Divorce, death and media demonising

Following up on the fuss over Christine Rankin’s appointment to the Families Commission, David Farrer at Kiwiblog was critical of journalists who have been “demonising Rankin”.

He rightly observes that Rankin is a polarising figure, and her appointment to the commission always would be “a bit controversial”. Even better, he thinks the commission should be abolished, although he muses that “Rankin may do some good there.”

Then he became indignant with political hacks like those who reported:

Rankin has been divorced three times.

She recently married her fourth husband, whose former wife was found dead in her Wellington home six months ago.

Police said the circumstances of the death were not suspicious.

Farrer had one good point to make about those bits of information – but not two.

Bad enough to focus on her marriages, as if never being divorced is a pre-requisite. But what the hell does the death of the former wife of her husband have to do with it, except to almost imply she was responsible for the death.

Yep. It was shabby stuff, dragging the fourth husband’s former wife and her death into despatches.

But was it so wrong to mention Rankin’s track record in the divorce department?

Among other things, three divorces raise a big question about Rankin’s commitment to marriage (or partnership, if you prefer), and the family responsiblities that typically go with it, and they raise big questions about her judgment, certainly when it comes to choosing husbands.

Depending on your view of “the family” and family values, you could say Rankin is a dubious appointment to the commission because marriage should be for life, but she goes through husbands like Alf goes through socks.

On the other hand, if you have a new-age view of marriage, partnerships, shacking up, whatever, and the reality that many families today involve remarriages, step-parents, and in some cases kids being brought up by couples of poofters in civil unions, you could say Rankin is highly experienced in the modern game of changing spouses and and mixing families.

One view makes her unfit for the job. The other makes her ideal for it, at least in terms of experience.

This becomes apparent in the comments on Farrer’s post.

Put it away says:

Seems like a fair call to me. We’d want to know if the head of the LTSA crashed his car four times.

Lofty, on the other hand, says

Shocking reporting, at least she has a plethora of life skills to bring to the job. Bugger all will phase her.

In short, those divorces are not quite as irrelevant as Farrer would have us believe.

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