That our supposed democracy is not in a healthy state is common knowledge. A country whose young families have no hope of saving enough for a future house, and where so many can’t even afford basic accommodation expenses, is in a very bad way. Undeniably, it is recent incompetent governments, both former Labour and today’s National Parties, which have brought about this inexcusable state of affairs. In many crucial areas we have become a nation in decline.
“A new study commissioned by Victoria University of Wellington’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) has found that New Zealanders have little trust in government, and that trust has decreased over the last three years.” Not surprisingly, to those increasingly fed up with a biased, exclusionary media, lazy in analysis, but condescending to readers and viewers, both TV and the print media tied with the government in attracting a low 8% of respect by those polled – compared to 56% for doctors, the highest-polling profession.
No wonder, with a basically new phenomenon emerging. This is the sheer arrogance and creeping nastiness which has become entrenched in much of the media. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the inexcusably snide comments from both editorial writers – (hiding behind their cloak of anonymity) – and trendy, but ignorant and condescending columnists sniping at the individual whose courage, initiative and foresight has contributed so much to the people of Britain claiming back their country.
It’s fair to maintain that Nigel Farage is a great man. He has even been called a great British hero. At those exceptional moments in history, when the tide of events has turned because of the courage, intelligence and vision of one individual, a traditional King James Bible verse (an excerpt of John 4:23.) has been used to recognise and pay tribute to the one who has stood up to be counted – “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”.
The disparaging comments of liberal-left media, contrasting with the justified tributes paid to Farage, are a good indication of how out of touch are our supercilious commentariat – as well as the government – with so-called ordinary New Zealanders – what we can well call real New Zealanders. His extraordinary achievement when heading UKIP led to the referendum the ruling class in Britain would far rather have avoided. But in it, the majority of the people showed they repudiated the never-ending diktats of the EU leading to the loss of sovereignty and independent decision-making in their own country. Farage has said, quite accurately, that his aim was for his countrymen to get their own country back – to no longer have the edicts of Brussels interfering right across the socio-political, economic spectrum. And now he wants his own life back.
But oh, the baying that then ensured, with an NBR columnist basically calling Farage a quitter because he has now stood aside – because he has not been so hooked on power that he wanted to stay on as leader of a political movement which triumphed over the political establishment. Why the unnecessary, unpleasant disparaging of a man with integrity? The democratic Romans would have revered him. They were rightly so suspicious of the individual who clings onto power (and the damage he or she then causes – we only have to look at a Helen Clark and a John Key to see this in action) that, in the days of the republic, they would not allow their consuls (two at a time, each with the ability to veto the actions of the other) to rule for more than year.
Both then had to step down and were sent to the provinces, partly to remove them from the temptations of power in Rome. This NBR columnist (which, to give the journal its due, mounts an excellent forum for discussion and debate) had probably never heard of Cincinnatus – the great general historically respected for just this. Given supreme power for six months, to win a desperately needed battle, Cincinnatus then laid aside his command and went back to his farm – to reclaim his own life. No historical parallels there? But right on cue came Gwynne Dyer, too, sniping away in a column that sounded as if he was a Bremain poor loser: “For comic relief Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party also quit, saying that he wanted his life back. “Comic relief? This sniping from the sidelines is now a feature of today’s condescending media.|
Given the lack of objective analysis now being offered by too many New Zealand commentators on the issues of the day, where throwaway, lightweight, even malicious comments are now common, I’m increasingly reminded of poor Charlotte Dawson’s only too accurate statement that “New Zealand is small and nasty and vindictive.” This certainly doesn’t apply to New Zealanders as a whole, whose generosity of spirit is well known. However, the constant snideness from media commentators certainly contributes to the reason the media are listed very low on New Zealanders’ lists of occupations they admire.
NZ Initiative’s Oliver Hartwich has accurately identified the fact that it was the political union first and foremost the British people voted against. He pointed out that “Neither is Britain the most Euroskeptic country in the EU, by a long shot. ‘The problem,’ says Mr Hartwich, “is that Brussels doesn’t seem to have understood what just happened.
” ‘It isn’t clear Brussels has taken the right lesson from this. Their immediate response was to ask for deeper integration into Europe and proceed with the project. But that was exactly the kind of attitude that was rejected by Britain,” Mr Hartwich pointed out. He added that ‘The EU is going to need massive reform, and most of its countries actually want the trade and market access, not strictly the political union. So the question as to what might happen to the bloc in the future is far from clear.”
Moreover, some of Britain’s richest people were prepared to possibly lose a great deal of their personal fortunes in voting for Brexit – (including construction equipment magnate Anthony Bamford, inventor James Dyson, and Peter Hargreaves, cofounder of Hargreaves-Lansdown, the UK’s largest retail broker) – in contrast to Richard Branson, Li Ka-shing and George Soros urging the county to vote Bremain.
However, what distinguished so much of the almost vindictive reaction of our media to the Brexit victory is typified by a Nelson Mail editorial, with its writer conveniently un-named. In an example of today’s trashy commentaries, with its over-the top language, and marked lack of objectivity, its writer had ranted: “The case for Brexit is being stoked by racism and sinister ‘little Britainism’ ” Really, sinister? That the people of Britain turned against a governing establishment that was not listening to their very real concerns about what was happening to the country is hardly sinister.
There is no doubt that the British concern at the lack of proper border controls and ill-thought, immigration permissiveness causing damage to the infrastructure of the country, is perfectly reasonable and well-justified. The Brexit vote was far from being basically a question of racism or xenophobia, as other media writers promptly bayed. Oh, those useful words wielded like bludgeons by the Right-Thinking… xenophobia – racism – homophobia – all too often deliberately designed to inhibit genuine debate, and wielded with an unsustainable certainty that those scattering them through their writing are providing superior analysis – even when they are demonstrably wrong.
This same Nelson Mail editorial writer’s claim before the event, “that Britain has become hysterical about the issue of possible exit from the European Union” was also a silly exaggeration. It has been on the whole a younger generation, ignorant of the issues underpinning the damaging power–grab of the European Union, which has complained the loudest. The only potentially “sinister” issue arises from the failure of some of these Remain supporters who appear to have no idea about how democracy works, and have demanded their own way, calling for another referendum in the hope of having it. This farcical stance has become unhealthy in the way they have turned against a far more informed older generation which looks back on two world wars where German ambition led to a continent in turmoil, the needless deaths of scores of millions of innocent people, and Britain and the Commonwealth, for a major part of this war, making a stand alone against the troublemaker of Europe.
And predictably, a rather muddled Der Spiegel editorial lamented the triumph of democracy, instanced by the Brexit vote, in the predictably autocratic German fashion of the country whose hierarchy has too often assumed a born -to-rule authority. Its editorialist lamented that “Brexit sheds light on the problems created when direct democracy is abused,” Really? He argues that “In our complex 21st century world, we have no choice but to delegate authority for decision-making to our elected representatives.”
Fortunately, he couldn’t be more wrong, and this horse has well and truly bolted, dragging with it the theorising that governments know best, and that politicians have special insights which justify their ignoring the concerns and the voices of the majority. He no doubt found it very convenient to overlook the fact that Switzerland is the most successful and direct of all democracies – because the Swiss fought for that 100 Day check on any legislation its parliamentarians passed – which our own movement is backing here.
It is ironic, then that once again Germany as a powerhouse is in league with the France she invaded in our parents’ lifetimes, and now dominating the EU, while at the same time Angela Merkel’s unbalanced and ill-judged thinking is causing extraordinary damage to German society. There must now be many of the older generation wondering why so many British and Commonwealth soldiers died defending France, given what is today seen, ironically, as its unholy alliance with the country for whose freedom so many British and Commonwealth soldiers die.
But back to the word sinister, so beloved by the same Nelson mail editorialist, in full swing, pontificating “Brexit, however is as much about politics and economics, and the politics of it are sinister. European xenophobia and anti-refugee hysteria is again in full swing and nowhere more than in Britain.” And “Brexit won’t make Britain great again, or free it from the dead hand of Brussels.”
Another editorial, no doubt from the same writer, given its familiar-sounding tones, where the writer had to face to the fact that Brexit won, began: “The shockwaves from Brexit will shake the world for a long time. Few of the effects will be good. Some of the symbolism is rank, even repulsive… It’s ‘Independence Day’ for Britain declares the English demagogue Nigel Farage. His vision of Britain is of a reactionary white enclave of frightened xenophobes. Farage crows at the prospect: most of the world weeps.”
On he rants. And this un-identified editorialist has obviously interviewed most of the world, judging by the strength of his conviction?
Such basic drivel has no place in a reputable newspaper. But the Nelson Mail is not alone in its increasingly biased rejection of viewpoints with which its under-educated staff grapple (judging by the poor standard of grammar and syntax, let alone, apparently, any genuine understanding of the issues involved, and the history underpinning them). But it’s interesting that he/she rails about Brexit being (partly) underpinned by racism and working class “conservatism”.
There we have a definite agenda – that of today’s neo-liberal permissiveness attacking the thoughtful conservatism which once protected family values, and stabilised our society. “Conservatism” has become a target in the eyes of the ignorant, especially those too young to have any real understanding of what is at stake. In their eyes, those who do, an older generation (who have learnt through experience the lessons of the history that younger New Zealanders saw deliberately removed from the schools’ curricula) should be barred from voting. It’s interesting that the views of the “working class” are now distasteful to the we-know-best… the self-appointed elite.
A quick overview of other dailies had more lightweight columnists, as in Tracy Watkins’s Political Week, stating on no evidence whatsoever that the Brexit vote is bad news for us down here. Inevitably, she lumps “far Right leader Nigel Farage” as, in reality one of the anti-politicians “no different to any of their rivals…in it for the power, which is all any politician is in it for.”’
So that’s it, is it? We’ve been told – let’s hope we know our place. The fact that Farage has indeed thankfully resigned from Brexit, laying down that power in order to get his own life back seems to have escaped her also. In his own words: “During the referendum campaign I said I want my country back. What I’m saying today is I want my life back, and it begins now,” he said.
While our official commentators fell over themselves with tedious, uninformed accusations of racism and xenophobia, pseudo-experts in full cry, the commonsense of the British, closer by far to the Islamification of Germany, Sweden, and other EU countries, contrasts with Angela Merkel’s folly. Her too long uncontrolled immigration policy has allowed many hundreds of thousands of Muslim people into European countries with no infrastructure to support them – people whose preponderance of angry young men with no jobs, no income and an ingrained antagonism to the West has caused a dramatic rise in the crime rates and the under-reported raping of young Western girls http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7557/germany-rape-migrants-crisis Isis terrorists boast they are well represented in these numbers. To chastise the British, calling them xenophobic for their reluctance to have this scenario repeated, is ridiculous.
This sort of sheer arrogance is combined with the anachronism that newspapers still allow their editorial writers to hide behind their nameless pronouncements, which they absurdly claim is “the voice of the newspaper”. In fact, an editorial is only the voice of one individual reporter or feature writer bestowing his or her own, all too often biased and under-informed opinion on the public – one opinion only – one very possibly quite at odds with the opinions held by other writing staff.
It is this sort of unbalanced writing which is causing newspapers to lose subscriptions and readership. Moreover, it is a deliberately contrived imbalance of power where the writer of the editorial claims the right to remain anonymous, while today’s correspondents are required to give full details of their names, addresses, etc. It’s not so long ago that letter writers themselves could use pseudonyms, often for very good reasons. And there is no doubt that requiring the public to sign letters has inhibited debate – often because correspondents writing in good faith find it distasteful and objectionable to then be personally attacked by those unable to engage in courteous debate…especially when they have a ”liberal’ axe to grind, and specialise in the racist, homophobic, etc. name-calling.
Moreover, that some sections of the media, including Radio New Zealand, are no longer allowing comments on their websites, in spite of the fact they have admitted that some of these are valuable, is also a bad democratic outcome. The National Business Review, on the other hand, is valuable in providing the opportunity for public feedback, much-needed comment and debate, with or without a pseudonym.
Contrast this with the media power-play of those daily newspapers, which, (reasonably enough, for space requirements) set a 200 word limit on letters to the editor, but then insist on retaining their ”right” to interfere with what a correspondent has actually said – even though it will appear over the latter’s name. Well-educated writers have strong reason to object to subliterate, semi-educated staff rewriting sections of a letter, then subsequently publishing it over the correspondent’s own name – thereby bringing him/her into possible disrepute in the eyes of an educated public.
The editorial “right” to alter and amend, or abridge a letter is uncalled for -unless it is abusive, actionable, or defamatory. Provided a correspondent keeps to the requirement of 200 words (with none of the above) it’s time that the daily newspapers dropped such unreasonable demands. The imbalance of power is obvious. The public’s best response is to no longer subscribe – and to make it known why. Unfortunately, in the print media, this entails no longer having access to the letters to the editor – often far more informed and better written than the editorials, and the writing of the regular columnists..
What has happened with Brexit has been described as a sea change in British politics, a move away from representative democracy to something more direct. It was the working class regions, northern England, the East Midlands, the Black Country and the Welsh valleys identical with the Chartist movement’s stronghold’s years ago which once more rebelled against what was seen as establishment corruption. But which of our opinionated columnists have even heard of the Chartist movement?
As the Spectator’s irrepressible Taki has pointed out, in illustrating how “the technocratic dictatorship of Brussels has already enslaved my country (Greece) – “Freedom is freedom and there are no other words to replace it.” That the ordinary man and woman voted for Brexit, supporting Nigel Farage, the man who stood to be counted again the tide of the times, he likens to the example of the legendary Leonidas. But which of our uneducated graduates with degrees in economics, in business, in media studies, in law and so on have even heard of the hero who held the pass at Thermopylae – the story of famous 300 against the Persian Xerxes and his army of over a million – until a traitor showed the Persians a back way in.
Taki rightly dismisses ”the Greek chorus of women” (and not just women) “announcing doom and gloom” and invoking “populism” as a Bad Thing – when really they are talking about democracy. Some of them may also be distorting the truth. Going on the record of the media’s inventiveness and fabrications, we have no real evidence that Andrea Leadsom, a former candidate for the Conservative party leadership, actually did say that Theresa May should not become prime minister because she has no children. This report was strongly rejected, with Leadsom herself saying that she was repeatedly asked about her children, and made it clear that she did not want this to be a feature of the campaign…that she was in fact disgusted at the way this has been presented. No surprises here.
What has been a dismaying feature of women commentators for some time now is the use of crude language, deterioration in standards more marked than that of the men. Typical is Fran O’Sullivan’s invoking of “a pissing contest” between the Prime Minister and Reserve Bank Governor. Why the crudeness? – when, with good reason, women were long respected because they set the standards of civilised behaviour and restraint in the use of language. The still-there, Rosemary McLeod, with a possible record of longevity among columnists, has long employed an off-putting, also basically crude use of language and sexist imagery, discussing women politicians’ legs, “something to flaunt”… a bitch-slapping…May was slagged for not using her uterus like a proper woman…boasting that her mating tackle had delivered offspring”. This basically vulgar writing is distasteful to women who still do set store on standards. Moreover, it is now these women commentators, more than the men, who scatter around words like pissing, arse, boobs, tits, fu**ing – with no apparent thought of the example they are failing to set for the young – and the lack of respect felt for them by other women and the men – except perhaps those of the same ilk.
If we have a big problem in this country in the form of a government now disengaged from the realities of life for so many New Zealanders, one moreover, now employing genuinely racist policies of Maori separatism and preference – (another whole topic) – we have an equally large problem in the print media, now habitually under-performing in areas of objectivity and analysis.
Accurate? Objective? Independent? Emeritus Professor David Flint, a member of the Order Of Australia, who has written widely on such matters as the media, international economic law and the constitution, including in his prophetic Twilight of the Elites, examines in his excellent book, Malice in Media Land, how campaigning journalists have become unelected and unaccountable participants in the political process, requisitioning the airwaves of public broadcasters as well as the columns of once great newspapers. He illustrates how we now have “an élite media, with certain honourable exceptions, not so much reporting the news as campaigning vigorously…at the same time as the standing of journalists among the general public could not be lower…While in individual instances this is of course unfair, it is quite true that the news media is regarded as a tainted institution…so much so that if it were any other institution, the media would be calling for it to be dismantled, or at least radically reformed with the mass resignation of the incumbents.”
David Flint’s own co-authored book, Give Us Back Our Country reflects the same wish of Australians at large that found fulfilment in Brexit’s victory. In it, he pays tribute to our own prior movement, as set out in the web link www.100days.co.nz and in my book The 100 Days – claiming back New Zealand… What has gone wrong and how we can control our politicians.
All over the world, people have learnt the lesson of hope which Brexit has given. It is time for New Zealanders too, to claim back our own country – from both our agenda-drive government -and from the unacceptable bias of much of the mass media.
© Amy Brooke
Amy Brooke, Convener. See my book “100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand …what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians.” Available on Kindle, or through www.copypress.co.nz and HATM Publishers.
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