JOSEPH ROEHL AGAINST THE DOMINION POST

Case Number: 915

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2003

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Discrimination
Taste Lack of
Accuracy

Joseph Roehl laid a complaint with the NZ Press Council against a Dominion Post column by Rosemary McLeod in November 2002.

The column was headed “Get ’em off for Winston” and started by saying…“ It’d be different if we’d only have it away more often. More nooky, hanky-panky, general bonking and there’d be less urgent need of a pogrom. This communal reluctance to shag for Aotearoa is getting a good man down. We’ve got to do it for Winston.” The column continued in this vein pointing out that Winston had got it the wrong way round. “Rather than fretting about the hordes of immigrants taking over the country, he needed to encourage population growth” and the columnist went on to suggest a number of derisory incentives for producing more children.

She also identified the gay issue as playing a decisive role in New Zealand’s declining population. Mr Roehl objected to the references to the gay population that filled about one third of the column on the grounds that they were discriminatory.

The Dominion Post editor responded that the columnist is well known for her satirical style and she often used the device of irony. She used the term ‘pogrom’ at the beginning of the column in a context that indicated the satirical nature of her writing. She had deliberately skewed the issue to attack Winston Peters’ attitude towards Asian immigrants – why stop at immigrants – why not pick on gays for not boosting population. Ms McLeod had used gays as an example because they had been historically marginalised, as immigrants are now, to demonstrate the dangers and absurdity of discriminating against Asian immigrants.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint. The columnist’s comments about gays, taken in isolation without their obvious intentional irony, would be unacceptable. From the first eye-catching sentence to the end, the column was unquestionably written in a heavily satirical style and was not intended to be taken literally.