While honeymooning in New Zealand, Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer for The Atlantic and editor of The Best of Journalism, happened upon a copy of The Press, which he “perused while eating my Eggs Benedict in a Greymouth … diner”.
One story struck him: that yarn about the Macclesfield woman found guilty of racially aggravated public disorder after calling her New Zealand neighbour a “stupid fat Australian bitch”. There is no evidence that said woman had studied at the John Tamihere School of Niceties.
The Fairfax story, based on another in the UK Daily Mail, read, in part:
Two police constables told the court they had heard Mills use the word “Australian” during her drunken rant. At Macclesfield Magistrate Court Mills agreed she had shouted, but denied she was being racist. “I did not use the word ‘Australian.’ I used to lived with an Australian person. She was very nice.”
But chairman of the bench Brian Donohue said: “You were in an emotional and inebriated state. The word ‘Australian’ was used. It was racially aggravated and the main reason it was used was in hostility.”
“Beyond the ugliness and the amusement, no study of trans-Tasman relations is complete without this case study,” observes Friedersdorf. He continues, at the Atlantic site:
That line about the former roommate is close enough to “but some of my best friends are Australian” that it got me laughing all over again, and then I started imagining a very stern British judge intoning, “The word ‘Australian’ was used.” And by that point, I couldn’t help feeling that the Aussies were coming out of this international incident more abused than anyone. In neither Britain, where the altercation occurred, nor in New Zealand (where I wondered if the editor who ran the story did so with mischievous intent) was anyone offering so much as a Seinfeldean addendum: “The victim was not in fact Australian – not that there’s anything wrong with that!”
Britain, having taken the fraught step of criminalising hate speech, apparently including its most absurd iterations, the satirist cannot help imagine a next step in this saga, where Australians petition the Commonwealth, insisting that to treat “Australian” as a racial epithet is itself hate speech. Why not demand that £50 fines be levied against the British judge and the Kiwi newspaper?
Followed by the obligatory (and fair enough, too) clip from the Conchords.
In other fataustralianbitchgate news, Paul Bleakley of the UK-based expat publication Australian Times has written on the response to the open letter that his paper printed on the subject. His startling conclusion:
It seems that the sense of détente and camaraderie that is presumed to exist between Kiwis and Aussies when we coexist in the UK has evaporated in a flash.