AUTHOR ELEANOR Catton's barbed comments about the stultifying neoliberal consensus that dominates New Zealand politics has provoked a less than rapturous reaction from the political establishment.
The Prime Minister John Key smugly told TV3's Firstline that 'it was a bit sad she was mixing politics with some of the good things she was good at." That's right Eleanor - take Johnny's advice and don't worry you're pretty little head about things you don't understand.
Meanwhile on Radio Live the corpulent Sean Plunket told his audience that Catton was an 'ungrateful hua'. Plunket claims he said that. The word 'hua', the internet tells me, originates from the Scottish pronunciation of 'whore' and is used as an insult or slur. That certainly was Plunket's intention.
He also said Catton was 'a traitor' for criticising the government. How times change. In 2008 Plunket said: 'I believe in freedom of speech and the individuals freedom to say what they think."
Regardless of whether Plunket meant 'hua' or 'whore', he did agree with a listener that if Catton did not like living in New Zealand she should go and live in some 'left wing paradise' somewhere. Plunket suggested Greece. It looks like Greece, with its new left wing government, is set to become the new bogeyman for right wingers like Plunket.
His main 'argument' though was that because the Booker-winning author has received government money she is not entitled to criticise the government. Apparently she should just keep her opinions to herself, unless she has something nice to say about John Key and his government. Sean could help her out with this.
Plunket has received far more money from the government, via his long years working for both TVNZ and Radio New Zealand, than Catton has ever received. That's not stopped him from criticising the government. But given the way he has gradually transformed into just another media cheerleader for neoliberalism perhaps he is trying to practice what he preaches.
Catton has not said anything that has not been said before. She said that New Zealand was a country led by "neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture".
She seems to be mostly concerned about how neoliberalism has impacted on the arts but the reaction that her comments have provoked have revealed just how sensitive the political elite is to anyone who tries to shake, however mildly, the cosy neoliberal consensus that has dominated this country for over three decades. This is especially so when those comments are being made by a prominent New Zealander with an international reputation.
That Catton's comments should provoke such a response emphasises the grip neoliberal ideology continues to have on this country. Indeed queuing up behind Plunket to defend the government and neoliberalism generally are other media figures like Mike Hosking, Patrick Gower and Duncan Garner.
It is also a bit rich for blogs like The Daily Blog and The Standard to champion Eleanor Catton, given their continued support for the Labour Party - a party that continues to defend the very neoliberalism she is criticising. And if you want more evidence of that, just take a look at Andrew Little's dismal 'state of the nation' speech.
*hua korero - shit talker.