January 25, 2011

WSJ:  Maori are "googly-eyed"

Maori dragged into US union dispute

By Michael FieldMaori have been ineptly dragged into an American trade union dispute by the top US business daily, the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper editorially attacked top union boss Richard Trumka for a speech in which he denounced business groups involved in the political process.

But it was the opening lines of the editorial which will surprise many in this part of the world.

"When it comes to intimidating opponents before a fight, no one does it better than New Zealand's Haka tribe, whose members, googly-eyed, stomp their feet, stick out their tongues and bark at their opponents," the Journal intoned.
And:The Journal's online edition has already attracted comments with people wanting to make corrections.

"I know it's a bit pedantic to point out, but it's also telling that, in their rush to associate unions with a group of 'googly-eyed' brown people, the WSJ editors couldn't spare five seconds to fact-check," one comment said.

Another added: "I want to see it: WSJ Editorial staff vs. the All Blacks. Let them see what intimidation really means."

While another comment said: "Normally the WSJ is pretty good with this stuff, but I have to make this correction...there is no such thing as a Haka 'tribe.' A Haka is a Maori war dance. All Maori tribes have their own Hakas. The New Zealand All Blacks, the national rugby team for New Zealand, made the Haka famous by doing their own before all of their rugby games.'
Comment:  This is a good case study of how stereotyping works. First, let's assume the Wall Street Journal's writers haven't been to New Zealand and watched a live performance of a Maori tribe. It's almost certain they saw a broadcast or video of the All Blacks rugby team doing the haka before a game. Perhaps they saw the haka in the movie Invictus.

So they've seen non-indigenous rugby players imitate the Maori. This dance looks strange and exotic by Western standards. The writers take what they consider the weirdest element--the so-called "googly eyes"--and apply it to someone they consider equal weird. So union members are wild-eyed savages just like the Maori.

How many people read the Wall Street Journal...a couple million? How many of them know anything about the Maori...a couple thousand? So a couple million readers have learn that the indigenous Maori = violent rugby players = wild-eyed savages = liberal union members. Sooner or later they'll repeat what they've learned: that "indigenous," "savage," and "googly-eyed" are synonyms.

For more on the subject, see Maori Tribe Wants Haka Back and Maori War Chant in Invictus.


Burt said...

Although many cultures have their own versions of whooping and warrior cries, I think the Maori are awesome.

Anonymous said...

"Warrior cultures" is itself a misnomer. Most of what societies do is economic activity, which admittedly includes war, but also includes various forms of industry.

The term "warrior culture" seems to be related to the proud warrior race trope. (Think Klingons.) This trope has its heroic and villainous side; heroic proud warrior races tend to be honorable, but always a sidekick (usually The Big Guy in the Five Man Band), while villainous ones tend to be extremely xenophobic, or they're slaves who are forced to serve as The Brute (and ultimately Sixth Column) in the Five Bad Band.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, perhaps his comments re googly eyes is a misinterpretation of the pukana - making the eyes large (sometimes rolling the eyeballs back) - which is often done in haka and other traditional Maori song.