Out there in talk radio land, Russel Norman is getting a
roasting for his part in what happened outside
Parliament last week. The mood has unquestionably
turned against him, as those who never liked the Greens
anyway use the incident as a fresh excuse for venting
anti-Green spleen, only this time with a fine ring of
self-righteousness. As if they’d been waiting for Norman
(that insufferable prick who keeps making sense, damn
him) to slip up, and now it’s Gotcha! Yes, a merry sense
of Schadenfreude pervades the scorn of talkback calls.
There’s a rich irony, too, in the frequent citing of how
well behaved Rod Donald was when he protested at a
previous Chinese state visit. He got permission, he stood
well back, he didn’t shout. Nice Rod. Good Rod. As if he
wasn’t regarded with equal contempt when he was alive.
The only good Green’s a dead (or retired) Green?
It’s also amusing to the point of hysterical laughter that
critics are calling what Norman did a ‘publicity stunt.’
Well, yes, if you like. So? Everything in politics is a
publicity stunt of one sort or another. Rodney Hide has
built a career on being one. You could just as easily say
that the entire visit by Xi Jinping was an elaborate
publicity stunt, orchestrated so delicately that the least
ruffle, like a man standing holding a Tibetan flag, could
threaten to send it spinning out of control.
As an aside, has anyone noticed that Vice-President Xi
did not utter a single word in public during his three-day
visit? Certainly not one recorded by the media that I can
find. Nor did anyone attached to his entourage, except
for the briefest statements. Naturally not a squeak came
from the guards who manhandled Norman; nor has the
Chinese government even deigned to respond publicly
to John Key’s ingratiating apology for what over the past
four days has somehow, by a rather sinister process of
Beltway elision, come to be called a 'scuffle.'
In all this, and by no means accidentally, the serious
question really raised by the incident—namely, how come
Chinese security guards were able to do precisely what
they liked on New Zealand’s Parliament Grounds and not
be called to account for it?—has been swept under the red
carpet, while the focus swings onto Norman, who has
gloatingly been scapegoated for doing something that
would scarcely have crept in at the bottom of a news item
had he not been assaulted by members of an official
foreign state entourage.
Let me get this clear. When our politicians go to China on
official visits they have to conform to the Chinese way of
doing things, out of politeness if nothing else. And when
Chinese politicians come to New Zealand, we have to
conform to their way of doing things here as well—and
apologize to them if we don't. Have I got that right? Just
so we're all on the same page about this.