But some small, as-yet-unidentified part of me feels sorry for Melissa Lee today - she's had a horror week and the media won't let her forget about it. The contrast between coverage of her run in the herald at the start of the campaign and the articles on her over the last two days is quite astounding. Yesterday's article, "Campaign stresses going to Lee's head", was accompanied by a series of pictures of Lee "looking flustered and holding her head"; the whole thing is not-so-vaguely reminiscent of celebrity meltdown articles, except with Melissa Lee instead of Britney Spears, and a campaign mess rather than cutting all her hair off.
Today's article, "Lee faces protest from students", reports on the campaign meeting held in the University of Auckland quad yesterday. It is accompanied by a large photo of what can only be a student, holding a cutout of Lee's face with 'RACIST' written on the forehead and a Hitler moustache on her lip - just the kind of biting satire one would expect from a first-year politics student. Reporter Lincoln Tan has obviously never been at a student meeting before, as he excitedly reports what happened next:
Students at the debate passed a resolution calling Ms Lee a racist [...]Lincoln, students - the couple of hundred who turned up out of tens of thousands - sitting in the quad will vote for anything. More beer, topless women, higher taxes, lower taxes. Don't worry Melissa, it's not a binding resolution and you won't find yourself legally obliged to make more racist remarks because of it. I spoke to a couple of people who were at the debate and who told me that it was actually largely good-humoured; the confrontational atmosphere implied by the Herald report and the television news was largely a beat-up that reported the nastiness out of context and the constructive debate not at all.
I imagine that this is all because the media smell blood. The source is increasingly the unfortunate Lee who, for a journalist, seems less-than-media-savvy. It's hard to sympathise with her, given that, like all - ok, almost all - politicians, she is after the 'baubles of office'. But that doesn't mean that we have to like the reporting, which cannot long tolerate civilised debate and so has to ensure that, like the 'War on P', there are both protagonists and antagonists. With a couple of naive, stupid remarks, Lee has ended up in the firing line. David Shearer would do well to count his lucky stars.