The media has this really frustrating practice whereby big issues raised by the opposition are broken down into simplistic analysis of stray collections of words and then this is used as a means of attack. As we saw this week a Minister can absolutely drop the ball on an important issue involving diplomatic immunity and relations with a friendly nation with no adverse consequence but god help the leader of the opposition if a phrase in a speech can when extracted raise the ire of some.
The practice goes like this:
It is not as if the right are lacking in brains and are unable to parse a whole speech and only able to understand a few words clumped together. Matthew Hooton and David Farrar are urbane intellectuals but unfortunately they regularly choose to attack in this particular way. They obviously believe that protection of an unfettered market is vital and if raising an argument that is effectively intellectually tricky is the price to pay then so be it.
Labour’s anti domestic violence policy release was impressive. The bottom line, Labour is prepared to put $60 million over 4 years into addressing domestic violence. That is a lot of money. The debate should be:
Instead of this the right wing want us to focus on six words. Six words in a passage immediately surrounded by 48 other words. If you read the six words you get one impression. But if you read the 54 words you get an entirely different impression. And you can decide to read the whole package and make an informed decision. Instead the media want us to concentrate on their spin applied to those six words.
And in a further irony it is intriguing that some men are so incensed at David Cunliffe’s six words yet I have not heard any complaint by them that someone had fired bullets at Hone Harawira’s office.
The right is getting tedious. They wait for a speech, grab a few words out of context, apply large amounts of spin and then set it free in social media to do its damage.
And the press then buy into the spin and keep repeating it. I make no apology for criticising them. Their role in our democracy is far too important for them to not do their job properly.
A heading that the Herald could have used for instance came from Women’s Refuge chief executive Heather Henare who said “David Cunliffe’s speech was, I have to say, inspiring”. But instead it focussed on the six words.
And they were taken out of context.
Here is what David Cunliffe said (thanks Imperator Fish).
“Can I begin by saying I’m sorry,” he said.
“I don’t often say it. I’m sorry for being a man right now, because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children.
“So the first message to the men out there is: wake up, stand up and man up and stop this bullshit!”
And beat up on David time continues for the media. Yesterday was fascinating. At the same time that he was being criticised for adopting such a controversial stance he was also accused by Bryce Edwards in the Herald of being too bland and too close to National. Various sources were cited. Which is it? Can someone let me know? Is David Cunliffe too radical or is he too close to National or is he both at the same time. The lack of thought that goes into this type of media reporting is jaw dropping.
And David is right. Violence is an issue for all of us because we can address the causes. We need a more tolerant supportive society. We need to address poverty, improve the quality of education, treat mental health issues more seriously, address our deeply ingrained attitude to alcohol and provide better role models for our young men. And most of all our attitude to women needs to change and change fast. There needs to be a discussion of these issues, and this is far too important for it to be sidelined by right wing spin on six words.
All that I ask is that the media engages their thought processes before reporting right wing spin. And that we have a real debate about the many important issues that our country faces.