Case Number: 959

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2003

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Listener

Ruling Categories: Taste Lack of

Mrs. L.J. Hobden has laid a complaint against the New Zealand Listener on the grounds that an article on the booming housing market entitled “House of the Rising Sum” published in the 15 November 2003 issue of The Listener was highly offensive to her Christian religion.

The detail of the complaint was of a large drawing of a “Christ-like” figure sitting cross-legged in modern business attire possibly levitating a house towards himself and looking benignly down on a parade of people turning away from crumbling towers (? temples) and approaching the figure. The hands of the figure are held in a visual benediction. Part of the complaint is the opening paragraph that states:

“There were no fewer than 10 property investment seminars advertised in Auckland one recent Saturday…wait, wasn’t that one of the first signs of the Apocalypse?”

The article (lengthy) goes on to deal with various aspects of the current housing boom with a greed theme running through it. The article leaves the apocalyptic opening with no further explanation.

The complaint is not upheld.

The editor of The Listener in response to the complaint concedes the use of the term “Apocalypse” is satirical but denies it is deliberately offensive. On the figure he states the image is not intended to be specific to Jesus Christ but it represents a generalised “guru” character as befits the subject of the article. The Council’s view is that by layout and design of the artwork, to most people the figure would represent a Christ like image, but that finding does little to support the complaint.

The phrase “…wait, wasn’t that one of the first signs of the Apocalypse?” is undoubtedly satirical. Apocalypticism has puzzled many biblical scholars but most would agree it is revelatory and usually signifies the end of the world. Whether 10 advertised property seminars are one of the first signs of the Apocalypse is for the readers to decide upon.

The Council does not believe that the use of apocalypticism in the context of the article could reasonably be regarded as offensive to the Christian religion. The concept of the Apocalypse has moved in modern times well beyond the idea of the Second Coming bringing with it the end of the world. It has become a metaphor for almost anything of a catastrophic change.

The complaint is not upheld.

Mr Terry Snow took no part in the consideration of this complaint.