Politics

Our body language expert decodes Winston Peters’ interview with Duncan Garner

Winston Peters battled Duncan Garner to the death in a live TV interview this week. Spinoff body language expert Hayden Donnell scoured the footage for hidden secrets.

It’s been eight long months since the last installment of the New Zealand Herald’s groundbreaking interview series with body language expert Suzanne Masefield. In the series, Masefield revealed the secrets behind big moments in news. What was John Key really communicating when his mouth said he’d decided to “step down as Leader of the National Party”? Was Helen Craig for some reason uncomfortable standing next to her husband at a packed media conference as he admitted acting inappropriately toward a female employee? Masefield and her fellow seers reviewed the footage using body divination to find the truth.

Then in January 2017, the feed quietened down. Masefield only popped up in one story on whether Zac Franich had accidentally betrayed the true winner of The Bachelor NZ with an innocuous movement of his eyes (he had). Other news stories went unanalysed, their true depths left unexposed. There was the election announcement. Budget 2017. The Block 2017. And finally just this week, an incredible political showdown where ancient New Zealand political gremlin Winston Peters verbally disemboweled AM Show host Duncan Garner live on air.

With Masefield still silent, I’ve tried to step into the breach usually filled by the body language diviners. It’s time for me to analyse the Peters-Garner interview myself, using skills I’ve picked up from obsessively consuming their work. Reading Peters’ body language is a tough job.

But I believe I am now adept enough to handle the task.

22 seconds: “Good morning”

Here Peters is about to say “Good morning”. It’s subtle, but if you look closely Peters’ body language is saying “Good morning, I am going to get roughly 16% of the vote in the New Zealand General Election and spend 14 weeks brokering a coalition agreement that bans Newshub and Duncan Garner”. You can see him savouring the prospect four seconds later.

1m 39s: The real smile

This is a real smile. Peters’ mouth is saying “I am happy”, and it’s telling the truth. He is happy.

1m 42s: The false smile

Here Peters is smiling but his body language is saying “I dug into an underground cavern and drank from the cup that brings immortality but curses me to a consuming inner pain at all times.”

2m 2s: “I’m not here to talk about what we do”

Peters is verbally refusing to answer Garner’s questions about whether New Zealand First leaked a poll showing Andrew Little may not be returned to Parliament at the General Election. His body language is saying “I definitely leaked the poll. I am the Great Leaker, and I will not sue The Spinoff for saying so”.

2m 31s: “Can I help somebody?”

Peters is still refusing to answer Garner’s questions. He shrugs at the camera operators. “Can I help somebody?” he asks. However his body says “Can I help somebody… to a huge serving of mental anguish.” At an even more profound level, his body is saying “Immortality is a curse. I wander this Earth knowing I will survive long after everything in it has rotted away and been consumed by the dirt. I will wander this barren rock alone, every breath like ash in my lungs”.

2m 46s: “Please don’t talk about my fetishes”

Here Garner’s mouth is saying “Please don’t talk about my fetishes Mr Peters”. An expert reading of his body language reveals he is actually saying “PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT MY FETISHES MR PETERS”.

3m 35s: A plea to the country

Garner is preaching to the camera. “Why can’t you give the country a straight answer Mr Peters?” he says. But you can see his body is really saying “Please, I am in deep psychic pain. Let me just talk to this camera until this man goes away”. The interview continues for another 6 minutes and 25 seconds.

6m 37 seconds

In the background Peters is talking about anti-smacking legislation, but the body language of the man in the foreground appears to indicate he is a broken husk; a hollowed out shell of the person he was when the interview began. When did the interview begin? In temporal terms, just 6 minutes and 37 seconds ago. But in a more accurate sense, 1000 years. More importantly, will it ever end?

7m 8s: “Is Northland rail a bottom line?”

“Of course [Northland rail] is a bottom line,” Peters say. His body language is saying “I do not and have never known where Northland is”.

8m 51s: “Mass immigration”

Peters’ mouth is saying we can’t afford large levels of immigration if we’re going to keep superannuation at its current level. His body language is saying “No more Chinese people, please! I hate the delicious foods on Dominion Road!”.

9m 43s: Chinese-made T-shirts

Amanda Gillies has just interjected for the first time in this eternity-spanning interview. She points out that New Zealand First’s T-shirts were made in China. Peters’ body language says “How dare you speak to me of T-shirts? You will fade along with everyone you love, while I go on unbowed by time. I did JFK. I did the Titanic. I am the 13th and final Winston and I will never perish. Also, I will go into coalition with National and TOP rather than Labour and the Greens.”

10m 53s: “I’m going to go see the big station right now.”

Peters got Garner and his fellow hosts to agree to wear his party’s T-shirts, refused to wear an AM Show T-shirt in exchange, then praised the show’s TV rival station on his way out. His body language says “I have just insulted you for 10 straight minutes and come away with a promise you’ll wear my branded outerwear on national television. I am the wrinkled wizard. I am the pickled gremlin. I will haunt New Zealand politics forever.”

Want more politics? Check out the Spinoff’s Gone By Lunchtime political podcast, hosted by Toby Manhire with Ben Thomas and Annabelle Lee.

Listen to the latest episode here, or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.