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Spinning the media: commericial imperatives

Written By: - Date published: 10:55 am, September 2nd, 2014 - 22 comments
Categories: blogs, books, news, newspapers, radio, tv - Tags:

Dirty Politics has resulted in many questions being asked about the quality and reliability of the coverage of politics by the news media and blogs.

component politics

Blogs, the Media and Two-Track Politics

Many are trying to claim that left wing blogs are as bad as those that are the focus of Hager’s book.  The book focuses on a right wing network focused on attack and smear politics, with Cameron Slater and his Whale Oil blog a central focus.

Remember, the main argument of Dirty Politics is that, since at least 2008, the National Party and its allies have used a two track strategy: one track is the positive public face of John Key as a nice, smiley ordinary Kiwi; the second track is a covert, black ops smear machine involving people like Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, Cathy Odgers and Simon Lusk, who have a strong connection with Judith Collins.

Left blogs like the Standard, have never been involved in that kind of extensively orchestrated black ops.  This can bee seen by anyone who spends the time looking at the content of Standard posts over time, and comparing them with whale Oil.  For instance, stories have been broken on the latter blog that have been picked up by the mainstream media.

dirty politics connections

And, surely the journalists on the receiving end of sources from within the blogosphere would have some idea of which blogs/bloggers are feeding attack lines to them?

Mediawatch on Dirty Politics

Last weekend, Radio New Zealand’s Mediawatch explore some of the issues.  It includes extracts from interviews with TV 3 News chief Mark Jennings, business journalist Patrick Smellie, and ex TV3 political reporter Duncan Garner.

Mediawatch

Mediawatch presenter Colin Peakcock provides a summary of Sunday’s Mediawatch on the RNZ website.

In the programme Duncan Garner says that the content of Dirty Politics is significant and serious. It is itneresting that he, like some commenters and authors on The Standard, had, in the past suspected that Jason Ede, Cameron Slater were part of a covert team feeding smear/attack stories to the media.

Garner says that back when he was working for TV3, he had written a blog post about Ede and Slater being involved in some kind of triangle.  He had talked to ede about it, and Ede convinced him not to publish the post.

The Mediawatch focuses on the example reported in Dirty Politics, of a letter from David Cunliffe to immigration officials in support of Donghua Liu. [NZ Herald report on the story].  Journalists had been contacted suggesting they ask Cunliffe about his contacts with Liu.  Cunliffe, not remembering a form letter from his electorate office several years previously claimed he’d had no contact with liu.  Then the journalists produced the letter.

As Peacock says, the letter itself wasn’t damning, it was merely embarrassing when it was produced after a denial had been issued by Cunliffe.

Garner says that sort of thing happens all the time. He also says that he had said on air at the time that Cameron Slater and Jason Ede were probably responsible for breaking the story.

Jennings said that 3 News were involved in breaking that story, and had done their own forensic investigation about the sources. He assures listeners that Slater was not the source: that they had been looking at the story for a while, and had been communicating with other sources.

The Problems are with the Commericalised, Corporatised Media System

moneyandpolitics

The problem though is that journalists and media producers and editors tend to be looking to defend themselves on the technicalities related to the production of individual stories.  The problem is much bigger.  It has to do with the system.  For instance, why are mainstream news organisations putting so much effort into relatively trivial “gotcha” politics?  The highly commercialised, corporatised news media encourages such a focus. The need to produce copy, under pressure of time, and in a way that generates ratings, advertising and sales, produces infotainment: dramatic headlines, personality conflicts and beatups.

We need a public service (on and offline) media that is free from such commercial pressures.  Jennings expects new blogging networks like the Whale Oil-Ede one, to replace them.  But, a stronger, public service media, focused more intensely on significant issues, and thorough research and analysis would provide a context in which such malicious and malevolent smear networks would not thrive.

In his RNZ article Peacock summarises a Horizon Poll that is featured on the Mediawatch programme:

When Horizon Research asked 1752 people if the media act had acted impartially with bloggers offering information, more than half said they had failed to do so.

According to Horizon Research, that means mainstream media’s alleged association with political attack bloggers would be of concern to around one and half million adult New Zealanders.

It is not just that such malevolent networks are operating, it is the way journalists respond to them that is the issue.

Online Media Standards Authority – MSM Dominated

The programme, like many journalists currently, talk up the use of the Online Media Standards Authority as a way to keep bloggers in check.  However, this is MSM dominated and part of our role is to hold journalists an media organisations to account with critical op ep posts. Current laws of defamation are already sufficient to keep us in line.

Furthermore, it wasn’t so much what was being posted on Whale Oil and, at time Kiwiblog, that has been the problem. The problem has been that mainstream journalists gave them too much credibility and were too ready to run their lines.

The Dirtiness of Dirty Politics

On top of that, according to Dirty Politics and some related released emails, the Whale Oil network have been allegedly attempting to blackmail and pressure journalists in to doing their bidding.

22 comments on “Spinning the media: commericial imperatives”

  1. Bill 1

    …it wasn’t so much what was being posted on Whale Oil and, at time Kiwiblog, that has been the problem. The problem has been that mainstream journalists gave them too much credibility and were too ready to run their lines.

    Agree.

    Also, I wonder…here at ‘ts’ and on other notable blogs, ideas and critical analysis are fairly common. Some of them are important and (it seems) they very seldom if ever get traction in the mainstream.

    A part of me, and not completely absently, wonders then, if ‘the word’ was put out, by or through WO etc, to ignore ‘ts’ and other blogs if journalists wanted to preserve easy access to scoops and insider info coming from WO. It would make sense when running lines and ‘capturing’ the narrative to exclude ‘interference’, no?

    • emergency mike 1.1

      Yes Bill, I wonder how much WO & friends of the VRWC kept an eye on the discussions here. I’ve often thought that the distraktor tr0lls and sock muppets who used to comment here but now seem to have disappeared for some strange reason were simply testing their Ede/Farrar spin lines here. To see what kind of objections a bunch of intelligent lefties would come up with. Close to 100% of the time the discussion simply ended with them looking like incoherent morons – but they kept coming back.

      As it’s been pointed out there is no left leaning equivalent to WO. But what needs to be said is that there is no right leaning equivalent to TS. There is high level discussion here which has consistently offered critical lines that have proven to be prescient that the MSM could have investigated, but didn’t.

      WO and Kiwiblog have consistently offered attack and smear lines that appears to be propaganda coordinated with the National party. The MSM lapped it up and jumped on board.

    • Tracey 1.2

      And hooton and farrar have been used by MSM evan after suggestions of their manipulation were made public…

  2. Tigger 2

    +1 Karol. ‘Authorities ‘ are old media ways to provide relief. It won’t work moving forward. We need to use existing laws, as you rightly say, and root out/not tolerate the kind of behaviour Slater et al have engaged in.

    The current situation arose because of the conspiracy between the media and our government. It would help to have the entire thing examined, picked over and held up as an example of what should not happen.

  3. Anne 3

    It’s my view that Nicky Hager only captured the tip of the iceberg in his book “Dirty Politcis”, and sooner or later the whole truth is going to be revealed. Unfortunately not before the election.

    Take the Donaghua Liu pro-forma letter:

    It’s clear Liu was working in tandem with some National politicians, Slater’s mob, and in all probability “the PM’s Office”. It was they who encouraged Liu to go public with his claims. From memory, it was the Herald journo who OIA’d the letter and knowledge of it’s existence could only have come from Liu in the first instance.

    An orchestrated campaign to bring down Cunliffe by the Nat. Party Black Ops. machine operating out of the PM.s Office and some unethical and partisan journos.

    Cunliffe’s Phil Goff moment. Only this time they didn’t get away with it due to the diligence and courage shown by the hacker, Rawshark and Nicky Hager.

    • disturbed 4.1

      Joe,

      I am blown away by this National Government closely aligning their propaganda policy’s to Goebbels system.

      Steven Joyce is the man behind this as his elk William Joyce was the radio broadcaster who defected to NAZI Germany from Britain in 1941 to spout NAZI propaganda for Hitler.

      We now have proof that John Key attended a secret NAZI founded organisation in Europe in 2011 and with held this from the NZ public.

      The organisation Bilderberg was founded by NAZI Party in 1943, to have the NAZI party stay alive when Germany lost the war.

      We need to have a full independent royal commission to investigate all National affiliation with any foreign agents who are assisting National to subvert the course of our Democracy and Justice,

      § Why did John Key not inform the citizens of this Country in 2011 when he attended a NAZI founded organisation called the Bilderberg group, in Europe?

      This group is well known as one of the most secretive clandestine organisations globally, that specialises in weakening Governments with Black Ops special forces.
      Below he was in attendance as John Key Prime Minister of New Zealand.

      Attended by most the biggest industrial and richest elite globally their aim is to dominate the globe and control all activities.

      http://twochurchesonly.com/supmat/03/most_influential/bilderberg_group/
      list_of_bilderberg_attendees.pdf

      List of Bilderberg participants 4
      New Zealand
      • John Key (2011-2012), Prime Minister of New Zealand
      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bilderberg

      No Bilderberg meeting agenda has ever been made public. “It is the epitome of low-profile dark ops, a shadow government hidden in a doorway.” According to critics and close observers, it’s agenda is to weaken all world leadership but their own. It is also, according to a U.S. law called the Logan Act, [15] illegal:

  4. fambo 5

    The irony of the claim that The Standard is doing the same as Whale Oil is that the MSM has had so many great story leads to follow on The Standard and Daily Blog but has actually ignored them all, putting it days, weeks and even months behind breaking news.

  5. Excellent analysis karol.

    I think the ‘crunch’ that the media have been under – as with every other part of society – since the 1980s leads almost inevitably to this kind of weakening of the public interest role.

    That ‘interest’ is replaced by rather more commercial interests. Even a ‘public interest’ story is pursued only if it can also meet the commercial interest. There is no sense of the public interest role being a requisite for a serious news organisation irrespective of its effect on the ‘bottom line’.

    In parallel and interconnected is the general population – which is under the same ‘crunch’ – seeking from media a distraction from life, a softly chewable version of the world with no ‘hard bits’ in it.

    The end result is the kind of tolerance for deception and projects of misinformation (even approval of them as being ‘clever’) that we see today.

    • Tracey 6.1

      Shift of focus to bottom line thinking results in staff cuts and pandering pieces… Hence glucoma is actually paid for what she does… And “opinion” writers like Hide, Laws, McCarten, coddington, peope whocannot escape their tie to a particular ideology but get presented with valuable air time to influence and run lines

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    This bit of weasel speak is interesting:

    “3 News were involved in breaking that story, and had done their own forensic investigation about the sources. He assures listeners that Slater was not the source: that they had been looking at the story for a while, and had been communicating with other sources.”

    Thats pretty easy to use Slater as a straw man here as National didnt run everything through him. As the original letter was found by Woodhouse when he did a full search of files, it probably didnt go to Ede at all, just another one of the Orifices press flunkies.

  7. Phat Psycho Hen Joky 8

    Cognitive Dissonance, the Rule of Consistency and Our Media/Political Commentators

    Has anyone been listening to our Media/Political Commentators lately, and are they going through Cognitive Dissonance? It appears they hate being inconsistent. I would almost say they are becoming a little unhinged.

    Cognitive Dissonance http://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html:
    “we hold many cognitions about the world and ourselves; when they clash, a discrepancy is evoked, resulting in a state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. As the experience of dissonance is unpleasant, we are motivated to reduce or eliminate it, and achieve consonance (i.e. agreement).”

    These are some of the comments on a particular radio station this week (hopefully not out of context, you need to check accuracy)

    Mr X:
    • It would be a shame that the current issues with dirty politics would influence the election.
    • They should take stock and look over the policies and how it will pan out in the next 3 years?
    • An important consideration is what effect the revelations in Dirty politics will have on legitimate public discourse

    Mr Y:
    •Gives advice to JK (he should have come clean and this would have all been avoided)
    •Mentions the National Party were treating him badly and that he has a soft spot for a particular minister because he stood up for him for a contract (also mentions he got paid quite well for the contract)?
    •Gets a jibe in at Nikki Hager using a 3rd party, John Keys comment
    •Then mentions how bad all this dirty politics and the influencing of politics

    Mr & Mrs Z:
    •The usual: interview someone about dirty politics, then say, gee, everyone does it, the left does it to (then make it a recurring theme in every interview – i.e. too distract)

    The odd fair comment, but in general, these guys are in denial. Just take this one comment from the above:

    “It would be a shame that the current issues with dirty politics would influence the election”

    So, your saying let’s separate out dirty politics, ignore what was going on, pretend that all is well, that democracy is just fine? Its like saying it’s ok to be abused then let your abuser off the hook and say that he is a nice guy?

    These commentators sound (tonal) balanced, but, really, are they? Personally, it appears to me they are going through a crisis of consistency and cognitive dissonance. its apparent a number of media people are feeling left out in the cold. How do you reconcile this?

    How do you reconcile with a smiling assassin?

  8. Phat Psycho Hen Joky 9

    If you think about it, Cognitive Dissonance is an extremely clever part of attack politics.

    People will simple turn off and go away, or keep moving in the same direction.

    I am blown away by how many people are in denial about this, they just don’t want to know and will come up with every excuse under the sun to justify it.

    How can the clean cut Keys be such a sleaze…. its not possible?

    So, how do you turn this around?

    How do you get people to change tack? Thats the fundamental question.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1

      Studies indicate modest success with emotion-based strategies when tackling right wing bigotry. No doubt the government will cut their funding.

    • adam 9.2

      It’s called counter propaganda. Basically what OAB said – but, lets keep the details, mum.

  9. Peter_T 10

    Great, but I’m still a bit disappointed that Labour has not fully committed to properly funding the sort of public media system it (rightly) diagnoses as the answer to the identified problems with the corporate media and right-wing blogosphere.

  10. Dont worry. Be happy 11

    Jane Goodell when asked how do you change peoples’ minds said, “you tell them a story and change their hearts”

  11. Paul 12

    Shadows of Liberty …film
    Recommended viewing for us…so we don’t end up as bad as the USA.
    http://shadowsofliberty.org/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1543807/

    We’re getting close.

  12. dave 13

    a lot of reporters are very compromised know creditability as reporters blown apart best use for a herald is a wrapper for fish and chips that’s it they are struggling to sell there paper get subscriptions this whole affair is not going to help I think there should be a boycott campaign launched at some of the media

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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Growth in new building consents shows demand is still high
    The building and construction sector is still showing strong growth, with the number of new dwellings consented up more than 8 per cent compared to last year, reflecting a welcome confidence in the Government’s COVID-19 response package, Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa says. “While it is still too ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • $23 million for Bay of Plenty flood protection
    Government investment of $23 million for Bay of Plenty flood protection will allow local communities to address long-standing flood risks and provide jobs, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced in Rotorua today. These projects are being funded by the Infrastructure Reference Group’s (IRG) shovel ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago