Resolving the Wellington protest and two proposals to reduce misinformation on social media

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Sometimes a politician does something venal and stupid which has the opposite effect they intend. Parliament’s speaker Trevor Mallard’s childish abuse of power in turning on the sprinklers at parliament and playing annoying music to the protest is such an instance.

The police are faced with a difficult situation in Wellington but they are trying to resolve it with engagement and respect rather than tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon. It’s quite alarming that some who have marched on other issues have been calling for a “strong arm” approach by police because an outright attack on the protest would set a low benchmark of tolerance for future civil disobedience protests and our civil rights would be the biggest casualty into the future.

The big majority of people at the protest are decent working-class New Zealanders despite a minority shouting all sorts of deranged things. Yes, the protest as a whole is incoherent, contradictory, leaderless and rudderless. But to stop there is to miss the bigger point. Overwhelmingly it is an expression of frustration and anger at decades of workers struggling at the margins of society where life is something that happens to you rather than something you shape for yourself.

These people have experienced going backwards economically and socially for 40 years under successive Labour and National governments while the country has been run for the wealthy. The protestors lack the traditional working-class leadership provided in the past by a strong union movement. They have developed, quite rightly, a deep distrust of politicians and are therefore susceptible to the masses of misinformation in what one commentator calls the “rivers of hate” on social media.

However, despite the outward appearance, the group has come up with of list of nine issues they want the government to address (I would agree in all or part with six of them) It’s a reasonable approach in a democracy and the government must engage – not just because a few hundred people in a parliamentary protest are asking for it, but because some of the issues they raise are of widespread concern.

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I have previously spoken out against government policy on vaccine mandates and their use should be urgently reviewed by the government. (Canadian states have begun to withdraw their use and we should follow) For example there are enough rapid antigen tests available now to allow unvaccinated teachers and health professionals to turn up to work able to prove they are not infected and therefore safe to do their job alongside their vaccinated workmates.

There is a widespread feeling the government is not listening on issues such as this and the media has inadvertently added to that perception.

I can understand and support the media collectively advocating the government’s nationwide strategies to deal with the pandemic. This is a public health emergency and needs a collective nationwide approach for the common good. But on the other hand the media has suppressed discussion of other options or approaches in the desire not to spread misinformation but this in turn has fuelled conspiracy theories and driven some people further down rabbit holes.  There has been no serious discussion of the need for vaccine mandates for example and the so-called “team of five million” has splintered. 

Meanwhile the wider issue of social media is a much more important for our democracy and should be getting much more attention.

I have come across two proposals recently from others which I think have real merit and would start to get at the heart of the spread of malicious misinformation online.

Firstly, we must use “whatever means necessary” to require Facebook to shift to a subscriber model rather than the advertiser-driven model they use at the moment. There is incontrovertible evidence that Facebook’s algorithms, which are designed to keep users engaged for the longest time to keep eyeballs on advertisements, are driving users to more and more extreme content and sites which deliver misinformation.

For this reason Facebook, and other social media outlets, have become an existential threat to democracy and must be heavily regulated.

To be clear this is NOT a call for censorship of any kind but simply for social media sites to work in the interests of people, not advertisers.

Secondly the government should provide all citizens with “information credits” to use online to purchase the news services they want with clear guidelines to prevent them being used for fake news sites or conspiracy-focused news producers. For example a person could choose a couple of websites and the credits used to pay the subscription. We all benefit when we have a shared understanding of issues even if we disagree on what should be done about them.

There will be other good ideas out there and if just a fraction of the time being spent in faux outrage against the Wellington protest was spent on discussing suggestions like these we could move in a more positive direction and reduce the likelihood of similar situations in the future.

In the meantime the police are on the right track to resolve the protest with discussion and engagement. Trevor Mallard and his fellow travellers should butt out.

52 COMMENTS

  1. “Information credits?” Would these be similar to credit scores issued by PRC? Sounds a little bit like censorship doesn’t it?
    I like the suggested Facebook model though.

  2. Agree on regulation and precedence of the subscriber over advertising model although I’d not so narrowly define what credits can be used on as that invites criticism of what is ‘real’ news (most MSM organisations also regularly peddle ‘establishment’ misinformation such as WMD, Russiagate, Assange, Snowden, arguably Ukraine etc). This should also avoid protectionism by the big players allowing independant start-ups to enter the market such as Breaking Points and (no so long ago) The Intercept, The Daily Poster etc.

    it’s not a perfect model and some will take advantage but it’s a massive improvement. As you imply the social media algorithms are far more dangerous than the actual misinformation sites.

    Another happy side effect is that this could improve the quality of MSM outlets if they have to build audience trust and journalistic credibility rather than service partisan outrage. Funding transparency and regulating media ownership is also worth throwing into the mix.

  3. much as I despair of the numpty factor (now there’s an idea for a reality show)
    free speech is free speech
    regulation is regulation
    censorship is censorship

  4. Ae John.

    Embarrassingly, the ‘left’ don’t seem to understand what Solidarity is anymore. – The Woke latte, biased juvenile left I mean.

    I think it might have something to do with the culture war going on in their widdle brainey waineys.

    They’re Infected or should I say, infatuated with hate and the judgement of opinion(s) that are not of their ‘kind’. So effectively, theyre ostracised and cancelled.

    GenZ & the Mellinials have denied themselves or have chosen to be juvenile and immature and closed-minded instead of willingness to engage and debate openly the ‘issues’.

    I wonder if this is going to be an historical point in time when 100 years from now. The ledger will have recorded the time when the IQ of an entire generation was lowered so much so that the origin of the human species graduating from being an amoeba. Out of the sea and onto the land is been rewritten to another time. 2017-2022.

    Amene.

    • the fearful work from home with full pay crowd. They want their groceries/treats/regular life stuff but non of the risk. The risk is for the worker.

      • and loads of nat/act supporters aren’t taking advantage of those perks? they are virtuously refusing auntie jacindas cash handouts are they?….come to think of it many nat/act supporters have done so well out of the LINO they might just vote lab next time round….it’s a thught.

    • Very well put Denny.
      “Infatuated with hate and the judgement of opinions not of their kind.”
      That describes accurately many who comment on this site.
      Should feel sorry them they are always angry and sad.Must be a dreadful condition to live with.

  5. The freedom of speech thing popular with this site and Trotter doesn’t cover feral media that as you say is endangering democracy. The UK wouldn’t allow Fox there on account of their bullshit, to their great benefit. Oz and America show what a threat it is. We need to do something now.

    Wouldn’t it be good if Gordon Campbell was here? I found him too dense at The Listener but he’s eloquent at Scoop.

    • the feral media is the price we all pay for the right to call john key a wanker.

      and it is largely the fault of the left as far as the culture goes…

      post-modernism allowed facts to be over ruled by opinions..and so the ball started rolling, the hipster left did that….PM as a literary theory was misconceived but as a basis for culture it’s fuckin disastrous and I really dunno how we put the cat back in the bag, I really don’t.

      • Don’t know a minute of your complexity. Simplicity is our bread and milk, if you can’t express an idea so you’re just addling the milk.

  6. For example there are enough rapid antigen tests available now to allow unvaccinated teachers and health professionals to turn up to work able to prove they are not infected and therefore safe to do their job alongside their vaccinated workmates.

    Nope.
    Unvaccinated teachers become a likely carrier for the vaccine when someone else comes in that is a carrier.

    Your logic there just allows people not to do what needs to be done.

    People can have their personal choice but they then have to wear the consequences of those choices.

    For this reason Facebook, and other social media outlets, have become an existential threat to democracy and must be heavily regulated.

    This is probably part of the plan. After all, capitalists don’t like democracy as it leaves them out of power.

    • “Unvaccinated teachers become a likely carrier for the vaccine when someone else comes in that is a carrier.”

      This is no longer true. The vaccines give you no protection at all against catching and spreading the Omicron variand of the virus. The time is coming very soon when we will not distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated but healthy and ill. And we all will have to return to old ways of protection as we did during other previous flu epidemias.
      The governments in many countries have acknowledged this and removed the restrictions as they do not work but our government is, as nearly always, slow to react to the changing situation.

      • alex once again storming an undefended hill, the real actual point is vaxxede probably mild illness, unvaxxed possibly serious illness.

      • Not at all.
        We are merely 6 months to a year behind the rest of the developing world as far as where we are with the virus.
        Which has been useful.
        That’s when we will end restrictions not when we are about to surge.

  7. Agree on several points, but disagree on others.

    I was there. For two days. It felt like a week. I am going back for an indefinite time, I as a former security officer will probably go back in that capacity, if not that, in other helps. I went with and travelled down with my friends wife who has lost her job as a long term teacher for special needs kids, her husband stayed back to work as he is self employed, so we met up with the woman’s sister and her married daughters,… while there we received a message from a businesswoman friend of theirs who donated $2000.00 and said ”if you need more , do it”.

    We distributed a bootload full and a cars back seat of gumboots. Beanies, socks, tarps, guy ropes first aid kits etc.

    This protest is like no other. That the consensus of lies, fabrications and fake news emanating from the beehive from all major party’s and the servitude of the mainstream media to their political masters is at once shocking, appalling, and most of all , – alarming. A simple example is that during that whole time, both myself and my friends wife witnessed NO obscene language barring very muted conversations such as one would find in any smoko room during lunchbreak.

    Time and again I heard speakers saying the Police were like ourselves with family’s and opinions of their own. We were asked to applaud them, and say we love you, to bless them. The crowds response was a consistent roar of approval, cheering and affirmation. That often as the many Christian speakers blessed them, and New Zealand,… the constant message of love, of peaceful and respectful consideration found me tearful at least a dozen times. But it was not just Christians delivering that message, – it was ALL of them. I was just glad often it was nighttime, I smiled in pride at my fellow country men and women. I marveled at their courage. The silence and meditative reflection after they sang the national anthem in both English and Maori was in an atmosphere of what could clearly be called ‘ reverence’.

    The lies of aggressive, abusive language and behaviors are not to be seen. The words of the PM are words to smear and discredit. They are age old words from a script to belittle, discredit and besmirch her political opposition, in this case those opposing her mandates. And, – along with the equally as age old tactic of minimizing numbers to create an illusion of a vocal , radical group who are unreasonable, divided and without commonality of cause,… that can be thus written off as irrelevant, she, – and the general consensus of the major political party’s,- betray their position without ONCE even bothering to treat with the protest leaders, and not only that , but with the puerile tactics of the Speaker of the house turning on sprinklers all night to make the plight of the protestors difficult in the already appalling conditions in the midst of a cyclone. The weather was freezing and the rain incessant coming down in the form of sleet, not merely showers of rain.

    Following that , the equally as vindictive , puerile and venal displays of setting up a sound system in an attempt to drown out the legitimate and democratic right to protest ; blaring out flute music no less that was out of key , out of cadence and playing the same track repetitively for 7-8 hours.

    These are your political leaders. One is even the Speaker of your parliament. These are your supposed ‘democratic’ and overly well paid ‘leaders’ in whom so many put their faith. And who also put their faith in a cowardly, mercenary mainstream news media who have no loyalty barring who is the incumbents and who pays the best cheques.

    Anyone who comments here and elsewhere, who have not gotten off their armchairs and not travelled to Wellington and witnessed for themselves, first hand this protest, …have very little if anything to opine about. You have been fed lies. And shockingly, the biggest loser in all of this is your very democracy whom you say you care so much about.

    • That is a load of crap Wild Katipo. I wouldn’t go anywhere near that bunch of selfish idiots. You have fallen right down that same rabbit hole – we, the sane people can’t comment here or elsewhere because will don’t agree with you? Fuck right off dick head.

    • great comment. Chris Trotter needs to get out of his armchair and meet the protesters as his columns get worse by the day

  8. Its about time PC Plod and the Keystone cops cleared the illegally parked cars, allowing Wellingtonians their freedom to go about their everyday business, and moved all the people that think they are changing the world onto the grass and let them sit there for as long as they want. Eventually the mandates will be removed and then they can all go home.

    • The problem for the govt and Police is that an Iwi owns the area where the protestors are. That is why legally they cannot be trespassed and that the Police are not allowed onto that strip lest they too, are trespassed. At least technically by the law. Both sides are showing respect.

  9. Thanks W.K for your contribution on this. I fell for some of the reporting on the behaviour of some of these people against members of the public who were going about there own business and I made a comment regarding children being involved in this protest and the anti social behaviour being reported and discussed by some contributing here.

    ” These people have experienced going backwards economically and socially for 40 years under successive Labour and National governments while the country has been run for the wealthy. The protestors lack the traditional working-class leadership provided in the past by a strong union movement. They have developed, quite rightly, a deep distrust of politicians and are therefore susceptible to the masses of misinformation in what one commentator calls the “rivers of hate” on social media ”

    John well done with this post and I agree with the points you have made its just a shame that they don’t form part of a comprehensive list that can be put forward by a group or new movement that represents the many who have been cast aside by successive neo liberal parties in parliament.

    In the U.K with assistance by Jeremy Corban the people’s assembly is fighting back.

    https://www.thecanary.co/uk/news/2022/02/13/cost-of-living-protesters-around-the-country-say-enough-is-enough/

    https://www.thecanary.co/uk/analysis/2022/02/15/another-day-and-another-blow-for-everyone-facing-the-cost-of-living-crisis/

  10. In the art of war by Sun Tzu, a strategy would be to set up a secondary diversion. Why? I will tell you why.

    Because that the ground [ the castle ] the protestors are holding due to Iwi land claims, inasmuch as even the Police are not allowed on those greens,… it remains essentially a ‘castle’. We all know that the strength of the castle is in the garrison. HOWEVER, the main weaknesses of the castle are primarily WATER. Food being second most. Therefore,…

    Observe the activity’s of the Police and those moderates who align themselves to clearing ‘illegal’ parking. What does this do in effect?

    What it does is not only give ground, but more importantly,…clear the way for denial of access of food and water. Water being the most important. And in clearing parked vehicles means that access to vital sustenance is curtailed. This is the ‘authority’s’ strategy’s being employed. That those of the seven or so various groups negotiating and spearheading negotiations cannot see this leads me to believe that they are wholly un acquainted with classic military strategy. It is classic medieval siege warfare.

    And while it is all ‘feelgood’ compliance,… it is not military thinking. It is civilian thinking. I spoke to those in the early hours about a ‘war council’. Essentially whereby those of different factions would meet and simplify, simplify, simplify. Whereby peripheral issues would come in on the back of a spearhead winning ‘hearts and minds’, whereby a general consensus would be reached, presenting a unified front…it seems they are several days too late. Nevertheless,…if acted on quickly, can be redeemed.

    What it would take is a secondary occupation. In true Sun Tzu fashion. One that would divide opposing forces, one whereby it would ensure the continuation of water and food to the main ‘spearhead’. The secondary occupation could be easily abandoned or relinquished in favor of the main thrust, the parliamentary grounds. Or taken up again at a later date strategically.

    Sometimes, I despair at the lack of basic insight and fundamental military planning. For this is not an affair of silly civilian naivete’, of hippies ‘playing in the sunshine’, but one of protecting our democracy against all odds, not one of lax compliance, but of courage and fortitude, of resisting the very things we fought against in both World war one and two. Totalitarianism, both subtle, passive and overt. The right to choose. The right to stand up to our own govt and say ‘thus far and no more’. The right to true freedom and confidence of a governmental system that is just, measured, balanced and fair. What a legacy to pass onto our children.

    It would seem ,… that we would need to learn the message over and again, that we need a lower house to slow down arbitrationary legislation passed by a govt with no checks and balances, a mode whereby NO govt can run roughshod over the populace’s will without adequate scrutiny, a governmental system whereby future generations can rest assured that they have their advocates, that they will be heard and protected.

    This is no longer the 1960’s or 1950’s, as there are many more voces in politics today than back then. Voices that do not necessarily have our best interests at heart. Thus we must always be vigilant.

    I will leave you with the words of Dwight E Eisenhower. One of the last of the ‘Great Generation’ politicians. He absolutely nailed it in regards to an almost ‘prophetic’ vision of the future.

    Eisenhower Farewell Address
    https://youtu.be/CWiIYW_fBfY?t=1

  11. I see this morning that the police have succeeded in removing zero illegally parked vehicles, the mats adorning parliament grounds have in all probability been stolen, numerous people are flying into Wellington maskless, and my wife has just informed me she is going out to a local restaurant tomorrow night with a group of unvaccinated people because said restaurant doesn’t check vaccine passports. I’ve come to the conclusion that the people protesting may well be right. Nobody cares anymore. God what a toothless bunch running what has turned into a complete shitshow.

    • yup a piss weak top cop doesn’t help what ever course you decide on failure to act will only embolden, better to keep shtum in the first place than to have your bluff called.

      • Well look at the gangs in Auckland, they have been given free range, but it was for Covid tracing and prevention, right? . lol.

  12. Oops, another painful bullet in the foot Minto. “Rivers of hate” is a very apt description of your pro Palestinian terrorists FB website.

  13. yup gaby your 100perecent right everything is always all about Israel

    go down to the beehive select 1/2 doz mixed protesters ask ’em which branch of the Rothschild family run the world and what jews do with christian babies…then report back with the answers your rightard mates give.

  14. In a free marketplace of ideas, if your ideas are not winning, you need to get better ideas.

    If your ideas are genuinely better, but they are still not winning, it means the marketplace is not free.

    If a marketplace of ideas is not free, it cannot be made freer by removing or restricting freedom, that would be absurd.

    When presented to the ordinary public, better ideas win because the people have been taught how to think critically, not what to think. These things have always been true, since the time of Plato. But in our time, we craft deceptive, politically pragmatic lies, and complain when people reject them.

    We pretend to educate people properly, but fail to teach them critical thinking, out of the foolish belief that ignorant people are easier to control. This is a dangerous falsehood.

    Instead of getting better ideas, we use force, to make our bad ideas the only ideas available, and try to silence and destroy people who generate “problematic” ideas, instead of debating them. We no longer debate people, because we have lost that skill, and most of our ideas are clearly indefensible, on rational grounds. They rely instead on sentiment and subjectivity. That way lies madness.

    Ordinary people are not stupid. They use their reason. They feel insulted and angry when they discover they are being manipulated. They seek objective truth, and evidence to support their conclusions. If nothing else, they will always find their own sources of information, and they will invariably create new ones when old ones cease to be reliable. This cannot be prevented. Unless you intend to somehow imprison them, and deprive them of all sources of information except those you control. Is that what you intend?

    The people will only tolerate being governed by liars, thieves and charlatains for so long. Then, they turn on those who lied to them, abused them and repressed them. This has been the way since the time of Plato. Those in civic life who lie, cheat and steal may have their moment in the sun, but they are always eventually overthrown. As we are beginning to witness now.

    John, you are better than this. I know you, you are a good man. The two proposals you put forward concerning “misinformation” are unworthy of you.

    • Any online space with sufficiently free moderation becomes right wing. Left wing spaces can only exist online with strict moderation of information.

      • Left/Right…immaterial constructs in a time when those lording over both groups are making out like bandits, and then some….

    • Ordinary people seek objective truth. Huh. You are not speaking from observation but some pretty idea of your own. No-one can be objective all the time or they lose their humanity, and no-one can be subjective all the time or they lose their overview, ability to self critique, and sense of balanced opinion; on the one hand…., and on the other this ….. Which side is best, the scales of Justice approach.

  15. don’t agree nobunga let the pests come, we have a can of black flag big enough for all of them…..when they get easily swatted all they do is advertise the bankruptcy of their position, we have the freedom rightwing blogs deny dissenters

  16. John, The protesters are right-wing Jacinda hating nutters. They are cowardly taking babies and children onto the front line to stop the cops and army moving them on. Just get Luxon, Seymore, Waititi and their right wing friends Matt King, Coutts, Hipango, Pugh, Rodney, Winstone, to confront their people the protesters and tell them to piss off.

  17. Wild Katipo, they ‘signify’ the lack of ‘people-rule’, the only point to take from them. Which is a vital point.

    Their garble emphasises that. Official reason won’t allow the neediest, let alone the rest of us who were kings in the age of the Welfare State.

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