Opinion: Jumping on an offensive joke to force an apology may be good tactics, but hypersensitivity is dreary

Opinion: Jumping on an offensive joke to force an apology may be good tactics, but hypersensitivity is dreary

By Stephen Franks*

The left may be more nasty than the right but not on the evidence of David Cunliffe's comment:

I have thought that if Judith Collins was the last woman on earth, the species would probably become extinct.

Cameron Slater and David Farrar jumped on the Hon David Cunliffe's throw-away insult to Judith Collins as an instance of the nastiness that just leaks out of Labour, despite them all being on best behaviour for the election.

I agree about the left tendency to nasty personal attacks. From experience their proportion of primarily nasty people is much higher than the right's but to me the offence taken at David's over the top "insult" is PC nonsense. The left deserve the trouble, because they are the quickest to manufacture offence out of misinterpreted humour.

But I can't agree that the comment alone, in context, justifies the conclusion about David Cunliffe. I worry about anything that entrenches hypersensitivity and diminishes the likelihood of jokes to lighten the election load.

Mr Cunliffe no doubt now regrets leaving himself open to the kind of faux outrage that is par for the course when a joke can be placed into one of the verboten modern sin categories. There will be sustained media interest in anything that hypersensitivity can treat as racism or sexism, for example. But not agism it seems from the media open season on Don Brash.

In this case the "insult" was so plainly untrue that it is simple hyperbole. If the Hon Judith Collins was one of Parliament's genuine gargoyles, if she was known to be goofy or socially unappealing, then there might have been room to argue that Cunlirffe's description was genuinely cruel.

But she is neither. I've never found her to be anything but attractive and pleasant - business like - but pleasant. So to me David's "insult" was a mistake and possibly revealing, but foolish more than nasty.


* Stephen Franks is a commercial and public lawyer who represented the ACT Party in Parliament from 1999 to 2005 as its justice and commerce spokesman. He also stood for the National Party in the 2008 election as its Wellington Central candidate.

He writes his own blog at stephenfranks.co.nz.

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Of course “lefties” are nastier. They are in general coming from a “lower” social background worked in butcheries, car yards, as plumbers, electricians, zookeepers, etc - they use a different language. Right wing politicians are different, really educated – they know how not to say nasty things – they do nasty things – another reason why “lefties” more often say nasty things – see Goff vs Key.  Ohh, my God Stephen Francs, you are nasty - now bring on the real issues – I’m so 15% pissed angry ?

What a load of bollocks, nastiness has nothing to do with social status, it has to do with how an individual chooses to personalise the discussion with regard to others. He was trying to be clever as opposed to nasty. 

When Helen Clarke referred to the bloke that leaked some documents to Telecom as " some lowly public servant" (from memory) thats nasty.

I thnk you are confusing rough and coarse language which usually is heard from those occupations with nastiness, fortunately they are mutually exclusive.

Spending time with these so  called "lower" social background workers you will find nastiness is not tolerated, but language banned on this site is the normal part of cameraderie along with put downs and jokes at one anothers expense is the norm, but not nastiness.


What the hell is this load of balls?

Is there any purpose or basis to this besides vague handwringing, a single incident and a load of faux-concern and/or confirmation bias?

If not, then why waste everybody's time with it.

Hmmmm....nnnnn...dunno...here's a nice pic of Judy C rallying the troops for the E.U.


 the decor's a little tacky.

..... can I volunteer to do the job , keeping the human species going , if Cunny is admitting that  he's not up to the task ..... Judith Collins is a hot little totty .. .. yummy !

Meebee we can find some photos of Jerry Brownlee sunbathing , to keep David Cunliffe happily occupied ...

Come on David it's not hard ...here I'll help.

Dear Judith....please accept my heart-felt  apology concerning remarks I had made about your being the last woman on earth and the possibility for any further successful procreation of the species being hampered by your participation.

 I realize my remark in passing was shortsighted to say the least, it's this damn squint I've got you see......it tends to give me a more cinemascopic view, broadening the subject upon which my focus is set.

  It is clear to me in retospect my remark was unnecessary in the light of your probable post menopausal condition  and so I humbly withdraw the remark.

Yours in Matriarchal Admiration

Kun Li. 

What I like is the totally dispassionate and objective commentary by Franks, no doubt backed up by rigorous peer-reviewed research and a large data set.

Franks himself is famously above any political leanings, his integrity on this front is absolutely unquestionable

Statesmanlike is the word I would use for him.

Hey Bernard, is Stephen going to do a commentary on David Garrett's latest escapades?  I will be interested to read it!

Cheers to all


Maybe this will become a series.  Next up:  Some patsy affiliated with the Greens whines piteously "muuuuuuuuuuuuum!  Gerry Brownlee looked at me!'

On the same token, wouldn't mind being the last two person on earth with Labour's Central Auckland candidate!

I have noticed a certain vulgarity in the language coming from Labour - Cunliffe's comment, references to urination, dogs' genitals and dropping the "s" bomb here and there.   I am being coy with the actual language because my work-based computer blocks their use.

Toe-curlingly, I think they have been advised by some consultant to talk a bit more like the "common man".   Affectations like this stick out like canine gonads.



Really toxic coments can be equally found on Kiwiblog and on The Standard, although I think Kiwiblog is a bit more toxic.