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.