New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has recently come under fire for another one of his childish pranks in his attempt to follow along with the latest social media craze. This time it is the Derp face. When visiting students at Victoria University in Wellington, Key joked around for an Instagram picture with a couple of students, pulling a face that made him appear even more idiotic than usual. The expression, which is often depicted as eyes rolled up and a silly smile is a visual stand in for the verbal “Doh!” or “Duh!” signals of stupidity.
Whilst usually this is taken in jest, some groups find it offensive as it is seen as a mockery of those with disabilities. Rachel Noble, the chief executive of the Disabled Persons Assembly responded to Key’s photo saying Key’s behaviour was symptomatic of a lack of knowledge over attitudes towards disabled people and what qualifies as good taste. She called out Key to modify his behaviour so as to set a strong example to others. This is preferable behavior in a Prime Minister, rather than one who seems to be an overgrown teenage boy.
However, this is not the first time John Key has acted in ways that seem to suggest he thinks of his parliamentary role as some kind of joke. In 2011, he was pictured with his son “planking” in the foreground. More recently he pow-wowed with reporters over a New Zealand Official Information Act (OIA) request that asked him to prove that he was not a shapeshifting lizard alien. The request was put in last month by local musician and writer Shane Warbrooke. Key’s office initially denied the claim stating that it was a request for information that could not be found and does not exist. Still Key decided that he had to come out and say it himself. He stated he had visited both a doctor and a vet and they had concluded that he was human through and through. When similar accusations were put to Barack Obama’s administration over a dodgy video that seemed to show a reptilian like man wandering around in the background, Caitlin Hayden the chief spokeswoman for the National Security Council quipped that any such detail would be too costly right at this minute. Certainly Obama himself did not feel the need to publicly address the issue on television like this Prime Minister.
But perhaps Key is in fact some sort of genius mastermind? By hogging the fad spotlight he is able to down play any real problems going on in the country. His media presence, swamped by his denial of being a reptilian from the future seems to have overlooked his deals with major oil companies who wish to begin dangerous drilling off the coast of the South Island. In his years in government, Key has cut back on support given to victims of sexual abuse, axed publicly funded night classes, and most horrifically of all, proposing to allow and legalize whaling in New Zealand waters.
So John Key may be out there hamming it up for the cameras, involving himself in the latest craze or joking around with young voters to gain their support of his position as Prime Minister. But it seems that it is all just smoke and mirrors, a sleight of hand to make the media and the voting public look the other way while he juggles foreign policy and carves up the true “green” nature that all New Zealanders hold dear.
By Sara Watson