There are lots of good pieces on the Eleanor Catton contretemps – Morgan Godfrey, Brian Easton, Gordon Campbell, Andrew Geddis, Simon Wilson – all focusing on issues around intellectuals and criticism and New Zealand attitudes towards same, which are all valid points. But what’s also meaningful, I think, is that this is a reprise of National’s two-track communications strategy we spent so much time talking about last year. Sean Plunket isn’t just a talk-radio dofus: he’s very close to the National government and, just like his mate Cameron Slater, Plunket is there to smear and bully and intimidate anyone who speaks out against John Key or National, so that National themselves don’t have to.
If – like most of the country – you haven’t heard anything from Plunket since he left Morning Report a few years back then his attack on Catton probably seemed very strange. But if you listened to him during the 2014 election campaign, most of which he spent in a state of flat-out hysteria ranting about terrorists and traitors, culminating in Plunket phoning Paddy Gower live on air and accusing him of being involved in a conspiracy against the government because he was reporting on Dirty Politics, it’s easier to see that abusing critics of the National Party – real or imaginary – is pretty much just his day to day role.