MEDIA WATCH: “…But *actually* this is about ethics in political-game journalism”

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Yesterday, a piece of mine on the recent revelations about Hone Harawira employing several gentlemen either accused or convicted of sex offences was published on The Daily Blog. Predictably, given the fierce loyalty which Hone inspires in his party faithful and supporters, this has been somewhat controversial (as demonstrated by the comments section). Some of this response, due to being blog-length and thus more easily disseminable, deserves engagement; although I’m rather disappointed that the general feeling I get from reading a number of pro-MANA perspectives on this issue which go something along the lines of “never mind the criminal charges or the victims …  this is *actually* about ethics in political-game journalism“.

If that phrase sounds familiar to you, given what’s happening in some of the nerdier corners of the internet right about now … there’s a reason for its invocation here. Spoiler Alert: it’s because despite quite vociferous protests to the contrary, this issue *isn’t* about ethics in political journalism.

Enter local MANA Movement Chairman Joe Trinder.

Now I’ll start by stating I fully acknowledge Mr Joe Trinder’s efforts in penning the blog I’m here responding to. It’s not always easy to commit pen to paper or finger to keyboard, particularly when you’re writing under a time pressure and in defence of something you hold dear which you feel is under assault. I also genuinely believe that the more our polis actively engages with what our commentariat is saying – which definitely includes writing responses calling errant bloggers to account for perceived inaccuracies – the better it is for our politisphere.

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Mr Trinder therefore deserves full marks for stumping up with a contribution and response; and good on him for having a go.

However, I *do* nonetheless feel that Mr Trinder has gotten somewhat the wrong end of the stick when it comes to both my piece and the broader context of this sad imbroglio.

Let’s take a sample:

Trinder: “You have asked that Hone Harawira deserves to explain what happened, how would he explain when his next door neighbour is an alleged sex offender. What explanation can Hone offer he wasn’t involved, Hone had no idea this offending was taking place. Why should Hone offer explanations for another man’s crime.”

It appears that Mr Trinder is suggesting that I was demanding Hone Harawira explain the alleged historic offending of Mr Awaru. This is not the case. Explanations for *that* belong in a court-room, not the court of public opinion. I’m *instead* suggesting it would be a relatively good idea for Hone to clear up some factual gaps in this narrative by fronting up to his party faithful and/or the public who paid this man’s wages and explaining when he became aware of the charges against Mr Awaru and why, if he was aware of said charges, Mr Awaru was allowed to represent the MANA Party on Election Night.

That’s all.

As for the next bit … “You have decided that these accusations are justified by the media and they aren’t Maori bashing or a smear campaign, then please explain why Tova Obrien a very good friend of MP Judith Collins broke the story and then attempted to link Hone to this crime.”

Yes, Mr Trinder … that’s because I went away and googled each of the three staff in question. Being from NZF, I’m *fully cognisant* that the media can play dirty tricks. Having spent a brief period existing at the center of a mini-scandal which saw me damn near demand somebody’s Press Council accreditation for inaccuracies and improprieties in their reporting, trust me when I say I’m sympathetic – even empathetic – in cases wherein this happens to other people or parties.

So the FIRST thing I did when I became aware of this situation, is I plugged the names and aliases of all three men into google to see what came up. I checked my facts, in other words. To avoid speculation.

found multiple sources for the nature of the charges or sentence each man was facing, and pretty much all from sources other than TV3, thus confirming their (broad) accuracy. It’s therefore rather weird that Mr Trinder is entertaining the idea that this entire scenario may be an instance of “Maori-bashing or a smear campaign”. Or, as he and other MANA affiliates have labelled this, “speculation”. The legal processes each man has had to undergo, or are presently undergoing are factual [and, because I *just know* I’m going to be called up on this … yes, Mr Awaru is presumed innocent until proven guilty, so no, no I’m *not* stating that the allegations against him are factual (that’s a job for the court) – merely that the allegations factually *exist*]. The only bits in question or which are at issue relate to their employment by MANA/Hone, the conditions associated with same, and when said employment terms ceased.

So can I just point out that the *only* way we’d be able to find out if this was, in fact, some sort of anti-Hone media smear campaign that’s totally inflated and trumped up … is if Hone actually comes out and sets the facts straight about when these guys were employed and when he became aware of the charges facing the gentleman MANA is now apparently referring to as “his neighbour”.

Oh, and I’m not *entirely* sure that a single tweet from Judith Collins is *really* enough to establish there’s a close and personal BFF thing going on Key-Slater style between Judith Collins and Tova O’Brien … but since we’re all apparently in the business of hacking at the messenger rather than seriously debating the message, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised this is the strength of evidence being deployed?

It goes on: “MANA members are correct that they are the target of dirty politics the only reason why your precious Winston doesn’t get attacked is because Judith Collins and Cam Slater admire him.”

Yes, Mr Trinder, #DirtyPolitics was a pretty abominable affair for all parties on the Left – and MANA (or, rather, InternetMANA) definitely found itself targeted. Nobody on the Left (and particularly not my good self) is quibbling with this.

However, it’s wildly inaccurate to state that MANA was attacked during #DirtyPolitics but somehow Winston and NZF weren’t. If Mr Trinder had actually *read* Dirty Politics, then he’d see we were in Slater/National’s sights the whole time – and probably, if anything, more than MANA (rather than DotCom) was. I note that Dirty Politics’ index lists 7 entries for “Peters, Winston” in contrast to two for “Harawira, Hone”; while just from memory we found ourselves subject to Slater offering a bounty for particular materials associated with Andrew Williams, Brendan Horan, and Winston … senior NZF figures including yours truly found themselves under apparent state surveillance because we looked like we might represent a threat to National’s security … Slater started blatantly *making up* the allegations that NZF was having our campaign funded by Kim DotCom because he knew that looked damaging (kinda ironic given who funded InternetMANA’s) … the really really turgid series of allegations about our people which Slater ran in his Truth newspaper … and a *literal litany* of further dirty tricks emanating in our direction from the far-right blue-blood set of New Zealand Politics.

If Mr Joe Trinder *genuinely* believes that Cameron Slater and Judith Collins “admire” Winston, then I would respectfully suggest that Mr Joe Trinder needs to read more FailOil (I can genuinely state I never thought I’d suggest someone needed to read *more* FailOil … but if he’s going to engage in low-brow politicized slander, then I suppose he may wish to learn from the industry leader) . Considering Winston is pretty much Public Enemy #1 for Slater; while Collins’ career basically ended when Winston outed her coup intentions as applied John Key … I really do have to ask why Trinder is trying to make it look like there’s some sort of strategic accord between some of the people who appear to hate NZF the most and Winston. Is it because breathless “reporting” and falsified allegations are evidently so effective a tool for the Right Wing that the MANA Movement feels it’s justified in busting them out to attack other parties on the Left as a sort of smokescreen? 

Could this possibly explain Mr Trinder’s frankly bizarre “criticism” that I’m at issue in what I’ve written because I didn’t devote space in my piece on MANA’s present woes to demanding John Key explain #DirtyPolitics? For the record, I hold Hone in *considerably* higher respect, esteem and regard than I do John Key. That’s why I’m prepared to actually hear him out if he’s got a decent explanation for what’s gone on here. Having said that, I’m not *quite* sure how Hone intends to exonerate himself in this affair – but that’s why I’m asking the question for him to answer rather than attempting to put words in anybody’s mouth. 

As applies John Key, however … in him, I have *zero* trust, faith or confidence. I’m therefore not saying things like “Let’s give John a chance to explain what’s happened” as I am Hone, because there’s frankly no point. I expect lies, slander and evasion from Key’s quarter. I’m *hopeful* for a rational, straightforward, and truthful answer from Hone’s. 

This is, incidentally, why New Zealand First was initially demanding a full-blown Royal Commission of Inquiry into the #DirtyPolitics revelations. Because we don’t trust Key or his cronies to tell the truth about #DirtyPolitics, therefore when they’re spinning madly like a Sufi anyway … why not come straight to the crux of the matter and deploy the highest investigative tool of state to try and get to the bottom of the affair. I feel that NZF demanding a proper investigation and inquiry into #DirtyPolitics rather suborns and supersedes both in efficacy and appropriateness any personal call I could have made for an explanation from the Prime Minister during the course of a blog article on another subject entirely. I also feel that I’ve placed various combinations of words to the effect of “Let’s have a Royal Commission of Inquiry into #DirtyPolitics” in a sufficiently expansive quantity of my previous blogging to feel I’ve done my duty on that score, to boot.  

As for the charge that I’ve somehow “put the boot into Hone Harawira in [my] article” … if Mr Trinder genuinely feels that a piece whose core themes included the idea that “As-is, and acutely conscious of the necessity of balancing both the needs and the deservedly protected status of the survivors with what appears to be the desire of about a third of the political spectrum to make this look as bad as possible for Harawira and MANA … Hone deserves the chance to explain what, exactly, has happened” counts as “Maori-bashing” or “putting the boot in” … then I would respectfully contend it says an *awful* lot more about him and his mindset than it does me and mine.

When it comes to the bit about Winston endorsing Kelvin Davis for Te Tai Tokerau (seriously … *how* is this relevant to anything I’ve written about Harawira over the past three days?) I’ve always found it rather perplexing in the extreme that people in MANA and on the Left generally find it more rhetorically convenient to “blame” Winston for securing Kelvin Davis’ electoral victory than they do, say, Kelvin Davis for campaigning hard and winning the seat. There’s also the small matter of querying which of Kim DotCom or Winston did more to dissuade TTT voters from re-electing MANA.

In any case, I’m not my Chief (although I’ll take any comparisons to him on apparent ability to kick up a ruckus and drop rhetorical bombs, as being high compliments indeed) … and as it happens, I’ve stated in a variety of forae my personal qualms with his strategic decision to back Kelvin Davis in that seat at InternetMANA’s expense. I believe I phrased it in terms of being highly annoyed that NZF had put more effort into ending InternetMANA than we did ACT at the last election. I also stated my sadness that the party I’d known as the one behind Feed The Kids, and the only other party in Parliament to back NZF’s call for full #Renationalization of power companies was now no longer with us.

I do, however, find the concluding paragraphs of Mr Trinder’s piece quite telling. “Why would a Maori MP want to push another Maori MP out of Parliament?” is one of the questions I’ve been called upon by Trinder to answer.

Answer’s quite simple, really: over here in New Zealand First, we don’t see people’s ethnicity first and foremost … we see their contribution. The idea that Mr Trinder is advancing of Maori MPs refusing on point of ethnonationalist principle to attack other Maori MPs is highly, highly problematic – and not just from a civic nationalist perspective, but also from a left-wing one. Would Mr Trinder have us in NZF hold our fire whenever Paula Bennett or Hekia Parata screws up purely on the basis of their ethnicity? Hell, would he be dismayed and demanding blood-spattered electoral vengeance if NZF had somehow managed to unseat Bennett or some other equally arbitrary National Party affiliated Maori MP – or even if Annette Sykes had been successful in unseating Te Ururoa Flavell in Waiariki and destroying the Maori Party?

If he wouldn’t be, then his confusion and annoyance about “a Maori MP [pushing] another Maori MP out of Parliament” is cosmetic at best and the actions of a charlatan otherwise. If he *would* be dismayed at the thought of Bennett, Parata and Bridges losing their Ministries due to ejection from the House purely because these MPs happen to be Maori … then Mr Trinder’s political weltanshauung is even *more* superficial and problematic than it already appears.

One facet of Winston’s reasoning for coming down on Davis’ side in Te Tai Tokerau was his opposition to the idea that the Maori Seats should be used to elect and empower a Pakeha party. I’ve already stated here and elsewhere that my own hatred for the National-led government means I didn’t entirely share Winston’s scruples in this regard. But any way you care to slice it, between this and the charge of “Maori-bashing” earlier in Mr Trinder’s piece, it’s reasonably self-evident that some within MANA have little interest in engaging with the actual issues on the table; and would *much* rather play the race card or attempt to make this about ethics in political journalism in pursuit of a potentially false victimhood instead.

I’ll say that again: the continual efforts on social media and elsewhere of some within MANA to try and make this primarily an issue of ethics in political journalism, rather than allow for a focus on questions of fact about what Hone knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it … is pretty much the equivalent of all the “It’s actually about ethics in video-game journalism” claptrap presently emanating from #GamerGate and affiliates.

Also, for the record … “speculation” might mean something different to Mr Trinder than it does to myself or much of the rest of the English-speaking world … but when we look back at the three pieces I’ve written on this affair over the past few days, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find me “speculating”. As earlier stated, the fact that Arthur Harawira was facing a number of charges including indecent assault and was subsequently incarcerated is not speculation. It’s right there in the media from 5 years ago. The fact that Daniel Taylor has been imprisoned since 2013 for half a decade’s child grooming (with the period of offending apparently overlapping with his employment with MANA, which started in 2010) is, again, right there all through the media from a year back. The fact that Mangu Awaru is facing charges presently is not in dispute by anyone, it would appear. I doubt that the fact of his being out on bail while representing the party on election night is disagreed with, either.

So if *none of these things* are “speculation”, and all of them are facts … then I must confess myself a little confused at how, exactly, Mr Trinder is alleging impropriety on my behalf.

In any case, if Mr Trinder wishes to make an issue out of the recent conduct, agenda-driven distortion, or fact-free spinfotainment of commentators on political events … he would do well to start with a critical examination of his own blog output these past 24 hours. 

7 COMMENTS

  1. “So if *none of these things* are “speculation”, and all of them are facts … then I must confess myself a little confused at how, exactly, Mr Trinder is alleging impropriety on my behalf.

    It is not the ‘facts’ you have included that are the problem Mr Rolinson, it is the way they have been spun and cobbled together, and those relevant facts that have been omitted.

    Arthur: Hone has never made any secret about standing by his brother. Arthur lost his son to suicide in 1996. He is the founder of Fathers Against Suicide. Somewhere down the line, in 2008, he lost the plot and hit out, and then did time for that. I don’t know the details but I suspect that when similar cases occur in “nice respectable pakeha” families the police are just as likely to dismiss it as “Just a domestic” and to make it all disappear.

    Daniel Taylor: If you have a problem with this abhorrent person being clothed in “respectability”, then you need to be taking it up with CYF. They made him a child carer !!!!! CYF are responsible for facilitating this person’s activities and his appearance of respectability in the community. They had vetted him, and given him their rubber stamp of approval. And you blame Hone for not knowing what CYF had failed to uncover? How bizarre.

    That leaves one person, charged, quite possibly guilty. One person with whom Hone was working commits an offence or is charged with committing an offence. You then try and spin this into something that open’s the door to “Hone’s running a paedophile ring”. (It is there in some of the comments below Tinder’s article.) At very least this is irresponsible journalism.

  2. It’s a pity the “left” are too blinded by their ideology to see what a scumbag Hone is. He is the worst type of trougher. The kind who pretends hes working for the poor when he is just troughing it as hard as he can. You would be much more credible without someone like Hone.

  3. Please no offence. But, why should Hone front? He hired the manager who hired the staff – am I wrong on that? So in the normal course of events – the office manager should be the person who should answer these questions as the defacto HR person?

    And yeah sorry, but you are sounding a wee bit Maori bashing. Just an observation, I know your writing is very PC, but your subtext. I’ll let you reflect on that.

    If you are part of the general backstabbing of a Mana – then please, the whole Pontius Pilate thing you present, is a little rich.

    Look the issue is sexual assault, and one of the cases is pending. I personally think trial by media and/or blog is bloody disgusting. It is hard enough to get a conviction in this country on these charges, and to drag it through a media circus, will just make it harder.

    The second issue, how do we deal with people who have committed crimes and done the time? Do we keep punishing them? What employment should they have? Or are they just a convenient tool with which to beat up political opponents with? And do the victims really need to be reminded of these crimes, everyday, by people trying to score points – politically?

    • Um, because Hone is the leader and public face of the party? It’s his job (as opposed to hiding behind the missus’ skirts). This “Maori bashing”, is it like the Emperor’s New Clothes? Or is it just some kind of default victim mode?

      • OH please, look at yourself Populuxe1 – what victim mode? What planet you on, KEY?

        I thought what I said was quite clear – and if you scratch all organisations, there is a clear demarcation between governance and management. I know many organisation and people struggle with the difference – but this is just another case of why there is a distinction and why it is important.

        For many of the question, the journalist and this blogger ask – a management response should be sufficient, whilst Hone is left to answer overall governance questions. Forcing Hone to answer both is ridiculous, and just another example of crude political point scoring.

        And the gibe about his missus’ skirt – what a silly little comment that was.

  4. I take your points, Curwen, but this is a bit too long, and sounds almost a bit defensive. Nevertheless, thanks for all info and explanations offered here.

    Re Hone, I would agree, he could simply issue a press statement, or present himself to somewhat “neutral” media, like Radio NZ National, to explain what may need explaining. That way he would not need to feed TV3 more bits they may distort.

Comments are closed.