• The Herald’s Principles

    The political bias of the Herald’s reporting and commenting has now reached ludicrous proportions.

    The average reader can no longer ignore the uncomfortable truth. Our supposedly leading news source is now following the dictates of its owners – NZME – who have suborned the Herald to join Newstalk ZB, its stablemate in the broadcast media. The New Zealand public and the country’s political debate are both short-changed as a consequence.

    None of this can come as a complete surprise – the telltale signs have been there for some time. What is a surprise is that presumably self-respecting journalists have allowed themselves to be recruited to this disreputable cause.

    Some of the Herald’s journalists will not have found this betrayal of their readers to be difficult; they will have found the enterprise entirely congenial since it conforms with their own political views.

    But I would like to believe that there are some writing for the Herald who will feel uncomfortable at
    serving what has now become just a propaganda sheet for the National party. One such is surely John Roughan who is, I have always found in the past, well aware of his responsibilities to his readers.

    I know where John’s political preferences lie, but I continue to think, in light of my earlier dealings with him, that he would always give priority to his principles as a journalist. The Herald – and its readers – rely on those principles.

  • Where Did the Far-Right Come from?

    Many observers, myself included, have been both concerned and puzzled at the rise of “far-right” movements in democracies across the world. Trump’s America is of course the prime example, but the covid pandemic and the government measures introduced to deal with it have apparently stimulated the rise of similar sentiments in many other countries, New Zealand included.

    Where have these movements come from? we ask. Who are these people, who believe in conspiracy theories, who distrust elected governments, who assert their own individual “sovereignty”, who oppose “authority” on principle, who treat those who are different as enemies, who scorn science and expertise, and who assert that they are “libertarians”?

    So far as we can tell, they are not traditional right-wingers, striving to protect and defend the advantages and privileges brought to them by their social status and economic power. On the contrary, they seem to come from the fringes of society and to feel a sense of resentment against those who would exclude and disrespect them. They like to gather and demonstrate, to flex their muscles and make their voices heard, and to feel that they count for something.

    They seem, in other words, to be outliers – even outsiders – those whom (and whose interests) society as a whole has traditionally neglected. So why do they not tread the path that, hitherto, so many of their predecessors have trodden – the path to left-wing politics? Why have they not seen the need to challenge the power structures in society – those power structures that have ignored and marginalised them? Why would they instead choose apparently to align themselves with them? Why have they not followed the path trodden by their predecessors but instead have become the acolytes and defenders, not to say the most extreme form, of those who have oppressed them?

    The answer to this mystery is that the right – the powerful in society – have succeeded in pulling off a conjuring trick.

    Whereas the dispossessed have, as in the past, identified the powerful – that is, those with the real economic, social and economic power in society – as the barriers to their fulfilment, the powerful have succeeded in transferring that resentment away from themselves and on to those wielding political power. They have succeeded in distorting the traditional political analysis by deflecting attention away from the social and economic power of wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals, and on to the machinery of government. For the dispossessed, the most significant and obvious manifestation of power in society is government, and it is government (or authority) that therefore attracts and seems to deserve their hostility.

    The right have succeeded in this because democracy has failed in its purpose. Instead of being seen as an agency of liberation, empowerment and social justice, political power (or democratic government) has become just another weapon in the hands of the elite that allows and enables them to maintain their advantage. The powerful in modern democracies, more often than not control the government; and, for that reason, the winners remain winners and the losers stay losers.

    The left have no one to blame but themselves. They have, with few exceptions (Labour governments, pre-war in New Zealand, post-war in the UK), regularly failed when they have achieved political power to make an appreciable difference to the power imbalance that disfigures most democracies. Sometimes that failure has occurred through a simple lack of competence or infirmity of purpose; but on other occasions, it has occurred because the standard-bearers of the left have sold out and chosen, as in the case of Tony Blair, to throw in their lot with the privileged and have striven instead to join them.

    The dispossessed cannot be blamed, in other words, for seeing no difference between government and other manifestations of power. Political power and governmental authority are just another weapon, like social privilege and economic advantage, that is used to do them down. And, because of their own individual powerlessness, their relationship with government is likely to be even more one-sided than it is for others. They are are even more likely to see government, not as helping, but as telling them what to do; they are even more likely to have a relationship with government characterised by dependence and supplication.

    The right, concealing the fact that government is largely their creature, and identifying it instead as the oppressor, have succeeded in using the anti-government resentment of their most defenceless victims to turn them into committed but unwitting allies. Let us all unite, say the powerful, against government, the real tyrant. Hey presto! Let me introduce the “far-right”!

  • Move Over Christopher?

    Could it be that confidence in Christopher Luxon’s ability to revive National’s fortunes is, even at this early stage, beginning to fade? Concerns have already been expressed about his failure to build upon the small post-Collins boost in National’s poll ratings and his inability (as the jargon has it) to “cut through” to the uncommitted voter.

    Now, we have had, in yesterday’s Herald, a somewhat fulsome article about his deputy, Nicola Willis. She is a politician whose main point of difference and distinction in the eyes of most Kiwis is the bright redness of her lipstick; yet the Herald touts her as a future leader and speculates as to whether she might “do a Jacinda” and arrange for her leader to move over one day (or perhaps soon)?

    One way or another, it seems unlikely on this evidence that National’s leadership travails are over just yet.

    Bryan Gould

  • An Easy Gig

    So Chris Luxon (and we are assured that there is no ’t’ in either of those names) has at last bestirred himself after a long summer break – but he could hardly be said to have broken a sweat. There can be no easier gig for an opposition politician than to complain that the government has taken too long to do the right thing. We must assume that – apart from doing it sooner – he would have done and be doing nothing different.

    So, in one easy press conference, he absolves himself from having anything new or different to suggest or say. Politics must seem to be so simple, after (as he constantly reminds us) running an airline.

  • Unbiased Reporting?

    I wonder how many Herald readers realise how all-embracing, unremitting and determined is the Herald’s pushing of the National party barrow? Perhaps it is so much par for the course that it goes unremarked by many readers.

    Today’s issue provides an interesting case study, especially for those (of whatever political persuasion) who might be under the illusion that they are reading an unbiased account of current events.

    The lead story is about a request for help made by a “National” MP to Eion Musk in respect of restoring international communications to Tonga following the eruption – note the care taken in the headline to specify a “National” MP – not just any old MP then.

    That is followed up by a column from Claire Trevett, headlined that 2022 will be a “year of reckoning” for “Ardern”. The piece then, foreseeably enough, ignores the actual polling evidence by asserting that “Christopher Luxon’s” accession to the National leadership will make life difficult for “Ardern”, conveniently overlooking the actual evidence that the minor lift following Judith Collins’ dismissal has not been followed up by a curiously inactive Luxon; indeed, the recent Curia/Taxpayers Union poll showing Labour and the PM gaining ground is dismissed as irrelevant on grounds that are unspecified.

    There is then a standard-issue piece from former National grandee, Steven Joyce, warning about forthcoming “storms” to follow today’s economic “sunshine”, and Fran O’Sullivan then weighs in with “five things the government needs to do”. Siouxsie Wiles, one of our (and the government’s) most trusted expert advisers, is then reported as warning that the red light setting will not be enough to stop new transmissions.

    A different warning, from the Herald itself, is then reported and headlined to the effect that NZ is “on the brink” of a “major border failure” as the outbreak looms.

    These warnings are set alongside warm and approving interviews with a new National MP (Joseph Mooney) about his first days in parliament, and with a retired National MP (Nikki Kaye) about how happy she is – with (of course) frequent references to her links with Sir John Key.

    All of this, of course, is calculated to produce a warm glow of satisfaction and encouragement to National-supporting readers, and to create an impression that things are bound to get worse for a Labour government that is losing support. It must take a great deal of care and effort to produce an issue that paints such a distorted picture.