Why having a controversial view does not make me a racist

Few people on Australian television are willing to express their views for fear of being labelled or considered biased says journalist and televison host Paul Henry

That flies in the face of communication and surely the television industry is all about communication. I like to know the views of the people I’m talking or listening to and I’m surprised that the instant someone has a strong view in Australia, one way or another, they are labelled.

This happens in New Zealand as well but I’m surprised it happens to the extent that it does here. If you have a strong negative view, for instance, about Labor then there will be a section of society who instantly jumps to the conclusion that you hold the view because you’re a coalition supporter – you’re a Liberal.

That may not be the case. It may be a view based on your own education and your ability to understand that it’s a stupid damn idea or it’s something that’s been done badly.

A good example would be the recent eviction of the Aboriginal tent embassy that led to protestors marching on the Queensland parliament. I was appalled at their behavior and was in favour of the police going in with water canons to put out fires.

That doesn’t mean for one moment that I’m racist. It doesn’t mean I don’t have sympathies with their cause because I do. But I won’t tolerate that behaviour in society and surely I should be able to talk about it without instantly being labelled.

This labelling happens in Australia partly because it’s a conservative society and partly because we’ve become so bloody sophisticated.

Our level of social sophistication has got to the point where we can no longer discuss with ease and comfort our own views on different subjects because we’re constantly second guessing what someone might think if we do.

We need more people in the media who are unafraid to come out and say what they think but they need to be people who are doing so because they genuinely hold those views. Someone who shocks people because they say what they genuinely think in the course of what they’re doing should not be labelled a shock jock. They’re not saying it to be entertaining. They’re not saying it for shock value.

The fact that it does shock is a sad indictment of society.


Paul Henry hosts Breakfast 6am weekdays on Ten and was recently a guest on the Mumbrellacast.


  •  This piece first appeared in Encore magazine. Subscribe to the print edition here or download the iPad edition here

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