Quick quiz. One. Who said, “It is hard for power to enjoy or incorporate humour and satire in its system of control”? Two. Who said, “The difference between living in a dictatorship and living in a democracy is that we are allowed to make fun of our politicians”?
Clue: neither of them is the man in the clip above, Jon Stewart, who for the second day in succession sits atop this blog.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On Monday, I tuned in, as did tens of patriots, to the Australian parliamentary broadcast website. I went there to watch John Key deliver his big speech – you remember: the one that looked like it had escaped from a conference of secondary school statistics teachers.
A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, however. I was made to agree to the site’s “Conditions of Access”, which include a requirement that “the material shall not be used for … satire or ridicule”.
Such a rule, of course, requires no further ridicule – it takes the piss out of itself.
And yet, as was pointed out to me after I tweeted histrionically about this T&Cs froth, New Zealand’s own online parliamentary TV shows the Aussies to be a bunch of wusses. Our rules state that “coverage of proceedings must not be used in any medium for … satire, ridicule or denigration”. We see your satire and ridicule, Australians, and raise you one denigration.
These daft rules, I’ve since discovered, attracted a good bit of censure when they were introduced in New Zealand three years ago (see, eg, here and here and here). They gained the most attention, funnily enough, when lampooned by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show (hence the clip above).
“People of New Zealand, your draconian laws have sought to silence your most pointed wits. But fear not!” seethed Stewart, before filling the void in deliberately infantile style, including, for the record, the layering of fart noises over footage of then foreign minister Phil Goff.
Back to the quiz. The first wasn’t about the whole satire/ridicule/denigration proscription, but it speaks to it. It’s the super-cool Italian playwright Dario Fo (Accidental Death of an Anarchist, etc). The second is, explicitly, about the New Zealand satire/ridicule/denigration proscription. Did you guess right? Step forward, if you please, Mr Rodney Hide.