I generally like business writer Fran O’Sullivan’s work, which can be wide-ranging and interesting and often evinces a robust, seen-it-all-before, how-stupid-do-they-think-we-are? tone. Fran doesn’t often mince words (except for when she does) and she gets points in my book for taking a position, and saying what she thinks — or how the landscape looks from where she stands.

Also, I think if we were to draw a line, I would be on the same side as Fran with respect to our pretty complete condemnation of racism and xenophobia as a policy-driver. There just have to be better reasons than irrational dislike or fear of ‘the different’ behind our decision-making.

It’s nice that Fran’s employer, the NZ Herald newspaper apparently gives her latitude to write about whatever febrile thought is wafting through her brain at the time (a bit like a blog) rather than constraining herself to mere ‘business reporting’ (yawn). If business/money/envy stuff, mergers/acquisitions, executive promotions/demotions — and, more lately, receiverships, liquidations and fraud cases — start to bore her, from the look of it, Fran can start a Best.Sandwich.Ever lifestyle slot and the Herald will publish any damn thing she writes.

Out with the old! (click)

That hairy old positioning statement ‘Business analysis and comment from Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan’ can be phased out. Why should she be bound by that old tagline? Pfft!

While I don’t make a habit of jumping into other people’s arguments (not much) I think Fran should be encouraged to bring her amply demonstrated journalism skills to the party when she deigns to attempt to whack someone. She should not stoop to what looks to me like hollow invective and sloppy ‘logic’, thickening her (ahem) reporting with hearsay and others’ talking points laced with sly malice. Unless I’m missing something.

Judging by a brief interlude in her latest breathless epistle, Fran has apparently been criticized (quelle horreur) by bloggers and, worse, commenters on the second- or third-most visited blog in New Zealand (yeah, right) left wing organ The Standard.

Fran O’Sullivan she-no-likey

Fran can dish it out, sure, but can Fran take it? Weeeell, it doesn’t look like it, judging by today’s effort:

The Standard is reputed to have been started by a bunch of Labour Party activists. Most posters won’t sign their names to their comments because they are frightened they will be held responsible. They are frankly cowards.

I finally branded them the “Ku Klux Klan” of the internet world on Twitter. A bunch of lily-livered word jocks who hide behind their virtual cloaks of anonymity.

But I would have engaged them directly in the argument if they had signed their names.

The website’s policy is to retain anonymity because they are frightened their commenters will be persecuted by employers or landlords – whoever – if their identities are made known.

Leave aside Fran’s amazing mind-reading powers and her budget vocabulary use of ‘frightened’ twice in the space of four paras (aren’t we paying for fresh words?) Leave aside the delusions of grandeur (“I finally branded them …on Twitter” — the power!)

This comical claim: “But I would have engaged them directly in the argument if they had signed their names” had me in stitches. It is so redolent of On The Waterfront Brando: ‘I coulda been a contender!’

Coulda woulda shoulda Fran. What a cop out.

Instead, what do her readers get? A mixed bag. Fran’s analysis of public issues around the Crafer Farms sale controversy, and some of the bigger issues (two classes of Maori, the National government’s busted attempt “to ensure that the partial sale of state assets is free of any encumbrance from the Treaty of Waitangi clauses in the existing state-owned enterprises legislation”) is accompanied by an unworthy (IMO) lightweight, fluffy ‘funny thing happened to me this week’ column buttressed by cries of ‘frankly cowards!’ Bleurgh, Fran.

Look, I take her points about Chinese in NZ feeling a reactionary and racist backlash as a result of the debate — and feeling got at by typical Talkback radio hate, perhaps partly whipped up, as she suggests, by Michael Fay’s spin doctor. That’s pretty damn awful, I agree.

But why should we have to endure her publicly denigrating her anonymous critics. (How dare they! The temerity!)

I don’t routinely read The Standard which is neither here nor there. But maybe I should. Fran’s passion and damnation piques my interest. Here’s why.

I don’t do anonymous comment (like Fran I assume) but believe me, I have seen the tactics some party hacktivists, politicians, Beehive staff and political mongrels attack dogs use to stifle discussion or comment that, er, disturbs them. (So has Fran, surely?) Such operators routinely seek to arrange just such ‘persecution by employers’ etc — or other embarrassment or harassment — exerting ‘influence’ any which way they can for the cause. Think Stephen McElrea and NZ On Air.

But self-promoting as whatever-the-opposite-of-a-coward-is, Fran ‘I would have engaged them directly’ O’Sullivan seems to me to scoff at the very existence of such tactics … which are, sadly, more common than she seems to allow.

But Fran would already know all this, wouldn’t she? Being a ‘word jock’ herself (to use her strange and, as far as I know, novel term).

So why the grumpy vibe, Fran? Citing the Ku Klux Klan seems a bit vitriolic, doesn’t it? And why the public therapy session complaining about people commenting about your comments and whining about ’emailers’ (gasp) as if that was a bad thing? … eh?

Isn’t such engagement a positive metric for your emergent ‘look at moi’ bloggy-column-thingy at the Herald? I would have thought you’d be thrilled. And Tim too.

But never mind, Fran. Cathy Odgers, unofficial promotions manager/Pollyanna for the remnant rump (walking wounded) of the New Right, thinks you’re turning in a #topeffort. It must be soooo comforting for you — and naice to have the right wing fringe vote. Yesiree, the one-point-one percenters love your work. Yippee.

Next thing you know, Cameron Slater will quote you approvingly.

All is well with the world.

– P

Disclosure: None. I have nothing to do with The Standard nor the Crafar farm bids, nor the NZ Herald.