Hard News by Russell Brown

157

The next bylaw will ban irony

It strikes me that the great achievement of Michael Laws' hard-won bylaw banning gang regalia in central Whanganui is to have conferred authentic victim status on people who don't deserve it. If you weren't amused by gang members conducting an orderly protest yesterday with modified logos and police blue colours in the city yesterday, you have no political soul.

The alternative logos and colours did not fall within the text of the bylaw; raising the prospect of additional regalia descriptions having to be added to the bylaw. Can they ban police blue? Even the acting area police commander Greg Hudson seemed to see the joke in interviews last night.

And now, on day one, some thicko from The Tribesmen has set himself up for a court case that will test the bylaw against the Bill of Rights. Way to make bad guys look like good guys.

The week's other irony is, of course, that the Chinese embassy's protest against Maori Television's screening of the documentary The 10 Conditions of Love, which tells the story of the oppression of Western China's Uyghur people through a portrait of Uyghur nationalist leader Rebiya Kadeer, had the effect of encouraging viewers to tune in and watch it last night. It certainly alerted me to the programme.

The documentary is sometimes quietly compelling, not least because of the charisma of Kadeer herself, but it's no great work of film-making. Occasionally, its sympathy for its subject becomes cloying. It could have told us more.

The film skips over the Uyghur unrest of last year (which extended to bombings and shootings) and was completed too soon to cover the ethnic riots in the Xinjiang city of Ürümqi in July of this year. The well-referenced Wikipedia article on the riots certainly suggests there is a complex story to tell there.

And that was persumably the story the Chinese government was trying to tell with its rebuttal video purporting the "truth" of the July 5 riots. But it was a story told with all the art and nuance of a moving breeze block.

I changed the channel after 10 minutes of what seemed to be endless surveillance video of innocent Han Chinese being beaten to death by rioters. It was sickeningly violent, and largely without context. Perhaps this kind of thing plays well to the home crowd, but I found it unwatchable.

I seem to be alone amongst usual-suspect media commentators in not at all minding Maori Television's decision to screen the Chinese embassy's "documentary" after The 10 Conditions of Love. I actually wanted to see it. It could stand or fall on its merits. And it basically fell.

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