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Lyndon Hood: Open Letter To Closed Parliament

Open Letter To Closed Parliament

Satire by Lyndon Hood

Open letter to Margaret Wilson, delivered through window by brick.

The House of Parliament
New Zealand

Dear Mags,

I hear you're banning satire. About time!

The last thing we need is the Media - or even individual members of the public - arrogantly assuming the right to denigrate the institution of Parliament or make its members appear ridiculous.

No! By long tradition, the power to make Politicians appear absurd in the eyes of the public rests entirely with the Politicians themselves. Lord knows, they put more energy into it and get better results than the media ever has. There's no parody like self-parody, I say.

From Helen Clark pretending to find her own jokes funny to John Key doing his John Key impression, 121 MPs working in concert can bring the hallowed institution of Parliament into more disrepute than any reporter ever could.

Dubbing sheep noises behind patsy questions, adding a gigantic red-and-white toadstool for Michael Cullen to stand beside or putting CGI Pinnochio noses onto the members until they have proboscis-duels across the floor of the house is entirely redundant.

And hooray for throwing in the threat of the Privileges Committee. Unless you clamp down properly on those malcontents, Politicians will never achieve the public admiration and regard given to more trusted professions like firefighters, telemarketers and purveyors of second-hand automobiles.

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Some naysayers will allege coverage of the workings of Government should be free and open, but this is one of those issues where Politicians know better. Like election campaign funding, eh Mags? The public needs to respect Politicians otherwise the Nation will collapse and that proper attitude, Madame Speaker, is incompatible with actually seeing full coverage of what their Elected Representatives do in the House.

Broadcasting standards are all very well for ordinary mortals, but Politicians require something special.

I'm sure you'd have Rodney 'freedom-at-all-costs' Hide on your back if he wasn't on the committee that wrote the report. Nice bit of buying-off there. Did he turn up at all? And of course Nandor Tanczos was there too. Says he didn't realise this restriction was new. Short term memory issues there, I reckon.

Winston Peters got it right. Journalists are supposed to be reporting what goes on in Parliament, not become involved in satire. Quite right. I can think of no significant New Zealand satirist who was involved in journalism, except for all those significant New Zealand print satirists and some of the ones from the tele.

The press gallery ignores just how dangerous this "satire" is. Satire is the second-biggest cause of death for Parliamentarians after chronic feigned indignation.

And they are obviously confused. I suggest you explain it as follows, in terms the media can understand:

You must agree to these rules to use footage of Parliament. You know, it's a bit like how you have to pretend to be over 18 to look at porn on the web:

I understand that I can do anything I like with images of Parliament provided what I do:

* is properly respectful and contains no critical analysis whatsoever AND
* is not interesting or (it seems this is the important one) funny.

...or else.

You might consider, instead of "or else", saying "If I breach these conditions I understand that the members of the Privileges committee can do anything they like to me". But we both know what trouble TV people have with difficult words.

The hacks might still need a bit more guidance, because it could be difficult not making the members appear ridiculous, no matter how stupid they're actually being. I mean, we're talking about Parliamentarians here. For example, when Parekura Horomia answers a Parliamentary Question, would they be best to dub it over with something coherent or simply bleep out the entire exchange? What if Gordon Copeland claims some kind of moral authority? What if Peter Brown starts sharing his opinions about gay people again?

I'm sure I can leave the details to you.

Good job! Have a beer or something. Limiting public information and accountability is thirsty work.

Yours in solidarity,

(just in case, eh!)


Click here to draw on Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson

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