Why Kurt Taogaga Had To Go.

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THE LABOUR PARTY delisted Kurt Taogaga for one very simple, very brutal, reason:  to appease the mainstream news media. The party was pulling out all the stops to generate as many positive news stories as possible from the Prime Minister’s speech to Labour’s election year congress. Had Mr Taogaga not been purged, his presence on the Party List would have completely overshadowed Jacinda’s speech. By delisting him, Labour’s President, Claire Szabo, demonstrated the seriousness with which the party responds to the slightest hint of Islamophobia. It staunched the wound which Newshub-Nation had very deliberately inflicted on the party. Political triage of this sort is never pretty but, sadly, it is necessary.

The journalistic decision-making that went into the Taogaga story is also rather ugly. Given the skeletal nature of Newshub’s current staffing arrangements, it is hard to see any of its reporters having the time to trawl through Labour’s entire Party List for embarrassing social media postings from several years ago. That’s the sort of job a parliamentary staffer might be tasked with on the off-chance that something politically useful might turn up. Which, in this case, it did.

It is worth emphasising how useful Mr Taogaga’s social media commentary was to the Government’s enemies. A very substantial part of Jacinda Ardern’s dazzling political persona is attributable to her deeply empathic response to the Christchurch mosque shootings. The viral image of Jacinda, hugging in a headscarf, rocked the entire world – it was even projected onto the Burg Khalifa. The damage done to her reputation, should she fail to move immediately against a Party List candidate found to have posted anti-Islamic sentiments on social media, is easily imagined. Instant cauterisation of the media-inflicted wound was the only viable option.

If Newshub was tipped-off by a parliamentary source, it raises the question: should they have allowed themselves to be used to inflict political damage on the Government? After all, Mr Taogaga’s indiscretion (if that is what it was) took place seven years ago in 2013. What’s more, his comments were made well before he became involved in Labour Party politics. What were the ethics of using information this old to almost certainly destroy a young man’s political career? What should the producer of Newshub-Nation have done?

In another era of current affairs broadcasting, she would, at the very least, have made an effort to put Mr Taogaga’s comments in context.

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Between 2012 and 2013 the number of deaths from terrorism had increased by 61 percent. In 10,000 terrorist attacks 17,958 people had been killed. According to the BBC: “Five countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria – accounted for 80% of the deaths from terrorism in 2013. More than 6,000 people died in Iraq alone.” Just four terrorist groups were responsible for the deaths of two-thirds of 2013’s nearly 18,000 terrorist victims: Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and the self-styled Islamic State. The Global Terrorism Index reported that: “All four groups used ‘religious ideologies based on extreme interpretations of Wahhabi Islam’.”

This was the context in which the NZ First MP, Richard Prosser, wrote his infamous “Wogistan” article. The article which Mr Taogaga somewhat naively endorsed. The anti-Islamic mood of the times was further heightened by the terrorist attacks launched against European targets – especially against the staff of Charlie Hebdo and the audience at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris – over the course of the next two years.

Responsible journalists will always strive to contextualise statements like Mr Taogaga’s, lest the passions and fashions of the present are unfairly and anachronistically projected back onto the past.

Unfortunately, current affairs producers and their staff no longer have the time to do the right thing. They are acutely aware that if they are not prepared to use leaked information, more or less immediately, then it will be passed on to somebody who is. These sort of pressures play directly into the hands of parliamentary research teams and their political masters. It makes it almost impossible for the mainstream news media to do anything other than act as a conduit for information likely to prove useful to the Government’s enemies. If they don’t use it – they lose it.

Mr Taogaga also suffered from the coincidence (if that is what it was) of the unauthorised release of confidential Ministry of Health information. Just hours before his own story had found its way into journalists’ hands, Radio NZ, Stuff and NZME had all been supplied with the names, ages, addresses and current locations of 18 individuals who had recently tested positive for Covid-19. This was a truly appalling breach of patient confidentiality, which senior Government ministers seemed pretty sure was malicious – and quite possibly criminal. Their urgent need to deal with this problem left them no time to deal with media accusations that Labour was harbouring Islamophobes. They had witnessed the damage done to the reputation of the British Labour Party by media accusations of antisemitism. Better to be safe than sorry.

If the stories about Mr Taogaga and the unauthorised release of confidential medical data had been deliberately orchestrated by Labour’s political opponents, their deflection of the news media’s attention away from the Prime Minister’s address to the Labour Party Congress could hardly have been more successful. If the woman who broke out of quarantine on Saturday – instantly commandeering the top slots of both 6:00pm news bulletins on Sunday night – turns out to be a fervent supporter of the Parliamentary Opposition, who would really be surprised?

Editors and producers must know when they are being used for political purposes – and by whom. This raises an important question: in protecting their journalistic “sources”, are the media also protecting the shadowy teams of political operatives and their bureaucratic helpers who, by fair means or foul, supply the information? Equally importantly, are these same editors and producers “equal-opportunity” political facilitators? Is the Left, when it is in Opposition, always offered the same consideration and protection from those who own and run the mainstream media as the Right?

In forty years of covering politics in New Zealand, I can only recall one period in which the whole of the mainstream news media was lined-up to keep Labour in office, and that was between 1984 and 1987. Everyone who mattered in television, radio and the daily press were determined to see the programme of David Lange and Roger Douglas succeed. Is it significant that for those three years Labour’s economic policies were further to the right than National’s? What do you think?

Mr Taogaga shouldn’t feel too bad. His was a personal sacrifice. Between 1984 and 1987, to keep their newfound mainstream media friends onside, Labour was willing to throw the entire New Zealand working-class under a bus.

8 COMMENTS

  1. If that was a hanging offence should we quite rightly expect the immediate resignation of Michael Woodhouse, Melissa Lee and their fellow National Party slime for their appalling vile treatment of another MP, one Clare Curran? Pissing on her effigy, so so funny eh fellow Nats? I wonder who the poor underpaid cleaner was who cleaned up their mess after these privileged scum had their fun test driving that toilet seat. Where is Tova “Gotcha” now?

    Their ambition? To break her! And they did, 100%. We pay money for these arseholes to reside on us and to represent us and do this? What is wrong with that picture? And what the hell is wrong with them?

    I mean these are our law makers, the people who create the rules we have to live with. And yet these weirdos base standards reside deep in the sewer, literally.

    Woodhouse most especially is now on his second strike after his fantasy story of a homeless man living in a 5 star hotel on the taxpayer that ironically wasted taxpayers money to investigate. Isn’t it about time he got sent packing too?

  2. Yes, well the mainstream media has had far too much influence over who got elected and who didn’t, just as they have had far too much influence over the climate change so-called debate and other non-debates about the crucial matters of the times we live in, like energy availability and the accumulation of waste.

    It all comes down to the magician’s trick of keeping the audience distracted and amused while the real action takes place elsewhere. Never mind that the planet is undergoing meltdown, that species extinction is way beyond critical, that there are all sorts of ‘head winds’ emerging as large sectors of the global economic system implode.

    I have to say, mainstream media reporting is not always appallingly bad.

    Yesterday we were treated to a sobering interview in which it was revealed that there are around 220,000 people in NZ suffering Type-2 Diabetes, a disease that was “almost unknown 30 years ago” but is now affecting young adults -the youngest case being of a 16-year-old!

    What is more, major complications develop after around 20 years, so 20-year-olds are going to be suffering serious complications when in their 40s, which will result in a “significant drain on the health system.”

    (I personally don’t believe we will have an economy or a health system as currently operating two decades from now, as a direct consequence of the truly awful policies implemented by governments over the past four decades, but that’s another matter.)

    In the meantime, “Keep buying the cars and the outdoor space heaters and the home exercise equipment.” The factories in China and the local retailers need the sales.

    ‘Labour was willing to throw the entire New Zealand working-class under a bus.’

    Yes, in the short term. But in the long term they are throwing everyone under a bus, including themselves.

    https://www.facebook.com/CO2.Earth/posts/3545178152194175

  3. Fascinating Post @ CT.
    While reading the above, I’m reminded of the odours one encounters when walking down almost any street in almost any Sou East Asian city. There’s an incredibly complex range of the smells of shit and sewage, of glorious foods, of sweet scents of flowers, exhaust fumes, perfume and stagnant water. ( I’d highly recommend it.)
    The problem with our politic is that it’s been so bent for so long, it’s difficult to know what one’s senses are telling a nose for dirt.
    The stench of the raw sewage that douglas has had us swimming through for more than 35 years is lingering in my nostrils.
    But is Labour floating to the top? Has Labour finally seen a way clear of dirty little roger and his money fetishist clones?
    After all, back in the 1980’s, it was national, who by emptying a sack of dirty tricks on us via the national party freak show gave us roger douglas, +Derek quigly, mike moore, tricky little dick prebble (who’d been thinking) and sundry fawning minions all gathering about under the dark towers of down bankster buildings.
    I know… There’s a mixture of labour and natzo names in there. And that’s what I mean. They were one and the same. They got under labours skin like greedy ticks and burrowed in.
    Now? Is Labour a changeling? Or is Labour still a shambling husk of a thing still weakened by Machiavellian natzo parasites?

    Farmers?
    Here’s free and clear advice from a farmer.
    Vote Labour and then unite ( No! NO! Stop it! The word ‘unite’ isn’t an obscenity.) with your down stream service industry and in so doing, you’d delouse yourselves from your slave masters in the National Party and by extension, the dreaded bankster.
    If Labour don’t come to the party, so to speak, then yourselves and your down stream service industries MUST go in strike.
    If you don’t? Take a look around? How’s less than a dollar for a kg of wool working out for you? Better get used to it because that might be the new normal.
    A timely reminder, on that note. It’s your beloved fascist natzo’s who deviously sold you out. And you fell for it. Just like everyone else.

  4. Great piece Chris. You have put in understandably polite terms what I can manage in a brief sentence…

    “National’s dirty tricks IT squad at it again, Media laps it up like dog returning to a regurgitated dinner!”

    Another ‘similar but different’ display of twisted unity was when all parliamentary parties including the Greens, united against Hone Harawira when he stood for Internet/Mana in Te Tai Tokerau. Labour put great resources into the West Auckland end of TTT while they starved other LECs.

    The Media behaviour re such dirt, supplied by uncredited political insiders is pretty despicable really, but is par for National since the “Hollowmen”, “Dirty Politics” and the disgraced Whale. The Nats filthy social media has to be seen to be believed it is so base sometimes. Hooton is in the thick of this.

  5. Appease the media? Yes that is how the game is played. And as the number of media people declines there is a commensurate plunge in standards and ethics.

    Kurt Taogaga arrived. in that time. Hamish Walker arrived in a different time and wasn’t culled. Which means that what Taogaga said ears back is bad but what walker said last week is okay.

    The media plays to the gallery and Walker was doing the same. The media will say there’s no ill-intent they’re just doing their job. Walker says he was just doing his job, looking after his constituents.

    “I’m concerned about their health and well-being. Not from people with the virus coming from Australia or the United States but from India Pakistan and Korea. I’m not a racist, it’s just that my constituents are.”

    So Taogaga won’t be in Parliament with Hamish Walker (there probably with an increased majority) which is a pity. They likely would have got on famously from what I heard on radio.

    zbidiot host Bruce Russell assured us that Walker is most definitely not racist. How does he know? Because Walker’s wife is Maori and he knows some Sri Lankans.

    When you’ve got mainstream news media at that intellectual level controlling the narrative any wannabe Labour candidate who stole a biscuit out of the jar when they were eight had better withdraw now.

  6. Plase stay away from kerbs, eges of railway platforms and steep drops Chris Trotter. The whirlpool is getting whirlier, the tornado is tearing etc. Nails are getting bitten. People who will sell others bleach so they are clean inside where the sun don’t shine, really have no idea what is the real dirt – they can’t discern minor grubbiness from barrow-loads.

  7. Well well well Martyn how about that! I know you will comment on Hamish Walker, so feel free to divert this comment to that post:

    Folks, going back to Chris Trotter’s recent post about National being toast….thanks to Hamish Walker, National are absolutely burnt toast now. And rightfully so! Fair is fair – they deserve to get spanked now! I was lamenting the quality of politicians we have and there’s the proof: FUCKING IDIOTS GET OUR HARD-EARNED MONEY!!! Much as it irks me to have another three years of Labour ‘Buzzwords and Non-Achievable Promises’, I’m getting ready for it…it’s coming like a high-speed freight train. All aboard!

    • Yes Jacinda better get ready for another 3 years of the howling Natz. The lower they poll, and it will be very low, the louder they wail.

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