This week before Cyclone Gabrielle hit there was a noted level of scepticism about how bad things would get. Newstalk ZB was, surprise surprise, particularly bad.
“People contacted me from Napier saying some schools were shut there,” broadcaster Kate Hawkesby said on her early morning show, after reading the message from Tauranga.
“I just wonder what’s happened to us as a country that we’ve become this paranoid and this soft.”
This is all good red meat for Newstalk ZB’s core constituency, grumpy old white men who enjoy getting angry.
Mike Hosking joined in. Again from Mitchell’s article:
“What we’ve done is whip ourselves into this extraordinary frenzy,” [Hosking] said, wondering why libraries were closed and trains weren’t operating.
”There is no reason for this level of hysteria.”
They both engaged in a bit of bob both ways covering all sides of the story and both also interviewed experts about the situation, who gave valuable information to listeners but I am sure you get the point. This sort of anti intellectual schist is a core part of the business model.
They were both subsequently shown to be completely, and tragically wrong, just as the right wing media has been over the past 30 years when it comes to climate change. And now that the change is happening in real time they are still wrecking what needs to be a proper debate with their stupid takes.
Hosking has been the king of the stupid take. He said this about climate change in May last year in rubbishing a newly released Scientific tool that predicted inundation:
So, by the time you take the doubt, the fact we’ve been worried about these things seemingly forever, and this new addition of land movement, the question is, has a lot changed? They say, yes of course. Instead of your town being underwater in 60 years it might be 20 years. Then again, it might not.
What we do know is the media is always up for a good old scare story, hence, they continue to give precedence to the alarmism. But in the alarmism is part of the problem, how many times can they scream disaster before it wears off? It’s already started to wear off and has been doing so for years.
And any policy which addresses climate change is regularly ridiculed and attacked. Think cycleways, wind turbines and Three Waters if you need examples.
One may wonder if engaging in anti expert rants and peddling to conspiracy theories is accidental or part of the business model. I have very strong suspicions it is the latter.
From the looks of Dominion’s defamation suit against Fox News it appears that turbo charging frothing at the mouth of its followers is more important than the truth. From Richard Luscombe at the Guardian:
Hosts at Fox News privately ridiculed Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen while simultaneously peddling the same lies on air, according to court filings in a defamation lawsuit against the network.
Rightwing personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are among those named in the $1.6bn action brought by Dominion Voting Systems, the seller of electronic voting hardware and software that is suing Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation for maligning its reputation.
“He’s acting like an insane person,” Hannity allegedly wrote of Trump in the weeks following the election as the host continued to push the so-called “big lie” during his top-rated prime time show, aided by a succession of election deniers he had on as guests.
Even billionaire Fox owner Rupert Murdoch was dismissive of the former president’s false allegations, the filing alleges, calling them “really crazy stuff” in one memo to a Fox News executive, and criticizing Trump’s scattergun approach of pursuing lawsuits in numerous states to try to overturn his defeat.
It was “very hard to credibly claim foul everywhere”, Murdoch wrote, adding in another note that Trump’s obsession with trying to prove fraud was “terrible stuff damaging everybody”.
They were particularly disdainful of Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers who repeatedly claimed that Dominion’s machines were changing Trump votes to Biden votes.
“Sidney Powell is lying,” [Tucker Carlson] wrote to a producer, the Dominion lawsuit alleges. He referred to Powell in a text as an “unguided missile” and “dangerous as hell”.
Trump, Carlson said, was a “demonic force” who was good at “destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
Laura Ingraham thought the same.
Fellow host Ingraham told Carlson that Powell was “a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy,” referring to the former New York mayor and Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani.
Even Sean Hannity thought that what Powell was saying was bonkers.
Hannity, meanwhile, said in a deposition “that whole narrative that Sidney was pushing, I did not believe it for one second”, according to Dominion’s filing.
You may wonder what the link is. Well both media outlets have been pushing ideas without proof in order to give their listener base their daily feed of grumpiness. The Fox News example is particularly jarring. They knew that what they were pedalling about Dominion was false.
Newstalk ZB’s model of trying to hold back progressive change just because it is progressive is very damaging. At the very time we need a deep discussion of where we are going as a country they are holding things back because it is good for ratings.
We need to have an informed discussion. Hosking and Co are not providing this.