Reading Duncan Grieve’s analysis of the Mediaworks collapse makes you feel like he’s still trying to pitch work to all of them and doesn’t want to hurt his chances of a deal by being anything less than fawning in praise. His ability to mesh The Spinoff into every bit of public dollar and sponsorship deal is as desperate as the industry he cheerleads.
We have enormous fourth estate issues that urgently need mass and open debate. From climate change, to domestic violence to police powers to poverty to crime to Māori rights to everything that is happening in our society that never gets the prominence it deserves.
TV needs to find broadcasters with talent who can keep those live debates afloat for half an hour at a time. TV needs to remember it’s a broadcast service and that what they broadcast must be live to be relevant. Dump the cheap and the frivolous content and make this a happening right now service and watch people flock back to it.
That’s not to say that this live format can’t be echoed in their online content offerings, and it should be to keep younger viewers who are more digital native than TV in the lounge room comfortable.
TV in NZ can’t compete with an online overseas media that provides better content, but what TV in NZ can do is provide unique voices and unique domestic issues that overseas media can’t.
The public broadcasting square of NZ is critical for our democracy especially as online simply leads us to echo cambers and people who think vaccinations lead to autism.
Being live and local is the future of TV in NZ, provide something that doesn’t exist and the audience will come. Radio has survived because it’s a live medium, something happens and the DJ is going to tell you, TV needs to follow.
The failure of mass market TV isn’t just a technology issue, it’s because TV arrogantly forget about being relevant by being live and provided us with crap content that we could better source online ourselves.
Okay, we are 12 months out from the next election, how are the Parties faring, what are their internal dynamics and what possible strategies will they adopt?
What issues will shape the debate and what curveballs might trip them up?
Here is the political landscape going into Election 2020.
The Political Parties:
Issues: Soaring in the polls like no other Opposition Party ever, National has deep internal challenges. Judith Collins is hungry for power and her recent full blown climate denial and pending book is the momentum for her last push for Leader while the corporate elite who coalesced around Key have anointed Christopher Luxon as their chosen one. Simon’s 51% disapproval rate will be a juggling act, on the one hand National intend to enflame the angry white male vote via Facebook, on the other hand, much of the rhetoric needed to shake angry white male voter apathy will disgust the middle ground National voter.
The Blue Dragons, the Chinese faction inside National, hold an enormous amount of power and donations, as tensions with China rise, this conflict will not go away.
Strategy & Tactics: Be the biggest Party vote on election night and undermine NZ First and the Greens enough by faux supporting The Sustainability Party and Vision to bring them both under 5% and allow the MMP redistribution to do the rest to give National the Parliamentary majority.
Use a highly divisive social media campaign on Facebook to target angry white male non-voters the way Scot Morrison, Trump and Brexit did. It will be culture war memes and very little actual policy. That Simon Bridges has more social media operatives in his office than actual policy researchers shows how far this strategy has progressed.
Use ACT’s resurgence and the possibility of a Māori Party win in a Māori electorate to help it across the line if required.
Issues: Didn’t expect to win the last election, had no 100 day plan, didn’t appreciate how neoliberal the public services were and how immune they are to actually serve the interests of the most vulnerable over the interests of the rich. Made a whole bunch of promises about transformation that they haven’t managed to keep, lack of executive oversight and a Front Bench who just aren’t very good.
Strategy & Tactics: Jacinda has to use that incredible emotional intelligence she possesses and acknowledge the first term didn’t deliver, but was setting the foundations for transformation. She has to articulate an amazing 100 day vision and be prepared to threaten the public service into actually doing as they are told or else. She should seriously consider an electorate deal with NZ First so she has a level of control over the right wing of her Government and allows her to put some distance between Labour and the Greens who are sure to get more woke shrill and alienating as we get closer to the election.
Has to get Grant Robertson to loosen the budget strings for some serious infrastructure investment.
Big promise on state housing build, better wages through stronger Unions, GST off fresh fruit and vegetables and tax free for the first $20 000 are four policy ideas that Labour voters can feel in their pockets. The politics of kindness means jack shit if you are still hurting from poverty.
Issues: Even after Jacinda is falsely accused of knowing and covering up a sexual assault by right wing pundits and fourth wave feminists amounting to Labour plummeting 9.2%, the Greens only gained .1% in the most recent TV3 Poll. The Greens Middle Class Woke Identity Politics is so alienating, the only way they gain from Jacinda is if she personally announces plans to build a nuclear reactor in the Milford Sounds. The Greens over poll each election and haven’t managed to get over their dismal 6.4% 2017 election night result. Possible chance they might actually slide under 5% with TOP and The Sustainability Party both cannibalising their Party vote. An increased awareness of the woke censorship many of their online activists are examples of will become ammunition in the election.
Imagine if screen shots of secret Facebook chat rooms where prominent online Green Activists are banning people for thoughts crimes came out just before the election? That would be very, very, very damaging.
Strategy & Tactics: They must push for lowering the voting age to 16 to hold the youth vote, they must promise to have solar panels on each domestic roof by 2029 and the first $20 000 of income being tax free. The Greens have failed to make inroads on policy that matter beyond their own base and desperately need a big vision idea (solar panels on all NZ Roofs) as a means to recapture the environmental vote because being carbon free in 31 years is meaningless sophistry. Need a strong showing on Cannabis or are going to get trumped by TOPs regulated market model.
If I had just one piece of advice to the Party I’ve voted my entire adult life for, it would be this simple thought, DON’T GET INTO A FUCKING FREE SPEECH VS HATE SPEECH DEBATE YOU CLOWNS! YOU ARE SO ALIENATING YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO HELP YOURSELF BUT PROMOTE CENSORSHIP AND THE ELECTORATE WILL TURN AGAINST YOU! But obviously I’d say all of this in a nice smiley tone so that no one felt any micro-aggressions.
The Greens are in survival mode this election but have no comprehension that they are.
Issues:Serious grass roots anger at the lack of redneck nationalistic tripe progressed as policy. Winston sells his kingmaker power, but truth is that Winston hates Bridges and Bennett and would never sign a deal with them, better he drop the pretence altogether and cut an electorate deal with Labour and ensure NZ First is a viable power no matter where the Party vote goes. National are never going to give Shane Jones the billions for regional development so Labour is the only dance partner willing to tango. NZ First make most of their money from big regional fishing, tree and trucking interests, they can promote their access to the Cabinet table to those interests and keep the Party financially stable.
Strategy & Tactics: Do a lot of big talking, look like naughty rebels that Jacinda can’t tame and make some ridiculous policy announcement like only citizens should be able to vote.
Issues: Have been politically irrelevant since they haven’t managed to bring in any MPs via MMP coat-tailing, but most recent polling shows ACTs free speech fight and concessions to Gun Owners is working for them. On track to bring in an extra 2 MPs if they play the culture war card.
Strategy & Tactics: Keep hammering free speech from now until the election. Everyone with a social media feed knows that sense of self censorship and woke lynch mobs, if ACT exploit that they are 2.5%
Issues: An astroturf Party built by National not to get over 5% themselves, but drag the real Greens under 5%
Strategy & Tactics: Attack Greens relentlessly. Vernon Tava will be rewarded with some plum conservation job is National win.
Issues: Aiming for 5% with a regulated cannabis market and a far tougher line on climate change won’t be enough. They have some convoluted tax policy, but it’s real geek stuff. If TOP have any hope of getting close to 5% they need to be able to articulate policy far easier than they currently do. On the plus side, 2020 will be a protest vote year and TOP are the ultimate protest vote.
Strategy & Tactics: Communicate the ideas as if the voters are idiots. Currently TOP communicate as if the voters are all working on PhDs. As National plunge into some truly dark spaces with their Facebook advertising, TOP can pick up liberal national voters who don’t want to be associated with political advertising that borders on hate speech.
Issues: There are a plethora of issues simmering away that the Māori Party could exploit. Oranga Tamariki uplifts, mental health, prisons, lack of home ownership and poverty all impact Māori harsher and the narrative that Labour don’t deserve all the Māori electorates is pretty well established.
Strategy & Tactics: Hit Te Tai Hauāuru hard with Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and try to take one of the electorates back and bring in more MPs off the Party list via coat tailing. DO NOT tell people that you planning a deal with National, that will only remind voters of the 9 years of betrayal you previously committed. Keep saying, ‘Independent’ until the day after the election and suddenly announce your place at the table is back with National once voters can’t respond.
Issues: Going no where fast. After the Christchurch atrocity, have had to dump their anti-Muslim rhetoric. Will run as has beens before ever being.
Strategy & Tactics: Pick up the anti-5G, anti-vaxxers, anti-1080, pro gun and anti-fluoridation vote and mix with virulent anti Muslim rhetoric and hope for the best. I’d say the New Conservatives were a joke but jokes take skill and timing. These people couldn’t get laid at a monkey brothel wearing banana costumes.
Issues:Colin Craig was able to gain over 4% with his Party, so there is a Christian electorate out there, but he did that with a very benign Christianity, while Vision is a great name and logo, to date Vision has only managed to offend people with a series of social media gaffes.
Strategy & Tactics: Hannah should be standing in a Maori electorate and instead of tweeting these things should be arguing for Christian Charity and better social services. Currently unlikely to gain over 1% with this hate message stuff.
The Election Issues:
Housing: KiwiBuild is a failure, the Government must make a significant ramping up of state house builds and offer first time home owners KiwiBank backed mortgages if it has any hope of combating the housing crisis. For National, middle class property speculators want to go back to the good old days so they will be motivated to vote National.
Infrastructure: National only wants to build roads, Labour wants to invest in public transport. Neither alone will solve the chronic under-investment in infrastructure.
Poverty: Is only going up, at some point Labour have to lift welfare payments or live with the legacy of neoliberal poverty. National doesn’t give two shits about beneficiaries and will continue to use them as a whipping boy into the election. If Labour went with the first $20 000 tax free, that could help beneficiaries without lifting their welfare.
Law & Order: As the country is flooded by cartel meth that is more pure and cheaper than domestic made, a gang war could erupt at any time between the domestic organised crime and 501s. National can play tough on crime and it will work.
Cannabis reform: This will generate a lot of electoral interest as long as the referendum is clear and easy to understand. Expect TOP to make a bigger play at this than the Greens.
Climate Change: Beyond carbon free by 2050, the Government have jack shit to offer and for those that see climate change as an existential threat, this is nothing. National on the other hand are going full blown denial, this is an opportunity to really nail National to a denier cross and paint them out as anti-science. This is the issue Labour and the Greens can go full attack mode on – the science is clear and Judith’s denial is too good a target. Paint this as a war between enlightenment and an eclipse fearing medieval dark ages. The woke scream that you can never platform deniers yet NZ is one of the largest climate denial country’s in the OECD, progressives should take the debate head on!
Mass arrest culture: As climate events get more damaging, it feeds the evidence that it is an existential risk and more people will go to mass arrests and civil disobedience in far leader numbers.
Gang War: If the gang war erupts on the streets voters will freak out.
JLR nuclear options: JLR launches his last nuclear bombs at Simon in the lead up to the election manning to only weaken Simon for Judith or Luxon.
Natural disaster: A massive cyclone or earthquake could derail all best laid plans.
Judith’s Book: You only write a book because you are retiring or making an attempt at leadership. Judith ain’t retiring.
We can’t, and may never, know whether Ardern knew of the true nature of the allegations. I would personally like to give her the benefit of the doubt and say I don’t think she did, but the uncertainty is there.
…for fourth wave feminists, if a woman says she has been abused then that’s enough evidence. That Jacinda broke that rule is unforgivable. No outcome will be acceptable until the staffer in question is denounced by Jacinda in public despite no evidence. This corrosive character assassination of Jacinda by her so called allies hands ammunition to the Right and won’t go away.
Free Speech violence: Imagine if the banned feminist conference finds a new venue in Wellington, imagine if that enrages the woke, imagine how out of hand the protests will get, imagine if violence occurs at a fee speech protest. Sigh.
Hong Kong massacre: If China cracks down violently on Hong Kong, National’s allegiance to Beijing will come under immense scrutiny.
Wall Street Meltdown: 2020 is the year of collapse, how will the NZ parties respond? Grant Robertson has kept the budget strings tight for this event, Labour will have the upper hand in providing solutions.
2020 will be the year of the protest vote. Labour have disappointed and National are only going to get uglier in terms of messaging. The woke left are alienating and the alt right are insane.
The odds are on for Jacinda gaining a second term, but it’s going to need some big vision ideas that Labour can actually produce and a willingness to throw some punches at National.
If Faafoi was bold, he would buy TV3, gut it and relaunch it as a 24 hour news channel run by TVNZ under the editorial auspices of RNZ.
In a fractured media market, we have limited mass market town squares and TV3 is one of them and to lose that would be stupid.
If the Government bought TV3 and relaunched it as a 24 hour news channel utilising RNZ level journalism you could keep TV One and TV2 as they were and use TV3 to focus on news
That way you would have The fourth estate public broadcasting requirements and keep the commercial side of TVNZ. While the channel would come under the control of TVNZ, editorial control would be with RNZ. On the hour general news updates plus specialist shows at the half hour from feminism news to Māori news to Pacifica news to Asian NZ news to right and left wing news. You could have a real plethora of views and voices.
Last week the Government announced, with much fanfare, the rebuild of Waikato DHB’s notorious Henry Bennett Centre, a place that was quite literally the death of our son Nicky, and of several other acutely ill patients.
I refuse to use the building’s full Maori name, as it has never deserved to have access to the name of this country’s first Maori clinical psychologist, other than for the fact that it has certainly housed far more Maori inpatients than it should have!
The current prison-like building was only built in the late 1990’s, as part of the mental health sector’s supposed ‘deinstitutionalisation’ of mental health services, whereby more services would be provided in the community, intercepting the need for all but the most acutely unwell patients.
Of course, and as often happens, community mental health services were starved of the resources needed to really make a difference, and institutions like the Henry Bennett Centre became not just the place of choice for people experiencing difficulties, but very often the only apparent option.
Two experiences I’ve had serve to illustrate.
In 1999, newly elected to Hamilton City Council, I presided over a resource consent hearing into an application by a community mental health care provider to expand a residential care house they had in a Hamilton suburb. Opposing it were a collection of working class neighbours. It turned out that the ‘Richmond Fellowship’ organisation had won a DHB contract to provide community-based residential care by tendering the lowest price – it was able to do this by buying a flimsy house in the cheapest suburb, packing six people with moderate mental health issues into converted bedrooms, and providing onsite support from one staff member only, and then only during normal working hours. Rather than being Nimby’s, the neighbours were concerned that no one was supporting the patients for 16 hours a day, leading to a lack of safety for all concerned for most of the time.
That was the extent of the ‘care’ that was being offered by the system outside the supposedly secure Hospital building.
In my son Nicky’s case, he was studying at Waikato University, doing fairly well in the first half of his first year, when the stress and pressure got to him. His flatmates became concerned about his mental health and called the community mental health services who, rather than setting up a plan with Nicky of respite care and community-based support, immediately delivered him to the Henry Bennett Centre, where he was placed in a high security unit, and had all his clothes removed (they were subsequently lost) and was given a pathetic hospital ‘gown’ to wear for several days. He was only let out of that high security section when he agreed to accept regular doses of an anti-psychotic drug, one that caused as many problems as it alleviated.
In 2018, before I became ‘collateral damage’ in the sweeping Waikato DHB Board sacking, DHB mental health management bought to our Board a plan for the replacement of the Henry Bennett Centre, something that had been in the wings for two years since a Ministry of Health audit found the building was “unfit for purpose” – the only problem was that there had been zero planning for how community mental health care could be resourced and uplifted to the point where the long-term need for a new acute care building could be reduced.
After several Board members supported my objections to a focus only on the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’, DHB staff scrambled to produce an all-round mental health care ‘plan’, which they did, but was literally no more than a series of vision statements – enough to melt away all but my objections.
So now, they’ve talked the Government into approving the $100M rebuild of the Henry Bennett Centre (its gone up $7M in the 18 months since we first saw it), but have yet to provide any practical evidence in the Waikato of serious increased community care resourcing for mental health services.
To be fair to the Government, THEY have announced a series of improvements and new programmes in community mental health care, but as yet many of these are only ‘pilots’ or ‘trials’, and the feet on the ground are mostly not showing up yet. As Health Minister David Clarke said to our whanau on the day of the rebuild announcement, there are simply not enough trained mental health support workers in the community, and unlikely to be so for several years to come – but a start needs to be made.
Our concern is that it’s comparatively easy to announce squillions for bricks and mortar, so they did that, but its sending the wrong message that we’re on top of the mental health situation in Aotearoa, when in reality we’ve got the clubrooms and bar ready for our guests, but the playing field where the real action needs to take place is still a rubbish tip! (Excuse the sporting analogy – I think I’ve been watching too many World Cup matches).
Dave Macpherson – TDB mental health blogger & Former Waikato DHB Elected Member whose son died while in mental health care.
Here’s a few unfortunate patterns. Mediaworks is once again in dire financial straits; and once again, some are attempting to assert that this is because private enterprise just can’t compete with a Government owned … company that also works like private enterprise [i.e. TVNZ].
Now, I say it’s a “pattern” because this is hardly the first time that MediaWorks has found itself in a state of implosion. One of the previous occasions saw the National-led Government bail it out to the tune of $43 million.
I say it’s a “few” patterns, because then as now, some people were insistent that private enterprise doing badly *had* to be the result of publicly-owned private enterprise somehow magically making an “unfair playing-field”, upon which the former just could not meaningfully compete. Which is just simply untrue, as like I say – TVNZ is run as a business, and has generally been returning a dividend to the Government as its majority shareholder, rather than drawing tens of millions of dollars in bailout money like its private-sector owned competitor.
It’s almost like people will say whatever they were going to say anyway, *regardless* of the circumstances; because any crisis is an ideal launch-point for the pursuit of an ideological “solution” in search of a problem.
The plain fact of the matter, is that MediaWorks has been run rather badly for some time now. It’s tried a few things to get back in the game, many of which appear to have simply dug it deeper into the hole. It pushed “MORE REALITY TV *ALL* OF THE TIME” as some sort of golden bullet [not realizing that the downward trajectory which this entailed meant said bullet was aimed squarely at its own foot] – not just converting over C4 to pretty much, but then opening at least one additional channel to do more of the same.
Which it did at the same time as it was busily gutting one of its few *actual* competitive elements, in the form of its news and current affairs arm.
As an aside, I personally don’t think it at all coincidental that 3/MediaWorks got rid of John Campbell during a period of prolonged warm relations with the then-National-led Government (and interestingly, Fran O’Sullivan – yes, *that* Fran O’Sullivan – seems to agree, per her remarks in print at the time in 2015) … which, given Campbell’s extraordinary popularity and ratings-magnet saliency, just goes to show how questionable business decisions made for dumb reasons seem to have come to characterize MediaWorks during its turbulent last few years.
To be fair, Mediaworks *has* found itself operating in an escalatingly difficult environment for many a traditional broadcast/media company. There’s no getting around that.
But it seems to me that they consistently appear to have a worse set of outcomes, a worse set of results, than others who might be facing similar general tribulations of environment.
It’s easy for those with pseudo-ideological agendas – that basically come down to “the government shouldn’t own anything, even at an arm’s length!” – to try and take aim at the current situation, as if that somehow *definitively proves* their point.
It does nothing of the sort.
All that it *does* do, is show that private enterprise is capable of acting stupidly, repeatedly stupidly, and making seriously flawed decisions over a protracted period of time, that are against both its own, and ultimately, the national/public interest.
And then somehow managing to keep stuttering on thanks to periodic infusions of capital from big foreign hedgefunds and ‘friends in high places’.
You know – the *opposite* of what the pernicious ideology du jour of its most ribald and rambunctious defenders insists is “supposed” to happen.
It is over a year since the August 2018 hui told the government that imprisonment was not working to solve the problem of crime in Aotearoa. The model of high security prisons, guards running around in stab-proof vests, top-down security, very limited access to programmes to solve the mental health and addictions that are rife in our prisons and so on, known as the American model, just makes things worse, is extremely expensive and a blight on our society.
There are some figures that I like to cite. New Zealand is No. 2 on the Index of World Peace (this is despite our high imprisonment rate, which is an indicator in this index). We are number 8 on the World Happiness index (yes there is such a thing, and yes we are). One of the world’s most peaceful and happy lands.
Out of 223 countries listed, where do you think we rank (from lowest to highest) on the world imprisonment rate? About halfway, perhaps? Halfway is the United Kingdom (rank 112), with a rate of 140 for every 100,000 persons. Higher than most countries in Europe (which, as of today, the UK officially still is), there are major policy efforts over there to bring this figure down.
Perhaps we are closer to the Australian figure? Where will we find them on the index? Oh yes, they rank 132, worse than the UK but… nowhere near the NZ ranking. While we always exceed Australia on measured outcomes such as peace and happiness (for good reason), they beat us hands down for keeping people out of prison.
So there we languish, sitting uneasily between Moldova and Honduras, in 163rd place, around 75% down the table of imprisonment from least to most imprisoned. We have not always been in that uncomfortable space. Even as late as the 1980s, there were around 2,000 people in prison, comparable perhaps to around 3,000 to 4,000 now, with our increased overall population.
Then came the neo-liberal 1990s, the professionalisation of state incarceration, the wrapping of all our prisons in the wire and barbs of high security, a small amount of privatization (the Serco prison at Wiri, which is by no means the most authoritarian of our prisons), and the growth of a new, but implicit view that incarceration should be common and punitive. The views of the Sensible Sentencing Trust came to rule the airwaves, with the mantra of lock ‘em up.
I remember the occasion when I realised that that this culture was far from endemic – that alternatives were possible. You may remember it too. Emma Woods was walking with her two sons along Linwood Avenue in Christchurch when a young man (then aged 17) lost control of his car, barrelling into the family and killing one of the boys.
The parents made it clear from the start that they wanted none of the punitive nonsense that was so strong at the time around the country. In particular, they said that they did not want the driver to go to jail. They saw nothing to be gained in such a punishment. And the court respected that view, dishing out community service and a fine.
What was interesting was the consternation with which the parents’ grace was met by the national media. It is not that the parents did not mourn for their son – their victim impact reports were a searing reminder of what it is to lose a child – but they were steadfastly against imprisonment as a solution, recognising that it did not solve anything. This young man has never since offended, as far as I can see from media reports. Had he gone to prison, who knows how he may have turned out?
So how do we do it? First, I think we need to raise the threshold for who goes to prison, changing consideration of sentencing. The judge issuing the sentence would need to show either that the person needs to be incarcerated to keep others safe, or the crime is so serious that the community demands a severe punishment, and that the prison environment is required to provide a therapeutic and educative environment for anyone sentenced to it (an imprisonment plan, if you like).
Anyone who is in prison who is either low or minimum security (which is over half of the prison population) should not be there unless there is a real and present threat to persons outside from ‘his’ release (this group is nearly all men who threaten women). Anyone in for non-violent offences should be considered for therapeutic options outside the prison.
Don’t even get me started (again) on our dreadful record of holding people for months or more in prison without trial or access to rehabilitative services. Our remand record is dreadful, with (for example) 40% of women prisoners currently being held on remand. Reduce! Reduce! Change the law back to how it use to be!
How about this one: under virtually no circumstances would a mother actively caring for her children attract incarceration as a sentence (I didn’t make it up, there is some recent research on this). My avid readers will know that I am very interested in non-authoritarian forms of incarceration for women which are cheaper and much more effective in reducing recidivism.
Prison is too often in sentencing rules a first rather than a last resort. We need to turn that around. And quickly, please – time is running out for justice reform.
Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.
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Iran attracts an onslaught of negative media in New Zealand and Western media. But is it fair or deserved? David Robie has spent several weeks travelling in the country on sabbatical and finds the media negativity far from the reality of the “most friendly” country he has ever visited in the first of a three-part series.
The headlines were chilling as we flew into Turkey and then Iran. “All out war”, trumpeted The New Zealand Herald, as being an imminent response to last month’s surprise drone attack knocking out almost 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, blaming the attack on the Islamic Republic without convincing evidence.
President Donald Trump warned that the US was “locked and loaded” if Iran was found to be behind the attacks, and then later apparently backed off and relied on even heavier sanctions.
Houthi forces in neighbouring Yemen, invaded by a Saudi-led coalition in 2015 that led to widely condemned four-year civil war, claimed to have carried out the drone and rocket attack on the two oil installations at Abaiq and Khurais.
Given the rising geopolitical tensions, as I was about to visit the country for several weeks as a visitor on sabbatical, I was keen to see the realities on the ground in Iran behind the sabre-rattling.
Haven’t we seen this sort of situation before, attempts at regime change by Washington on the flimsiest of evidence? The unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003, for example, based on the fictitious claims of Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. And look at the chaos and destruction of a nation that resulted from that overwhelming military attack.
Just a few weeks before the Saudi oil installations attack, Al Jazeera UpFront interviewer and columnist Mehdi Hasan wrote in The Intercept in response to a Washington assessment blaming Iran for an earlier attack on two Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz:
“Why would you trust the word of a single official on such a sensitive and contentious issue? And why, oh why, would you rely on the testimony of a member of the Trump administration, known globally, of course, for its stringent and unbending adherence to the truth?”
Hasan added this qualification:
“If you’re going to trust the word of a single anonymous official, in this administration of fanatical hawks and shameless dissemblers, why not trust this particular official who was quoted in The New York Times?
One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal planning, said the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was “small stuff” and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr Bolton [then still National Security Adviser before being sacked by Trump]. The official also said the ultimate goal of the year-long economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States.
Hasan added a rather stinging rebuke about the performance of Western journalists generally.
Lessons for journalists
“Plenty of journalists say they want to learn the lessons of Iraq. But the sad reality is that many of my colleagues in the media are, wittingly or unwittingly, becoming complicit in this administration’s cynical and dangerous attempt ‘to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States’.”
Confronted with the tensions and about to arrive in Iran for my first visit – and hopefully not last to this fascinating, friendly and vibrant country with a proud history of ancient civilisations – I consulted our MFAT’s “Travel Safe” website.
Sadly, our government’s advice to travellers is just as flawed as media reports.
Under a large red exclamation icon, the site warns “do not travel within 100km of the border with Afghanistan, within 10km of the Iraqi border or east of the line running from Bam to Jask close to the Pakistan border due to the threat of terrorism and violent crime”.
I won’t quibble about the Iraqi or Pakistan borders – as I did not personally visit those areas, but I suspect the warning is exaggerated, especially when you consider that a record 3.5 million Iranian pilgrims have just been crossing the border into Iraq peacefully, as usual, for the annual Arba’een pilgrimage to Karbala.
However, the Afghan border warning is way off the mark. I have just come back from a week-long visit to Mashhad, Iran’s second city – a beautiful and peaceful metropolis that hosts the world’s third-largest mosque, the Haram-e Razavi shrine. This is only a three-hour drive from the border.
For the next section, “Exercise increased caution”, the NZ government advisory warns: “Elsewhere in Iran exercise increased caution due to the potential for civil unrest and the regional threat of terrorism”.
This does not mean no caution is needed given that the repressive rule under the Shah deposed in 1979 has been continued by the revolutionary regime. But for travellers like us, Iran is an astoundingly friendly country that welcomes tourists with genuine enthusiasm and with few overt signs of the restrictions that rile many (such as the hijab rules that have led to widespread White Wednesday protests and agitation over the tragic death of the so-called “Blue Girl” football stadium protester that gained an interim victory last week).
On September 2, 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari, set herself on fire in front of the Tehran revolutionary courthouse after learning she could face a prison sentence for up to two years following her protest attempt to enter the capital’s Azadi Stadium dressed as a boy.
She was dubbed the Blue Girl because this was the colour of her favourite team, Esteghial FC.
Although attendance by women at football matches has been banned since 1981, sometimes exceptions have been made for matches played by the national Iranian team and some women have posed as men to attend.
After Khodayari’s tragic self-immolation, a ban on women at Azadi Stadium was lifted, but it is unclear whether this is permanent or applies elsewhere in the country.
No hijab photos
The campaign persuades women to post photos or videos of themselves without headscarves and the journalist publishes them on her social media sites. News reports have cited authorities as saying protesters face up to 10 years, but scores of women have protested anyway.
Alinejad is followed on Instagram by almost 55,000 people (more than 225,000 on FB), an important influence given that other major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Telegram are banned in Iran.
“We reject these authoritarian rules and I would say 90 percent of Iranians don’t accept them. But we Iranians have become very good at pretending, we are very adaptable people,” says an Esfahan manufacturer, who spent time in New Zealand as a student.
Another Iranian, from Mashhad, who also studied in New Zealand, says, “Our future has been destroyed. For young people like us, we have limited choices.”
However, the country has far more nuanced realities than Western media generally give credit. Back to columnist Mehdi Hasan – what is his advice for journalists in order to provide a more balanced account of the country?
He has four suggestions: “stop the stenography”; get the facts straight; context, context, context; and get better sources.
Under his stenography heading, he condemns “passing along the claims of US officials to readers of viewers, without checking whether they are true or not”.
Getting facts right
Getting facts right – “Iran does not have nuclear weapons. Iran does not have a nuclear weapons programme. Iran has complied with the terms of the nuclear deal.”
Clearly this blunt “maximum pressure” attempt at “regime change” has failed and now the US policy has been exposed as “maximum deceit”, according to the Iranian leadership.
Hasan says journalists ought to provide context by reporting more historical background to the issues. For example, how often do stories report that the US “Eisenhower administration toppled the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Dr Mohammad Mossadegh in a CIA coup in 1953?” He had nationalised the British-owned Anglo-Iranian oil company (later rebranded as British Petroleum).
“Or that the Carter administration offered safe haven to the repressive dictator, the Shah of Iran, after he fled from the Iranian Revolution in 1979?”
And the Reagan administration encouraged Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to launch a surprise invasion of Iran in 1981, a bitter protracted war that lasted eight years with unprepared Iranian conscripts – young and old – suffering most of the estimated one million casualties.
Hasan also urges the use of better sources. Do not simply rely on administration officials, whether in Washington or Wellington. Look to a wider range of sceptical voices and analysts. And Al Jazeera, Turkey’s TRT News and Iran’s Press TV channels are good for more balanced and background perspectives.
Among academics I have talked to, media management social scientist Professor Reza Ebrahimzadeh of the Islamic Azad University at Esfahan, argues that foreign news organisations need to do a far better job in providing “context and history” about Iran to promote global understanding.
More journalists from New Zealand need to go to Iran to see for themselves.
If you’re not interested in politics or rugby then you probably got more sleep than I did last night.
New Zealand’s resounding 46-14 win over Ireland in the Rugby World Cup took our team one step further towards achieving their goal.
The 322-306 vote in the British House of Commons forcing Boris Johnson to seek yet another Brexit delay however, was a backward step for the British financiers backing the Leave campaign because they don’t like the EU’s determination to make banking more transparent.
While many of our own politicians are rubbing their hands in anticipation that Britain leaving the EU would meanus selling more of our exports to the UK , I worry about the money deals that are now embedded in such ‘Free Trade’ agreements.
Boris is struggling to get his new Brexit deal over the line, but if he is successful you can expect City of London financiers to immediately start looking around to see how much money they can make by plundering the economies of the world.
New Zealand is very much on their hit list.
Why? Because Britain is keen to join the CPTPP of which we are a member and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already said his country would welcome the UK into that 11 country ‘Free ‘Trade deal with “open arms”
There’s nothing “free” about these deals. They come at a cost – to our sovereignty , our independence and yes, even our identity; because the more that others own us, they less we own ourselves.
So.. Go the All Blacks!
Beware of Boris.
Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.
Thanks to a report from the Acting Inspector General of Intelligence and Security following a complaint by Nicky Hager, we have come to find out that the SIS illegally spied on Mr. Hager on behalf of the NZDF after publication of Hager’s 2011 book, Other People’s Wars. The NZDF justified its request by arguing that it was investigating potential espionage, although it turns out that it was actually looking for the NZDF source of leaks to Mr. Hager. This occurred when John Key was the Minister of Intelligence and Security, Warren Tucker was SIS Director and LTG Rhys Jones was Chief of the NZDF . Did the SIS and NZDF go rogue or were these individuals aware of the spying?
…let’s not forget that also in 2011, Key’s Office colluded with the SIS to falsely smear Phil Goff months before the election. Key went on to reward the SIS and GCSB with unlimited power through mass surveillance and a huge increase in budgets.
National gave the Police vast new retrospective surveillance powers
National rammed through legislation under urgency allowing the State to force civil telecommunication companies to build backdoors to their networks and not tell their customers that the State had breached their privacy.
National rammed through legislation under urgency allowing the State to spy on NZers
The GCSB went from $80m to $140m in budget per year
The SIS were ‘rewarded’ with a huge increase in powers and budget.
Expansion of Warrantless spying
And National gave these security agencies even more powers that will allow…
The real problem for Simon Bridges in last weeks TVNZ Poll was this…
…Bridges has had to be a dick to get media oxygen and that’s helped National but has burnt him. Over 51% disapprove of the job he’s doing, and remember this poll was taken as false accusations that Jacinda Ardern not only knew about a sexual assault but that she covered it up as well.
If you can’t lift your approval ratings against someone accused of covering up sex crimes, you need to have a moment of reflection about life choices.
This is why Simon’s social media war is so crucial to the 2020 election campaign.
Electioneering previous to Facebook amounted to identifying voters from a known voting pool and serving that voting pool up messages that made them vote. This was crude targeting, but if you lived in a wealthy neighbourhood, you would hear messages attuned to you, if you lived in a poorer neighbourhood, you would hear messages tailored for that environment.
Facebook however allowed you to hunt not just for known voters, but that vast swathe of people who also don’t bother voting.
On the Left we have told ourselves that vast swathe of people who don’t vote are poor and brown and disenfranchised, and while that is certainly true, it also includes a large number of angry white men who don’t bother voting because they feel culturally alienated by the current paradigms of micro-aggression policing and Millennial sensibilities. This group of males are economically paranoid by their perceived lack of cultural power and whose economic anxiety clashes with being told they are the ones with the privilege.
Rather than engaging, these male white voters simply shield themselves in apathy and cynicism and don’t vote.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica suddenly had hundreds of data points to know how to precisely push those angry white non voters into rage fuelled voting machines. This manipulation of white male anger become the driving force that saw Trump win, Brexit win and Scott Morrison win.
The Prime Minister is rejecting a Green MP’s description of a law that would impose restrictions on returning New Zealanders involved in terrorism as “dog-whistling”.
The Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill gives police the ability to apply to the High Court to impose “control orders”, or restrictions, on New Zealanders who have engaged in terrorism overseas.
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is concerned about the “human rights implications” of the Bill, and feels existing criminal laws in New Zealand already cover “everything that needs to be covered to keep us safe”.
…none of these conditions seems too odious, the problem is in the fine print. The Green position, and the one Amnesty International are making, is that this could be misapplied to people accused of being terrorists when in fact they are dissidents or protestors.
I have some sympathy towards the Greens and AI position, and think those concerns could be addressed with a very clear method to review the decision and be open to challenge if it has been misapplied.
But in situations where you actually have radicalised individuals returning to NZ who have been very open about their radicalisation, as Mark Taylor has, these conditions seem totally appropriate.
Anyway, I’m less interested in this applying to Taylor and more focused on wanting it used on white people returning from Trump’s America with MAGA hats.
While the Greens have a point, attacking Jacinda for ‘dog whistle politics’ for wanting to monitor radicalised clowns like Taylor is going to seem terribly woke and alienating and it gives National political relevance with Simon grandstanding for his support.
It’s an odd ditch for the Greens to choose to die in.
I know. Most of the time we are made to feel guilty about having white skin, something none of us chose, but finally there’s a way to put that boomer/Gen X white privilege to some actual use for the cause!
Time to put that white privilege to good use folks, in the words of Boomer warrior poet Mario Savio…
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
…forcing the political establishment to directly challenge the economic interests of the corporate polluters is the operation of the odious machine and our arrests that can clog up the judiciary and city systems themselves is our bodies upon the gears and wheels.
As the environment deteriorates, radical civil disobedience is the only solution.
If the system refuses to change, then we must shut it down until it agrees.
Launched on Friday 1 March, 2013, the ‘TheDailyBlog.co.nz’ unites New Zealand’s leading left/centre-left commentators and progressive opinion shapers to provide the other side of the story on today’s news, media and political agendas.