Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, November 3rd, 2012 - 89 comments
Categories: democratic participation, greens, labour, news, nz first, spin - Tags: duncan garner, jane clifton, journalism, nicky hager
Some prominent “journalists” are working to undermine a possible Labour-Green government: one that could turn against the neoliberal scam that such “journalists” feed off and promote. They particularly have their knives out for David Cunliffe in case of a Labour leadership change. The left should take heart – the time has come to support the “public interest”, as outlined by Nicky Hager in his significant Jesson lecture this week. In his terms, the likes of Duncan Garner and Jane Clifton are more PR people than “journalists”; more spin doctors than relentless seekers after half-hidden, and many-sided truths.
Duncan Garner has been one of the most prominent MSM “journalists” to characterise David Cunliffe as not being a team-player. Garner’s position has shifted slightly since Shearer stood for the Labour Party leadership. Initially, Garner leaned slightly towards Shearer. He subtly reinforced the “white anting” against Cunliffe by arguing this appeared to be the majority position in the Labour caucus. He left open the possibility of putting pressure on leadership challenges in the future.
Then last August, he came out gunning for Cunliffe, because Garner was now claiming hearsay evidence that Cunliffe was hated within caucus for being lazy and untrustworthy. This week Garner’s line is that Shearer has failed, … but while he puts forward Grant Robertson and Cunliffe as being the only viable leaders, he gives reasons why they aren’t really. Garner doesn’t seem interested in doing in-depth research on Labour leadership issues, or on the public interest in their policies, only in reporting on Labour’s apparent disarray.
Hager said that a good journalist would be on the side of the public. The consequences of a couple of decades of intensive, neoliberal manipulations are that civil society has become broken and demoralised. Critical voices amongst journalists, economists, and public servants have been marginalised, while those promoting the interests of the powerful elites have been rewarded. Hager convincingly argues that in a democracy, good journalism should take the side of the “public interest” and speak truth to power.
Columnists like Garner and Jane Clifton are too aligned with the interests of the ruling groups, and are not reporting on or in the “public interest”. For instance, they have so far failed to get the bottom of the white anting against Cunliffe. And their main focus, apart from an occasional cursory nod to views of the public, is on the power games of the political classes.
A succinct and critical tweet doing the rounds on Thursday night, linked Hager’s speech with the “white anting” within Labour:
If Cunliffe and the Labour Party are at odds, does that mean he has more in common with the voting public than they do?
Meanwhile, Jane Clifton unwittingly exposes underlying fears, in her latest column in The NZ Listener. Like Garner, she acknowledges that Key is on a downer. But she responds by superficially examining a potential Labour-Green-NZ First coalition. In the first instance, her evidence is based on seating arrangements and smiles of party leaders at a press conference: the one called to announce the joint parliamentary enquiry on the manufacturing crisis. This leads her to discount Peters, – well kind of, but not quite. And then she focuses on a potential Labour-Green coalition highlighting some recent policy differences, and concludes that it will be a fraught business. Clifton makes a dire prediction:
Despite the personal equanimity of the respective leaderships, this is a relationship that can only get uglier as the election approaches.
And yet, all coalitions have inter-party tensions, and previous MMP governments have shown they can be successfully negotiated. With reference to his book The Hollow Men, Hager indicates how such strategies aim to undermine opposition parties, by endlessly repeating the mis-information of selected spin lines.
The grass roots left should take heart. The neoliberal columnists are looking a little rattled. For left-wing activists and others on the side of the public, there’s no problem in acknowledging the challenges. It’s important to subject potential leaders to intense, and honest scrutiny. However, there should also be as much focus on policies that have most significance for the general public, especially those with least power. It is public support of those policies that the neoliberal elite fear most, and they aim to mask their real agenda with endless reports of power games and faction fighting.
Cue ‘grass roots’, and concerned members of the public to seek to be better informed, and to make their views heard loud and clear.