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After the Macho Culture What?

  • May 26th, 2005

I may rue this column.

Most politicians will be feeding the hysteria over the Police “computer porn scandal”. They’ll assert their own ‘purity’ by frothing public indignation and alarm to all who’ll listen. Some will be keeping their heads down; hoping their party ‘thought police’ have not noticed any initial scepticism or amusement. Even the tiny few, who would like to stand up for common sense, will be politically calculating enough to wait. They will want to know how much of the “porn” is so bestial that no one would risk being thought to defend anyone touched by the scandal, even if most of it turns out to be routine grubbiness.

Representing ACT gives me privileges other MPs have lost. We abhor the cowardice of political correctness and the intellectual dishonesty of those who promote it. When all other politicians go silent, or join in conspicuous outrage it is time for a genuine opposition to stand up.

So when I heard Attorney General Michael Cullen this morning, damning the “macho culture” in the Police, and the PM reviving her suspended ‘Police culture’ inquiry, I hear the echo of John Tamihere’s warning about Labour’s pathological political correctness.

There are three vital points to be made.

First, someone must call for fairness to the cops involved. What I’ve heard so far suggests that most of the targets will just be victims of fashionable prudishness, not porn perverts. Even the Police Commissioner has said they won’t lose their jobs, as long as they recant and promise never to show signs of heresy again.

Every practical leader knows there will be laddish humour, tasteless and black jokes in most workplaces where lots of males work under pressure. That is how many healthy work cultures cope with stress.

Of course the Commissioner has the right of any employer to enforce a computer use code that protects his organisation against dangerous critics. If the rules have been breached there should be sanctions.

But I’m worried that the woeful face of the Commissioner and the solemn faces of the reporters revelling in the news of more than 300 cops in trouble, are signs of a building over-reaction that does not distinguish between sicko stuff that should be criminalised and the everyday lewd and grubby stuff that should merit no more than a lip service warning. Police Association President Greg O’Connor’s cheerful face belied his serious words condemning the culprits. Can it be that he too just can’t afford in Labour’s new order to be suspected of trivialising something that may in fact be everyday and trivial?

When Police are so short staffed, it would be tragic if the same government that has legalised prostitution and taken away Police powers to enforce laws against underage sex, then drove out 300 more Police for being sadly, too normal.

The Commissioner can’t put up his head to call for balance and the Police Minister won’t. They will be only too aware of the vengeful attitude among Labour’s powerful women. When one of the country’s best judges was alleged to have sex images on his computer, Attorney General Margaret Wilson condemned him immediately, even though the Chief Justice had already dealt with it.

The second concern was prompted by the sad voices of spokespeople for women’s groups, who said it will be worrying for the women who will have to lay crime complaints with police they may now suspect of having seen “inappropriate” images. Worries about collections of vicious images, illegal images I could understand, but they seem to be working on the theory that only the politically correct could be good cops.

Does that mean assault victims should be scared to seek protection from cops who like karate, or boxing, or a bit of “biffo’ in rugby? I’d say the opposite. Does it mean our army should weed out the guys who hunt, or read war comics, in case they can’t be “peacekeepers”?

If I were a victim of violent crime, I would be more worried about complaining to the Police about the grovelling nancies we will have after their cringing leaders have driven out everyone whose taste in humour fails the Labour Cabinet’s cultural safety test.

I know of no evidence that a “macho culture’ is incompatible with diligent and honest upholding of the law. I’ve seen nothing to support theories that being a good thief-catching cop is compromised by irreverence toward the sinister sisterhood. A macho culture could be one of the better methods of eliciting selfless courage when it is called for. I suspect that far more unhealthy cultures will revegetate any cultural desert left after Labour’s Commissioners finish their inquiry into the Police culture.

This brings me to my third concern. Where is this fear of “objectionable” thoughts taking us? What prompts a credulous Radio New Zealand to solemnly pass on an expert’s warning that undesirable material is “a major problem for NZ corporates”, with over 30% of work computers infected?

I believe it is undiluted hypocrisy and we are all victims of it. A large proportion of the population has been forced to swallow their daily offence at public lewdness, degrading acts broadcast to every family living room, raunchy billboards and print in every magazine rack. Yet the secretaries’ flirtatious teasing of my naivety in my first law clerk workplace would now count as harassment and the employer would be at grave risk. The fake high-mindedness forced on employers gets more pressing with every government move to foster public squalor and degradation in sexual matters.

The cops who will be pilloried are just collateral damage to a Government desperate to look terribly strict on computer images of sex to distract attention from the actual sex loosed by their own dodgy agenda described by John Tamihere

I may rue this column if too many of the images prove to be truly disgusting and illegal. But in the meantime I’ll stand up for the many normal folk among the unlucky 330 caught by the Police November snapshot of their database.

I am proud to be an ACT MP, not obliged to mouth the platitudes of all the others.

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