NZers like to think our mainstream media are “balanced” and “neutral,” unlike in the UK or US. That’s becoming less and less credible. New Zealand print media is basically owned by two companies: Fairfax (Stuff, Press, Dominion etc) and APN (Herald). I’ve written about Fairfax a few times before; they have a major crush on the personality of John Key and a banal pro-National way of framing things (compare this headline with this one, for example; though the articles themselves are more balanced).
I haven’t mentioned the Herald so much – they usually seem not quite as bad as Stuff. But it’s worth reviewing what they’ve been up to over the last few weeks, in case you need any more convincing that our corporate newspapers are biased towards the corporate party.
The New Zealand Herald and its reporters:
- (some time April-June) were fed stories by National, their donors and likely their bloggers about toxic National donor Donghua Liu donating to Labour too, and David Cunliffe sending a routine form letter for Liu 11 years ago as his local MP;
- (June 12–19) repeatedly reported that Labour’s rules meant Cunliffe could be rolled by caucus from June 20;
- (June 17) set up Cunliffe by asking him about his involvement with Liu, correctly guessing he would have forgotten the letter;
- (June 18) released the letter, portraying it as similar to what Maurice Williamson did – which is ridiculous, and calling for Cunliffe’s head because of the forgotten letter (which Occam’s razor suggests he had genuinely forgotten), despite never calling for John Key to resign over his numerous “brain fades” (most of which, Occam’s razor suggests he had not really forgotten), nor Judith Collins over her blatant Oravida corruption and lies;
- (June 21) printed one dissenting opinion by Fran O’Sullivan who criticised her colleagues;
- (June 16,18,19,20,21,22) meanwhile, gradually ramped up another smear about alleged undeclared donations from Liu to Labour, on the basis of contradictory and unreliable evidence; a story which (at most) suggested Labour have done similar things to National, and which turned out to be essentially bollocks;
- (June 24-27) when the bogus donations story collapsed, offered ‘clarifications’ but stuck to their guns and defended themselves, hitting back at O’Sullivan and not really apologising nor criticising whoever fed them the false info;
- (June 26) changed the subject by uncritically promoting a puff piece biography of John Key by one of their journalists and attacking Labour for suggesting taxes on capital gains and $150,000+ incomes, like most countries.
You could say the media just love a good political scandal, whoever’s the target, and it just happens that Labour’s the target this time (and often an easy target); and that sometimes the press get it wrong, and it just happens they were wrong this time. That’s basically how they’re defending themselves. But what precedent is there for major media outlets doing similar things to these for the other side? When Labour were in government, Labour were the press’s main target (notwithstanding Brethren, and certainly since Key’s ascendancy); now, in opposition, they still are (notwithstanding teapots).
Anyway, I can’t for the life of me work out what all this has to do with one in four children living in poverty, skyrocketing inequality, skyrocketing housing costs, climate change, the last 55 Maui’s dolphins, our native forests, a floundering Christchurch rebuild, education, economic policy, the end of our independent foreign policy, war, NSA spying, pro-corporate/anti-democratic trade agreements, corporate dominance of NZ, democracy for Canterbury’s regional council, democracy in general, or any other issues that actually matter to NZ and this election.
Post-script (Fri 4 July):
Post-script (Mon 14 July):
Here’s another example of how the Herald report when a senior National MP does something (genuinely) wrong.
Post-script (Mon 21 July):
Good points made here; another example of “Cunliffe does essentially nothing wrong; Key doing far worse not acknowledged.”
Post-script (Thurs 24 July):
Post-script (Thurs 31 July):
Here’s a good blog from a few months ago about the media’s tendency to just repeat whatever John Key says without doing any fact-checking or real journalism.
Post-script (Wed 10 September):
This very detailed analysis by Frank Macskasy indicates the Liu hit was another example of the now-famous Dirty Politics.
And yesterday, Mickysavage from The Standard responded to the latest idiot millionaire (good at making money, not so good at fact-checking National spin) to whom the corporate media has given uncritical voice to trumpet this propaganda. He says it better than I can:
Rod Drury: “What I’d like to see is the Government have another term because they’ve had two terms where they got the debt sorted …”
Mickysavage: “Such economic illiteracy coming from such a senior businessman is a worry. It obviously needs to be repeated that in June 2008 Labour had paid off
allcrown debt and the crowns accounts showed a slight surplus. By September 2013 net Crown debt had reached $60 billion and increases in debt are predicted for years to come.
Of course many will then trot out Key’s mantra that Labour had left the country with a decade of deficits but this statement is essentially a lie. The Global Financial Crisis was the cause of the sudden change in the country’s finances but instead of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen being blamed I can suggest many other names of those who should take responsibility. Names such as Wall Street, Morgan Stanley, Bear Stern and my personal favourite Merryl Lynch. Because it was a bunch of robber merchant bankers that brought the world’s economy to its knees.”
Here’s a couple more graphs and a couple more quotes, to help illustrate the various impacts of the GFC (for which Key was partly responsible), the 2010 tax changes (which made tax regressive for the majority of incomes), and the Canterbury earthquakes.
However, please note that the main point of this blog was never to say National have been irresponsible with their deficits and debt (I tend to think they have been, but it’s a complicated question). The main point was to show that the right-wing suggestion that Labour are irresponsible with deficits and debt is completely unfounded.
“The estimated cost of the Canterbury rebuild has been increased … Mr Key said the budget would also show the estimated net cost of the earthquakes to the Crown would rise from about $13 billion to about $15 billion.”
“Tax as a proportion of GDP is slightly below OECD averages and has declined markedly over the last few years … New Zealand has, like other countries, faced a cyclical decline in tax revenue as a result of the global financial crisis but there were also important policy steps which reduced tax revenue between 2004–05 and 2009–10.”
I’ve written a sequel blog on the equally pernicious lie that National are better for employment than Labour, because (it’s assumed) beating up beneficiaries and keeping wages low are good for unemployment.