A little Trump in Tauranga: ask advertisers to boycott The Weekend Sun

“…the PC-driven bureaucracy offers the flag referendum instructions not only in English and Maori [sic], but in 24 different languages… including a couple I’ve never heard of.

Now I will apologise to my Burmese, Farsi and Tagalog friends, but if you can’t understand enough English to satisfactorily understand how to vote (pick a flag, tick it) you should not be taking part in any election or referendum. It is simply nuts to expect anyone without a grasp of the nation’s language to know the first thing about the issues and debate that has been underway.

Learn the language or stay away. If you don’t learn the lingo, you cannot comprehend the discussion. As a foreigner in the dark, you can’t possibly hold a sensible view on issues, particularly anything as patriotic as a [sic] choosing a national flag.” – Brian Rogers, “Roger Rabbits”, The Weekend Sun 11 March 2016

Brian Rogers is the editor and owner of SunMedia in Tauranga. It is independently owned and claims to have the largest readership in the Bay of Plenty. This is untrue. The Weekend Sun is a free weekly newspaper paid for by advertisers who solicit stories and advertisements, and as such is foisted, unsolicited, on 66,000 letterboxes every week (their claimed “readership”). As to whether anyone would choose to receive it were there a cost is a moot point.

Every week, Brian Rogers writes an editorial from what he calls a politically incorrect perspective. His editorials are stream of consciousness, poorly informed and badly written tirades against people who are not white, capitalist, straight patriarchs. I normally skim over it to see what is exercising the racists, sexists and the homophobes in our community. Yet even by The Weekend Sun‘s standards, last week’s editorial crossed a very definite line into abusive xenophobia.

I have quoted the offending paragraphs in full above, and I suspect you don’t need much help to understand how I might have reached my conclusion. Nevertheless, let us take a little time to unpack it:

  • “…if you can’t understand enough English to satisfactorily understand how to vote… you should not be taking part in any election or referendum.”

Language should not be a barrier to civic participation. If a person has chosen to become a citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand, then we all benefit from their skills, their journey, their story. They want to be part of what this country looks like in the future, just as natural born citizens do.

Furthermore, the dangerous outcome of Rogers’ statement is that he believes segments of our community should be excluded from representation on elected bodies and in civic issues. That is a breeding ground for conflict; the evidence for this is readily apparent throughout the world.

  • “Learn the language or stay away.”

We are a nation of immigrants, and I include myself as tangata whenua in that statement. We all journeyed intentionally to this country. The selfish consumption of our land and resources by the powerful is a threat to the foundations of this nation. Rogers here represents the small but powerful group who would strangle our potential and trample on our future to maintain their power and privilege. I stand against him with Dave Dobbyn’s song “Welcome Home” on my lips.

  • “As a foreigner…, you can’t possibly hold a sensible view on… anything as patriotic as… choosing a national flag.”

Nationalism is inherently violent because it is a simple ‘us’ versus ‘them’ equation. As the Other is dehumanised, violence is condoned against those who are worth less than we are. For that reason, nationalism is linked to fascism, and is an enemy of democracy.

If Rogers genuinely believes what he wrote, he is an enemy of a functional democracy. He is petty demagogue.

In death by a thousand cutting words, The Weekend Sun has turned from a backward, conservative mouthpiece into a white supremacist rag that promotes hate, racism and nationalism in Tauranga. It provides dangerous support to small-minded and frightened people, some small segment of whom can be easily encouraged to commit hate crimes against people of other ethnicities and cultures. Brain Rogers, consciously or otherwise, has taken his cue from Donald Trump, emboldened to believe that increasingly violent and exclusionary language is acceptable.

I suggest two actions to respond to this. First email Rogers (brian@thesun.co.nz) and ask for a retraction; you can use this text:

Dear Brian,

On Friday 11 March in The Weekend Sun, you made the following statements about the civic rights of new immigrant citizens in our country:

“…if you can’t understand enough English to satisfactorily understand how to vote… you should not be taking part in any election or referendum.”

“Learn the language or stay away.”

“As a foreigner…, you can’t possibly hold a sensible view on… anything as patriotic as… choosing a national flag.”

These statements encourages hate and exclusion of new immigrants. It is not amusing, nor “politically incorrect”; it is racist. This does encourage debate or free speech, but attempts to silence people on the basis of race and ethnicity. I am writing to ask you to retract your statements and apologise in your next editorial in The Weekend Sun.

Yours sincerely,

[Name]

Secondly, talk to his advertisers. Brian Rogers and The Weekend Sun only have a  platform because of paid advertising. I encourage you to email the advertisers on the email addresses and Facebook pages I have included below, and ask them if they support and are happy to associate themselves with the editorial statements of Brian Rogers. Here’s a simple text you can cut and paste.

Dear Sir/Madam,

On Friday 11 March in The Weekend Sun, Brian Rogers (editor and owner) made the following statements about the civic rights of members of our national and local community:

“…if you can’t understand enough English to satisfactorily understand how to vote… you should not be taking part in any election or referendum.”

“Learn the language or stay away.”

“As a foreigner…, you can’t possibly hold a sensible view on… anything as patriotic as… choosing a national flag.”

You advertised in that edition of The Weekend Sun. I am writing to ask you if you support the views of the editor and owner of the newspaper that you are supporting with your advertising dollar?

If not, I respectfully ask you to communicate your displeasure with Brian Rogers and to terminate your advertising in The Weekend Sun.

Yours sincerely,
[Name]

Advertisers emails:

Dental on Seventh reception@dentalonseventh.co.nz

Palmers Garden World, Bethlehem tauranga.store@palmers.co.nz

Ultimate Homes greg@uhnz.co.nz

Pacific Coast Village sonia@pcv.co.nz

Terrace Views Pāpāmoa kate@bophomes.co.nz

TECT and Trustpower info@tect.org.nz

United Travel amber@flightworld.co.nz

Target Furniture tauranga@targetfurniture.co.nz

Greenslades Furniture greenslades@clear.net.nz

Advertisers Facebook pages to post a message:

Furnish https://www.facebook.com/furnishnz/

Bay Audiology https://www.facebook.com/Bay-Audiology

Shades Direct https://www.facebook.com/shadesdirecttauranga

Bed 4 U https://www.facebook.com/Beds4uTauranga/

Harvey Furnishings https://www.facebook.com/harveyfurnishings/

 

And these are just the big advertisers! You can pick up The Weekend Sun and find hundreds more advertisers to talk to. My experience is that Rogers reacts very quickly to any response that includes, or even suggests including his advertisers.

I’ve really had enough of The Weekend Sun pretending to be a part of a dialogue in our city. Dialogue indicates people respect each other. I can’t remember that ever being a feature of The Weekend Sun‘s writing.

 

 

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