At MyThinks we do our best to try to deliver you the best information we can on a range of different issues. This week we’ve managed to track down Doctor Pantalon Mouillé, an expert in media management. He has been kind enough to give us a few ideas about how to manage the fallout from a scandal or the uncovering of severe incompetence.
I’ve been asked by Mr. Thinks to talk about issues – in particular, why those issues that would normally lead to members of the public being charged with fraud end up getting politicians in the National Party re-elected. Or, at the very worst, a stationing in New Zealand House in London as our special wine and cheese envoy.
There are several things people need to remember. Firstly, the same people who own the newspapers also attend the same private clubs / boarding schools / Federated Farmers meetings / secret masonic societies as the members of the National Party. This makes the likelihood of an issue seeing the light of day in the first place virtually impossible. This makes my job a lot easier.
An issue faced by a Minister of the government will only start making the headlines if the newspaper proprietors decide the scandal is going to sell papers (these days, with the Internet and websites and stuff, we might refer to this as click bait). At this point it is desirable to have someone like Mike Hoskings, a well-respected broadcaster, to tell people how they should think about the issue. I generally instruct the Prime Minister, or National Party person involved, to get in touch with Hoskins – usually at a luxury car dealership in Parnell – and tell him what he should tell the public. Hosking will then use his commentary piece at the end of Seven Sharp to let New Zealand know there really is nothing going on and, even if their was, there wouldn’t be.
The other thing a National Party politician or his media lapdog can do is launch a tirade of abuse against the person making the allegations. Abusive words I advise my politicians to use include hippy, wet fish, left-wing pinko, unionist, communist, hippy communist, developmentally delayed or Winston Peters. This is an excellent two-fold strategy as it belittles the person making the allegations without actually answering the allegations in the first place.
So let’s say the continued assurances of the National Party leadership and Mike Hoskigs aren’t enough for the public. What if the issue becomes a full-blown scandal with many sections of the public, opposition and media asking for an inquiry? What should the affected party do? There are two key things any self-respecting National Party politician will do in this instance – appoint an expert with very close links to the party to hold an inquiry and then have this person spend months carrying out the inquiry. By the time the results are released, the news cycle has moved on and people will have forgotten what the original problem was.
It’s all very simple really.
And if all else fails you can confidently announce that you’ve talked with your people and you are sure it’s all, “…pretty legal.”
There were a few interestingly fruitful statements of anguish following my explanation yesterday regarding our reporting on David Cunliffe’s recent holiday.
As I said yesterday, the fact that John Key was on holiday at the same time, and for much longer, and in a far warmer and far further away place has absolutely nothing to do with our reporting into the 2-day break of Mr Cunliffe.
It’s also important to point out a few things.
Firstly, when the Labour Party released their comprehensive and thoroughly well thought out education policy at their congress last week, people were still speaking about Mr Cunliffe apologising for being a man. We know this because several of those people have very well-read blog sites. Those sites were talking about it so that must mean than everybody was. Nowhere on those blog sites was reference made to Labour’s education policy. If there was, it was all very, very negative.
Secondly, I don’t feel the need I have to defend myself. We in the media have a great deal of responsibility in reporting the news as it happens. The fact that Mr Cunliffe’s important policy news is nowhere near as important as we in the media trying to dismantle his arguments in case people decide they actually hate John Key and want to start voting Labour or, god forbid, the Greens.
Thirdly, I have no other points to make. I feel my previous points succinctly sum up my position and the positions held my many of the people who own me.
I work for a very well-known national daily paper. I’ve been asked, by some of my fellow Press Council members, to respond to some of the criticism being levelled at us from some of the left-wing blogs.
There has been some voicing of the opinion that we are biased against David Cunliffe after publishing criticism from an un-named “Labour insider” who has expressed some f***ing concern at David’s brief holiday in Qu***stown.
I would like to categorically state for the record right here and now that we in the mainstream media are in no way biased against the leader of the opposition.
Yes we often publish stories that are less than flattering to Mr Cunliffe. And yes it’s true that after the release of each political poll we go out of our way to thoroughly question all those Labour Party members of parliament who are low on the party list or standing in a marginal seat. And yes we over-report National’s polling results by discounting the 10-20% of voters who say they are undecided, yet fail to make clear in our reporting that National’s result is actually a percentage of decided voters and not all voters. And yes we could have easily got stuck into John Key for heading off on holiday to Hawaii at exactly the same time as David Cunliffe. And yes we got Key’s comment on the Labour MP after he arrived back in the country as if he is the “go-to” political pundit when dealing with issues from the opposition.
But as I said at the start, that in no way makes us biased. So you can clearly see that we have covered all the bases.
Thank you for listening.
The first Prime Minister I can remember is Bill Rowling. I was around five years old when he came to power. I don’t remember much about him. I put this down to the fact that he took over after Norm Kirk passed away and was then removed from office by questionable campaigning from the late Sir Robert Muldoon who, among other things, likened Rowling and his Labour Party to animated Russian dancers.
Rowling and Labour lost and the new superannuation fund set up by that government was pillaged and spent on massive projects designed to get oil out of the ground.
After that election the country faced 9 years under the regime of a man who literally ran everything. He was Prime Minister and Finance Minister so the buck stopped with him. Although it didn’t really stop as his spending prowess has been well documented as has his late night juiced-up announcement of the election that brought the David Lange Labour government to power.
Following that Labour government the country faced another National government hell-bent on the destruction of many facets of Kiwi society that had been built up over the previous three or four generations.
Free healthcare and free education were seen as the cornerstones of a developed nation. It was believed that a healthy, well-educated nation was a production nation. That 1990s National government – filled with cabinet ministers who had made their success thanks to the very subsidies (educational / farming) they were removing – cut benefits and pensions at a time featuring much higher rates of inflation than we have now.
It’s fine not having much money, just as long as the price of the food, power and rent you are paying doesn’t increase at a faster rate than the income you receive. Ruth Richardson decided at a time when inflation was 5% it would be a good idea to cut benefits. Not only was their more to pay, you had less to pay for it with.
Fast forward twenty or so years and we have a similar government trying to sell us similar policies – only this time the reforms include mandatory drug testing for job seekers and requiring parents receiving benefits to enroll their children in early childhood education and appropriate healthcare facilities. Admittedly this may fly in the face of my earlier “healthy, educated country” comment, but read on for clarification.
You have to ask yourself this: if this policy is so amazing, why are they not extending it out to ALL parents? They would never be able to because there are too many votes to be lost. At the moment this policy is about dividing the poor getting government money from the poor who are working for their money.
The only problem is that pretty much everybody gets Working for Families these days. That’s government money. Drug tests and parental tests for all!!
There was an incredibly important survey released in the United Kingdom this week. The article in the Independent newspaper was titled, “British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows.” It goes on to document the survey results showing the British public had a warped perception of a range of aspects to their society.
The by-line of the article is this:
Research shows public opinion often deviates from facts on key social issues including crime, benefit fraud and immigration.
The article is well worth a read because many of the points made within can be easily transposed to the New Zealand situation. I’m sure we (our society) believe that benefit fraud is a multi-million dollar a year enterprise and that all beneficiaries exist to fleece the taxpayer. In actual fact benefit fraud was around $23 million last year – a record according to the New Zealand Herald which indicates it has previously been lower. Although this report from TV3 indicates welfare fraud could be as high as $39 million. It also mentions the fact that tax fraud could be anywhere between $1 and $6 billion dollars and we all know what this government thinks about tax evasion since many of the current cabinet protect their assets with family trusts.
Why is this? Why is it that the perception people have of these aspects of society is so far removed from what is actually happening?
There are two main reasons. Politicians and the main-stream media. Politicians spend their public lives manipulating public opinion through the main-stream media who appear to show little motivation to question or seriously delve into the claims made. When was the last time you saw John Key really questioned about what he was saying? admittedly it is a hard thing to do when the nightly news is all about soundbites and misformation.
We live in a country that has had, for many decades, one of the highest voter turn-out rates in the western world. In the past five decades the turnout has fallen from above 90% to below 70% at the last election. In the same period membership levels for political parties has also plummeted – from just under 300,000 in 1954 to a shade over 50,000 now.
It is all connected. People are not motivated to take part in our democracy because our political masters are seen as self-serving manipulators of the truth. They are prone to the exaggeration of facts or outright lies depending on the situation, the journalist or the audience. People are not motivated to join political parties because they don’t want to belong to an organisation that bases its existence on the manipulation of others. People don’t believe politicians because they know that they say one thing and mean another (see my blog from the weekend).
So when a politicians tells you that 20% of New Zealand children are leaving school unable to read and write, or in prison or similar such utterances suggesting things are seriously wrong with our education system, how much of that is truth and how much of it is exaggerated bullshit made up by former journalists and media comment writers hired by the politicians to gather as many votes as possible?
Politicians do not exist in the real world. They exist in their own little protective cocoon. Protected by their minders, their party machine and the unquestioning main-stream media.
Trust them and what they say about the education of your children AT YOUR PERIL.
Inflation Rates Across the Decades – Reserve Bank of New Zealand
The Mother of all Budgets – Te Ara On-line Encyclopedia
British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows – The Independent, Tuesday July 9, 2013
Voter Turnout 1928 – 2011 – Te Ara On-line Encyclopedia
Party membership, 1954–2008 – Te Ara On-line Encyclopedia
Benefit fraud tops $23m in record year – New Zealand Herald, Monday Feb 25, 2013
Courts tougher on benefit fraud than tax dodging – 3 News, Oct 21, 2012
How super-rich Kiwis dodge tax – New Zealand Herald, Jun 1, 2013