Pete George, runs a small blog out of Dunedin when he isn’t boring the crap out of people with meaningless babble and useless advice in the comments at kiwiblog and other sites. At the end of this post about the party/blog affliations he stated:-
NOTE: If anyone has clarifications or corrections to make please advise and I will update the above information.
Now in the post, he lists a number of authors from The Standard and makes characterisations of their political party affiliations. Most of which are inaccurate in varying degrees, but he paints all but one of the selected authors as being strong Labour supporters or members. He ends with:-
That lineup makes Chauvel’s accusation about right wing blogs very ironic.
The Labour MP Charles Chauvel said in his valedictory speech (bold highlight is mine)
Institutions beyond government need strengthening too. Democracy requires a free, well-resourced, unbiased fourth estate. Journalists working in much of our undercapitalized, foreign-owned media are under constant professional pressure. This comes from many quarters, including the constant need to sell newspapers and airtime, and to compete with instantly available online sources. In the case of the two better-known right wing blogs, those online sources are proxies for the present government, with much copy supplied directly out of ministers’ offices at taxpayers’ expense. A general dumbing down, but more importantly a loss of independence, have been among the inevitable results.
The implication that Pete George is evidentially trying to imply is that The Standard is run by Labour in the same manner that those two blogs are.
Of course he doesn’t state that explicitly because I have found him to be one of those people who is too dishonest to state what they actually thinks. He prefers to dogwhistle from the sidelines in a “balanced” way. He also avoids direct argument when he does this. Now to me and many others that just shows a certain lack of courage and usually makes his opinions virtually worthless to anyone who uses their brain. As far as I can tell he tends to regard it as “politeness”. I usually describe it as being a hypocrite. But that is just my personal view.
However lets take that dogwhistle and analyse it to make it absolutely clear what he is doing because it is a common technique used on political blogs.
To create this hypothesis he has omitted a considerable number of The Standard’s authors. And he also either hasn’t bothered to read or retain the information about the ones he has included. This can be seen because in his descriptions he has omitted anything that disagrees with his hypothesis.
Now lying by omission is an interesting political and media technique because all that you have to do is to exclude any data that doesn’t fit your hypothesis. Everything you do state may be technically correct, but only if you exclude everything that would contradict it.
In this case the interesting points that the authors make about themselves. Which in a digital medium (and in most of life) is usually all that you really know about anyone. This is the key factor that many of the rather strange proponents of “real names” on blogs seldom seem to understand. Having a real name tells you very little about them. Having them tell you what they think, or even what they don’t care to share, does tell you a quite a lot.
This approach of selectively throwing away contradictory information in favour of a predefined theory is one of the cardinal sins in science. There negative results are usually perceived to be as valuable as positive ones. Discarding contradictory information in the pursuit of a good story line is also frowned upon in mainstream media as can be seen in Broadcasting Standard decisions.
But it is pretty common in single-author blogs because it is a effective way of dog whistling to an small audience. In NZ it is an especial favourite of “two better-known right wing blogs” at kiwiblog and whaleoil. Both as Pete George helpfully points out can be considered to be single author blogs.
When we set up The Standard we deliberately made it a multi-author blog because it meant that other authors could and do disagree with others. The result is that our authors seem to make a point about writing posts on the same topic, but often with a differing perspective. usually the fill in the blanks for the others. What the authors don’t do for each other, the commentators tend to finish.
But we are looking at Pete George with some analysis of his technique on this post on his single author blog. So lets look at the last two months of posts at The Standard from the start of the year.
Now if I looked back over a longer period, the numbers of authors and posts increases quite dramatically and would make the analysis unwieldy. But a couple of months is long enough to smooth the vagaries of the usual distractions of the life outside of the blogs. Let us also compare what Pete George asserts about each author against what the stated party voting intentions were at the last election where we have it.
- lprent – 5 posts. “open about longstanding connections with Labour and a party member”. Well that used to be accurate. However he managed to omit that I will be party voting Green at the next election. I guess he is rather forgetful and omitted it – despite his writing about it at the time.
- Mike Smith – 9 posts. “works in David Shearer’s office”.Wow – what a inordinate level of omission. Mike retired as the long standing party secretary of the Labour party in 2009. We asked him to join me as a trustee of the trust that runs The Standard in 2010. He couldn’t resist starting to write posts later that year.
However I don’t think that anyone who knows politics is surprised that David Shearer’s office also wanted his advice on a part-time basis. He has a rather lot of political experience (unlike Pete apparently).
- IrishBill – 17 posts. “Labour party member”.In the words of a Tui ad – “Yeah right!”
At the last election he saying that he was most likely to vote Mana. And I seem to remember that in 2008, he was planning on voting microscopic Workers party.
He did write a tongue in cheek post about why others should join the Labour party late last year. He’d dearly love to swing the party left and being a member allows a vote on decisions that would help that. It’d be logical for him to follow his own advice. However it’d be hard to find anywhere where he has said he did.
- Anthony Robins – 53 posts. “loyal Labour Party member”.Sort of, but as anyone who reads r0b is aware, he is so much more than that. At the last election he observed that on his party vote “In the past I’ve voted Alliance, Green and Labour” but was going to vote Labour.
Hell I’m more “loyal” than that. I voted Values once in my first election in 1978 and have voted Labour ever since.
- Eddie - 21 posts. “various people believed to have used this pseudonym, all with obvious Labour connections, sometimes used for blatant political attacks, has been proven wrong”.Interesting that Pete George simply repeats dreck from Whaleoil. Well I guess it beats thinking. And I suspect that he edited something out of that statement because it makes little sense as written.
Eddie has been critical of just about every left party at one time or another over the last 5 years. But he has always been informed, left, and critical of Labour and the Greens at various times. He said that he’d vote Labour last election (and I think the Greens in 2008).
- Zetetic – 19 posts. “this may be another multi-use pseudonym with perhaps union/Labour connections”.Huh? I can’t remember Zet ever mentioning unions and his posts that even mention Labour are usually somewhat disdainful. However as he mostly stirs in his posts it is frequently difficult to see the difference. He said he was voting for the Mana party in 2011 (and RAM in 2008).
- James Henderson – 22 posts. I’ll ignore the unsubstantiated whaledreck Pete George asserts. But JH always party votes Green.
Ok, Pete George had 5 out of the 7 as being strongly Labour. Who knows what he was saying about Eddie. And he had JH as the token Green – probably threw him in to provide the “balance” he always wants to be seen as having.
However with the exception of Mike Smith for Labour and JH for the Greens, his examples are all of people who have in the past or in the future intend to party vote somewhere on the left. In other words they are normal activists of the left. They vote according to what they think is required, and frequently disagree.
Moreover Pete George carefully and in at least one instance (me) knowingly omitted data that would disrupt his hypothesis.
But being analytical about what else was omitted may help to clarify what he was trying to achieve.
The Standard has a number of other authors who have written posts on this site in the same two months, and who are not on Pete’s list. I’ve dropped them in alphabetical order.
- Ben Clark - 12 posts. Labour party member and previous Labour candidate. It is a safe bet that he supports Labour. Specifically at the last election he supported himself.
- Bill - 3 posts. If I had to bet, I’d say probably leans towards the anarchist viewpoints. Definitely not a member of any party. Said he was voting NZ First last election.
- Bunji – 11 posts. It’d be hard to figure out who he’d actually vote for…
- Helen Kelly – 2 posts. CTU and union background and I have no idea who she votes for.
- Karol – 19 posts. Probably leaning towards voting for the Greens or Mana based on her statements in posts and comments. Has voted Labour in the past.
- Queen of Thorns – 6 posts. Said she was voting Greens last election.
- RedLogix – 1 post. Said last election that he was a Green party member, but would vote NZ First for tactical reasons.
This is a lesser number of posts in total (146 cf 52) but still more than a quarter of the posts in the period. Three of the authors had more posts than either myself or Mike Smith. Karol has more than IrishBill and the same as Zet. So why weren’t they included?
Well I guess because they followed even more strongly the alternate hypothesis. The one stated in The Standard’s about
We come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement.
I guess that Pete George must have just omitted them. The obvious conclusion is that was because he didn’t like what that said about The Standard as being exactly what was stated in the about. Of course he could have just been plagiarising the rubbish from someone else. But he did state at the bottom on his post
YourNZ occasionally feature’s guest posts (more are welcome!) but it currently pretty much my own blog.
So I think that pretty well proves that Pete George along with his other dysfunctional attributes on the blogs is also a liar by omission. I hope that this example helps people to identify the elements of the technique…