For a man desperate not to be seen as a bully, Tony Veitch cut an unfortunate figure yesterday. Having been granted a chance to plead guilty to a single charge, he could simply have drawn a line under an awful incident; expressed a real and final regret for his actions, and ask to be allowed to move on. Instead, he emerged from court uttering threats.
Veitch's vow to pursue defamation action against Radio Live and the New Zealand Herald was as ill-advised as it was telling. To him, Willie Jackson's blurt on the radio that Veitch had kicked Kirsten Dunne-Powell "in the head" was outrageous and hurtful. The rest of us might struggle to see a great difference in degree between that and the offence he finally pleaded guilty to: kicking his prone girlfriend so hard in the back that he fractured her spine. According to the victim impact statement, the injury has had a permanent and distressing impact on Dunne-Powell's quality of life.
Veitch is also outraged at a story that appeared on the front page of the Herald as it tried to catch up with the Dominion Post's original scoop. It claimed that Veitch had thrown Dunne-Powell down the stairs and left her there. We now know that's not true, but it's not hard to see where it sprang from -- the lie that the pair told when Dunne-Powell was eventually brought to hospital for treatment was that she had fallen down the stairs of his house.
It hardly needs saying that Veitch himself could have cleared up the facts of the matter 10 months ago. He did, after, all have the opportunity of a press conference and a enabling interview with one of his media friends. He could have called his lawyer at any time and made arrangements for a guilty plea. But Veitch's media statement seems to say that he gave up his "day in court" to spare his wife and family the ordeal rather than because he was, actually, guilty.
Further from the statement:
I am grateful sense has prevailed and the other charges have been dropped.
As I said months ago, when I walked out of here, I was stunned those charges had even been laid.
Well, he also said that about the charge he has now pleaded guilty to. And it's not hard to see that police prosectors might have wanted to demonstrate a history of abusive behaviour in a defended hearing. That became less of an issue if Veitch was prepared to enter a guilty plea.
But what makes Veitch's intimations of a media vendetta against him truly farcical is the behaviour of his own media handlers. I cannot recall a case in which one side has so consistently sought to feed stories to the press and manipulate media coverage. For several weeks on end, all three Sunday newspapers ran stories that appeared to originate with Team Veitch. And all the while, the victim, so far as I can see, said nothing beyond what was required of her by due process.
I'm not surprised that the case was resolved in a plea bargain. I know enough of the events to guess that both parties had messy, personal information they would not want aired. The conduct of the "cold war" in the media indicated it would have been a particularly brutal case in court.
But I am still shocked at the extent to which Veitch still sees himself as the victim. Yesterday, John Campbell conducted skilful and sensitive interviews with both Dunne-Powell and Veitch.
Dunne-Powell was composed and appeared to appreciate the chance to talk. Veitch used phrases like "Why I let myself be driven to that point," "If I had been allowed to walk away", and "How I could be driven to a point like that." These weren't the words, it seemed to me, of a man who was truly taking responsibility for his actions.
My opinion of Tony Veitch is, as you might expect, not high. Perhaps one day he will stop minimising his actions, and be the man he ought to be rather than the victim he thinks he is. But I don't actually believe he should be banned from the television. He is a broadcaster, that's his work; and it would be a grossly unfair punishment to declare that he cannot work. Broadcasters will make their own calculations on how and when they ought present him to an audience. Those calculations might have been more favourable to Veitch had he behaved differently these past 10 months.
On a happier note, do make time to see The Governor on NZ On Screen if you haven't already. George Henare's performance as Hone Heke is stellar: he steals every scene he's in.
Other new gems there: 20-odd minutes of the documentary From the Road - Robin Morrison: Photojournalist.
Adventures in Maoriland - the making of Hei Tiki, which tells the story of how Hollywood arrived here in the 1920 to tell the story of Maori -- and exploited and offended nearly everyone involved.
And the trailer and a 10-minute excerpt from the new Topp Twins' movie, Untouchable Girls.
You might have noticed an amusing caricature of me in some of the Powershop ads appearing here. It's part of a "Powershop Pioneers" promotion, whereby anyone who signs up here (or just click on the ads) can then become eligible for three $1000 prize draws by going and discussing the switch here on Scoop. It's another conversational media experiment.
Obviously I'm not eligible, but I have switched our household electricity account over to Powershop, and found the process quite impressive in its clarity and ease. Our billing period turns over soon, and I'm actually looking forward to being able choose competing power packages online.
Last night's Media7 show is
available now on TVNZ ondemand. The first part of the show examines the Fijian regime's new purge on the news media (and the internet if they can get away with it, too). At the end of the discussion, Barbara Dreaver's eyes were welling with tears when she talked about her fears for her friends working in the Fijian media.
And the second part looks at the green message -- and how it seems to have gone missing in the media -- with Jeanette Fitzsimons, Vincent Heeringa and Richard Simpson.
Jim Traue, the still-lively former chief librarian at the Turnbull Library has been in the news this week with cautionary words over the proposed National Library revamp. You might wish to know that he has also published a pamphlet called At the Leading Edge of Learning: Repositioning the Alexander Turnbull Library during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s.
Based on a talk he gave to the Friends of the Turnbull Library in 2007, it is Jim's story of "the strategy, and the major tactics, devised within the Turnbull in the 1970s and 1980s to protect its identity as a collection-based research library during a period of economic and ideological turbulence."
"I realised," he writes in his introduction, "that a revolutionary strategy was necessary if we were to outflank the ideologues who were moving into position in the 1970s and finally came to power in the 1980s …"
The pamphlet is available from Gondwanaland Press, 24 Glasgow Street, Kelburn, Wellington, for $5 a copy, post free.
And, finally, I think of reasons why I shouldn't be won over by Susan Boyle's remarkable performance on Britain's Got Talent this week -- I don't much like stage musicals or TV talent shows, there's an extent to which joining the applause excuses the sneering behaviour of the judges before this unlikely, frumpy woman opened her mouth -- and I still find it moving.
Boyle's story is here. And the clip is here: