out there. I mean, he’s never seen a really poor person, but they, like, must be out there.
This is the man, and his little marching band, who claim ownership of the moral/ethical/social high ground in New Zealand politics. This is the group which screams bloody murder at letting loving same-sex couples raise children together, which wants to remove any hint of sex education from our schools, which campaigns tirelessly to restrict our already-onerous abortion access.
A group which pays God knows how much money to David Farrar to conduct rigged polls to generate endless Chicken Little the-moral-sky-is-falling headlines.
But when we’re talking about children going hungry, what’s Family First/McCoskrie’s first concern? That we’re not regulating, monitoring and punishing poor parents harshly enough.
If anyone can actually point me to a single instance where Family First NZ has given the tiniest of fucks about structural causes of poverty, inequal wealth distribution, the failure of social welfare to keep up with inflation and increases in the price of living, do drop a link in the comments.
I’d prefer a unicorn, personally, but one can’t get too fussy when given an opportunity to see an imaginary creature.
It’s been nearly six months since our last visit to the alternate universe occupied by Family First-commissioned Curia polls. Do you think they’ve learned not to be lying shitbags yets?
Do you agree with the statement,
“There was no need for Parliament to change the definition of marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, as civil unions were sufficient for same sex couples.”
44% agreed, “half” disagreed.
What Family First thinks this means:
the country still remains deeply divided on the issue [of same-sex marriage]
… So that’s a “no” on the shitbag question.
What this poll actually means:
Some people thought civil unions for same-sex couples was legally equivalent to state-recognised marriages – a belief no doubt helped by organisations like Family First which consistently lie about the clear legal differences between marriage and civil unions – legal differences which they themselves mention in relation to their second question, “do you think children need to have a 50/50 penis-vagina split in their parents’ pants to be normal?”
What this poll also actually means:
David Farrar is an unethical douche who would, if he had any integrity as a pollster, either reject Family First’s questions or clearly state that he disagrees with their manipulation of the facts.
Next time on How Not to Poll With Curia And Family First:
Overwhelming numbers of Kiwis think food is a good thing to have as part of your daily diet! And when we replaced the phrase “definitions of marriage inaccurately described as Biblical” with “puppies” you may be surprised how many people agree with our bigoted point of view!
Well, another lethal blow to my ego: no one in the mainstream media reads my blog.
That’s the only reason I can think for them breathlessly covering a “report” from Family First – who, let’s all remember, were de-registered as a charity, in part because all their “research” is baseless propaganda – which dishonestly covers much the same ground I did nearly a year ago.
That is, the dark, seedy underbelly of New Zealand’s sex ed websites.
If only I’d published my post as a “critical review” under the banner of some vocal, extremist Christians, then the mainstream media might have
taken me seriously published my opinions as though they were fact.
Anyway, you should totally go check out my original post, if only because there are balloon animals fucking each other in it.
Our problem in New Zealand is not that the resources produced by great organisations like Family Planning and Rainbow Youth are wrong. It is that we know what works but have failed to ensure that every school uses a sexuality education approach consistent with these criteria.
And one of the obstacles in our way is extreme conservatives trying to force a ludicrous Mad-Men-if-you’ve-never-actually-watched-Mad-Men style of morality on us.
Family First have helpfully posted online the full text of the letter and decisions informing Bob McCoskrie of his deregistration as a charity. I’m not sure why he thought this would be a good idea – maybe he just copy-pastes things on autopilot these days – but we should all be thankful for the lulz.
Note: IANAL. The following is based on my own reading of the linked document and I am happy to be corrected in matters of fact.
10. One of the precedent cases cited by the Charities Commission is Draco. (properly In re Draco Foundation (NZ) Charitable Trust HC WN CIV 2010-485-1275)
This makes sentences like “Draco also approved comments in the guidelines published by the Charities Commission” just really funny in a post-Harry Potter age.
9. Copy-pasta strikes again!
“But, but we educate people!” Family First cried, and indeed, educational purposes are a fantastic ground for charitable status. Unfortunately – and this one gets three numbers all to itself because it’s so awesome – the Charities Registration Board doesn’t think much of the “education” offered by their website:
… the Board considers that, viewed holistically, the Trust’s publications to its website are predominantly opinion pieces intended to promote the Trust’s point of view on controversial social issues. The Board considers that this description is apt for the news items and media releases.
8. Your book reports suck
Research! Family First does research, right? Wrong:
Thirdly, the Board considers that the research papers commissioned by the Trust do not advance an educational purpose and do constitute propaganda
The papers do not represent original research. With the exception of The Value of Family … the reports (i) do not … provide a balanced and rigorous analysis of the empirical evidence for conclusions reported; and (ii) do contain emotive language and calls to action, and engagement with alternative points of view that is fairly polemical.
7. Whatever you paid Curia, it was too much
Specifically, the Board considers that the Trust’s activities in commissioning polls do not advance research but rather canvas support for political outcomes advocated by the Trust
Ooops! Who’d'a thunk it?
6. If Family First actually gave a fuck about real families, they’d have done better.
A big issue in the consideration of whether an organisation counts as charitable, when it’s saying political things, is the self-evident public good as a matter of law. The example they use is that saying you promote peace through disarmament doesn’t count, because disarmament-for-disarmament’s-sake isn’t really a matter of law. Promoting peace through eliminating weapons of mass destruction does count because WMDs are obviously something our law recognises as bad, mmkay.
Unfortunately for Family First:
In particular, the Board rejects the submission that the Trust’s point of view accords with New Zealand’s international and domestic law recognising the rights of the child and support for families. Neither New Zealand’s international law obligations nor New Zealand’s domestic law favour “the natural family” over other forms of family
Yep. Promoting one narrow-minded view of the family doesn’t align with our domestic and international laws. Maybe if Family First actually bothered to advocate on behalf of all families they’d have done better.
5. That’s just, like, your opinion, maaaaaaaaan
Family First have copy-pasted an “affirmation” from the “World Congress of [limited definitions of] Families” to describe their views. The whole point of calling it an “affirmation”, of course, is that saying “I affirm the sky is green” sounds a lot more forceful and definitive than “I believe the sky is green.”
The Board considers that the Trust’s perspective on family can be fairly described as an opinion on what is best for families and civil society.
The Board also considers that the Trust’s perspective on family is one that is controversial in the relevant sense, i.e. that its benefit to the public is not self-evident as a matter of law.
4. You must be deregistered for the greater good of all charities
After summing up how Family First doesn’t meet the requirements of a charitable organisation:
Accordingly, the Board considers that it is in the public interest to remove the Trust from the register as this will maintain public trust and confidence in the charitable sector.
Yep. I know, I know, it’s just formulaic legalese, but by Satan and all his little wizards I love the idea that the public of New Zealand will have less faith in / respect for charitable organisations if Family First remains one.
3. Three strikes and you’re out
This is not simply a matter of Family First forgetting to do some paperwork. They have been deregistered for failing all three tests the Board has put to them:
- Their purpose is to promote a point of view
- They aren’t promoting religion nor education
- They are trying to “procure governmental actions”, i.e. make policy changes, in line with their views
Not even a couple of sausage sizzles for the orphans could have saved them.
2. The fact that Family First deliberately avoids mentioning the fundamentalist Judeo-Christian basis of their beliefs is part of their undoing.
Because while it looks way better to J Public to pretend that you’re just defending “tradition” instead of “extremist teachings which conflict with pretty much everything Jesus had to say about anything”, unfortunately when you’re trying to avoid paying taxes by claiming you’re a religious outfit, it kinda damages your case to never have mentioned religion anywhere in your many many websites.
1. Bob McCoskrie apparently has no idea how much he’s undermined himself by publishing this document.
Seriously. Anyone with high-school graduate literacy can read the entire thing, and – barring the technical legal jargon – understand absolutely why Family First was deregistered. Because they don’t promote education. Because they’re a political lobby group without even a smattering of charitable deeds to their name. Because their views are not actually as mainstream as they constantly insist they are.
I’m sure you can all imagine my glee at the news that Family Fist has been threatened with de-registration as a charity.
The thing is, I totally called this the other way, when I was assessing Right To Forced Pregnancy’s threats against Women’s Health Action and Family Planning, to lobby to get them de-registered on the grounds of being political advocacy groups, not charities.
Mea culpa, chaps.
Because I was chiefly focused on whether political advocacy in of itself was a reason for de-registering, I didn’t actually look at what constitutes “charitable purposes”. Because while you can do some political lobbying if it’s aligned with your charitable works, you still have to have sufficient charitable purposes in the first place.
These are outlined on the Charity Commission’s website, and – just so we’re clear that attacking women- and reproductive-focused organisations is still pointless – includes:
- promoting public health (such as providing education, counselling, and rehabilitation services)
Unfortunately, “getting Bob McCoskrie’s name in the paper a lot” doesn’t seem to fall under any of the actual categories of charitable purposes. Boo fucking hoo.
… which I have no doubt will be blithely reported by our mainstream media as though it’s meaningful.
“Should families where there is both a mum and a dad have priority for the adoption of babies and children?”
The headline which purports to summarise the results:
Mum And Dad Matter For Adopted Kids – Poll
The question does not specify priority over whom.
Now, despite the frequent “echo chamber” bingos of rightwing trolldom, I don’t actually think that everyone does – or should – think exactly the same as me. I’m well aware that there are a lot of Ordinary New Zealanders out there who do not analyse every political statement they hear, who do not automatically ask “what about same-sex parents?” when someone talks about families.
And that’s why I feel comfortable suggesting that when a lot of Ordinary New Zealanders hear the question “should families with a mum and dad get priority?” they do not think “yes, hetero parenting setups are better than same-sex parenting setups”. They probably think “kids are better off with two parents than one.”
(This is still a little problematic to me in social-construct-y terms, but hey, families with two parents are almost certainly in better positions to raise children because our society shits on single parents from orbit, so I’ll let that one go.)
The point is: unless you give people full information – by asking, say, “should a heterosexual couple be given priority over a homosexual couple?” – then you simply cannot make the assumption that that’s what people’s answers mean. Especially when other polls indicate that New Zealanders are not, in fact, majority opposed to same-sex adoption.
Unless you’re Family First and you lie a lot.
The press release describes the poll as independent.
And I describe myself as the Queen of Sheba.
Marriage equality isn’t about gay men stealing babies.
The changes to our marriage legislation, which will give same-sex couples the same rights to adopt children as hetero couples, has a lot less to do with “stranger” adoption and a lot more to do with stories like this one.
Stranger adoption is pretty rare in New Zealand, for a start.
And under the current law, if I had my Own Biological Children and then had a civil union with a woman, who loved and cared for my kids for a decade, she would have no right to adopt my kids. Even though they were pretty much her kids, and even though if I’d married a dude instead it wouldn’t be a problem.
Our current law doesn’t just discriminate against committed loving same-sex couples adopting a “stranger” baby, creating a slightly ridiculous situation where an individual can adopt, then raise a child in a same-sex parenting household, with the other parent not being legally treated as a parent.
It also discriminates against same-sex couples who are, right now, raising kids together – often with one partner the biological partner and the other left to piss in the wind, legally speaking.
As the CYF website notes, the decision for who to adopt a child to (for individuals or hetero couples) comes down to the birth parent – and advises them “You can take your time to look carefully for a family that feels like the best fit for your child”. No one is forcing people to give their children to same-sex couples. They’re just not even being presented with the option.
It’s a bit fucking silly, when you think about it like that.
Polyamory, flatmates, and widows/widowers.
Not every family is based on a simple two-parents-who-fuck model. Once again, Family First, a group which takes upon itself the mantle of Protector Of All New Zealand Families, erases the existence of any number of family setups where children are, right now, being raised happy and healthy and well-rounded.
Family First is so dedicated to crapping on same-sex couples that they will even shit on people who are having to raise kids alone when their monogamous hetero partner has died:
A child has a right to a mum and a dad. Death, divorce and disaster may not always deliver that, but we should not set out in public policy to deny a child that basic right
Aren’t you glad, solo parents, that Family First is able to acknowledge that death has “delivered” a sub-optimal family situation for your child? That even when they do acknowledge that sometimes shit happens, they still want to emphasise that your child is disadvantaged, their rights are being breached, and you are incapable of raising them properly on your own.
And to the communities and extended families and friends and support networks who are pitching in to help those solo parents? Fuck you. You didn’t provide the jizz or the incubation facilities so you ain’t shit.
That’s Family First for you: obsessed with heterosexual sex, and willing to perform any linguistic gymnastics necessary to convince you that they’re just doing it for the kids.
The mainstream media trumpeted the findings:
Poll: People want smacking law changed
And three paragraphs in explained:
Respondents were asked whether the anti-smacking law should be changed to state that “parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law”.
Seriously, what the fuck is up with fundy bigots and their perpetual need to lie about things?
Wait, no, it’s not a lie, it’s just a conveniently twisty overcomplicated series of questions which handily paraphrases into what they want it to. So they’re not liars as such, just manipulative scumbags who will say and do whatever it takes to bully society into retrograde attitudes.
They are fully aware that just saying “a smack” would not get the same juicy results as “a smack that is reasonable”. I mean, how do you argue with that, when being prompted for a yes/no answer? They said the smack was reasonable so of course it should’t be illegal! Duh!
Note the same trick in the follow-up question, which is coincidentally not written out in full until the very bottom of the article:
Would you still smack your child to correct behaviour if you thought it was reasonable, despite the current law?
I look forward to Curia’s future work, involving questions like
“Should rollerblading safely at high but reasonable speeds around blind corners be not against the law if you don’t hurt anyone 99 times out of 100?”
“Is wearing white at a wedding okay if the bride isn’t wearing white and you’ve asked permission to wear white and it’s more off an off-white anyway and nobody minds you’re wearing white?”
Maybe he could hook up an awesome tie-in with Westpac, too.
The point is this: if you agreed with Family First’s statement, you are one of two things:
- Confused by stuff explicitly designed to confuse you
- A pro-violence child abuse apologist.
The only practical function of section 59 was to allow people who had hurt their children so badly that it got to court to walk free. Electric jug cords? Riding crops? Please, tell me what’s so fucking “reasonable” about that.
(Note: I’m being a little facetious with that request, because I will in fact delete any pro-smacking bullshit posted here. It’s violence. Against children. If you did it to an animal you’d be arrested. End of.)
Final question: does “Curia” actually stand for Completely Unreliable Results In Abundance?
Metiria Turei out-geeks John Banks. It’s not difficult, but it is funny.
Alison McCulloch again pool-shots it out of the park on Policing Pregnancy.
Manboobz on Seth MacFarlane’s beyond-obnoxious Oscars hosting. Trigger warnings for racism, sexual assault, sexism, and Seth MacFarlane.
Family First can’t even get their own polling to come out against marriage equality. H/T Russell Brown. And of course FF’s press release on the topic fails to trumpet that anti-equality feeling is dominant in the male/over 60 demographics.
Chris Rock on minimum wage, via Atheist Pinko Sluts Monthly.
Smile, Sizeist! is a new Tumblr documenting the very real, very violent shit that fat people are subjected to.
Rape culture is when the police coerce rape victims into withdrawing complaints to make their stats look better. And I’ve only just finished watching season 3 of The Wire.