Friday 12 March 2021

Getting Out Of Mike Hosking’s Kitchen.

Too Hot: Hearing that the Prime Minister has decided to discontinue her weekly interview with Newstalk-ZB’s breakfast host, Mike Hosking, more than a few New Zealanders may have recalled Harry Truman’s riposte: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

HARRY S. TRUMAN, 33rd President of the United States, and former Missouri haberdasher, had a pithy turn of phrase. When people complained to him about the vicissitudes of politics, his response became, justifiably, famous: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Hearing that the Prime Minister has decided to discontinue her weekly interview with Newstalk-ZB’s breakfast host, Mike Hosking, more than a few New Zealanders may have recalled Harry Truman’s riposte.

Fronting-up to the news media is just one of the many irksome duties of a modern political leader. If the delights of political accountability are beginning to pall on the Prime Minister, then the Exit to a quieter life is clearly marked.

At least, that used to be the conventional political wisdom.

Clearly, things have changed.

Not the least of these changes has been the transformation of political journalists.

Time was when political journalists thought of themselves as diligent miners for the gold nuggets of truth. They went into their encounters with politicians well prepared, with as many of the relevant facts and figures at their fingertips as possible. Not only did a firm grasp of the issue under examination enable them to put the right questions, it also allowed them to assess the robustness, or otherwise, of the answers.

The whole point of the exercise was to elicit information. A politician who answered questions easily and accurately told the voters one thing. A politician who prevaricated and obfuscated told them another. It was respectful process: the journalist respected the politician; the politician respected the journalist; and both of them respected the intelligence of the electorate.

Ah, but that was back in the Twentieth Century. The priorities of the contemporary political interview are quite different. Encounters between politicians and political broadcasters, especially, are governed by a very different set of rules.

Instead of an examiner, the contemporary political journalist has taken on the role of prosecutor. And not just any old prosecutor – no siree! Rather than humble seekers after truth, radio and television news and current affairs hosts have cast themselves as the ‘people’s prosecutors’.

They are fearless, probing, ferociously well-briefed and determined (like any good lawyer) to ask no questions they cannot themselves answer. The political interview is no longer an exercise in eliciting information, but a trial by combat, in which all the sins and shortcomings of the politician under attack are laid bare.

From the perspective of the politicians on the receiving end of these inquisitions, it is easy to see why accepting the role of the accused might be less-than-appealing. Prosecutors are, by definition, convinced that the person in the dock is guilty, and their questions are framed in accordance with that presumption. For their hapless politician/victims, the people’s prosecutor’s questions must all sound like variations on the unanswerable demand to know whether they are still beating their spouse.

Essentially, the contemporary political interview has devolved into a ridiculous battle of wills. The winner is the participant who emerges from the confrontation without significant injury. For the politician, prevarication, circumlocution, obfuscation and equivocation – far from offering proof of their inadequacy – take on a semi-heroic quality. Like an expert swordsman, who effortlessly parries his opponent’s every thrust, the modern politician wears his ability to evade his persecutor’s questions as a badge of honour – as, sadly, do his followers. (And if, occasionally, one of the politician’s own thrusts draws blood, well, there’s a cause for celebration!)

Jacinda Ardern has drawn blood more than once in these gladiatorial encounters. Who can forget her accusatory finger, jabbing in the general direction of the AM Show’s Mark Richardson, at the very beginning of her reign? Or, for that matter, her devastating “bless” put-down of Mike Hosking himself?

Over the summer, however, the Prime Minister and her media advisers have clearly asked themselves whether these gladiatorial contests serve any better purpose than bear-baiting or cock-fighting? When your interlocutor makes it clear, both beforehand and afterwards, that he neither rates you nor respects you: rushing into every interview like a Retiarius; trident in one hand, whirling net in the other; determined to first entangle you and then pin you to the studio wall; what is there to gain, really, by participating?

In a kitchen as hot as Mr Hosking’s, the PM’s decision to get out seems only wise.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 12 March 2021.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the current interviewer is an escalation of the environment they develop in. An escalation mirrored by the interviewee. We don’t “see” the escalation when it suits us, we go along for the ride.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree Chris. Engaging with someone determine to spin an anti govt line is a waste of time.

From a psychology point of view, it only rewards Mike H like a parent rewards a child having a tantrum. By saying the PM will attend at times
gives Jacinda the power back. Good on her and the media team.

Hosting is NZ equivalent to Piers Morgan, whose vitriol against Megan Markle appears to have been ignited when they went on some sort of date and then she ghosted him. Women often have very good reasons to do this.

Ardern has never got a fair run from Hoskins. He’s basically an over paid spin merchant. As is his wife who wrote numerous disparaging articles about Megan Markle based on nothing. Mike and kate don’t like doing the hard work of researching and using critical thought.
I never click on them. The headlines are enough to expose what they are about.

AB said...

Hosking isn't a journalist - he's an ideological worker in the vineyard of Labour's most implacable enemies.

Kat said...

Well, when red (fire) meets blue (water) there is always some steam. Hosking had a bromance with Key and he misses it. He has become a boring opinionated mouthpiece for National Party politics. His questions are loaded and designed to trap Jacinda and they amount to nothing more than political gotcha's. Pity because he can come up with some good quips at times.

I would rather hear Martin Bradbury question the PM, or even yourself CT. I always tune in when Kim Hill airs her dulcet tones in the company of the PM.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Hosking is the New Zealand equivalent of Piers Morgan without the charm. I wouldn't give him the steam off ma pee as my dad used to say. I might say I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire. He is a suppurating pustule on the arse of the world.

The Barron said...

Ardern has operated in the Covid crisis in the way previous democratic leaders have during wartime. Hoskings has spent a great deal of time undermining the health emergency measures. To continue to appear with him gives undue credence to views that could not simply disrupt public health messages, but could ultimately cost New Zealand lives.
Churchill would never have a regular spot on Lord Haw-Haw's radio show.

Neil Keating said...

Follow the money, folks. Mike Hosking's rantings are all about the broadcaster's ratings.

Nick J said...

Hoskings has an audience, people listen to him. They reflect him, he reflects them.

I have always found Hoskings ego and condescension distasteful, but secondary to his wilful one eyed views. Again he reflects his audience. Until they change their minds we are stuck with him. Jacinda needs to engage with and play him better to marginalise him from his audience, do that and his paymasters will desert him.

Anonymous said...

It's a wimpy, cowardly decision. Hosking was soft on her, if anything, and it's true, she could not answer the tough questions, which didn't come often. It was always waffle and dodge and spin. So, Ardern thinks she can choose her own Fourth Estate, which she has mostly bought off with tax payers money, anyway. Not exactly democratic, but hey, don't worry about that! She is an intellectual lightweight, what has she actually achieved, outside of massive Covid propaganda and media spun elevation. Covid is her comfort blanket, watch her milk to to the end. Key never ever ran for the hills, he didn't need to, he always had the answers to hand, and then some!


Kat said...

"Key never ever ran for the hills, he didn't need to, he always had the answers to hand, and then some!......"

Basil Brush I presume, a not too bright red fox portrayed by a glove puppet.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Key never ever ran for the hills, he didn't need to, he always had the answers to hand, and then some!"

All Key ever got was patsy questions and jokes about picking up the soap in the showers in prison.

greywarbler said...

I learned French at school. Old saying 'The game is not worth the candle', meaning that lighting an expensive candle for little advantage was not on. Ardern's time is precious and she has to keep on top of her job and the erratic media.

Hosking is so predictably flighty, he must be stoked on something to keep his energy up, possibly there are prosthetics inside him. There will likely be some inside me soon, and i don't live at half his pace.

And my French lessons were worth the time - it makes me sound more learned than the 'Mouth' - I think. And I can enjoy Eddie Izzard's Learning French on Youtube.

Shane McDowall said...

Mike Hosking, the Thinking Man's Archie Bunker.

Wiley Trout said...

At least Hoskings was sometimes asking the difficult questions. Sure, I would have far preferred Kim Hill, but that didn’t appear to happen.

Because of the allocation of questions, Question Time in the house has become a parade of backbenchers gently lobbing patsy questions to the minister and then smugly rocking back in their seats to the approval of their perspicacity.

Every government needs to be held to account in front of the public.

greywarbler said...

Further on from the above. One must attempt to be correct. 'le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle' (Collins dic). But pressing forward to achieve something rational and good for our society is important while our hearts beat and our brains circulate like fruit machines, or 'la vie ne vaut pas la peine d'être vécue' (Reverso dic).

I have just been reading Tom Sharpe 'The Gropes' Tom takes a somewhat cynical view of the western world's, and particularly British, mannerisms. He makes a complex joke about them and sets it down in a book. He has written many including Porterhouse Blues which was made into a tv series. I suggest that all trying to make sense of our present era read it and insert laughter along with the groans our news compels, and the serious declamations, made often in the hope that there are some recipient neurons in the ready state.

One of the apparent loonies in The Gropes is on the run from society and particularly the Brit police. He ends up in the Catalunya part of Spain which has been successful in retaining its essence and language despite Franco forbidding the speaking of Catalan. Now they have become adept at coping with everything and everyone. The hotel manager advises him in good English where newspapers in his language can be obtained nearby.

Horace thanked him and watched while he went to another table and spoke in Catalan and then in pure Spanish to a couple who evidently didn't understand and replied in very good English that they were from Finland.

We need, I think, to adopt this style of life, inquisitive, learning all the time, fast on our feet - so to speak. We also need canny distrust of everyone who claims to be a clever businessman, willing to cross our palms with silver, gold, or... while they advantage themselves or delve for one of the rare earth minerals. And of course the 'elite' citizens from here, there and everywhere on his/her own Cloud9 who reside there working at their specialist subject, favourite passions and pastimes, or do nothing in comfort while living comfortably.

Many of these enjoy listening to Hosking and regard serious 'progressive' politics as a source of amusement. Why should thinkers consider that PM Ardern should make herself available for Hosking to use as a tethered goat while he makes forays on everything that government attempts for a positive outcome for citizens? Viewed dispassionately and objectively, with some cynicism, her job is to keep the fairground going, the roundabouts circulating and the country from collapsing as will happen some time when blocking remedial measures can't be accessed fast enough.

greywarbler said...

Kat ' Boom, Boom'. Basil Brush obviously got into Brit psyches - just a step away from Boorish Johnson. Now what they really need is someone to carry on The Wombles leitmotif.

greywarbler said...

Wiley Trout
Every government needs to be held to account in front of the public.
Perhaps by a little boy who noticed the Emperor hasn't new clothes, but no clothes at all? (Forget sex and naked bodies, I am thinking about government wearing rags sprayed with bright colours to dazzle the eye.)

Hosking doesn't seem to be more perspicacious than a child of five. As Groucho Marx posited about dealing with something so easy even a child of five could manage it, 'Send for a child of five!' Why waste time with Hosking when a clear-eyed child of five, untramelled by accretions of inducements, deceit and self-importance, could go directly to the point and see the truth.