I understand now

Written By: - Date published: 5:49 am, February 3rd, 2009 - 29 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

Over the past few weeks, I and many others have been shocked by the sudden, appalling change in John Armstrong’s writing. Having long been, in my estimation, our best print political commentator, Armstrong has suddenly become confused, nonsensical, and reactionary. The man reads like a National press release. It has been sad and frustrating to see. And it has been inexplicable, until now.

See, alongside Armstrong the Herald used to have Colin James as a regular commentator. Frankly, I find James’ writing style turgid and a right-wing worldview underpins his writing but there’s no denying he is one of the best informed and insightful political commentators in New Zealand. James’ analysis is always sober, policy-based, and packed with facts. A must read. And the Herald fired him.

Why? Because he was too boring. Seems rational, intelligent analysis is not the way the Herald wants to go. Now, the editors, in a desperate, futile, self-defeating attempt to stop the slide in circulation, have started to rate their opinion writers on the basis of the letters to the editor, emails, and online comments they generate. And what generates that kind of public reaction? Not smart writing. No, provocative, extreme, tabloid-style writing is what gets the angry letters and the dittoheads out. So, this is the brave new world; our premier newspaper is trying to become the Sun of the South Seas. Angry old bigot Gareth George is in and Colin James is out.

So here’s my theory. I reckon that Armstrong has seen the writing on the wall. Get controversial or lose your job in the next, looming, round of job cuts. So, it’s out with skillful and informative writing; Armstrong has released the Tory-boy within. You can understand: the man’s trying to protect his livelihood. But at what a cost.

And so, the tragedy that is the decline of New Zealand’s print media continues.

PS. Colin James has been snapped up by Fairfax

[Update: all that notwithstanding, Armstrong’s piece today critiquing the Treasury briefing to English is good

29 comments on “I understand now”

  1. monkey boy 1

    “You can understand: the man’s trying to protect his livelihood. But at what a cost.”
    Or, John Hamstrung is a journalistic windsock which simply points in the same direction as whatever prevailing political wind blows.

  2. mike 2

    Your paranoia knows no bounds SP. Just because he doesn’t toe the normal lefty line of other NZ rags you go after him. Pathetic.

  3. Can I bring up the fact that the MSM is owned by rich pricks and they decide what we read bit again?

  4. Peter Burns 4

    Indeed trev ,I understand now. It is shameful that socialism has been very kind to the “rich pricks” . It’s just a great pity the majority of people have missed out on the spoils of the socialist gravy train.At least some possess a conscience.

  5. Relic 5

    I believe this post may be correct in its assertion. One experienced regular Herald blogger I trust (no names, no pack drill just yet) told me in a private email that the Herald hierachy was most pleased with the heat his column was generating in terms of page views and clicks. They are less pleased apparently when he plays it safe instead of pushing readers buttons.

  6. Steve:

    How do you know what is in his mind?

  7. Indeed Peter,

    So true. $ 2.7 trillion of taxpayers money in the US alone to the bankers.

    Even hardcore capitalists commentators have called it socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest of us poor slobs.

    Well, at least you’ve left the sureal commentary style you where engaged in as D4J behind. I suppose that’s something.

    What does you comment have to do with the thread?

    That was about Armstrong’s inexplicable change in writing style and the firing of a solid if somewhat boring and right wing commentary in favour of mediocre punditry and hateful commentaries and the subsequent corruption of a man who before at least tried to make sense.

    captcha: charge wife. Lol, you wish.

  8. Janet 8

    Publicaddress.net (Southerly) has a clever take on Granny Herald’s opinion columns with strong reaction to Einstein’s theorem.

  9. Peter Burns 9

    Thank you Janet I will head over to the Paris Hilton blog. Yeah right.
    Hi Wussell and other girls.

  10. Felix 10

    SP: So here’s my theory. I reckon…

    Brett: How do you know what is in his mind?

    Brett, it’s magic. Btw have you met Tanya yet? I think you two could hit it off.

  11. Janet 11

    If they want reaction they should get some staunch left wingers in to write columns , as they are about 95% righties – how about offering, SP?

  12. Felix:

    Steve normally writes his theory as fact.

  13. mike 13

    Its interesting isnt it.

    Lefty PC type columns – no one is interested.

    Righty non PC columns – everyone reads them.

    Sort of indicative I would have thought. I mean who is really interested in the hand wringing bleeding heart crap one sees from societies apologists. Take the boy racers – no one (but a few misguided ones) really believes that these poor unliked individuals need hand holding and special courses and counselling etc, etc. And when we see stories along those lines most just roll their eyes to the heavens and go to the next article.

    However almost everyone believes that what they need is at least a swift kick in the backside, a smack in the ear and then dragged off to do a good physicals days work somewhere – work so hard that come 5 oclock all they want to do is go to sleep. A place like the army with double time quick marches.
    People think this is a good udea and they like to read articles with which they agree.

    [lprent: Or it could just be that more conservatives read old media because they are well – conservative and averse to change.
    Talking about averse to change, I suspect that I have managed to leave you in the auto-moderation. I suppose that I should get progressive and check?]

  14. “Seems rational, intelligent analysis is not the way the Herald wants to go.” – no offense, but we havent seen much rational intelligent analysis about the Herald from the Standard..

  15. randal 15

    what about crabapple newman and her nationally syndicated column
    the place is lousy with all these tory vermin coming out of the woodwork

  16. vto 16

    mike’s onto it. that is quite simply what many people think, for better or worse.

    many people have had enough of the last decade or more of pc poop and now see the likes of boy racer antics last weekend as the result of that pc poop. good luck in trying to counter it…

  17. Carol 17

    No-one interested in “lefty pc” columns? And yet a load of right-wingers keep coming back to the Standard?

    The boy racers are but a mirror image of the neoliberal consumer-society establishment: construction of (largely male in this case) status, through consumption and individualisation of products (cars etc), that is rife throughout the mainstream of our contemporary society. And the Nats show of toughness will only intensify the conflicts between these 2 competing teams in their struggle for macho-identity-status and control.

    And the media and authorities show their contradictory attitudes to the street racers in the sensationalist use of the term “boy-racers”: a euphemism and romanticisation of youthful “outlaws”.

  18. vto 18

    Carol, I think your assessment misses a few basic facets of human nature. One example – the ‘boy racer’ is merely exhibiting completely natural young male behaviour. Imo the problem has arisen because the controls and norms of earlier society, and other societies thru time, which have controlled or directed these natural impulses have been seriously weakened in recent history. As such this natural behaviour has flourished somewhat.

    I don’t think it is anything to do with “neoliberal consumer society establ.ishment” “products (cars)” etc.

    Though I agree it concerns male traits (and those female traits of adoration btw).

  19. Felix 19

    Oh Carol, we’ve no time for this “big picture” stuff. Give us something our tiny minds can handle by lunchtime.

    Brett, not today though eh. I’m serious about you and Tanya btw – you should totally hook up.

    vto, good point about adoration.

  20. BLiP 20

    Multiple Choice Question Number One:

    Have the following quotes been taken from:

    A) a pennry dreadful crime story

    B) The Sunday News

    C) a serious broadsheet’s political commentary.

    ” . . . rising tide of crime . . . crazed rampage by a gunman . . . hostage drama at a Burger King . . . shocking crimes becoming the norm . . . mayhem in Auckland . . . taxi driver being left to die in the locked boot of his car after a savage beating . . . those still capable of being shocked . . . catalogue of horrors . . . the tough and tenacious National frontbencher . . . will be a hard taskmistress . . legislation fulfilling National’s promise to tackle youth crime, clamp down on gangs and ensure the worst repeat violent offenders are ineligible for parole . . . Collins is already coming under the hammer . . . combat-hardened law and order spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove . . . police had a shoot-to-kill policy . . . “

  21. mike 21

    Ooooooohhhhhh Carol. I am surpised at you. Really you should be more aware than that.

    No matter what personal leanings one might have it is IMPERATIVE that one always takes a holistic approach to “knowing whats going on”. Its simply not good enough to take an interest only in what you yourself are interested in – you must make yourself aware of everyones views. True – some of those views are pitiful and some truely call for a deep feeling of sorry for people holding and expressing those views. At other times one can only but feel contempt for various attitudes; but thats no excuse for not maiing yourself aware of things.

    If some governments in the world had opened thier minds a bit they would be in the trouble they are in now:
    eg: The UK with its dumb and stupid views on immigration and gender equality.
    The US with GWB’s action re Iraq. NZ with the previous governments pandering to any faction that would keep it in power. etc, etc

  22. mike 22

    Ill get the typing correct one day – in the meantime I know what I meant…………….

  23. Felix 23

    mike I hope you know, because I seriously seriously doubt that anyone else will have the faintest clue.

    Still, good to know I’m not the only one drinking on a Tuesday avo.

    edit: apart from the Chuck Berry bit. That, I got. 🙂

  24. Quoth the Raven 24

    So, it’s out with skillful and informative writing; Armstrong has released the Tory-boy within.

    That gave me a horrible mental image of Colin Espiner extricating (to put it nicely) himself from Armstrong. Though that is fitting considering the kind of shit Espiner writes.

  25. vto 25

    it seems the standard is slowly sinking into a quagmire of bitter cynicism if the last couple of weeks commentary is anything to go by. maybe it’s just a summer holiday fing…

  26. Rex Widerstrom 26

    Felix: You think Chuck Berry, I think Neil Sedaka. There’s a thesis in there somewhere.

    Meanwhile, somewhere prior to boy racers we were discussing the declining quality of the Herald.

    While SP’s advanced this as only a theory, I tend to think he may be right. “Rark up the troglodytes or GTFO” has long been the modus operandi of radio talkback station owners. When Gordon Dryden started Radio Pacific all those years ago his idea was that it’d be a more exciting, harder-nosed, more democratic version of NatRad… a place where philosophical musings were still possible, but where a listener’s opinion was as valid – if not moreso – than the host’s.

    Then Derek Lowe got his hands on it, and every Rush Limbaugh wannabe in the country was let loose, from Paul Henry (unutterably boring) to John Banks (highly entertaining, in a flaming petrol tanker wreck kind of way).

    Similarly Radio Dead, set up under the auspices of none other than Steven Joyce and responsible for inflicting Michael Laws and Marcus Lush on a populace who’d done nothing to deserve such torture.

    In fairness, though, I should point out that Lowe also entertained the squawkings of Pam Corkery – hardly a righty by anyone’s standards but certainly capable of vexing vast numbers of people.

    The proprietors seem to equate controversy with listenership with ratings with revenue, overlooking many reaons why that formula is flawed. But they don’t seem to have an overtly political agenda… at least not in radio. If you’re a total knob jockey and only too proud to demonstrate the fact, you’re hired. Of course it helps if you have a “controversial” background (i.e. having been an MP and behaved like a complete ass in that role too).

    I’m tempted to suggest that the reason the lunacy spouted is overwhelmingly of a right wing persuasion is, therefore, simply a function of the relative number of ranting, foaming nutcases on one side of the spectrum vs the other. But then I’d just be stereotyping 😀

  27. Lew 27

    Berry > Sedaka, for reference.

    BLiP: Nice.

    Good to see Colin James isn’t short of people prepared to buy ink on his behalf.

    L

  28. Tim Ellis 28

    It just isn’t true as Janet claims that 95% of the Herald’s columnists are right-wing.

    I don’t think any of the political reporters, including Armstrong and Audrey Young, at the Herald have a strong political bias, one way or another. I think Fran O’Sullivan is business-friendly. Of the regular columnists, Garth George is conservative, but Brian Rudman and Tapu Misa are both strongly left-wing. Kerre Woodham used to be liberal and left-wing, but she pulls out some conservative columns nowadays. Wendyl Nissen is left-wing and liberal, but she doesn’t really write about serious stuff.

  29. Lew 29

    Tim: MSM bad. Don’t you get it?

    L

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    The government has released its Arms Legislation Bill, containing the second tranche of changes to gun laws following the March 15 massacre. And it all looks quite sensible: a national gun register, higher penalties for illegal possession and dealing, tighter restrictions on arms dealers and shooting clubs, and a shorter ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • California bans private prisons
    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    1 week ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago

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