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Fewer literacy?

Written By: - Date published: 10:35 am, September 11th, 2008 - 40 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

Like John Key, I’m utterly bored with Peters. So, just a short, tangentially-related note.

Tracy Watkins, like every other press gallery journo, thinks the latest micro-development around Peters is more important than the release of a major party’s health policy (in contrast, my flatmates are changing the channel when Peters comes on but were straight on the net when they heard the Nats’ health policy was out). Well, if Watkins wants to bore her audience, that’s her prerogative but my problem is with the title of her piece today: “Parting shots wound Peters and Labour”.

Tracy, the term is ‘Parthian shot‘. Honestly, you write for a living.

40 comments on “Fewer literacy? ”

  1. Patrick 1

    I have to say, I was quite to see the front page of the Dom Post plastered with Winston stories when a major health policy had been announced. Shoddy journalism. Needless to say, I did not buy today’s Dom Post, and my ad blocker will stay on while I’m on their website – that’ll teach em 😉

  2. reforming journalism, one blocked ad at a time. 🙂

  3. Billy 3

    The Nats have put one of those grammatically horrifying billboards up outside my window at work. Its ungrammaticality offends me on a moment-by-moment basis.

  4. Billy 4


  5. r0b 5

    Billy – it’s an outrage! Vote Labour. That’ll learn ’em.

  6. Matthew Pilott 6


  7. Dom 7

    Fewer goodnessity?

  8. Daveski 8

    Yes, like everyone else, I’m bored with Peters.

    The problem that many on the left now has is having made big plays about integrity, honesty and related characteristics, the evidence paints Labour in a very poor light.

    When a major benefactor is seen to be thrown to the dogs, then there is a problem. When there are doubts as to whether political leaders are telling the truth, then there is a problem.

    Tane is right that this is a partisan site so no one should expect balance.

    However, it is reasonable to point out that the barbs that were pointed at the Nats earlier can easily be pointed at Labour now and the high moral ground that has been taken by many here is looking shaky if not hollow.

    Sadly, and I am being consistent here, the fundamental issue is trivial and a side show to the real issues of governing a country. Having set the agenda around perceptions of politicians’ agendas and secret actions, those from the left who did so are no hoist on their own petard and can’t escape this emerging black hole.

    SP – credit for at least opening an opportunity for discussing this. In fairness, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  9. bill brown 9

    Watkins just knows her audience, she wouldn’t want to appear elitist would she?

  10. r0b 10

    When a major benefactor is seen to be thrown to the dogs, then there is a problem.

    You’re off topic! And you have it exactly backwards. For the Government to take sides with the major donor to the Labour Party would have been quite wrong. Being a donor does not in the Labour Party buy you special privileges (re National I couldn’t possibly comment).

    Clark did the only thing she could possibly do, she left Glenn and Peters to sort it out. Peters lost.

  11. Smokie 11

    Don’t you love how the journos bitterly write about personality politics, and full of bluster yell out “the public are sick of it!”. Yet, all the meanwhile they’re the ones ignoring major party policy and focusing on their personal vendetta against Peters.

    For fucks sake. Winston Peters and a donation he received is important, and needs to be reported. But what about things that will actually affect people’s lives? We’re about to hand over absolute power to a political party that will exert a huge influence over how we live our lives. Looks like Tracey and a whole lot of other journalists have forgotten that.

  12. Ben R 12

    “I did not buy today’s Dom Post”

    Good article about overpopulation being an issue the UN is afraid to address.

    I’m not particularly interested in the arcane workings of NZF’s funding, but the conflict between Glenn, Peters & Mike Williams accounts has been interesting.

    SP, would you find it more interesting if John Key was in Helen Clark’s position? Although I agree that it’s overshadowing more substantive issues, I think you’d be more interested it if it was showing Key/National in a bad light?

  13. Daveski 13

    r0b – far from it. The point of the post is that there are more important issues than the Winston and Owen show but I’m arguing against that.

    More importantly, you complete ignore the point of my post which was that the left, and SP is a good example, has made a concerted effort to focus on perceived issues to do with integrity and honesty – “slippery” springs to mind, “secret” agendas etc

    So having set the agenda (pun intended), the left can’t all of a sudden say we’re bored and let’s move on – just when the public are seeing the same slippery tactics from Labour.

    At least I’m being consistent – I’ve argued consistently that the attacks on Key have been sideshows but now the focus is on Clark and Labour and you reap what you sow.

  14. monkey-boy 14

    Burn the heretic. Burn him I say!

  15. r0b 15

    r0b – far from it.

    Ahh yes fair enough, the original post leaves the door open for Peter’s related (sigh).

    So having set the agenda (pun intended), the left can’t all of a sudden say we’re bored and let’s move on – just when the public are seeing the same slippery tactics from Labour.

    We’re bored with Peters. I don’t see that Labour has any case to answer on being “slippery”, and I fully expect a continued focus on Key/National lies and evasions during the election campaign. The secret agenda tapes actually caught the public’s attention and shifted opinion, the public don’t want to be lied to by National…

  16. r0b 16

    “Peters related” – I miss edit!

  17. Daveski 17

    r0b – cheers.

    I am bored with Peters. I think that the public don’t want to be lied to by any politician which is where there is the potential for problems for Labour.

    I also noted that SP (I expect reluctantly) left the door open so he couldn’t be accused of closing it so credit for that.

    It will be interesting to see the next poll results to see what happens. Ironically, it looks like there could be a silver lining for Labour as any collapse for NZF feeds into Labour.

  18. Glad to see the speling and grammer police is alive and well on the internet.

  19. lonelyavenger 19


    The first recorded metaphorical use of “Parthian shot” was in 1842. The first recorded metaphorical use of “parting shot” was earlier, in 1828, and has been in far wider use for the last 80 years at least. Moreover, best evidence suggests that although the idioms have the same meaning, they were coined separately and have no etymological relationship.

    Any other journalism lessons you’d like to share?

  20. Thomas the Unbeliever 20

    Parthian Shot v Parting Shot – What’s your point?

    You provide a reference to justify that use of “parting shot” is evidence of illiteracy. Not surprisingly your reference was wiki – the reference for the lazy and poorly educated.

    Even that reference fails to support your argument stating:
    …. “The term “parting shot,” used similarly, may be a folk etymology of “Parthian shot,” meaning the term was corrupted through common parlance, but there is little firm evidence to support this claim.” …

    So what’ your point? According to your reference there is no evidence that the phrase “parting shot’ developed independently rather than as a corruption of “Parthian shot’.

    I guess that qualifies you as both a pedant and a poor researcher.

    You could apply for a job with Winston. You have a similar gift for proudly announcing you have compelling evidence which on closer examination proves to be worthless.

    That’s my parting shot.

    [the term is Parthian shot. Parting shot probably is a corruption from people who don’t know what a Parthian was and how they shot. On the interwebs is perfectly normal to cite wikipedia. No, there’s no absolute proof parting shot is a corruption of Parthian shot but Parthian shot comes first in the literary record and it makes sense – the Parthians were famous for shooting while retreating and if you didn’t know that you would from context assume that when someone said Parthian shot you were hearing parting shot. SP]

  21. ak 21

    Daveski: the fundamental issue is trivial and a side show to the real issues…

    Precisely, my dear Daveski, and the more fundamental issue that will emerge from the histrionics of the last week is how (and more importantly why) “MINOR PARTY POLITICIAN MAY HAVE LIED” could have been spun into such column-kilometres of angst-ridden “intrigue”.

    Winnie’s real crime was his constant attacks on National over past months: when the tory leaks and blunders began, the timing was right to drip-feed accumulated ammunition in a blitzkreig of diversion.
    Key’s rush of blood precipitated an all-out lunge for the kill, and Glen is simply a dissipated sufferer of “short man’s disease” who revelled in the limelight and played back to the horde.

    Despite efforts from the press to justify their bizarre and self-serving lynch-mob behaviour (eg the headline in this post), the public stomach is left queasy from this salty, fatty fare of little substance. The PM has maintained poise and respect for process and natural justice in the face of intense fire yet again: when the dust settles on this diversionary farce, further reinforcement of her mana and the sympathy that will flow to Winston will be her just reward.

  22. Lew 22

    BD: Internets!

    You realise there’s more than one, don’t you?


  23. Tim Ellis 23

    SP, this is interesting. I have followed the Peters scandal quite closely, and no doubt shown much more interest than ordinary voters, who I suspect probably do get bored by the minutiae.

    On the big issues, however, I think the public are interested in whether the Prime Minister has told the truth or hidden relevant facts from the public: it goes directly to her integrity. I think voters are interested in whether or not her Foreign Minister is telling lies to her, and whether she knows he is lying: that goes directly to the credibility of her government.

    I think the public also cares about whether the Foreign Minister is a hypocrite and a liar, and whether the Prime Minister is prepared to tolerate that. I think the public also cares about who the Prime Minister protects. In this case she has chosen to give her loyalty to somebody outside her parliamentary party, in order to retain a parliamentary majority, over somebody who has been Labour’s most generous donor.

    This is especially the case if she is planning on running an election campaign trumpeting her honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness, as I understand she was. I think to run those lines, you pretty much have to be overwhelmingly credible on all those fronts. It isn’t good enough to be seen to be slightly more credible, or a bit more credible, than your opponent.

    SP I note that you have made many postings about issues that others might find boring. You certainly do not seem to focus all your attention, or even the majority of your attention, on the big issues, such as foreign affairs, law and order, education standards, the economy, access to healthcare and welfare, etc. Instead a very large proportion of your posts seem to be along the common theme: “John Key is slippery”/”National is evil”, or selectively misquote what National has said in order to produce an outlandish, shark-jumping series of posts about a particular topic.

    You have every right to write about whatever you like, of course, but that isn’t writing about substance. That is partisan hackery. It amuses me that the reasoning you have for not writing extensively about the Peters scandal is that it’s not a substantive issue, and attack other journalists for making it an issue. That would be a fair criticism if you only dealt with substance.

    As for whether the Peters issue is boring, not with the general public, but with the Standard’s readers, I can’t help but notice that the Peters donations threads that the Standard does put up seem to attract far more comments than pretty much any other thread. I think that is quite illuminating. It says to me that while you might find it boring, your readers don’t.

    It’s fair enough for you to say SP that you don’t want to write a series of posts about the Peters scandal because the issue is damaging to Labour, and you don’t want to give a forum for people to express their view on it, because of your labour party sympathies. But it just stretches credibility for you to say that you don’t want to talk about it because it’s “boring” (when the evidence in the blogosphere, and the media, suggests it’s pretty much the only game that anybody is talking about at the moment), or that it’s not a weighty issue (when you’re quite happy to resort to mischievous speculation on totally marginal issues in so many other posts).

    [lprent: All of the Peters posts do.

    For that matter any post on a subject that the ‘right’ considers to be important does. I usually expect that if there is a obsessional post ratio on a topic of 10 or more to 1 between kiwiblog and the standard on a topic, we will get a high comment count in comments on that post.

    Of course the average quality of the comments tends to go down, as does their average length, and the repitition factor goes up. In fact, usually those threads get as boring as a kiwiblog thread.

    But really what you’re asking for is for us to be like kiwiblog, obsessed by the latest headlines, and with a comments area populated by dickheads.

    Read the About and ask yourself who we’re writing for – it isn’t the kiwiblog right.]

  24. r0b 24

    On the big issues, however, I think the public are interested in whether the Prime Minister has told the truth or hidden relevant facts from the public: it goes directly to her integrity

    Well then, the public can assess Helen’s own words (as this all unfolded) right here.

  25. Tim Ellis 25

    Yes they can r0b and the public can also see that from the timeline, the Prime Minister admitted she knew about the conflict of evidence in February, yet did not admit to knowing about it until August.

  26. lprent 26

    Tim: She was not asked. But lets ignore that and look at what you’re asking…

    It looks to me like you ware wanting to massively extend what a PM is responsible for. What is expected of the goose is also expected of the gander.

    So you are contending that is the PM’s responsibility to act as secret police or an auditor for another political party?

    Is the way you expect National to act inside a coalition?

    Who’d want to work with them?

    I would contend that the PM’s job is to deal with ministers in their work behavior, ie what she appointed them to do. As house leader of their own political party, they also deal with their own MP’s (using the whips mostly). They aren’t responsible for other political parties.

    If you (or John Key) want to extend the boundaries of what is expected of a PM. Then perhaps they should issue a policy before the election. This would allow other political parties to look at what life living in a National dictatorship coalition would be like.

    😈 I think that there is some proverb about “He who throws the first stone..”

  27. r0b 27

    Yes they can r0b and the public can also see that from the timeline

    And round and round and round we go. The conflicting evidence was “private and confidential”, and directly denied by WP whom she was required to take at his word (and also his lawyer).

    Also, the Government could not be seen to be trying to take political sides with the biggest donor to the Labour Party – imagine the faux outrage we would have been dealing with if that had been the case (though oddly, no one grumbles about National’s policy for sale to donors).

    I know you have a vested interest in flinging mud and hoping some sticks, but this is very thin mud indeed. Brown watery fluid really (bit like Aussie beer).

  28. Phil 28

    What delicious irony – in 53BC a small army of Parthians deliver a stinging blow to a behemoth Roman army, led by a commander who made woeful choices and strategicly bizzare moves. The result is a significant factor in the decline and fall of a once great empire

    In 2008 a single Monacoan delivers a stinging blow to a Labour Party ,led by a Prime Minister who has failed to take decisive action and allowed her opponents a strategic advantage. The result is likely to be a significant factor in the decline and fall of the party.

  29. r0b 29

    What delicious irony

    You should try eating out more.

  30. Tim Ellis 30

    Lprent said:

    So you are contending that is the PM’s responsibility to act as secret police or an auditor for another political party?

    No I’m not contending anything of the kind, lp, and I think you’re using hyperbole to misrepresent my position. I do believe it’s the Prime Minister’s role to have confidence that her ministers are acting ethically. It’s the PM’s role to have confidence in her ministers at all times. It’s not just me who thinks that: the Cabinet Manual is quite clear on that as well.

    It is my view that when the Prime Minister has information from a reasonable source, that her Foreign Minister is not telling her the truth, then she is obliged to take some steps to find out what the truth is. This isn’t acting as a secret police. This is taking reasonable steps to resolve the conflict of evidence.

    It is not in dispute that Helen Clark was told by Owen Glenn that he had made a donation. It is not in dispute that Helen Clark was told by Owen Glenn that he had also informed Mike Williams of this donation. It is further not in dispute that Winston Peters denied this in conversations with her.

    I’ve said in other threads that it is simply bad political management to allow this to fester, unresolved. I don’t agree that Helen Clark’s only option in February was to rush to the media and tell everybody about the conflict of evidence. That is preposterous. She could have taken reasonable steps: she could have asked Mike Williams for his recollection (and given that she talks to him daily, hardly an onerous investigation on her part); she could have asked Owen Glenn for a copy of the transfer authority.

    Both were very simple steps for her to take, it just isn’t credible that she allowed the conflict of evidence to continue, on the assumption that it was just a dispute between two people. She was not just an observer. She is the chief manager of a government, where the Foreign Minister’s personal integrity is at stake. It is her job to ensure that these sorts of things don’t blow up.

    If Helen Clark had made a couple of very straightforward inquiries, and understood the truth, then she could have gone back to Peters and told her that his information was incorrect, that a donation had occurred, that she had documentary evidence of it, and that it was his job to resolve any declarations he needed to make. Quite simple coalition management. Instead she watched over while her Foreign Minister launched a six-month attack on the media, and what has been probably the biggest political side-show in at least a decade.

    r0b has said that with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, maybe she could have acted differently. That excuse just isn’t good enough. Helen Clark is the best political manager this country has had, in a very long time. She has managed conflicts with ministers more effectively than any other prime minister. It doesn’t take 20:20 hindsight, or supreme political management, to understand that if your biggest donor says one thing, and your foreign minister says another, it isn’t wise for your foreign minister to go to war with the media for doing nothing more than repeating the substance of the claim that your donor is making. It doesn’t take 20:20 hindsight to know that is an explosive situation which will lead to serious political damage, unless it is resolved.

  31. Phil 31

    What delicious irony
    You should try eating out more

    That’s what SHE said…

  32. Draco TB 32

    …led by a Prime Minister who has failed to take decisive action…

    The PM acted in the only way she could to remain faithful to her principals of honesty and integrity. JK has, by his words, proven beyond doubt that he has neither.

    The PM cannot take on the roles of judge, jury and executioner for a very good reason but you of the KBR seem to be demanding just that.

  33. insider 33

    I would have thought parting shot is more likely a corruption of “departing shot” much as “bated breath” is a shortening or corruption of ‘abated breath’.

    Does it really matter? It seems somewhat pompous to try and score a point by picking a linguistic debate over a highly debateable interpretation of a phrase’s etymology.

  34. Pablo 34


    in 53BC a small army of Parthians deliver a stinging blow to a behemoth Roman army, led by a commander who made woeful choices and strategicly bizzare moves. The result is a significant factor in the decline and fall of a once great empire

    The Roman Empire didn’t exist in 53BC. It was still a republic.

  35. Phil 35


    Right – collapse of a republic, rise of a dictatorial empire… spooky

  36. Scribe 36

    On the Parthian/parting shot question, I agree with insider:

    Does it really matter? It seems somewhat pompous to try and score a point by picking a linguistic debate over a highly debateable interpretation of a phrase’s etymology.

    On the Clark-Peters affair, I think the PM had a greater responsibility to probe into the Glenn donation than she did. Once Winston held up his “NO” sign 37 times, and she had reason to suspect the answer to one or more of the questions may well have been “YES”, I think she should have asked more questions.

    Six months is a long time to allow a conflict of evidence to exist for someone as important as your foreign minister.

  37. r0b 37

    Say Scribe, have a read of Gordon Campbell – one of the best journalists out there. Actually read the whole thing, it’s very interesting:

  38. Scribe 38

    OK, now what?

    Reading Gordon’s piece, which is good (though I don’t always find his stuff good), hasn’t changed how I feel about the PM’s behaviour. I think she should have gone beyond asking “Did this happen?” and then simply accepting Peters’ answer when there was conflicting evidence.

    captcha: shrewd service

  39. r0b 39

    OK, now what?

    Now you are better informed. No charge.

    I think she should have gone beyond asking “Did this happen?’

    I thought Winston was as guilty as hell too, but now (after reading the Campbell piece) I have doubts. We can all rush to judgement from the way things look from the outside, and with the benefits of 20:20 hindsight, but the PM did what she thought was right.

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