Systemic failure of the media

Written By: - Date published: 1:52 pm, December 2nd, 2009 - 31 comments
Categories: Media, news - Tags: , , ,

felix in comments points out in his usual sarcastic style about the media response on Don Brash’s 2025 Taskforce report.

For example, consider this online poll (tvnz):

What do you think of Don Brash’s 2025 Taskforce financial report?

  • It’s too radical
  • It’s about right
  • It doesn’t go far enough

All the questions imply some degree of agreement with the general direction of the proposals.

Strange that ‘It’s completely arse-backwards’ and ‘It’s insulting to my intelligence’ or ‘It’s been tried and failed’ don’t get a look in, eh?

I know it’s just a meaningless online poll but it more or less represents the framing of the discussion across most of the media.

From what I’ve seen, this comment is pretty accurate. The lack of any balance in the quoted online ‘poll’ will probably be quoted by the news with the mild qualification of it not being ‘scientific’. I’ll say that it is worse than that – it is fraudulent. They have done the old classic of making the poll come out the way they wish by framing both the question and the possible responses.

However the problem in the media is more systemic than that. As Marty G pointed out yesterday.

Incredibly the report provides no evidence that the slashing of public services, work rights, minimum wages, and taxes for the rich would have the desired effect. There’s no modelling, no forecasting, of what effects these changes would have on the economy. Are we simply meant to take Brash’s word and hand over the country to his failed ideas?

You get the impression that many in the media organizations have not bothered to read the detail of the ‘report’, preferring to cast their own interpretation on what they think it said. In all of the reporting to date, I personally haven’t seen a single article on how weak the report was. My view is that it was wishful set of thoughts with no detail apart from some rather selective comparisons with aussie. However it was reported as being authoritative and its summary has been all over the news..

The most extreme example that I saw was Granny Herald the other day on the front page.  In its roles as the main cheerleader for the unproductive affluent, it was predictably wetting themselves on the front-page with the comparisons with aussie from the report. It then reported the conclusions of the taskforce. However no-one at the granny apparently thought that it was important to actually read the report detail and comment on the difference between its recommendations and how Australia got to its current position.

I’ll give the media a hint. Australia doesn’t and hasn’t used any policy in the rather extreme way that is in the Brash taskforce report. They use policies that are designed to help productive investments, raise exports, raise skills, and keep a high wage economy. They do this by maintaining a reasonably flexible political and economic framework that does not obsess on doctrinaire policies in the way that the Brash report did.

The taskforce report suggested what looks like a flashback to some rather rigid failed policies of the past. It does bugger all for the type of exporting economy that we need. It is hard to see in the report actual ways of focusing investment into productivity and R&D improvements for export based industries that I work in. These are areas where we are desperately short of capital and have been for decades.

However it appears that Brash et al think that productive business investment will happen by some form of magical economic osmosis. It hasn’t in the past from similar policies. The report doesn’t show me how it would if those policies are repeated. The mainstream media appear to believe in magic rather than analysis as they swallow this guff whole and regurgitate without bothering to engage the analytical side of their brains.

I’m sure we will get a better level of analysis as the economics and business commentators start to pick the report to pieces. However I suspect they are likely to ignore the daft taskforce report as being simply wishful thinking. I’d expect that they will concentrate on the more interesting report on the tax structure.

But you’d have to say that many (well almost all) of the mainstream media in immediate mode look as if they lack the skills to comment on anything more than celebrity relationships.

31 comments on “Systemic failure of the media”

  1. BLiP 1

    Rod Oram has commenced the analysis.

    • Bright Red 2.1

      yep. no journo has come close to Oram, Rudman, and the Standard in terms of quality analysis on this. pretty poor really.

      • Bill 2.1.1

        But why is that reflective of a “systemic failure of the media”?

        Seems to me the media is functioning just fine if and when it consigns contrary analysis or unorthodox ideas to the ghettos of opinion pieces or blogs….the relatively unnoticed periphery.

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          It is the uncritical sucking up of what is a pretty unremarkable and massively un-detailed report that caught my attention. In particular it was reading the Herald stuff over the last couple of days. Lots of bullet points of highlights that looked like they came from summaries of the report itself. But none of the journos appeared to have read the damn thing. At least you couldn’t see that from what they wrote.

          A brief scan of the other printed news media looked pretty much the same. You’d think that even when ‘reporting the news’ that they’d have read the report. But nope – looked like PR all the way with editors scrabbling for headlines.

          The Herals with its ‘comparisons’ with aussie was really sickening. They were a result of a higher wealth level. But then the f*ckwits were reporting it as if this is what taking the Brash reports ideas would produce. But aussie did it without using a single one of the Brash reports ideas. You’d think that even a journo with their poor levels of education would be critical enough to see that discrepancy..

    • lprent 2.2

      I wrote the post last night when the report had a day or two out. The commentators will be running through it now, and there are a couple of articles buried deep in the Herald now.

      But the point was that the Herald gave a front-page spread, a lot of coverage on the first couple of pages, and didn’t appear to have read the frigging report. What do they do all day?

  2. Gosman 3

    So you are essentially saying the Media is biased because it doesn’t push your view.

    On a pure balance level there are only three options on the 2025 Taskforce report.

    1) You don’t like it because it is too radically right wing.

    2) You like it

    3) You don’t like it because it is not radically right wing enough.

    This is exactly what was asked in the online poll.

    Any other options would mean that the media was taking a position on the subject and would be scewing results.

    BTW I’d suggest that most contributors here would fall into the first category. Why do you have a problem with accepting Option 1?

    • Pascal's bookie 3.1

      Nope.

      1) means you think the problem is that it is too radical. that doesn’t mean you think it is wrongheaded, just that you think it goes too far. that’s what Key and english are saying about it ‘Too radical’. I’ve yet to see any of them say it is wrong, and won’t work even if you tone it down.

      You introduced the right wing aspect.

      There is no option in the poll for people who think it is ‘wrong’. The poll just assumes a right wing approach is what is needed, and the only objections could be ‘not far enough’, or ‘too far’.

      That’s false.

      • Gosman 3.1.1

        ‘Too radical’ implies that someone thinks it is not going to achieve the outcomes that you are interested in seeing, whether politically, socially, or economically. It implies that you think the policy is right-wing and you don’t agree that right wing policies return the best result. Why is this so difficult for some to grasp?

        • Bright Red 3.1.1.1

          ‘too radical’ implies there is a degree of radicalness in that direction I would have been happy with.

          We’re taking a walk in the forest and you insist we walk 80 degrees south – do I think we’re walking

          – too southward (implying that a lesser southward direction would be ok),
          – not southward enough, or
          – just right?

          What if I think we should be walking northward?

        • Pascal's bookie 3.1.1.2

          ‘Too radical’ does not imply that you think it is ‘too right wing’. It just doesn’t.

          There are left wing radicals Gos.

          They might agree that we need radical change, so their objection would not be the radicalism, but the right wingyness.

          They would not think it is ‘not radical enough’ because they agree we need radical change, and that response (3) actually states that the problem with the report is that it does not go far enough in the direction it goes.

          • Gosman 3.1.1.2.1

            Context PB. context.

            Most sane people would agree that Brash’s taskforce report was from the right of the political spectrum. Hence any criticism of it being too radical would be along those lines.

            If a left wing Government set up a similar taskforce but whose report advocated left wing policies, such as nationalisation of the means of production and compulsory worker councils to control places of work ,then people who thought that it was too radical would be essentially stating they found it too left wing.

            • lprent 3.1.1.2.1.1

              Gee, when have you ever seen that happen. Governments of the left are not that stupid. They get reports from non-radical people to find out facts and ideas that might be useful. They don’t commission reports to get the views of some faithful radical nutters.

            • Gosman 3.1.1.2.1.2

              I’m sure there has been an example of a left wing government somewhere in the world appointing a left wing leaning taskforce to come up with some solution to a problem who came back with left leaning proposals. It is the nature of politics.

            • Pascal's bookie 3.1.1.2.1.3

              Nah, that’s bollocks Gos.

              Any poll that can’t distinguish between the responses of the National Party and the Socialist Workers Party is a load of right wing pants.

            • Tim Ellis 3.1.1.2.1.4

              So is Mr Caygill a “faithful radical nutter” LP? If that’s the case then why was he the electricity czar for the last labour government?

              • lprent

                TE: (the reply failed…)

                Exactly what does running a business have to do with coming up with policy ideas? I think you have a few circuits crossed about types of tasks and thinking techniques required to achieve them.

                Running a business involves doing a reasonably specified job (eg make profits, provide good service, raise market share). These are reasonably straight forward in most businesses. The ones that are tricky are when you’re doing it without reasonable resources (where usually the correct response is to wind up the business if you aren’t an entrepreneur). It is largely setting up well-known systems to direct the available resources coherently. I’ve done that in the past.

                It is quite different to navel gazing to look for a viable solution. That is looking for a solutions to a problem where all of the normal solution patterns aren’t going to work. That is pretty much what I like doing (along with actually implementing the solutions as well) and usually what I’m employed for. Quite a different pattern. You’re looking for a path to a solution. That is what the task-force was tasked to do. They didn’t even attempt it.

                The other type of thinking is one that I seldom indulge in these days. It is playing what-if games that you know are impossible to implement. That is what the Brash task-force did. Shows in the lack of rigor and the sheer lack of any implementation path. Anyone can do that. It usually helps to have a few beers before starting.

                The type of brain activity is completely different. If you don’t understand the difference then you probably haven’t done it enough for me to explain…

            • felix 3.1.1.2.1.5

              Don’t be a fuckwit Tim – we went over this yesterday and you conceded that Caygill is, indeed a right-wing neoliberal ideologue.

              Would you like me to link back to that conversation?

    • Chris 3.2

      The poll assumes that everyone is right wing, which is patently untrue. The phrase ‘you don’t like it because it is too radically right wing’ implies that if it were merely ‘right wing’ then I would like it.

      The poll reflects poor grammar. Better phrasing would see “You prefer a more left wing analysis and prescription”, which leaves room for people to agree (meaning they are left wing), or disagree (meaning that they are either centre or right wing).

    • lprent 3.3

      No I’m saying that they are taking some bullshit without any analysis or backing and printing it without thinking.

      Point me to one bit of analysis in the report. There isn’t any. What it is is a statement of faith.

      It is crap.

    • lprent 3.4

      What I’d suggest the report of a statement of faith is that a particular approach would work. What I don’t see is any analysis that the approach would actually work or indeed that it has worked in the past or that it has worked anywhere.

      However the some credulous journos and editors appear to writing stories as if all three cases were proved. Hell I’m a dry economically and I’ve never seen any of Brashes prescriptions ever work for more than a few years in any country.

      What I have seen work are the type of pragmatic policies designed to bring up the capabilities inside an economy. Aussie does that and it works over decades. Of course they don’t use ANY of Brashes prescription.

      • Zorr 3.4.1

        An interesting side note here:

        I was watching the most recent Intelligence Squared debate yesterday that happened to have Richard Harries (Anglican minister), Charles Moore (ex-editor of The Guardian), A.C. Grayling and Richard Dawkins. Now, out of these four in a debate over “Atheism is the new fundamentalism”, only one of them pursued a line of ad hominem attack. Take a guess which?

        If you guessed the ex-editor of a major newspaper, you would be right. And I think this example speaks a lot about those that are in charge of the content of such papers that no longer can we trust them to be the 4th Estate as they no longer intend on reporting with as little bias and as much insight as possible. Preferring instend to scream as shrilly and emotively as possible in their attempt to sling mud at opposing players. They are no longer reporters, they are entertainers and should be treated like the clowns they are.

      • Armchair Critic 3.4.2

        Out of curiosity I thought a dip in the sewer would be a good way of seeing if anyone could defend the report. And DPF must be feeling a bit lonely, he is one of the few actually trying to support it. But it looks like his brain is on holiday, no mention of the lack of any analysis or ideas that have been shown to work.
        It also occurred to me that there have been no posts here on DPF for ages. Is this a sign of how irrelevant he has become?

        • lprent 3.4.2.1

          He is less interesting whilst on holiday. I suspect that he doesn’t have as much help as he’d need. And I got tired looking at the photo-album.

          • Armchair Critic 3.4.2.1.1

            From the first time I visited KB it was clear he needed help. And maybe some support writing posts and managing his site, too.
            The 2025 post was thoughtless. Just the recommendations quoted, followed by “I agree” or “I don’t know enough to comment” after each one. The only credit I can give for the KB is that he sometimes knows that he doesn’t know.
            The holiday snaps are dull.

  3. toad 4

    Um, look at who OWNS the MSM, and are you surprised?

    Interesting that this leads straight into Eddie’s next post.

    • lprent 4.1

      Yeah that happens. Purely unintentional. I wrote most of the post last night. But posts are a pain. You need the hook at the front, and I couldn’t figure one. It has to be simple, effective, and understandable. So the post was sitting on the laptop waiting for some more thinking time along with the other 50 or so (and the 10 or so at the standard that almost made it).

      Then I saw felixs comment and there was the hook. An easy to see stupid online poll that failed to offer a reasonable alternative is a perfect example of the issue……. The post was completed a few minutes later while waiting for compile to run. Posted 15 minutes later after I edited out the typos, spelling mistakes and above all the half-finished sentences that are the bane of my writing style. I often wish I had a compiler to check for syntax for english.

      But the media are frigging annoying me at present. They seem to have already hit the silly season.

  4. Rodel 5

    Here’s a survey for TV1.
    Tick one.

    Don Brash has an IQ of:

    A) 80
    B) 70
    C) 60
    D) Less than 60

    Now that’s fair isn’t it?

  5. john smith 6

    God you’re a moaning old cunt iprent why don’t you fuck off to Norway.

    • Amarello 6.1

      Well iprent, take it from me, it’s better to be made to leave than forced to stay.
      iprent, don’t take offence, one has to use this opportunity to ones advantage.
      It is clear Mr Smith wants to burn a bridge.

      This isn’t so bad, really.

      I’m better, maybe.

      I love white puppies, do you? Especially when they have happy faces, and can run up and down a cliff face- impressive.

    • luva 6.2

      JS

      It is all part of the new left wing “NZ sucks” campaign.

      look back at Steve Piersons posts to define that phrase

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