The Great New Zealand Book Banning Experiment … Wait, What?!


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Oh dear.

I’m not going to start this piece with some sort of grandiloquent and vainglorious polemical point that transgresses Godwin’s Law about whether those who burn books will sooner or later burn people as well – even if the author of the work we’re talking about, New Zealand writer Ted Dawe, asked exactly that question in the NZ Herald yesterday morning.

Instead, I’m going to ask one very simple question:

When is it appropriate for the Christian president of the Film And Literature Review Board, Don Mathieson, to wade into a dispute and overrule the Board’s own Chief Censor in order to get an outcome more in tune with his own, personal beliefs?

Because that’s EXACTLY what’s happened here.

Not long after its rise to prominence in 2013, “Into The River” was referred by Internal Affairs to the Office of the Censor and the Film and Literature Review Board. There was a protracted legal wrangle featuring Mathieson himself arguing for an R-18 restriction, before finally an R-14 classification was settled upon.

This decision was then reviewed and overturned by the proper authority last month, leaving the book ultimately unrestricted..

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Which offended notorious God-botherer and general curmudgeonly nuisance-about-town Bob McCoskrie, who took issue with this exercise in due process and began working in concert with his co-religionist, Mathieson, to over-ride the decision of the chief censor.

It seems curious that Mathieson was able to lose the argument when debating the issue through the proper channels only to then turn around later and over-ride the outcome by “Presidential” decree.

That smacks of vindictive self-interest being prioritized over the sound workings of institutions and fair process.

We now have a situation wherein the book is banned. That’s right – straight-up, and outright BANNED. With a fine of up to $10,000 apiece for making it available to the general public.

And these Christians-in-our-public-sphere, Mathieson and McCoskrie, running around backslapping each other through the media about setting a “semi-precedent” and hopefully “[exerting] a significant influence upon other decisions portraying teenage sex and drug taking”.

Or, in other words, they think they’ve got all the rest of us on notice.

And Heaven help you if you happen to write something – with or without artistic and literary merit – which they happen not to like.

Speaking of “literary merit” … this isn’t some sort of 50 Shades of Grey for Kids, or Twilight or something. It won top prize at the NZ Post’s Children’s Book Awards in 2013.

I’m not going to deny that occasionally, hugely problematic works of fiction get disseminated out into the hands of our young people with nary a restriction nor a warning label upon the licentious and bloodthirsty content they might come into contact with.

Most school libraries, after all, possess at least one copy of the Old Testament – which is rife with the stuff. As well as incestgenocide and attempted child-sacrifice into the bargain.

But we don’t choose to restrict that.

Hell, McCoskrie and Mathieson probably want to make it recommended if not outright REQUIRED reading for our young people!

So I’m going to cheerfully call “Hypocrisy” on this sad little imbroglio; while also suggesting that we’ve set an exceptionally dangerous “semi-precedent” (and really … what IS that, anyway) in using this law – for the first time since its inception 22 years ago – to ban a relatively innocuous and outright award-winning piece of teenage fiction.

And also point out that we have now entered into a perilous situation wherein certain religious persons personally empowered by positions of prominence and influence appear to think it’s A-OK to start inflicting their own individual moralities upon us via arguable abusage of their holding of office.

That’s not OK.

That way, Texas lies.

What’s 451 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius?


  1. And so it begins …..

    -State control of media ..

    -Banning perceived “offensive” books ..

    -Burning perceived subversive literature ..

    -Incarceration of perceived dissidents ..

    -To be followed by ..???

    All for the public good of course!

    Heard on RNZ this morning one of the self righteous McCroskie, say that the ‘C’ word was used in the book nine times, while the ‘F’ word appeared seventeen times. Obviously he has had a good read of the book then!

    • That’s entirely normal for Bob McCroskie. He’s one of those tedious, hand-wringing busy-bodies who goes out of his way to actually find things to be offended by, just so he can piss and moan about them. In the past, he’s openly perused homosexual websites and magazines, presumably in search of content he’s likely to find offensive. I guess its his way of justifying his existence. The ghost of Patricia Bartlett haunts us still.

  2. WTF they banned it? Actually a book burning would seem to fit right in with the general anti-intellectual people of NZ.

  3. 232.7 degrees Celsius Curwen…

    Oi vay! The stunning thickness of Kiwi Christians never fails to amaze me even though I have lived here long enough to know just how blockheadedly puritanical these fuckwits can be.

    I’m old enough to remember the joyful days of Patricia Bartlett’s campaign to end joy and fun in society (long live the 1970s) and in many ways McCroskie’s Nobody Ever Fucks group is just a continuation of this dullard Kiwi grimness.

    But as you point out Curwen, the really nasty insidious part of this hooha is Don Mathieson getting involved. It is pretty much as you describe above.

    Kathryn Ryan on NatRad this morning was getting fairly well stuck into it and the interview she had with Bernard Beckett is worth locating on the RadioNZ website.

    I wonder if Mathieson holds the jews responsible for the demise of Christ? Maybe Jewish authored/themed books are next?

    Or those damned communists. Lefties are just all proto-communists so blogs like… like… like The Daily Blog should be banned?

    For the public good of course…

  4. Exodus 21 sanctions slavery and explains how to beat your slaves. It explains how to trick a servant into becoming your property forever.
    BAN THE BIBLE! It is far more morally corrupting than this book, and people actually believe what it says is infallible!!

    • Why ban the bible? It tells us how NOT to run a society, just like other religious texts.

      If we based on society on a literal interpretation of the King James Bible, we would find ourselves burned at the stake as witches, the parliament would be replaced with an inquisitional authority which exists in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia, and if you are gay or woman you get stoned to death.

      Getting people to read the worst parts of the bible is just as effective (if not more so) than giving someone the diary of Anne Frank, to help someone understand evil or depart from it.

      • I don’t mean it. I just mean to show that by this criteria the bible should be banned also. And as they are Christian, it shows a flaw in their thinking, revealing their religious agenda.
        This is a violation of our rights to free expression, and religious freedom.

  5. Of course no kids these days watch movies, DVDs, or TV programmes with the explicit sexual content and offensive language, do they.

  6. Well that’s one helluva good way to get Kiwi teens reading again 😛
    I almost want to read it just to see what the fuss is all about 😛
    If you’ve seen me around I’ll not hide the fact I’m a christian, but I wholeheartedly disagree with this banning, especially now that they seem to think they have set a precedent.
    Aren’t IS/ISIS/ISIL/CIA destroying art and history across the middle east in the name of religion?
    Where will this self righteous group stop, now that they think they have de-facto censorship power, because I am sure this is not the most objectionable book to grace our libraries and desks 😉
    Are we going to have statues removed now due to DICK OUT 😛 are they going to ban 50 shades and erotic novels?
    Yet again a self righteous moron has gone off on a moral tangent, giving everyone else even more reason to hate christians (we dont need to do it to ourselves, agree?)
    WWJD, well he said Love everybody, and said nothing about literary censorship.
    Love Yall

    PS Dya think its time we all stand up and take our country back????

      • But refusing to add the Peak flag that dear leader objects to, as the views of 30,000+ NZ’ers don’t count. I would prefer a new flag, but the PM has just proved four things by not allowing the Peak flag:
        1) It is the PM’s vanity project to make his own flag choice the new one, against all opposition.
        2) It is a deliberate political distraction from the stagnant job growth, weak wage growth, and poverty figures. So the National party as a whole see it as a way to lead the sheeple.
        3) It is a waste of money, as the flag panel are a sham, and the referendum is going to end with one result: we keep the current flag. This is because the panel didn’t listen to NZ’ers and suck at design or understanding the tastes of the NZ public.
        4) There is only one choice, a variation of one flag. Hypno flag is not a serious contender.

  7. First they came for the children’s fiction authors, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a children’s fiction author…

    See where this is going, as it is no slippery slope, but the future of freedom of speech in New Zealand, unless someone puts their foot down and says no.

    If they can censor and punish people for publishing or distributing harmless children books, what does that say about what happens when someone like Nicky Hager brings out a book.

    Will a political book like Nicky Hager’s be banned before it hits the shelves because a government aligned censor doesn’t like content critical of the government?

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