Hager on politics and journalism

Written By: - Date published: 9:31 am, November 2nd, 2012 - 20 comments
Categories: activism, democratic participation, Media, political education - Tags: ,

A couple of nights ago Nicky Hager gave his Bruce Jesson lecture on “Investigative journalism in the age of media meltdown: from National Party Headquarters to Afghanistan”. It is well worth a solid read (hat tip to NRT– “well worth your five minutes” – clearly a much quicker reader than me!).

Hager reviews the state of politics in NZ today, the dominance and corrosive effect of PR spin, “multiple crises” in journalism, the “nanny state” meme, the dubious utility of the left-right spectrum, the “free market” reforms of the eighties, the decline of public participation in politics, nine actions that are needed for democratic renewal, youth participation in politics, the essential ideas of progressive politics, and the damaging belief in that left, right and center are in conflict. Phew! And that’s just in Part 1.

In the second part of his lecture Hager focuses on investigative journalism, it’s relationship to every day journalism, who does (and should do) investigative work, and the essential characteristics of investigative journalism. Hager concludes on an optimistic note, “truth is great and will prevail” (I wish that I shared his optimism).

The whole lecture is well worth reading, and I’m tempted to quote from it endlessly. But I’ll limit myself to one section, Hager’s nine actions for democratic renewal:

Here, quickly, are some examples of the government actions needed for democratic renewal; that is, for making it easier for citizens to have influence in politics and harder for money to.

1. Radically restructuring the public service, from the top down, into a genuine, independent public service;

2. the same for science;

3. radically restructuring universities as well, pruning the managerial levels and refocussing on students and academics;

4. reassuring people on public salaries of their right to be active citizens in their own time;

5. ending secret and anonymous donations in politics;

6. actively pushing back commercial advertising and messaging from public spaces;

7. strengthening freedom of information laws and extending them to Parliament and the courts;

8. requiring all central and local government politicians to declare their income, assets and tax paid each year; and

9. declaring that news media are an essential public good like education or police and introducing long-term funding and statutory independence for non-commercial television, radio and, eventually, print public news media. Independent public media are an essential defence against media and politics being filled with messages and agendas based primarily on ability to pay.

Some items on the list are clearly more important than others, but I for one agree with almost all of it. Oh for a government that would make it so.

20 comments on “Hager on politics and journalism”

  1. higherstandard 1

    I thought I’d disagree with all Hagar’s suggestions, but on the contrary I broadly agree with all of them.

  2. AmaKiwi 2

    I would add “re-distribute some of Parliament’s power.”

    We live in a Parliamentary dictatorship. The ruling party can vote in anything they want. Taking power from Parliament means giving it to someone else. My two preferences are local government and/or veto referendums.

    Under veto referendums any law can be rejected by the voters if they can get signatures of 2% of the voters within 90 days of final passage by Parliament. The effect is the ruling party passes more moderate legislation. They don’t want a referendum.

    Stronger local government means the boundaries are permanent and local government is given specific powers which parliament cannot interfere with. Look to Australia, Switzerland, the USA, and others to see which powers these might be. They often include control over planning, education, local transport, and culture.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Under veto referendums any law can be rejected by the voters if they can get signatures of 2% of the voters within 90 days of final passage by Parliament. The effect is the ruling party passes more moderate legislation. They don’t want a referendum.

      So if you got 60,000 voters to sign against prostitution law reform or civil unions, those Acts would have been turfed?

      So basically Destiny Church and a handful of other evangelical organisations acting together can turf progressive social legislation each and every time?

      In NZ you need 300,000 votes for a non-binding referendum, in comparison.

      • AmaKiwi 2.1.1

        No. I tried to edit my submission to correct it but could not. Apologies.

        The voters signatures send the law to a binding referendum. The voters decide. Historically, in most cases they do not reject the law.

        • McFlock

          It might be in wee fascist that lives inside me acting out, but I tend to have worries about democracy that is too direct: California springs to mind. They love to vote for things that cost $$, but vote against taxes to pay for it.
          That’s an extreme example, but given the trend over the last 20 years or so of Big Money spending big dollars on political campaigns for issues they like (MMP, SS/SST, Green Delusion, those nutters who sued NIWA, etc), I prefer representative democracy on the grounds that at least shit gets done. 

          • Draco T Bastard

            It might be in wee fascist that lives inside me acting out, but I tend to have worries about democracy that is too direct: California springs to mind. They love to vote for things that cost $$, but vote against taxes to pay for it.

            There’s an easy solution to that. Graphically show people what the changes will do at the time of voting so that they’re informed. Vote for something that costs money and they get either an automatic increase in taxes or the choice to cut something else. Which is what my Social democratic Economy Part 1 was about.

            IMO, The big problem with California is that the RWNJs keep telling people that cutting taxes will increase the tax take thus they keep voting for tax cuts and the higher spending that the tax cuts are supposed to, but never will, pay for.

  3. kousei 3

    Clerk of the House, Mary Harris is reported on October 24th as saying that she doesn’t see the need at this time for legislation like Green MP Holly Walker’s lobbyist bill requiring more disclosure about lobbyists. Adding it’s effects could be chilling.

    On the other hand Hager in his Jesson lecture mentions well resourced private and public lobbies and says about them,

    ‘ the political sphere is awash with their paid spokespeople and experts, their PR companies and lawyers, their media staff and the rest of the for-hire armoury;’

    Quite a difference of opinion that. I know who I would tend to trust and yes it is chilling.

    • AmaKiwi 3.1

      Don’t get conned into using their sanitized terminology. Refer to campaign contributions as “bribes.”

      Try this, “Clerk Mary Harris says she doesn’t think we need to know who is bribing our MP’s.”

      I have never spoken to an MP who wanted to make ANY changes to make our system less corrupt, more transparent, or more democratic.

  4. tracey 4

    I read it. A great piece… but chilling to think it will be ignored.

  5. Dr Terry 5

    I admire Hagar’s aims though they sound somewhat Utopian. He seeks truth. I would remind him of words from Oscar Wilde: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

  6. AmaKiwi 6

    Politics is the art of compromise.

    Begin with a utopian ideal.

    Regarding California and referendums. If California were a country, it would have the seventh largest economy in the world. They are doing a lot of things right. It’s small minded to condemn them for the few things you disagree with.

    Switzerland has more referendums than anyone and you can’t beat their record for economic achievement, human rights, liveable cities, and staying out of wars.

    Do an elite rule or do the people? I trust my neighbors more than I trust politicians of any party.

    • kousei 6.1

      Begin with a utopian ideal, agreed. In the words of Wendall Berry Compromise, Hell!

    • fatty 6.2

      you’re lucky to have good neighbours Amakiwi…my neighbours are dickheads, they probably voted for National

  7. Just read Mr Hagar’s full speech.
    So lovely to read an intelligent, discerning piece of writing

    Have just re-read The Hollow Men and I recommend it to others; it is well worth [re-]reading at this time.

    All the same players are there promoting all the same policies. Which is interesting because there has been a lot go on since the time that book was written, like a global financial system collapse, yet these same people, including our prime minister, just keep on truck’n out the same tired approaches.

  8. xtasy 8

    NZ needs many more Nicky Hagers, I feel. He does these days seem to look a bit too much like a lone fighter. With much of what he says and writes, I can only fully agree. Some (guess who) do not like it. Hence he gets little publicity and air time, and to me this is indirectly a way of isolating, marginalising and thus “censoring” the man and his message.

    • karol 8.1

      NAct try to write Hager off as a “conspiracy theorist” who draws conclusions that aren’t supported by his evidence.  Yet his evidence is pretty solid, and his reasoning sound.  In contrast, many neoliberal MSM “journalists” or columnists, and NAct ministers use less evidence, or ignore relevant evidence to support their shokey reasoning and manipulations.

      • blue leopard 8.1.1

        It is a little hard to see Mr Nicky Hagar as a conspiracy theorist when his book “The Hollow Men” written in about 2006 reflect the current Government’s policies and approach to a T.
        That is, unless, he was completely making it up and Joyce, Key&co thought it was a good idea and decided to follow it….(humour)

      • xtasy 8.1.2

        karol: A mate of mine has now also suggested that I am being seen as such “conspiracy theorist”, having raised before issues about MSD, WINZ, the factual “training” of designated doctors by Dr Bratt (the semi senile Principal Health Advisor with a soft Nazi flair). So I am starting to identify myself a lot with Nicky, and I hope that some may just wake up, as there is some real damned shit going down, but it seems, few “believe” or “get it”!

        All I wrote and commented is ABSOLUTELY true, documented and more, but does anybody even dare to believe it? NOPE!?

      • xtasy 8.1.3

        PROPAGANDA is never about the TRUTH, it is designed to INFLUENCE and manipulate, and “information” is these days (especially by National) seen as just bits of whatever bits of half-truths, un-truths and only in some cases “truths”, designed and spread to get results, nothing else. Goebbels was a master, and they have learned the game from him or like-minded!

        And the Nazis, by the way, learned their “ropes” from the then “new” American advertising industry. So it all fits together, and “advertising” we have these days is strictly following the same concepts. Hitler was known to imitate ads by doing speeches and gestures in front of a mirror!

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