Christchurch politicians accused of opportunism and biased activism in STUFF “giraffe” gender story

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Apr 07, 2023 |

A news article published by Stuff written by a Christchurch journalist has fuelled allegations of biased activism and a political stitch-up.

The article, titled “Christchurch politician deletes online profile after ‘disrespectful’ joke at trans community’s expense,” accuses Innes ward’s community board member Ali Jones of doing just that.

On Wednesday, it reported that Jones suggested on Facebook that “walrus” could be selected as a gender on the official Census questionnaire, in response to an elderly person jokingly asking if “giraffe” was an appropriate answer in the gender category.

Christchurch Pride committee member Jack Mould told the Press “The fact that someone in her position could trivialise something so important is just unacceptable.”

Councillor Sara Templeton weighed in, saying the posts were “disrespectful of our trans community.”

Councillor Andrei Moore expressed his disapproval, saying, “I don’t see it as good humour to be comparing the trans community to animals.”

“Article orchestrated outrage”

However, a Labour Party insider told Chris Lynch Media the article was orchestrated outrage to raise their own profiles, by using an activist journalist. “This was nothing more than performative denunciation.”

The source pointed to a social media post in February which revealed Mould had been re-elected to the chair of the Labour Rainbow Christchurch Branch, although this was not mentioned in the Press article.

A post the following month thanked Sara Templeton and Andrei Moore for being on a panel at a Rainbow Labour Christchurch evening.

Photo: Christchurch City Councillors Andrei Moore and Sara Templeton (edited to show both councillors)

The source accused the trio of using the Press to deliberately fabricate outrage, with the intention of stirring controversy and garnering attention.

Templeton was approached to comment – but didn’t reply.

However, Andrei Moore softened his earlier comment to the Press, saying “I don’t really have any general comments to add other than I don’t believe she [Jones] would have intended to offend or cause any harm with it.”

On Thursday afternoon, Jack Mould contacted Chris Lynch Media voluntarily, stating that he heard “through a friend” about Chris Lynch Media writing a follow-up story, but declined to reveal the source.

He maintained that “Jones’ joke was insensitive towards the gender diverse community and done in bad taste.”

“This joke helps to spread a negative rhetoric about gender diverse community and trans community in particular,” he said.

Mould admitted to approaching the Press but emphasised that this was not his original intention.

“I asked Ali Jones to explain herself and why she thought that joke was appropriate and she decided to block me.”

Mould described Jones’ comment as “harmful and dangerous” and rejected the accusation that the article was manufactured.

“I’m not keen to pursue this anymore unless Ali wanted to have a sit-down and hear why what was said has negative outcomes. While Mould contacted The Press, he now believed that a private setting would be more appropriate for this conversation.

“Hopefully this could lead to her having a better understanding of the lgbtqia+ community and maybe attending some rainbow events as an ally.”

Journalism or activism?

Jones has laid a complaint, accusing the Press reporter of lacking professionalism and balance.

Screenshots attached to the complaint show the reporter questioning Jones’ use of a laughing emoji in response to a comment about pronouns made on Facebook and asked if Jones would be reaching out to those she offended.

However, in the complaint, Jones accuses the reporter of following a personal agenda.

The accusation was backed up with a link to an editorial piece the reporter wrote about her sexuality while being the editor of the student magazine The Critic.

In it, she wrote “I fucking leap at the opportunity to say that I am a lesbian and that my cis boyfriend is my “exception.” My sexuality is no longer a quiet epiphany, but a loud and sometimes desperate expression of my identity.”

Jones also cited an article from the Otago Daily Times in April 2020, which reported that the university chose not to engage with The Critic’’ because of its apparent ‘‘sluggish’’ response when asked to help get Covid-19 information to students, and for ‘‘mean-spirited reporting.’’

It stemmed from an editorial titled “University f**** up covid response”.

The university said it was ‘‘a prime example of untruthful, unfair, inaccurate and mean-spirited reporting’’.

“Acting opportunistically and motivated by bad faith”

Political Commentator Dr Bryce Edwards said “this whole episode reflects the heightened sensitivities over gender politics at the moment, and shows that politicians and political activists are failing to deal with the issues in a very useful way.”

He said “given the huge tensions over transgender issues right now, people involved in these debates need to be careful not to inflame a nasty culture war. This doesn’t help progressive agendas and can be really bad for democracy.”

Edwards said “when things get ugly like this, a lot of the public tend to turn away in disgust or feel alienated.

“These things can escalate so easily when there’s a tendency to denounce and condemn people for having the “wrong views” or “bad humour”.

“Instead, there needs to be some good-faith engagement but that doesn’t appear to have occurred here.

Political Commentator Dr Bryce Edwards

“Instead, it appears that some of the politicians and activists involved – especially Mould and Moore – appear to be trying to gain personal political advantage from condemning others.

“They appear, from the outside at least, to be acting rather opportunistically and motivated by bad faith. This doesn’t reflect well on them as individuals. But as some of them appear to be associated with both the Labour Party and the rainbow community, they end up tainting others as well, which is quite unfair” Dr Edwards said.

“If the public think that people like Mould are reflective of the whole rainbow community, then it, unfortunately, means that community gets tarred with Mould’s rather simplistic and backwards approach to trying to win people over to a progressive cause.”

He said “by being so intolerant they really are turning the clock backwards for the progressive movement, which already suffers too much from seeming very elitist and humourless.

“The media really does have a role to play here in properly giving both sides of the story, instead of simply inflaming things or taking the opportunity to push a particular side of such culture wars.”

“Activist journalism has a place, but at the moment it seems that some outlets have become far too involved in the stories themselves, which means the public isn’t well served, and ultimately trust is being lost in those media outlets.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

Have you got a news tip? Get in touch here

got a news tip?